The West Highland White Terrier, or Westie, was born in the mid-19th century. According to a legend, a Cairn Terrier breeder in Scotland inadvertently got white puppies in his litter. Those white puppies were then bred specifically to become the West Highland White Terrier breed. The Westie would therefore simply be a white Cairn Terrier.
A variation of this legend states that the Westie was bred from Cairn White puppies and Scottish Terriers. This was done so that the dog, which was used for hunting, would not be mistaken for a fox.
The AKC (American Kennel Club) originally registered the Westie in 1908 under the breed name Roseneath Terrier. In 1909 the name was changed to the West Highland White Terrier.
The Westie has short legs and averages between 10 and 11 inches tall. A healthy weight for these dogs is between 15 and 22 pounds. They have small, balanced, sturdy frames and relatively short tails. As its name implies, the West Highland White Terrier is always white. They have a double coat to keep them insulated and protect them from bad weather. The top coat is usually about two inches long, hard, and straight, and the undercoat is thick and smooth.
The West Highland White Terrier is easy to care for. Despite their long fur, they are light throwers. All that is required is regular brushing with a soft bristle brush and occasional trimming of the hair around the eyes.
Most Westies are not lazy lapdogs. They tend to be very energetic, curious, intelligent, alert, friendly, and brave. Westies crave attention and activity. If left alone for long periods, they can become restless and get into mischief. This breed loves to dig and can be destructive to gardens and flower beds. Westies also tend to enjoy the sound of their own voice. While they don’t usually bark just for the sake of it, they will bark to announce visitors or outdoor activities. This makes them excellent watchdogs.
West Highland White Terriers have a natural hunting instinct. Your initial reaction to seeing a squirrel or bird will probably be to chase it. Even a well-trained Westie can be unpredictable. For this reason, Westies should always be kept inside fenced yards or on leashes.
The Westie is normally a healthy breed, although he can be prone to chronic skin problems. Their life expectancy is 14 years or more.