Friday, 16 January 2015

Skye-fall

There is a ceremony in Edinburgh this afternoon to mark the 143rd anniversary of Greyfriars Bobby - a Skye Terrier who supposedly spent 14 yrs guarding the grave of his owner until he himself died on 14th January 1872.

Bobby is commemorated in Edinburgh with this statue.


They are described as "a low, hardy terrier" but,  in reality, the modern Skye is anything but hardy. The breed barely exists outside of the show-ring and there, sadly, the set of the dogs' ears is way more important that its ability to be useful on a smallholding on the windswept Isle of Skye.

Today, the Skye Terrier is one of the most inbred, most endangered native UK breeds, dead on average by just 11 years old (terrible for a terrier). It is blighted by several different cancers, auto-immune disease, renal dysplasia, Skye Terrier hepatitis and back problems (the last no huge surprise given the show-ring selection for a dog with short legs and a long back). It also has a high-maintenance coat - not always the case historically.

© Michal Maňas
Registrations in the UK? Only seventeen Skye pups were registered in 2013, prompting a huge panic and much talk about how to increase numbers.  More puppies were born in 2014, but the breed cannot survive much longer without something way more radical than the few existing breeders trying to produce more pups from their inbred stock and the Kennel Club trying to extol the breed's  dubious virtues to puppy buyers.

What breeders and the KC should be doing of course is planning a careful outcross - if, that is, there is truly enough appetite to stop this breed sliding into oblivion.

And that's because it is ethically unacceptable to continue to breed Skye Terriers without an injection of new blood when there's such a high propensity for suffering.

Are there any enlightened breeders planning an outcross for this breed - perhaps to its more hardy, more moderate cousin the Cairn Terrier?

Please let me know.

46 comments:

  1. This breed always makes me think of the old Punch and New Yorker cartoons lampooning ridiculous society people and their contorted show dogs.

    About a hundred years ago.

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  2. The Scottish, Cairn, Skye, and West Highlands white terriers all come from the same landrace stock: a hardy terrier from Scotland. Splitting them up into four inbred populations (breeds) was a big mistake, as it is in other similar breed families (e.g. Swiss Sennenhunds).

    Breeders now have two options:
    1) Let these isolated terrier populations interbred once more.
    2) Care for living Skye terriers, but let the breed go extinct.

    Either choice would be better than the shenanigans going on now.

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    1. Yes I was just reading up on the history of the West Highland white, it makes interesting reading.

      http://home.planet.nl/~leuse004/historyen.htm

      These terriers of the Scottish region were all collectively known as the Scottish Terrier. They were commonly interbred. After some of the types were registered in the early 1900's the kennel club and the American kennel club took measures to end cross breeding for good for these. This is when it all came unstuck and the show Skye was also born.

      The "Westie" in fact wasn't even an all white terrier. Anything white and fluffy and Scottish before registration with the kennel club is included into their history as being a "Westie". I suppose this make believe is to try and bolster the imaginary fact that the breed isn't the "mish mash" the Scottish terrier, to me what must have been a perfectly acceptable healthy dog much like unregistered JRTs are today.

      Take away Kennel Club registrations, closed stud books and conformation shows and the Skye will either go extinct or find a new purpose in a much invigorated form. No doubt, even as a pet.

      I have to say Im appalled for the JRTs that are rapidly becoming a show dog for all the same reasons. Sadly these show dogs influence is becoming greater, even in the general population as the working dog is too game for the average pet owner and a pedigree is sold as proof of breed. I can recognise in some countries the rather dull show (especially the Australian JRT) types influence in character and conformation and its not a good thing, diseases are now also raising their ugly head too.

      History it seems definitely has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

      Im all for performance testing and appraisals within breed clubs with permanently open stud books or improvement registers that include all acceptable types the broader the better. The problem is "acceptable types" causes mayhem and personal agendas that often lead to political infighting and and and so standards need to be brief and quite vague and let the dogs differ slightly between regions. Seems we need to learn to agree to disagree for our breed of choice and let the dogs do the speaking.

      A pet dog breed needs as much performance testing as a dog breed used for retrieving birds of course, unless you are simply willing to take your chances on a rescue of any type that takes your fancy.

      I prefer to get a dog based on reputation and knowledge of it's parents ability and character alone, that suits me fine for both a pet and a working dog, I treat them the same. Im not against dogs with pedigrees I just avoid them but especially if they are showing pedigrees.

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    1. Deleted to permit re-posting with editing.
      Rough getting 14 years of grave watch when the expected lifetime is 11 years!
      However, many of the old regional terriers are in trouble and have short life expectancies (check the Finnish KC database for numbers). JRT's are a mish mash breed, live longer, but Norfolk, Glen of Immal, etc.have short lifespans for small dogs. I saw somewhere the the Black Russian Terrier had an expected lifespan of 4 yr.

