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Dog breeds that originated in Scotland

Dog lovers have many reasons to be grateful for the contribution from Scottish dog breeders. No less than 14 breeds can trace their roots back to Scotland. According to the Kennel Club the Golden Retriever and the Border Terrier are among the most popular of all breeds. In the following article we look at each of the Scottish dog breeds.

However, based on registration figures, there are breeds listed as vulnerable:

  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Bearded Collie
  • Smooth Collie
  • Deerhound
  • Gordon Setter
  • Skye Terrier

At Watch:

  • Scottish Terrier

If you are thinking about getting a native Scottish breed, please make sure that you buy from a reputable breeder; you can find details on the Kennel Club website.

Let us look more closely at each Scottish dog breed :

Bearded Collie

The Bearded Collie, or Beardie, is a herding dog that was popular with Scottish shepherds. The Beardie is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity amongst American and Australian shepherds that value their hardy characteristics and ability to herd even the most stubborn sheep.

As a family pet, the Beardie would be happiest in a home that can accommodate their high energy levels. Their coats require regular grooming to avoid tangles and matting.

Hypoallergenic: No

Life span: 14 – 15 years

Temperament: self-confidence, lively, hardy, intelligent, alert and active

Weight: female: 18–27 kg, male: 18–27 kg

Height: female: 51–53 cm, male: 53–56 cm

Colors: black, fawn, tri-color, black & brown, blue, brown

Border Collie

Originally, from the Scottish borders, the Border Collie is easily recognisable as a working sheepdog. Highly intelligent the Border Collie requires more daily exercise and mental stimulation than many other breeds. Their agility and intelligence makes them a formidable force in competitive agility and intelligence competitions.

Anyone taking on a Border Collie as a pet should consider whether they are able to meet the dog’s needs; a bored Border Collie can become distressed and start to display destructive behaviours, such as chewing holes into walls and furniture.

Life span: 10 – 17 years

Weight: male: 14–20 kg, female: 12–19 kg

Temperament: tenacious, energetic, responsive, intelligent, keen, alert

Colours: black, white, blue, red merle, brindle, lilac, chocolate, liver, blue merle, sable, sable merle, red, gold

Height: male: 48–56 cm, female: 46–53 cm

Border Terrier

I have to declare an interest – I have a Border Terrier called Jess, he’s my son’s dog and has been with us through many of life’s challenges and milestones. Border Terriers are small rough coated dogs bred as fox and vermin hunters. This can cause some issues with cats unless they are socialised with cats from a young age (mine lives with a cat without any problems).

Whilst they can be stubborn, they are intelligent and eager to please making them trainable. They also excel in agility competitions. Border Terriers have a double coat. A wiry outer couat and soft inner coat. The outer layer needs to be hand stripped every 6-8 months to keep the dog looking their best. Most owners would be able to strip their dog; it is important not to use clippers as this can alter the coat’s properties and appearance.

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Life span: 12 – 15 years

Temperament: obedient, affectionate, fearless, intelligent, alert, even tempered

Weight: male: 5.9–7.1 kg, female: 5.1–6.4 kg

Colours: blue & tan, red, grizzle & tan, wheaten

Height: male: 33–40 cm, female: 28–36 cm

Cairn Terrier

Believed to be the oldest terrier breed the Cairn Terrier originated in the Scottish Highlands and was used to hunt and chase quarry between the cairns.

The Cairn has a double coat, with a wiry harsh outer-coat and soft dense undercoat. Like other dogs with a double coat, it is important that they are hand stripped rather than using clippers or scissors.

As active dogs, cairns need a daily walk and play sessions to keep them mentally stimulated. Cairns are easy to train and can learn tricks quickly; training them tricks is a good way to direct their energy into an acceptable behaviour.

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Life span: 12 – 15 years

Litter size: 2-10

Temperament: hardy, assertive, fearless, intelligent and active

Weight: male: 6–8 kg, female: 6–8 kg

Colours: black, brindle, cream, grey, red, wheaten

Dandi Dinmont Terrier

Originally bred to hunt badgers and otters the Dandi is a sturdy terrier. It has short legs, a long back and fur topknot giving it a very distinctive appearance.

As a family pet, the Dandi is ideal for families with older children. Whilst the Dandi is one of the most docile terriers, it can act as a guard dog and is a good companion. However, they can be feisty and are prone to challenging other animals including other dogs.


Hypoallergenic: Yes

Mass: 8.2 – 11 kg (Adult)

Life span: 12 – 15 years

Origin: Scotland

Temperament: affectionate, lively, independent, companionable, determined and fun loving

Colours: mustard, pepper

Golden Retriever

As one of the UK’s most popular breeds, the Golden Retriever is easily recognised. Originally, bred to retrieve birds for shooting parties in Scotland, the Golden’s instinctive affinity with water and their soft mouth makes them ideal to retrieve waterfowl undamaged.

Described as “kindly, friendly and confident” Golden Retrievers make excellent family pets. Their intelligence and gentle temperament make them ideal as assistance dogs.

Life span: 10 – 12 years

Weight: female: 25–32 kg, male: 30–34 kg

Temperament: intelligent, reliable, confident, friendly, kind

Height: female: 51–56 cm, male: 56–61 cm

Colours: dark golden, cream, light golden, golden

Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter is a large breed. Its original purpose was to locate birds that attempt to avoid predators by concealment rather than by taking flight.

Described as “alert, interested and confident” the Gordon Setter is fearless, willing and intelligent. Because of their boisterous nature, families with young children may wish to choose an alternative breed or wait until the children are older. Gordon Setters take anywhere up to three years to fully mature and often display puppy like exuberance in later life.

Due to their prey instinct, they are apt to follow a scent trail without consideration of their surroundings. Therefore, they should not roam without supervision.

