Now considered one of the most endangered dog breeds, these powerfully built little terriers were once the darlings of Victorian society. Kept by farmers in the Skye Islands to hunt and kill badgers, foxes, and otters these dogs caught the attention of English royalty. Bred in the kennels of Queen Victoria, this breed reached its peak of popularity in the late 1800’s and now ranks 178th in popularity. These dogs make relatively good apartment dogs with moderate exercise needs, but they have been known to develop problem barking. Intelligent but independent, these dogs can be a challenge to train, and although they are generally amicable with family, they can be aloof with strangers and aggressive towards other dogs.
The Skye Terrier was developed on the Isle of Skye in northwestern Scotland to hunt badgers, foxes, and otters in their dens. These tough little dogs would even take to the water in pursuit of their quarry, and they retain their fearless and canny nature to this day. At some point in the middle of the 16th century, this people oriented breed gained the attention of English royalty, and they quickly gained popularity among the elite in the region. In 1842 Queen Victoria acquired a Skye Terrier and began breeding them in her vast royal kennels shortly afterward. During this time these little Terriers became exceedingly popular in England, not just among the royals, but among the common people as well, and this popularity was bolstered by the devotion of a Skye Terrier by the name of Greyfriars Bobby. Greyfriars Bobby was the constant companion of a night watchman by the name of John Gray from 1856 until 1858 when John died of tuberculosis. Bobby followed the procession to his master’s new resting place and refused to leave until his death fourteen years later. Skye Terriers were present in some of the first major dog shows in Birmingham in the 1860s, and the first breed club formed in 1876. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1887. The popularity of the breed has waned since the 1800’s, and they are considered a rare breed. They still have a loyal and devoted fan base appropriate for such a loyal and devoted dog and still remain competitive in most major dog shows.
The Skye Terrier is a long and low animal, typically about twice as long as they are tall. This body design helped them to get into the burrows of the badgers, foxes, and otters that they were bred to hunt, and their solid build and substantial skeletal structure helped them to defeat the animals once they located them. They possess a long and powerful head with a strong muzzle, intelligent and lively eyes, and ears that are highly feathered. Their tail, also feathered, is long and straight, and their paws are large, with thick pads and strong nails. They have a soft wooly undercoat covered by a luxurious layer of long fur that parts down the length of the animal from head to tail and the facial hair hangs down in a veil over the dog’s eyes. They come in several colors: black, blue, cream, fawn, gray, platinum, and silver, but the only common markings for this breed include dark points on the ears, muzzle, and the tip of the tail.
The amount of bathing this breed needs depends a great deal on their lifestyle. A companion dog that spends the majority of their time inside may only need occasional bathing, but a show dog or a dog that spends a great deal of time outside may require more frequent baths. When bathing your Skye Terrier, it is advisable to either dilute the shampoo or carefully squeeze or pull it through the coat to avoid breaking the hairs of the outer layer. Brushing their coat once or twice a week will reduce shedding and help to prevent tangles as well as keeping the coat healthy and dust free. It is important to check for parasites, skin disorders, or hidden injuries when grooming your animal as the long hair is capable of hiding a number of ailments. Like most breeds, Skye Terriers require daily exercise, but they do not have the athleticism or endurance for hiking long distances or jogging. A quick walk around the neighborhood or a rousing game of fetch should be sufficient to keep your canine companion happy and healthy.