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    2. Erm excuse me, and I know you are typically well meaning in most of what you write but "mish mash" is hardly the correct way to describe a healthy breed of dog such as the non-showing, non-Parson, non-Australian, non-pedigree JRT.

      If that sounds like a deconstruction its because it is. That's what it would take to make the Skye a healthy popular breed of dog again too.

      The JRT is interesting and also quite amusing (not just as a breed characteristic LO) because it has only relatively recently been adopted by the showing fraternity and in various countries with everyone shouting out loudly that their version is the original, while of course the original still runs healthy "wild" and free in all those same countries and well outside their closed pedigree dog bases.

      The arguments are legendary about leg length, hair type, set of ears, size, colour, character etc. However practically non of this matters unless you have a very specific idea in mind for what you want to do with your JRT and it still doesn't matter as you have such a wide gene pool to select from, your ideal dog will exist out there for sure, in everything from character to gameness, size ,colour ETC.

      This to me it's what a breed should be, a loose alliance. A type, this also conveniently avoids the worst problems associated with inbreeding and limited gene pools.

      I suspect as others have said here that the Skye was once such a breed, a Scottish variant of the JRT if you like, maybe slightly fluffier perhaps for the climate, mostly black etc.

      For me one of the most exciting things bout dog breeds is the wonderful variation within the broad parameters of what the breed is recognised as being. This excitement of course is the worst nightmare for the pedigree dog breeder who yearns for uniformity down to the last cm of the dogs tip of the nose.

      I don't feel the sudden appearance of the characteristics of another breed in a gene pool is terrifying or alarming, this is though almost universally in the show dog an instant disqualification and stated as such in almost every standard.

      For me a breed is not so static, times change needs change functions change and breeds should be allowed to keep pace or allowed to die out. It seems though when their only function left is as a showing dog that they are already almost dead, extinct. BTW this sole function as a show dog excludes a function as a pet so unhealthy does the dog become.

      So if the breed the Skye looked less than uniform in its hey day that was a healthy thing. Not a mish mash, but perhaps a brilliantly handy tough little versatile breed sometime leaning towards a small bearded collie other times towards a cairn.......

      At the moment I'm getting quite deliriously excited about a little black and tan short legged JRT coming out of our horsey chapter in Ireland. No doubt someone somewhere is trying desperately to claim it as a separate breed so they can get it registered, show it, standardise it, close the stud book and ruin it. Who cares the real dog will still exist as long as the enthusiasm for its delightfully plucky and charming presence exists outside of the show ring.

      Im unashamedly anti-showing, anti-pedigree dog as they exist today except for a minority who are bred along almost purely working lines.

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    3. I honestly never used to have time for JRTs. Just never appealed to me in any sense of their type, purpose or temperament. Of course, that was until I got older and realise that all the people I'd met who owned them had treated them like babies and turned them into satanic little spoiled brat dogs.
      Then out of the blue we ended up with an ex breeding bitch (a black and tan, funny enough) given to us by my mother's boss. I didn't want the dog. I rather hated her and felt annoyed that we'd taken in a dog that we didn't need and one from a breed I had never liked. But over 3 years on, and she's honestly one of the best little dogs I've ever known. I love my field spaniel to death, don't get me wrong, but the JRT is an un-demanding but friendly and spunky little bitch who, at the age of 10, going on 11, still managed to catch two big rats in our garden a few weeks ago, is sound as a pound and has never given us a day of trouble with the vet since owning her. She gets a little more tired these days and she's more grey than tan around the muzzle, but she shows no signs of having to retire from walking with her 7 year old, lively spaniel friend and helping at the yard. Jennifer is right in that they're a mish-mash of genetics, but in no way is that a bad thing. If anything, it's quite often their saving grace.

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    4. Yes they are a lovely type and some types lovelier than others. Just avoid the pedigree ones as they have some bad problems already.

      A good JRT is as tough as boots and wont spoil easily.

      Ours are treated like dolls by the girls. Im constantly removing items of clothing left stuck on them while they are trying to catch rats in the bush. They adore it especially the rough and tumble to get those clothes onto them. Its nothing more than a most delightful wrestling match to them. This is of course purely anecdotal evidence but as vocal as they are they have never growled at anyone they know not once in their entire lives. Yes they don't trust strangers readily.....not ours but there are as many characters in the breed as individuals.

      In breeding it's wise to pay particular attention to the characters of the parents of course.

      Their genes are not a mish mash not if you have a feeling for what it is you like in the breed, this may of course differ to your neighbour but there are types to suit almost all except the feint hearted.

      They have the same genes as every other dog remember? Its one species many breeds or types.

