Scotland is known for a lot of great things, including stunning castles, smoky Scotch whiskey, and of course, plenty of impressive dog breeds. We’ve rounded up Scottish dog breeds that are worth knowing about, with a couple in there that might even surprise you (looking at you, Golden Retrievers!). Check out the list below for a guide to the breeds that we have Scotland to thank for.
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It’s probably not shocking to learn that the Scottish Terrier originated in Scotland. The breed, originally known as Aberdeen Terriers and now referred to mostly as Scotties, was bred to hunt vermin in the Scottish Highlands, and is thought by some experts to be the oldest variety of dog breed indigenous to Great Britain. They made their way to American shores in the late 1800s, and were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) just two years later. And while they may be born and bred to hunt, Scotties have been most visible as companion animals to the rich and famous, including Humphrey Bogart and Franklin Roosevelt.
Height: 10 inches
Weight: 18 to 22 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Short and stout with a double coat and longer fur on the face, legs, and lower body
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Tracing the Border Collie’s Scottish roots is a bit like tracing the history of Scotland itself. The breed was born from a long line of other breeds that were popular amongst various groups that invaded Great Britain at one time or another, including the Romans and the Vikings. Cross-breeding between these various dogs on Scottish shores eventually led to the Border Collie, a breed that immediately proved formidable when it came to herding in the rocky Highlands. Border Collies are still used extensively for herding purposes today, though they also make fantastic family dogs, proving as energetic and playful as they are intelligent.
Height: 18 to 22 inches
Weight: 28 to 48 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Rough or smooth medium-length double coat with a coarse outer coat and a soft undercoat
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Not to be confused with the Border Collie, Rough Collies are a Scottish breed all their own—though they share many similar traits. Like Border Collies, Rough Collies are the result of cross-breeding between breeds that made their way to Scotland from other countries, though in this case their lineage is thought to be tied only to the Romans. Equally proficient in herding, Rough Collies became a fast favorite among the Scots, later surging in popularity as companions and show dogs thanks to being a beloved breed of Queen Victoria. Eventually, Rough Collies reached true superstar status as the breed behind Lassie, itself an offshoot of a British novel.
Height: 22 to 26 inches
Weight: 50 to 75 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long muzzle and a double coat, with an outer coat that is long, straight, and smooth
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We’re not done with Collies quite yet! The Smooth Collie looks a bit different than its fluffy breed relative the Rough Collie, boasting a short and smooth coat in contrast to the Rough Collie’s long coat. For the most part though—including in temperament and history—the Smooth Collie is quite the same. In the United States and Canada, Smooth Collies are classified as the same breed as Rough Collies, and can interbreed while still maintaining pedigree status. In the United Kingdom, however, the Smooth Collie is considered to be a distinct breed.
Height: 20 to 24 inches
Weight: 40 to 66 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long muzzle and short, flat coat with longer hair found in the ruff around the neck and on the back of the thighsContinue to 5 of 14 below.
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The West Highland White Terrier—referred to for the most part as Westies—is a breed that is completely intertwined with the country they originate from. Westies are part of a classic grouping of Scottish terriers that are all thought to have, at one point, branched off of the same family tree. Bred to combat the rodent infestations common in marketplaces and estates, Westies are one of a group known as “earthdogs,” since they’re on-the-ground hunters with an affinity for fast moving vermin. Alternate names have been the Poltalloch Terrier and Roseneath Terrier, after Scottish estates where they were bred. The West Highland White Terrier is the name that stuck though, and they’ve been equally popular in the U.S. as they are in Scotland for at least the past hundred years.
Height: 10 to 11 inches
Weight: 13 to 20 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small in stature with white fur and a medium-length double coat
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Another Scottish earthdog, Cairn Terriers have spent centuries helping out with vermin control on Scottish estates and farms. The breed can be traced to the Western Highlands as far back as the 1600s, though it’s thought that they originated even earlier than that. The smallest of the Scottish earthdog terriers, Cairn Terriers got their name thanks to their affinity for sourcing out rodents hiding under cairns, which are rock piles used to mark boundary lines. They’ve been a mainstay of British dog shows since at least the early 1900s, and got their first major claim to worldwide fame when a Cairn Terrier named Terry played Toto in The Wizard of Oz.
Height: 9 to 10 inches
Weight: 12 to 15 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small and double coated, with a wiry outercoat that comes in a wide range of colors
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Another favorite of Queen Victoria, the Skye Terrier gets its name from its point of origin: the Isle of Skye in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides Islands. These big-eared pups have a bit of a rags to riches story, early on elevating their status from vermin hunters to pampered pups of British nobles. They’re still Scottish earthdogs at heart though, and are thought to have played a big role in the development of many of the other Scottish terrier breeds.
