9 Incredible Facts about West Highland White Terriers

Before Sami came into my life, I did intensive research on West Highland White Terriers because I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. I wanted to save you the trouble of research, so I decided to put together this article for you (and for me).

I’m assuming that you’re reading this because you’re thinking of getting your very own Sami. Here are 9 incredible and interesting facts about West Highland White Terriers:

1. Started Out as Hunters and Now, They Are Cuddlers

Westie puppy sleeping while huggin his favorite toy, a puffin

West Highland Terriers, bred in Northwestern Scotland as hunters, work hard. Back in the day, these hardworking dogs would accompany their owners to the forests, farms, and mines, sniffing out foxes, rabbits, and rats. My Sami is not a hunter, but a professional cuddler. All terriers have left their hunting days behind and are now known for their playful cuddling.

2. White Fur is Their Armor

A Westie’s snow white fur keeps them safe during hunts. Their fur sticks out like a sore thumb, ensuring they don’t accidentally get mistaken for another animal. This reminds me of the Westie’s origins story that I’d like to share with you.

The story took place in the 1800s when Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm of Poltalloch, Scotland, ventured into the forest with a pack of Cairn terriers (Cairns and Skyes are close relatives of Westies). He had accidentally shot one of his dogs, mistaking him for a fox or rabbit. Devastated by this, he promised himself that from then onwards, he would only take dogs with a white coat when hunting.

Even when hidden by foliage, these dogs would blend but scream thanks to their white fur. Some Scottish terriers and Cairn terriers had light-colored fur, so these two dogs were bred until all their offspring were born with snow white fur. And in case you’re wondering, yes, Sami loses in a game of hide and seek. Unless is with other Westies. Then it’s kinda difficult to recognize them.

3. One Dog, Several Pseudonyms

Malcolm wasn’t the only one on the quest to breed his Poltalloch terriers (first name) to get offspring with a beautiful white coat of fur, but the 8th Duke of Argyll was at it too. George Campbell was also breeding terriers with snow white fur, calling the offspring Roseneath terriers (second name).

In 1908, the American Kennel Club recognized and accepted the Roseneath terrier. However, they changed the name to the West Highland White Terrier (official name) after a year.

4. Expert Burrowers

This is a fact that should come as no surprise to you. I have caught Sami red-handed burrowing into the ground and on the beach. I can’t blame him though, as Westies were bred to hunt and scare game out of hiding spots.

Beware, thanks to their small stature, you might discover your Westie sitting in a tight and narrow spot. The funny part is that you’ll have to take them out if they get stuck, but more about this later.

They have a bullet-shaped body and narrower, heart-shaped thoraxes, which allows these flexible, small-bodied dogs to burrow underground to scare away rodents and other vermin.

5. Embarrassing Fact:  They Get Stuck…Sometimes

Kid holding westie puppy's tail whilw playing in the park

They may be small, but they are determined little dogs. They see a small space and their instinct is to squeeze into it even though the place may be too small for them to enter. I think that back in their minds, they know this, but their overconfident nature takes over, and then you know the rest…they get stuck. You’ve no idea how many times I have found Sami in a similar type of situation, but does he ever learn…nope, never!

Here’s what to do when your Westie gets stuck – pull them out with their tail. Don’t worry, you’re not hurting them because they have an extra sturdy tail. Just as you pull the fire alarm when it is an emergency, it’s the same case with Westies– pull the tail in an emergency.

6. Vocal and Loud Dogs – Not Afraid to Bark

Sami alerts me when he sees a passing car or even a squirrel scurrying up a tree. I don’t blame him though, and you shouldn’t either, and I’ll tell you why. A West Highland Terrier barks because they’re bred to do that. Since they’re hunting dogs, barking is second nature to them.

As you know, they have a tendency to get stuck and barking is their way of telling their human, “Hey, don’t panic, but we did something stupid.” Just because they love to bark doesn’t mean you use them as guard dogs. The funny thing about these dogs is that they are super-friendly and are likely to play fetch with the intruder than bark at them to scare them away.

There’s a joke saying that if a Westie sees a thief in your home, they will lick their faces to death. So that’s nice! 🙂

7. Double Layer Coats Means More Work for You


They have double layer coats, a wiry coat on top and a soft undercoat. The top coat collects and sheds debris and dirt, whereas their undercoat keeps them warm in winters. Since they have a double-layered coat, it means more responsibility for you.

West Highland Terrier care includes regular haircuts and brushing to maintain the brightness and whiteness of their coat. If you are ready to take on this responsibility, welcome a Westie into your family.

8. Independent and Strong Headed Dogs that Require Training

Westies are independent and strong headed dogs that require training. I trained Sami myself, but we also go weekly to a trainer. If you don’t have the patience or time to train your dog, visit a trainer. Ensure the trainer has experience in training Westies though.

With patience and time, come great results. It took Sami six months to become a fully-trained and well- behaved dog. And, truth is, we still train, just to keep good habits in.

However, it may be different for your Westie, as some may take longer to train than others. But, training them will be worth it in the end.

9. Lather on Sunscreen on These Easily Sunburned Dogs

Sunscreen on a Westie

Westies and the sun aren’t friends. When I take Sami outdoors, I always remember to lather sunscreen on him, especially behind his ears, as that area is the most sensitive to sunlight.

Knowing these facts not only helped me take care of Sami better, but made me love him even more because I got to know more about him. I bet, just as I did, you’ll also find these facts about West Highland White Terriers useful.

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