Hypoallergenic: No

Life span: 10 – 12 years

Colour: black & tan

Temperament: loyal, fearless, alert, eager, confident

Weight: female: 20–32 kg, male: 25–36 kg

Height: female: 58–66 cm, male: 61–69 cm

Rough Collie

When I was growing up, I knew the Rough Collie as “Lassie”! Their long flowing coat and elegant face make these dogs easily recognisable. The breed originally used for herding sheep in Scotland is now seen as an ideal family companion.

Rough Collies need to be socialised well to help prevent shyness. They are highly intelligent and respond best to a gentle hand. They are very loyal and are typically excellent with children. Their long coat has made the breed successful as herders and guard dogs in colder climates.

Life span: 14 – 16 years

Weight: male: 20–29 kg, female: 18–25 kg

Temperament: loyal, intelligent, protective, friendly, active, gentle

Height: male: 56–61 cm, female: 51–56 cm

Colours: white, tri-color, sable & white, sable merle, blue merle, sable

Scottish Deerhound

The Deerhound can trace its origin as far back as the 1st century with Roman pottery depicting Red Deer hunts using large rough hounds.

The gentle and friendly Deerhound makes an ideal pet for families with older children. However, you will need access to the space and time to allow them to run. However, because of their prey instinct exercise should take place in a safe secure field. Without access to exercise Deerhounds will not develop correctly and may exhibit unwanted behaviours.

Hypoallergenic: No

Life span: 8 – 11 years

Origin: Scotland

Weight: male: 39–50 kg, female: 34–43 kg

Temperament: docile, dignified, friendly, gentle

Colours: brindle, fawn, red fawn, blue, grey, yellow

Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier is known for being a hardy dog; so much so that their nicknamed is the “diehard”. They tend to be loyal and may be wary of strangers. Due to their wariness they make good watchdogs, as they do not tend to bark unnecessarily.

Many sources describe Scottish Terriers as very loving, but they can be stubborn. It is best to socialise puppies with other dogs to avoid aggression in later life.

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Life span: 12 – 15 years

Temperament: feisty, independent, alert, playful, self-assured, quick

Weight: male: 8.5–10 kg, female: 8–9.9 kg

Colours: black, brindle, wheaten

Height: male: 25–28 cm, female: 25–28 cm

Shetland Sheepdog

Similar in appearance to the Rough Collie the Shetland Sheepdog was known as the Shetland Collie; today they are nicknamed Shelties. Rather than selected breeding of smaller Collies to achieve the small statue of the Sheltie, it is believed that the breed originated from the cross breeding of a spitz type dog and a Collies from mainland Britain.

Shelties are small and hardy dogs; often being just 8 -12 inches tall at the shoulder. They demonstrate a high level of intelligence – ranked sixth out of 132 breeds that were tested. Shelties shed a lot and need regular grooming. However, their fur sheds in clumps, which makes it easier to clean up than other breeds that shed loose fur.

Weight: Male 5.0–10.9 kg (11–24 lb)

Female: 5.0–10.9 kg (11–24 lb)

Height: male 33–41 cm (13–16 in) female: 33–41 cm (13–16 in)

Coat: long double coat

Colour: sable, mahogany sable, shaded sable, tri-coloured, bi-black, bi-blue, blue merle, bi-blue merle, sable merle, colour headed white, double merle

Litter size: 4-6 puppies

Life span: 12+ years

Skye Terrier

The Skye Terrier was an extremely popular breed and had some famous and even royal fans. However, whilst not the only breed to be listed as vulnerable only 50 puppies were registered with the Kennel Club in 2018 – much lower than any other breed mentioned in this article.

You may have heard of Grey Friars Bobby; a Skye Terrier that guarded his owners grave for 14 years until he died on 14th January 1872. A fountain, with a statue of Bobby at the entrance to the churchyard where Bobby and his owner is buried, now commemorates the story.

Hypoallergenic: No

Life span: 12 – 15 years

Temperament: Loyal, fearless, intelligent, friendly and good-tempered

Colours: black, fawn, blue, dark grey, light grey

Weight: male: 16–18 kg, female: 12–14 kg

Height: male: 24–25 cm, female: 20–24 cm

Smooth Collie

Related to the Rough Collie the Smooth Collie traces its ancestry to the 5th Century, when it is believed that the dogs accompanied the Roman legions. Like the Rough Collie the Smooth Collie also has a double layered coat. The undercoat is soft insulated layer and the harsh outer layer consists of “guard” hairs.

The Smooth Collie’s temperament makes them ideal watchdogs as well as herding dogs. However, if not channelled correctly they are prone to nuisance barking. Therefore, Just like other collies, they are highly agile and active dogs needing regular exercise and mental stimulation.

Hypoallergenic: No

Life span: 12 – 15 years

Temperament: responsive, intelligent, sociable, alert, active and trainable

Height: female: 51–56 cm, male: 56–61 cm

Weight: female: 18–25 kg, male: 20–29 kg

Colours: white, blue merle, sable merle, sable, tri-colour, sable & white

West Highland Terrier

Commonly known as Westies, the West Highland Terrier has a distinctive white coat. The Westie’s coat consists of two layers; a soft undercoat and harsh outer coat. The story goes that on a hunting trip a brown terrier was mistakenly shot as it was mistaken for a fox. Consequently, a more distinctive breed was wanted which led to the white dogs we know today.

As a family pet, the Westie is more suited to families with older pets as they react to rough handing typical of smaller children. In addition, they can also make good watchdogs and are loyal and courageous.

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Life span: 12 – 16 years

Origin: Scotland

Weight: female: 6–7 kg, male: 7–10 kg

Temperament: hardy, independent, alert, friendly, active and courageous

Height: female: 23–28 cm, male: 25–30 cm

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