rough collie dog smiling with tongue out and sitting in snow

14 Scottish Dog Breeds You May Not Have Known Come From Scotland

Did you know that there are more than 350 dog breeds recognized worldwide that originate from all over the globe? Every type of dog was bred for a purpose - be it for companionship, herding, guarding, hunting and beyond. Looking at Scotland specifically, here are 14 Scottish dog breeds you may not have known Come from Scotland.

Bearded Collie

Bearded Collie dog

Bearded Collies come from the Scottish Highlands. They were bred to herd cattle on the property and drive the livestock to market. Farmers valued them highly for their ability to work long hours in Scotland's harsh climate and terrain.

Their exact origins are unclear, as are the origins of many other breeds used mostly by humble shepherds and the lower classes. Bearded Collies were once believed to be an ancient breed from before the Roman conquest of Britain in the first century B.C. Now, it's believed that Bearded Collies descended from Central European dogs (like the Polish Lowland Sheepdog and Komondor), brought to Scotland in the 1500s. They were originally known as Highland Collies and Mountain Collies, but were renamed for their beard and facial hair.

Bearded Collies appeared to become more fashionable, as they were depicted with upper class masters in paintings from the 1700s. The breed standard was set around the early 1800s and Bearded Collies became popular in Scottish shows during the mid-1800s to early 1900s. World War I decimated the breed, but British fanciers were able to rebuild it afterwards. In 1967, the first Bearded Collie was born in the U.S. and the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized them in 1983. The United Kennel Club (UKC) had recognized the breed a few years prior to that, in 1979.

Border Collie

Border Collie dog

The first recordings of Border Collies come from the 1700s, but their origins date back much farther. When the Roman Empire occupied Britain, they influenced all aspects of life, including dog breeding. The invaders brought their own large, big-boned herding dogs, which became a fixture of the area for over three centuries. But Vikings also invaded Britain, bringing their own dogs as well. These herding dogs were smaller, quicker and more Spitz-like. Crosses between the two resulted in the agile Border Collie, who was able to efficiently work on the hilly and rocky terrain of Scotland and Wales.

Border Collies became one of the most popular farm dogs, due to their ability to herd independently and run up to 50 miles a day. They also had a strong work ethic, ability to make decisions on their own and extreme intelligence (in fact, they are considered the smartest dog breed in the world and easy to train).

The breed, whose name comes from working along the border between Scotland and England, was recognized by the UKC in 1961 and the AKC in 1995.

Border Terrier

Border Terrier dog

The Border Terrier originated in the hilly countryside near the border between Scotland and England. Farmers of the time needed hunting dogs to protect their livestock from predators, such as foxes. This required dogs with legs long enough to keep pace with hunters and foxhounds, but small enough to burrow into dens. These tireless dogs became the ancestors of the Border Terrier. They had wiry coats that were weatherproof, which was much needed given the area's wet climate and harsh environment.

Early names for the breed included the Reedwater Terrier, Ullswater Terrier, and Coquetdale Terrier. These all came from areas north of England, where they were found. But it was in England's northernmost county, Northumberland, where the breed earned its reputation as a skilled fox hunter who excelled working with other dogs. Border Terriers were used by both working-class and upper-class hunters but, over time, became a popular choice as a pet. The UKC officially recognized the Border Terrier it in 1920 and the AKC followed soon after in 1930.

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier dog

The Cairn Terrier is one of the smallest and oldest terriers, originating in Scotland as rat hunting dogs for farmers. The exact origins are unknown because several types of terriers were categorized together as "Scotch terriers" for years. What is known is that Cairns were in the West Highlands, particularly the Isle of Skye (where its cousin the Skye Terrier originated) since at least the 1600s.

The breed got its name from "cairns," which are mounds of stones used as a boundary or grave marker in Scotland. Rodents would use these mounds as homes, so Cairn Terriers were developed to dig into them and flush out vermin. They are one of the smallest ground terriers, but in a pack, they could go after foxes, otters and other predators. Because they had to confront animals alone, the Cairn Terrier had to be independent, brave and tough.

In the late 1800s, strict breeding programs and classifications to distinguish the Cairn from other terriers were created. The AKC recognized the breed in 1913 and the UKC in 1959. Fun fact: Toto from “The Wizard of Oz” movie was played by a Cairn Terrier, which boosted the breeds popularity. 


