Thursday, February 12, 2009

West Highland White Terriers

West Highland White Terriers, commonly known as Westies, are a breed of dog known for their distinctive white coat. This breed is commonly recognised through its use as a mascot for Black & White (a brand of Scotch whisky), and on the packaging of Cesar brand dog food.
Westies are descended from Cairn Terriers, who occasionally whelped white puppies naturally, and Scottish Terriers, who also occasionally produced white offspring. White offspring from other terriers such as the Bedlington Terrier and Dandie Dinmont Terrier were occasionally introduced to the bloodline for desired characteristics, but this practice generally stopped in the 1850s.

Some sources also credit Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm and his kin of Poltalloch in the Argyll region of western Scotland as an originator of this breed in the 1800s. Other sources credit the 8th Duke of Argyll (Chieftain of Clan Campbell) as an originator of the breed. However, there may have been some cooperation between the two gentlemen. It may have taken as long as a hundred years of selective breeding to produce all the desired qualities. Their white coat made them highly visible when hunting on the Scottish moors and easily distinguished them from their game. This was an extremely important factor because hunters sometimes mistook brown dogs for foxes and shot them. They also possess a sturdy frame.

Originally the breed was known as the Poltalloch Terrier (after the name of Malcolm's home). They were also known as the Roseneath Terrier (after the name of Argyll's home; see Rosneath), White Roseneath Terrier, and at the end of the 19th century, briefly as a white variety of the Scottish Terrier.

Westies are bred for hunting. Their prey is usually small animals such as rabbits, squirrels and mice, but they were also used to hunt foxes and badgers. Young females are known as the keenest hunters. Ideally, a prospective owner should buy two males for company, as males often get lonely.

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