Introducing the top 15 Scottish dog breeds

Think you know your Dandie Dinmont from your Shetland Sheepdog? Your Skye Terrier from your Cairn Terrier? Of course you do. We’re not getting into favourites here, but we can thank Scotland for some of the most beautiful dog breeds out there. And we’re going to celebrate 15 of them right now; what they’re known for, and why we love them. 

What’s more you might be surprised to learn that it’s not all terriers, westies and ‘ratters’, either. 

There are some golden surprises in store, plus a gentle giant…and some great herders. Thank you Scotland! These dog breeds are all worth celebrating (to be honest, we wish we had them all).

Border Collie

Known for: Intelligence and obedience

Originally bred for: Herding 

Did you know: The name Border Collie is quite literal. It comes from the borders of England, Scotland and Wales to be precise, where Border Collies were bred to work on farms herding animals. As a dog breed, Border Collies are considered to be one of the most intelligent dogs out there. They’re athletic dogs, very quick learners and highly energetic. So much so in fact, Border Collie owners will tell you they require significant daily exercise and mental stimulation every day. Get your walking boots on.

West Highland White Terrier

Known for: That white coat and those pointy ears!

Originally bred as: Ratters (and foxers) 

Did you know: The ‘Westie’ or West Highland White Terrier to give them their full name originated from the Cairn terrier bloodline. In the mid-19th Century the Malcolms of Poltalloch clans in Argyllshire decided to develop a white strain – welcome the West Highland Terrier. To this day Westies are one of the most popular dog breeds, thanks to being super sociable (and stubborn so they need regular training!).

Scottish Terrier

Known for: Being super speedy and playful 

Originally bred as: Vermin control

Did you know: The Scottish Terrier, or Scottie Dog as they are more affectionately known, was originally called the Aberdeen Terrier? As their popularity grew across Scotland and the rest of the UK, they became known as the Scottish Terrier. If you’ve got one, you’ll already know that Scotties are extremely fast and alert. They love chasing balls (and small animals so keep your eyes peeled) so fetch is a firm favourite to keep their playful brains active, and tire them out ready for some sofa time.

Skye Terrier

Known for: Fast, fearless and fringed

Originally bred as: Badger, otter and fox hunters

Did you know: Originally from the Isle of Skye, the Skye Terrier is actually one of the most endangered Scottish dog breeds, and there’s a statue of the most famous one – known as Greyfriars Bobby – in Edinburgh to this day. Skye Terriers have a distinctive straight coat and a long fringe.

Cairn Terrier

Known for: Courage, determination (and Hollywood royalty)

Originally bred as: Hunters and chasers

Did you know: Cairn Terriers are one of the oldest terrier breeds, and the oldest known working dog. The most famous Cairn was in fact Toto in the Wizard of Oz. Cairn Terriers originated from the Scottish Highlands and earnt their name by chasing prey between the cairns – so, beware – they’re keen watchdogs to this day.

Border Terrier

Known as: Quick and wiry 

Originally bred as: Fox hunters

Did you know: Like the Border Collie, the clue’s in the name and the rough-coated Border terrier got their name from the borders of Scotland, where they were bred to help with the fox hunt, thanks to the Border Terrier’s small ‘otter’ head and long legs. Border Terriers, like other terrier breeds, are known for their stubborn streaks, but as Border Terriers were traditionally bred to be active, these working dogs will respond well to a lot of mental stimulation to keep them out of mischief.

Scottish Deerhound

Known for: A gentle giant 

Originally bred as: Deer coursing hunter

Did you know: Majestic and massive, the Scottish Deerhound (or Deerhound) is a giant, rough-coated Scottish dog breed, closely related to the Irish Wolfhound (but a bit smaller!). Those long, slender Scottish Deerhound legs were bred for coursing through the woods chasing deer twice their size, so whilst you might think they’re laid back, sensitive sofa-huggers, if they spot something they think needs chasing, chances are they’ll be off in a flash.

Bloodhound

Known for: Extraordinary sense of smell, droopy faces and long ears

Originally bred as: Deer and wild boar hunters

Did you know: The Bloodhound was known in Scotland as the sleuth-hound – and was used to sniff out raiders and cattle thieves in the Middle Ages. In fact the Bloodhound is thought to originate from Belgium, but was bred in Scotland from 1300! Initially bred for hunting, the kind-natured scent-hound gentle and loving (though easily distracted by all the good smells).

Shetland Sheepdog

Known for: Their long, feathered coat and intelligence

Originally bred as: Herding dog

Did you know: The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie is a sensitive, agile herding dog that as a dog breed first originated in the Shetland Islands. Shetland Sheepdogs are fast, small, and agile (and great at jumping). They need a lot of exercise and challenging games, as this mental stimulation keeps their Sheltie minds happy, entertained – and well-behaved.

Golden Retriever

Known for: Loyalty, family-friendly, amiable nature 

Originally bred as: Gun dog, retriever

Did you know: Who knew Golden Retrievers originated from Scotland?! The Golden Retriever was first bred in Scotland in the 19th Century to retrieve (hence the name) birds and other wildfowl on hunts and shoots, without breaking their bones or damaging them so they’d be fit for the dinner table. Now, Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular family dogs around the world – no surprise as this kind, confident dog is easily trainable.

