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10 Incredible Westie Facts You’ll Love to Learn

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

west highland white terrier standing on a rock formation

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

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While the West Highland White Terrier, more commonly known as the “Westie”, has a small and fluffy white exterior, a strong and brave personality resides inside. These dogs are full of contradictions and surprises. They’re active, alert, and hardworking dogs. Despite their small disposition, Westies are rarely lap dogs and tend to be pretty independent.

Owning a Westie isn’t for the faint of heart, as these dogs require a lot of firm and fair training. However, they’re still incredible dog breeds with a rich history and make wonderful pets for people looking for active, energetic, and intelligent dogs. Here are some of our favorite facts about these incredible dogs.

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The 10 Incredible Westie Facts

1. Westies Originate from Scotland

The West Highland White Terrier originates from Scotland and was initially bred as a hunting dog. Westies were relatively versatile hunters and could hunt small vermin, such asincluding rats, while also hunting large game like foxes, badgers, and otters.

Westies share their lineage with other small earth dog breeds, including the Dandie Dinmont, Cairn Terrier, Skye Terrier, and Scottish Terrier. They have lived alongside humans for centuries and were finally officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1908.

west highland terrier
Image Credit: Pikist

2. They Used to Go by Several Different Names

A few different people were attempting to breed an all-white terrier. A hunter by the name of Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm of Scotland was working on breeding an all-white terrier and called it a Poltalloch Terrier. Meanwhile, Georgambel, the 8th Duke of Argyll, was also trying to breed white terriers and called his dogs Roseneath Terriers.

When this dog breed was recognized by the AKC, it was initially accepted as the Roseneath Terrier. However, its name changed to the West Highland White Terrier a year later.

3. They Were Purposefully Bred to Have White Coats Only

According to legend, Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm accidentally shot his favorite Cairn Terrier during a hunt because he had mistaken it for a rabbit. So, he decided to breed an all-white terrier to avoid repeating the same mistake. Hunting with dogs with solid white coats would help to differentiate the dogs from wild game, especially when views can be obstructed by foliage. This is why the only acceptable coat type for Westies is white without any markings.

4. They Have Double Coats

While Westies aren’t very good with hot weather, they have a thick double coat that enables them to endure colder weather. The top coat is wiry and easily deflects sheds dirt and debris that lands on them as they pursue game. The undercoat is softer and warmer and helps to trap heat.

The Westie’s coat requires regular brushing to keep the hair from tangling and matting. These dogs will also benefit from professional grooming to properly maintain their coats.

West Highland White Terrier dog on grass
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

5. They’re Susceptible to Sunburn

Westies have sensitive skin and are susceptible to sunburn, particularly their ears. Older Westies with thinning hair and Westies with skin and coat issues are especially susceptible to sunburn. Since they have sensitive skin, it’s important to apply sunscreen on their noses, backs, and the backs of their ears to ensure they’re protected under the sun. If you’re taking a Westie to the beach, make sure to keep reapplying sunscreen, especially if they’re playing in the water. Be sure to check that you’re using a sunscreen that is safe for dogs and do not use any containing zinc.

6. They’re Experts at Moving Underground

A Westie’s body is built to catch burrowing game and vermin. They have relatively short legs for terriers and have bullet-shaped bodies that help them maneuver through underground tunnels efficiently. Their wiry topcoats help them to shed dirt and prevent debris from getting stuck deeper into their coats.

Westies are also good at digging, and you may find your Westie developing a habit of digging. So, it’s important to ensure your fences are secure and don’t have any holes or ditches that will encourage your Westie to dig and escape out of your yard.

7. They Have a Short Tail for a Specific Reason

Westies are notoriously fearless and ready to chase game. Sometimes, they can be overconfident and overestimate their abilities. When engaged in a wild pursuit, they can end up chasing animals through their underground burrows and getting stuck.

To address this issue, Westies have been intentionally bred to have short and sturdy tails with a strong base. This enables hunters to pull Westies out of tunnels without injuring their tails and backsides. While you may not ever pull your own Westie out of a ditch by its tail, it’s still fun to know that their cute, stubby tail is the shape it is for a safety! reason.

Westie eating cucumber
Image Credit: Tim photo video, Shutterstock

8. They Have a Strong Prey Drive

As a true terrier, Westies have a strong prey drive and are likely to chase any small animal that comes across their path. While they can be trained for polite leash walking, it’s important for Westie owners to acknowledge that their Westies may not ever learn to be trusted with small animals, especially when they’re unsupervised. They’ll also find it extremely challenging to resist chasing a squirrel that runs across their path during a walk. This isn’t necessarily a behavioral issue, as Westies were originally bred to hunt small animals.

9. They’re Extremely Vocal

As hunting dogs, Westies have a loud bark to help hunters locate them during a hunt. Some Westies may be more vocal than others, so even though they’re small, they’re not the most ideal breed for apartment dwellers. They can be disruptive in shared living spaces, especially if there’s a lot of foot traffic in the hallways.

Fortunately, Westies have relatively friendly dispositions, so their bark sounds much more intimidating than they actually are. In fact, most Westies don’t end up being good watchdogs because they’ll end up welcoming strangers rather than having an instinct to protect their homes.

10. There Are Several Famous Westies

It’s no surprise that Westies have many fans and have shot to fame. They’re the mascots of the dog food brand, Cesar, and the Scotch whisky, Black & White. Westies have also appeared in books, films, and TV shows, including Good Boy, Fergus, Jeeves and Wooster, 7th Heaven, and Hamish Macbeth.

Several celebrities are also major fans of Westies;. Jennifer Aniston, Matthew McConaughey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Scarlett Johansson have all owned or currently own a Westie.

West Highland Terrier
Image Credit By: westie_americanbully, instagram

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West Highland White Terriers are brave and intelligent dogs that have lived alongside people for centuries. The breed’s history with humans is marked by many dogs that became beloved and valued companions for many individuals and families. Although it may take some time to train a Westie, the efforts are all worth it. These incredible dogs are packed with personality and are some of the most loyal and affectionate companions that anyone could ever ask for.



Featured Image Credit: Morten Hjerpsted, Pixabay

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