Rough collie dog

Collies are one of the most well-known herding breeds, with Rough Collies most often recognized thanks to their distinctive fluffy coat. Though their exact origins are uncertain, it is believed that they descended from dogs brought to Scotland and Northern England by Romans around 2,000 years ago. Roman herding dogs were bred with local dogs over centuries, eventually producing the Collie.

The exact origin of the breed's name is also unknown, with several theories out there. One is that the name comes from a specific type of sheep in Scotalnd called colleys. Another is that it comes from the dark "coaly" color of early herding dogs. Yet another is that it comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "useful," though this seems less likely given their origins in Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlands. But that leads to a fourth theory, which is that the name comes from the Gaelic or Irish word for "doggie," which is càilean and coileán, respectively.

Though they existed for quite some time, the Collie was mostly unknown outside of Scotland for years. In fact, its standard was already set before it became popular outside the country. It wasn't until the mid-1800s when Queen Victoria visited Scotland regularly and "discovered" them, launching the breed's popularity. Collies were written into books and movies, eventually becoming more a popular family pet (especially because they tend to be so good with children). But many Collies around the world still herd and watch over livestock, like cattle and sheep, to this day.

The breed was recognized by the AKC ion 1885 and the UKC in 1914. The latter called it the "Scotch Collie," but dropped the descriptor in 1991. Collies come in two varieties: short-coated and rough and both clubs recognize them as variations of the same breed. 

Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Dandie Dinmont Terrier dog

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier originated along the border of Scotland and England around the 1600s, though the first written records are from around 1700. These dogs were used to hunt vermin, rabbits, badgers, otters and other critters in the Cheviot Hills. It earned its name from Scotland's prominent novelist Sir Walter Scott, who created a fictional farmer named Dandie Dinmont who owned several of the terriers. After that, these rough-coated, long-backed dogs became known as Dandie Dinmont Terriers.

Despite their working-class background, the breed became popular among 19th-century royals, like French King Louis Philippe. Dandie Dinmonts were then exported to the U.S., killing rats and entertaining the crew along their journey. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1886 (and remains the only AKC breed name for a fictional character) and then the UKC in 1918.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever dog

The Golden Retriever's origin starts in Scotland in the mid-1800s, when the need arose for dogs that were more effective at retrieving game, especially from water. Wildfowl hunting was a popular sport for the Scottish elite, but existing breeds weren't so effective at retrieving game from both land and water. In addition, gun improvements allowed game to be downed at greater distances, but that also lead to more being lost.

The breed was developed by the first Lord Tweedmouth Dudley Marjoribanks, who crossed his yellow colored retriever with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. Their litter was then crossed with Irish Setter, light-colored Bloodhound, Newfoundland and Wavy-Coated Retriever. For 50 years, Tweedmouth kept detailed records of breedings to create the ideal gundog that could hunt for hours in rainy climates and rugged terrain. He wanted a more powerful retriever that was still gentle and trainable. Thus arose the Golden Retriever.

The first Golden was showed in Britain in 1908, which is around the same time that the breed arrived in Canada and then the U.S. It was recognized by the AKC in 1925 and the UKC in 1956. The breed's popularity began to rise in the 1970s, when President Gerald Ford was in office with his Golden named Liberty. It continued to increase as Goldens were featured in television and movies, such as Air Bud and Full House. Today, the AKC ranks the Golden Retriever as the third most popular breed in the U.S., behind French Bulldogs (#2) and Labrador Retrievers (#1).

Gordon Setter

Gordon Setter dog

Gordon Setters are the largest and heaviest of setters, with males standing up to 27 inches tall and weighing up to 80 pounds on average. These substantial bird dogs come from Scotland and England as early as the 1600s. They were bred to hunt in rugged terrain and bad weather with a determined and unwavering attitude, high stamina and a great sense of smell.