Gordon Setter

Known for: Loving and playful 

Originally bred as: Game bird hunter, point and retrieve

Did you know: The name Gordon Setter originated from the Duke of Gordon who introduced these black and brown semi long-coated dogs at his castle in Banffshire, Scotland in 1827. As a breed, the Gordon Setters are very fast (loving their long walks), intelligent and need firm but gentle handling.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Known for:  Docile and friendly attitude

Originally bred as: Badger and otter hunting

Did you know: The Dandie Dinmont Terrier, or Dandie is another ‘border’ terrier, that originally comes from the border of Scotland and England. Small in size, these terriers are quite unique, with their long body, short legs and distinctive mop of hair on the top of their head. Dandies were bred for badger and otter hunting, so it’s no surprise that they can dig deep holes in short periods of time. Gardeners, beware.

Bearded Collie

Known for: Enthusiasm and bouncy nature

Originally bred as: Herding dog

Did you know: This big grey and white ball of kind fluff is a herder, part of the Pastoral group of dogs. The Bearded Collie – more affectionately known by lovers of the breed as a Beardie – first arrived in 1912, used by Scottish shepherds to herd the flock. Bearded Collies are extremely energetic, intelligent and loving. They also need a lot of love and attention with a brush, to keep their long coat matt-free. 

Rough Collie

Known for: Long nose and fluffy coat

Originally bred as: Sheepdog, Highland herder

Did you know: Memorialised as Lassie in the 1950’s – the dog who always came to Timmy’s rescue, the Rough Collie is a typical herder and fiercely loyal. The Rough part of their name is anything but in real life, with their lovely coat that feathers out when they run. As a dog breed, they first originated in Scotland and Wales as herders and they’re very eager to learn (watch for them nipping at your heels trying to herd you, too) and thrive with plenty of space.

Smooth Collie

Known for: Agility and friendly attitude

Originally bred as: Herding dog

Did you know: The smoother-coated version of the Rough Collie, the Smooth Collie is a different breed, even though they look so similar to the Rough Collies. Sociable dogs who love exercise, the Smooth Collie is active and agile, and very sociable – with an outgoing temperament that makes them a popular breed.

22 comments

  1. Border collie is definitely the best and most intelligent
    I have 3 plus used to breed them quite a few years ago

    1. Sorry but that’s really a personal opinion rather than a statement of fact Elizabeth. Borders are obviously your favourite and undeniably intelligent. Myself and many others would most likely say the Golden Retriever is the best.

    2. I agree. Growing up we had a lot of good dogs but none as good as the border collie. Very protective of kids. A little training goes a long way with the border collie. They are smart enough to know the difference between disciplining a child and when the child is in danger. The border collie will always be my favorite!

  2. This is the appropriate weblog for anyone who desires to search out out about this topic. You notice so much its almost onerous to argue with you (not that I really would need…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, simply nice!

  3. Al I can say is, My Westie , Magaidh sheds terribly and she hears what she wants to hear., just like my hubby. I love my Dobermans the best.

  4. Love my cairn terrier, Truman, and would not trade him for anything. With that said, he was a challenge to train but mellowed with age and we have advanced in obedience, rally, agility, earth dog and we do therapy dog work as well. he is older now, 13 years, but still full of energy! I’m so lucky to have him. Such a merry fellow!

  5. Scotties for sure. They are good mole hunters . I have 2 now and I love watching them racing around the yard and playing. The cats say one is good mom but two are trouble .

  6. Cairns for me. Rufty tufty little dogs , brave and detirmined but trainable with persistance and very rewarding when you do, also very loving and devoted to owners. Lots of fun.

  7. SCOTTIES! I’ve had 4 scotties! 3 at one time and we have had several rescue and foster scotties. I currently have 2, a 7 year old and 3 month old. They are certainly a unique breed, and nothing else really compares in my opinion. They are absolutely the best companions and love their person like they were the best thing that ever walked the earth (they usually choose one person). I’ve been blessed by being a scotties person. They will protect you, comfort you and absolutely ignore you and do whatever it is you want when they are good and ready, which makes them pretty comical. I suppose most people feel the same about the breed of dog they prefer but if you decide to get a Scottie, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

  8. Rough collies are absolutly best dog breed ever.They look beautifull,they are strong,their geneticall disorders arent ife threating…As a owner of rough collie i can tell that they are pure perfection!!!

  9. Scotties Rule! I am on my third Female Scottie. They are the most loyal, courageous, intelligent and beautiful breed full of personality and a unique endearing quirkiness…love them forever!

  10. Borders are high energy and demand exercise and most definitely obedience training

    Rough collies are a delight. Easy going. Can be vocal but Borders are also. Collies are easy to train. Regular brushing takes care of the coat related problems. Its a question of the owners abilities and likes.
    All dogs are great if they fit the owners needs and abilities. I love rough collies

  11. I love all of them, hence I have no dog as I haven’t the room for more than one and cannot choose. I have 5 cats instead who groom themselves and are extremely affectionate, don’t need to be walked in all weather and each have wonderful personalities. I also have 2 lovebirds and 2 aquariums. I would have more but can’t afford a larger home. sigh!!
    Thank you for this website as I love Scotland and hope someday to visit all the british Isles including Scotland and Ireland in the trip. God bless!!

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