Perhaps the most popular of the terrier breeds, the West Highland White terrier is a feisty and lovable character, hailing from Poltalloch, Scotland. Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm is credited with the breed's development, having wanted to create a dog that was white and therefore easily distinguished from the quarry it hunted. Dating the evolution of the West Highland White terrier is uncertain, although records from as early as the 16th century suggest the dog is a breed of old, favoured by royal figures such as James VI of Scotland and seen within his household. It is rumoured that the King gifted a dozen West Highland White terriers to the Kingdom of France between 1567-1625. The breed adopted its name in 1909, being formerly known as the Roseneath terrier.
A compact and agile dog, with bright eyes, upright ears, a rounded face, and short, sturdy legs. The body, head and limbs are proportioned, and the muzzle is typically short and tapering to the black nose. The double coat should always be white, and have a rough outer texture. Maintaining the colour of the coat is difficult due to the game and energetic nature of the breed, who enjoys nothing better than digging holes and playing outdoors. As with most smaller dog breeds, the West Highland White terrier is prone to 'Small-Dog Syndrome' - behaviours that include stubbornness, dominance and even aggression.
To avoid and discourage these small dog behaviours, the breed benefits from firm but fair leadership, consistent obedience training, and early socialisation. Once trained, the West Highland White terrier has the potential to be a most affectionate, loyal and mannered companion, well suited to relaxed domestic living. The breed engages well with children when raised with them, and is compatible with other house pets when introduced to them gradually. On average, a healthy adult West Highland White terrier will weigh 6-9 kg, depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of roughly 15 years. It is not uncommon for a Westie to live into its 20s.
The Westie is a relatively hardy breed, although it is susceptible to several health conditions and diseases. These range in severity, from mild allergies and skin complaints, to more serious cases of eye disease, orthopedic problems, urinary discomfort, and liver disease (copper hepatopathy). Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or Westie Lung Disease, is a rare genetic condition that affects the connective tissues and air sacs of the lungs, causing severe breathing difficulty.