Hunters began using Gordon Setters around 200 yers ago, where they would lay down or "set' when birds were located. This method was used in tandem with nets at first but dogs adapted to new methods once firearms were introduced into the hunting world. It's believed that Gordon Setters descended from crosses of English Setters, Bloodhounds, black Pointers and setters, and flat-coated black and tan collies. Other breeds may have included the Spanish Pointer, other Spanish breeds, and Irish Setters. They were first referred to as the "Black and Fallow Setting Dog" but renamed after Alexander Gordon, the Fourth Duke of Gordon and setter fancier, who founded a “Black and Tan Setters” kennel.

In the 19th century, Setters were divided into different breeds, often based on location and land on which they hunted. The Gordon Setter's big-boned and square framed, along with its strength and athleticism, is a testament to the rough and rocky Scotland terrain. Their large size also means they move at a more deliberate pace than other bird dogs. The breed was officially recognized by the UKC in 1872 and the AKC in 1884 as the Gordon Castle Setter. The AKC changed its name to Gordon Setter in 1892, while the UKC didn't change its name until 1924.

Scottish Deerhound

Scottish Deerhound dog

The Scottish Deerhound is such an ancient breed that its exact origins are unknown. In fact, evidence suggests that large deer hounds existed in Scotland before the Scottish arrived in the 9th century. It's believed that chiefs of local clans used large, rough-coated hounds to hunt wild deer. These hunting dogs had to be large but speedy, as the deer of the area were 400 pounds but quick-footed (Despite their size, Scottish Deerhounds are one of the fastest dog breeds, able to reach speeds up to 28 miles per hour!). They also needed to have endurance and an ability to work in the rough terrain and wet climate of the Highlands.

The breed was eventually identified around the 16th century. Scottish Deerhounds were associated with the highest classes and, at one point in time, only legal for aristocrats to own. This actually causes a decline in the breed, since breeding was so limited. As the number of deer dwindled, Scottish Deerhounds were replaced with their smaller cousins, the Greyhound. But an active deer population in the Northern Highlands of Scotland allowed the breed to endure. Unfortunately, Highland chieftains claimed the breed for themselves, which again meant limited breeding and a resulting population decline until around 1825. Fortunately, two breeders were able to restore the Deerhound, though it remains on the rare side. The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1886 and the UKC in 1949. 

Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier dog

Scottish Terriers (or Scottie dogs) originated in the Scottish Highlands and are believed to be the oldest of the Highland terriers, possibly dating back to the 1500s. Exact origins and ancestry are uncertain, but what is known is that they were developed to hunt small to medium sized animals (like rats, foxes and badgers). In fact, the breed had to have strong tails so owners and hunting companions could pull them out of holes.

Despite starting out as a working-class farm dog, the Scottish Terrier was admired by people in upper classes. For example, King James I of England (who was Scottish by birth) gifted the breed to people during the 17th century. The breed's modern standard was finalized in 1879 and soon after made its way to the U.S. in 1883. The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1885, while the UKC did so in 1934. It was around this time that the Scottie dog's popularity peaked. They could be found all over - in advertising, as household ornaments and owned by celebrities and presidents. In fact, Franklin Roosevelt's Scottie dog during World War II is perhaps the most famous in history. 

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog dog

The Shetland Sheepdog (or "Sheltie") is a herding dog from the subarctic archipelago in Scotland known as the Shetland Islands. They were developed as farm dogs to herd and drive sheep, ponies and poultry. Although they look like miniature Collies, Shelties are their own distinctive breed. And their small size is no accident - it allowed them to eat less, which was important in their harsh and rocky environment where food was sometimes scarce.

Although their own breed, Shelties were likely bred from Collies and Border Collies, as well as other dogs. However, it's uncertain exactly when this occurred. Because the islands were so isolated, no written records of breeding have been found. This is also why Shelties remained undisturbed until the early 1900s. Soon after becoming more known, the breed received official recognition from the UKC recognized (in 1909) and the AKC (in 1911). It was originally called the Shetland Collie, but Collie enthusiasts wanted more distinctions and so the name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog.

Skye Terrier

Skye Terrier dog

Skye Terriers likely originated in the 1600s from the Isle of Skye, the largest and northernmost island of Scotland's Inner Hebrides. This makes them one of the oldest terrier breeds, existing for over four centuries. They were bred by island farmers to help control badger, fox and otter populations. Skye Terriers are compact but rugged, able to fit into small spaces while still being substantial enough to take on these wild animals. They also have a rough, longer coat to help with the harsh terrain and climate of their homeland.

