West Highland White Terrier

This feisty, fun-loving little dog has become a very popular companion and family pet. Like all terriers, Westies are loving and loyal but fiercely independent. Their strength of character can make them strong-willed and stubborn at times, and they are not suitable pets for gentle, faint-hearted owners.


Up to the mid-1800s, the terriers of Scotland were a rough, hard, ill-disciplined and nondescript bunch controlling vermin on the small crofts. However, as foxhunting became fashionable, gentlemen began taking notice of terriers, although white dogs were not liked -some people thought they were not as game as coloured dogs. That changed when Colonel Edward Malcolm, thinking one of his own brown terriers was a fox as it emerged from an earth, accidentally shot it, and from then on he developed this unmistakable white terrier and was the breed club's first chairman in 1906. The West Highland White Terrier was used as an all-purpose worker and was kept as a "vermin" killer or to hunt foxes, otters and wild cats. It had both stamina and courage and was agile enough to clamber over rocks and penetrate the smallest holes where its prey could hide.

The Westie's head should be slightly domed with very dark, expressive eyes. The harsh, thick coat should be really white.


Feisty, stubborn, friendly, affectionate and playful, the West Highland White Terrier is a bright pet for town or country. Very few pet dogs can replicate this bundle of paradoxes: a fun dog that one minute will be digging up your flower beds while hunting non-existent moles and the next minute will be lying on your lap with all the love of a spaniel. Because they were originally bred for hunting rats and foxes, they enjoy shaking and "killing" their toys, especially squeaky ones.

Westies love to be involved in all family outings and activities. They hate being left behind at home.

The West Highland White is a fun-loving little dog with a feisty and inquisitive character.

must know

Some eye problems are under investigation in Westies. They can also be susceptible to skin disorders, especially a type of eczema. Though it is quite rare, Legge Perthes disease can affect Westies, so check this out before you buy.


The West Highland White Terrier is a short-legged, square dog with a profuse wiry white coat, which needs some careful attention to maintain the typical shape. It has intensely dark intelligent eyes and small ears. The coat should be white without any brown marks. Dogs and bitches are 28cm (11in) in height.

Strangers 3/5

A good, alert guard

Temperament 4/5

Playful, mischievous and happy

Exercise 3/5

Plenty of play and free running

Grooming 4/5

Frequent combing to stop tangling; stripping every three months

Other dogs 3/5

Seldom picks a quarrel but will defend itself


Family dog full of zest

General care

Twice-daily walks are essential for the active Westie, which also needs the freedom to run and play-hunt in a reasonably sized garden. To keep it in good condition, it will need stripping and shaping once every three months and combing on a daily basis.

Even pet Westies which are not shown need regular grooming to keep their coat in good condition.

It is important when grooming a Westie to brush the hair on the face downwards and then to brush it back up the other way.

Gallery of West Highland White Terrier