This is one of the oldest breeds in Scotland, having its origin in the islands from which it now takes its name. The breed was originally called Scottish Terrier. In fact, all of the Scottish varieties of Terriers were first so designated. Dr. Caius, one of the earliest writers on dogs, indicates the existence and type of the Skye Terrier in his work “Englishe Dogges.” He describes them as “Iseland dogges, brought out of barbarous borders from the uttermost countries northwards,” and says that “they, by reason of the length of their hair, show neither of their face or their body, and yet these curres, forsooth, because they are so strange, are greatly set by, esteemed, taken up, and made of, in room of the Spaniell gentle or comforter.”
The Bishop of Ross, who wrote a little later in the sixteenth century, says: “There is also another kind of scenting dog of low height, but of bulkier body, which, creeping into sub extraneous burrows, routs out foxes, badgers, martens, and wildcats from their lurking places and dens,” which doubtless referred to the ancestors of our modern Skye Terriers.
Professor Low describes the dogs of the Island of Skye as follows: “The Terriers of the western islands of Scotland have long, lank hair almost trailing to the ground.” This breed has been brought to perfection as a show dog, but its enormous coat and the size is a distinct disadvantage to the dog in pursuing his natural calling. Few, if any, show dogs are used for actual work, and therefore it is needless to decry the bench type which are calculated to keep intact the distinctive features and characteristics of this game, hard-bitten, and very hand some Terrier. The Skye Terrier is a most companionable and faithful dog to those to whom he attaches himself, although he is not, speaking generally, as open in disposition as his cousin, the Scottie. He is one of the most snappish dogs that goes to a show, and often dangerous to handle. This surliness in the Skye is a natural characteristic, probably inherited, the outcome of nervousness created by the fact that he is buried in such long thick hair that he can scarcely see.
The chief points to look for in Skye Terrier puppies from two to four months old and after, are: A long head; strong muzzle; dark eye; long body; well-sprung ribs; deep chest; short, heavy-boned legs, and a profuse coat of good texture. In the prick-eared variety the ears should be bolt upright; and in the drop-eared, the ears should fall forward in the manner of other drop-eared Terriers.
The following is the standard laid down by the Skye Terrier Club of Scotland:
HEAD.-Long, with powerful jaws, and incisive teeth closing level, or upper just fitting over under. Skull wide at front of brow, narrowing between ears, and tapering gradually toward muzzle, with little falling in between or behind the eyes. Eyes hazel, medium size, close set. Muzzle always black.
EARS (prick or pendant).-When prick, not large, erect at outer edges, and slanting toward each other at inner, form peak to skull. When pendant, larger, hanging straight, lying flat, and close at front. BODY.-Pre-eminently long and low. Shoulders broad, chest deep, ribs well sprung and oval-shaped, giving flattish appearance to sides. Hindquarters and flank full and well developed. Back level and slightly declining from top of hip joint to shoulders. Neck long and gently crested.
TAIL.-When hanging, upper half perpendicular, under half thrown backward in a curve. When raised, a prolongation of the incline of the back, and not rising nor curling up.
LEGS.-Short, straight, and muscular. No dewclaws. Feet large and pointing forward.
COAT (double).-An under, short, close, soft, and woolly. An over, long, averaging 5 1/2 inches, hard, straight, flat, and free from crisp or curl. Hair on head shorter, softer, and veiling forehead and eyes; on ears, overhanging inside, falling down and mingling with side locks, not heavily, but surrounding the ear like a fringe, and allowing its shape to appear. Tail also gracefully feathered.
Color (any variety).-Dark or light-blue or grey, or fawn with black points. Shade of head and legs approximating that of body.
SIZE.-Average height at shoulder, 9 inches. WEIGHT.-Dogs, 18 pounds; bitches, 16 pounds.