For years, Skye Terriers were largely unknown outside of Scotland. It wasn't until the mid to late 19th century, when Queen Victoria brought light to the breed, that they became popular (especially among British nobles). In fact, Queen Victoria began breeding Skye Terriers around 1840. Around a half century later, The AKC recognized the breed in 1887, though the UKC didn't until 1993.

Sporting Lucas Terrier

Sporting Lucas Terrier dog

The Sporting Luca Terrier is a lesser known, more recent breed that originated in Scotland in the 1940s. The breed is named after Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas, a Baron's son who had interest in hunting dogs. After returning from World War I, Lucas began breeding the rare Welsh breed of Sealyham Terriers. But he desired a larger "earth dog" to hunt in the ground and dirt, so he crossed the Sealyham with Norfolk Terriers. The resulting dog was called a Lucas Terrier.

In the 1990s, a man named Brian Plummer introduced various Terriers (potentially Jack Russell Terriers and Fell Terriers) to the Lucas Terrier bloodline. However, the Lucas Terrier club denounced all of Plummer's dogs, not wanting other terrier types in the bloodline. This led the way for Plummer's dogs to become their own breed, the Sporting Lucas Terrier. The breed is not recognized by the AKC, but was recognized by the UKC in 2002. 

West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terrier dog

The West Highland White Terrier, also know as the Westie, dates back to the 1700s in Scotland (though they may have existed even earlier). It was at this time in the West Highlands that the Malcolm clan began breeding Westies for rodent control, as rats and other vermin would steal grains and carry disease.

The breed's exact origins are unknown, however. One theory is that King James I desired a small "earth-dog" breed with white fur from Arglyshire. Another theory is that Colonel Malcolm Poltalloch of the Malcolm clan wanted to develop a white-coated terrier because his previous reddish-brown hunting dog was killed by a hunter who mistook it for a fox or hare. It is believed, though, that many of the Scottish Terriers (e.g. Cairn, Skye, Scottish, Dandie Dinmont, etc.) come from the same ancestry.

Westies were bred and maintained in the West Highlands for more than 100 years, until appearing in Scottish dog shows in the 1890s and AKC shows in 1906. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1908, originally as "Roseneath Terrier" for one of the more famous Scottish estates that bred them. But in 1909, the AKC changed the name to West Highland White Terrier for the area in northwest Scotland where the breed became popular and known. The UKC quickly followed suit with official registration in 1919.

Bonus Breeds!

  • Dumfriesshire Hound (extinct) - Also known as Dumfriesshire Black and Tan Foxhounds, these hounds hail from near Lockerbie - a small town in Dumfries and Galloway in south-western Scotland. They were larger than standard foxhounds, believed to have been crosses of Bloodhounds, English Foxhounds, Otterhounds and other breeds. The breed seemed to have disappeared around 2001.
  • Paisley Terrier (extinct) - Paisley Terriers originated in Scotland as the show dog version of the Skye Terrier and named for the location where most of them came from. They were developed by taking Sky Terriers with the shortest backs and longest, silkiest coats - which is why they are believed to be an ancestor of the Yorkshire Terrier. The UKC recognized the Paisley Terrier in 1888 as a variety of the Skye Terrier and allowed it to show under the Skye. But the Paisley's success in shows ultimately led to its extinction, as Skye Terrier enthusiasts protested its inclusion under their breed. Interest then declined and the breed disappeared.
  • Sleuth Hound (extinct) - Sleuth Hound was generally the Scottish term for Bloodhound, though there were slight differences between the two breeds. It's believed that these dogs existed in Scotland in the 1300s, though the earliest description of the breed is from 1536. The Sleuth Hound was supposedly red or black with small spots and had excellent scenting abilities. Similar descriptions exist of English Bloodhounds on the border of Scotland and England, which make people believe they were the same animal. In fact, a Swiss book from 1554 stated that the two were the same, except the Bloodhound was larger and had more coat color variations. Another potential difference is that Sleuth Hounds seem to trail their hunters, while Bloodhounds both trailed and sought out game. It's believed that around 1700, there were no longer differences between the two types of hounds.
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Thank you for this article. I learned from it and it was very interesting


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