Height: 9 to 10 inches
Weight: 35 to 45 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Short but long body, double coat, and notable feathered prick or drop ears
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Noticing a pattern here? Terriers have thrived in Scotland due to their special skill for hunting prey in rugged terrain, and the Border Terrier is one more breed that’s persisted even to this day. So named because of their early years spent assisting farmers on the Scottish-English border, the Border Terrier is perhaps most renowned for their prowess in fox hunting—a talent that made them an obvious companion for Scotland’s elite. Today, they’re one of the most popular terriers in the UK, with a sweet personality and an affinity for getting on well with other dog breeds.
Height: 12 to 15 inches
Weight: 11.5 to 15.5 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Double coated with a wiry outercoat and a muzzle that's normally darker in colorContinue to 9 of 14 below.
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Golden Retrievers may seem as American as apple pie, but the history of this much-loved breed actually goes back to the Scottish Highlands. Throughout the latter half of the 1800s, Dudley Marjoribanks, the first Lord Tweedmouth, carefully developed and bred Golden Retrievers from his estate in Inverness-shire, tweaking the line here and there to develop a top of the line hunting companion. The bloodline of Golden Retrievers includes the now-extinct Yellow Retriever and Tweed Water Spaniel, as well as Irish Setters and Bloodhounds. They became fast favorites of U.S. dog lovers when they made there way here in the 1900s, and today are as at home in the American suburbs as they once were in the Highlands.
Height: 21.5 to 24 inches
Weight: 55 to 75 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-length double coat in various shades of gold
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The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie or as they’re more commonly known, looks quite similar to its cousins, the Collie, though they’re a bit smaller. Their exact origin can be traced to when Collies were shipped north from the Scottish mainland to the Shetland Islands at the northernmost tip of the United Kingdom, where they developed into a variety of breeds, including Shelties, who are skillful herders with a small stature that makes them better suited to the cold and unforgiving climate of the area.
Height: 13 to 16 inches
Weight: 15 to 25 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Rich mane and a dense and woolly undercoat
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Another of Scotland’s impressive herding dogs is the Bearded Collie, or Beardies. Like other Collies, their roots are traced to Scottish conquerors, in particular the Polish Lowland Sheepdogs and the Hungarian Komondorok, both of which were brought to the country in the 1500s. Beardies have long been lauded for their herding prowess in Scotland’s rocky hills, and like many of the other herding and hunting breeds of Scottish origin, also enjoyed popularity among the elites. Nearly wiped out in World War I, Beardies made a comeback thanks to a concerted effort by British breeders, and eventually served as a charter breed for the AKC’s herding dog group in 1983.
Height: 20 to 22 inches
Weight: 45 to 55 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Broad head with a long muzzle (or beard) and long, thick double coat
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Gordon Setters are Scottish bird hunting dogs and part of a family of Setter breeds that were bred to hunt in various Scottish climates and topographies. These dogs get their name from the Duke of Gordon, who bred them at his estate, Gordon Castle, in Moray. During his time developing the breed, Gordon Setters evolved into the look they’re most associated with today, including their ubiquitous black and tan coats. The first breeding pair to make their way to the U.S. came to the shores in 1842, and the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1884.
Height: 23 to 27 inches
Weight: 45 to 80 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large with droopy ears and single coat of black with tan markingsContinue to 13 of 14 below.
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Dandies are Scottish border terriers whose claim to fame lies in literature more than anything. Sir Walter Scott, one of Scotland’s most famous novelists, included in his book Guy Mannering a character named Dandie Dinmont, who was based off of James Davidson, a real life breeder of what is now known as Dandies. Interestingly, even today it’s believed that all Dandie Dinmont Terriers can be traced back to Davidson’s original breeding dogs. Dandies may have serious hunting skills in their blood, but they’re perhaps most well known as a favorite of royals in the 19th century, including King Louis Philippe of France.
Height: 8 to 11 inches
Weight: 18 to 24 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long and low body with a topknot of hair and a salt and pepper coat
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Known as the “Royal Dog of Scotland,” there is certainly something regal about the Scottish Deerhound, which is the tallest of the Scottish breeds. The ancient lineage of Scottish Deerhounds goes back so far that it’s believed the breed made its way to Scotland even before the Scots themselves, making it an obvious mainstay of Scottish culture and history. Like many of the other Scottish dog breeds, the Scottish Deerhound originates in the Highlands and has a special knack for hunting—in this case though, it’s not small vermin but massive deer.
Height: 28 to 32 inches
Weight: 75 to 110 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Tall and slim with a wiry coat