      A mish mash of genes is what I consider most pedigree dogs to have. A mish mash of unhealthy selections to reach a standardised exaggerated crippled inbred ideal. JRTs are generally a product of healthy outcrosses at least for those outside closed stud books.

      I suppose its best to get your pup from someone who has thought properly about their creation and whose idea of "properly" is ethical, responsible and wise. Word of mouth is far superior to any number of ancestors on a piece of paper.

      I see the black and tan JRT is already "The American Hunt Terrier" . They offer an interesting long European history for the breed but its all made up. They are a fairly recent happening. The Irish ones have been exported to America too of course, six that I know of at least have been exported from Ireland from a well known yard dealing in top class eventer prospects.



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  4. Terrible. The breed is literally falling apart.
    Hardy, tough and any of the other adjectives used in describing this breed now are simply untrue. Maybe combining the breed with another similar one (maybe from Scotland to appeal to the purists?) would be one way of keeping the man-made name alive. Or acknowledging that its ok for the breed to cease to exist, simply because interbreeding reduces viability till extinction.

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  5. A ridiculous looking dog by all accounts. These are so rare I've never seen a live one.

    A mini Loch Ness monster and on wheels maybe, we couldn't know. This is just my subjective opinion of course but in fact these looks haven't kept the dog in good stead either.

    This breed went extinct a long time ago sadly, so its today more of a myth than a reality. What we have today is not a Skye terrier. This dog/breed (amongst many) represents the typical product of breeding for exaggerations away from the original for the show bench.

    Another fabulous example is the Yorkshire terrier, also extinct.

    Personally I don't think these breeds are worth resurrecting but should there be a sufficiently passionate and preferably Scottish fan out there with lots of time and money on their hands why not. It will never be a Skye of course that moment in History has passed.

    What a bonny wee little living dog that statue looks to have been, though. To think they had the statue as reference since 1873, taken from the living dog.....blind? It would even be ridiculous wheeling out what passes for a Skye at Bobbies anniversary, no one could recognise it as being the same breed.

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  6. (I wrote a longish comment and the probably managed to delete it. If this appears twise, plz delete the previous one, as I think this is a better version.)

    I certainly agree that Skye has a horrible conformation and something should be done immediately to fix that. Crossing to Cairn sounds like a good idea. But that "going to extinct" and "horribly inbred" made me wonder and so I looked at the Finnish database.

    There were 5 litters (28 pups) registered in 2014 and 7 litters (39 pups) in 2013, that's more than in UK and that's just Finland, our tiny country and there has to be much more of them in others European countries. Inbreeding percentages of these 2014 litters: 14.4 % (counted with 8 full generations), 1.1 (7 gens), 0.0 (6 gens), 0.63 (7 gens) and 0.0 (6 gens). There were at least Finnish, Swedish, American and some east European dogs in these pedigrees, plus naturally UK dogs. The percentages would be far bigger if the pedigrees were longer, but there isn't that much recent tight inbreeding.

    The breed doesn't need any health testing in Finland, but there were still some random hip scores (none very bad, although they could be better), very few elbow scores (all but one ok), quite many knee scores (about 2/3 ok) and some eye testing results (one or two cases of cataracts and few mild things, but most were ok). No heart or back test results. Not enough data to figure out the real health situation around here, which could be as bad as over there - or then it could be at least little better.

    Anyway, the situation of the breed, at least in that "going to extinct" and "horribly inbred" isn't necessarily as bad as it seems if you look just the statistics of your own country. Nowadays the most important part of a population of a dog breed isn't necessarily in the country of origin any more, and when keeping a breed healthy and non-inbred, a breeder should remember that there are possible studs abroad too. Breeders in Finland, Sweden and other smaller European countries do that all the time, and so it shouldn't be impossible for the breeders of that distant, isolated group islands called "UK"!

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    1. Yes, there may be some genetic diversity in other Skye populations (which of course should be explored) - but equally there may not. I suspect Koiranet is not giving a true picture (as great as it is) because it's not going back far enough.

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    2. Yup,of course all the population of this breed in any country is based on the same founders as in UK, but still, as the UK population is so low, it is quite likely that some bloodlines (sire lines, dam lines) have died in Uk but still available in other parts of the world and any extra genetic variation is good - although perhaps not enough to save this breed. But still worth saving.

      Instead of just letting this, that and those breeds to go extinct and lose forever whatever genes they had (and thus making dog gene pool smaller), even this breed should be given a chance to survive somehow, perhaps as a new combination with another breed/landrace but still i don't think that any breed (ok, perhaps English Bulldog) is "worth" of just getting rid of and forgetting it.

      Could some landrace Skye type terriers still exist? Or perhaps there are pet bred (but not necessarily totally purebred) non-registered Skye type terriers with more leg and less back and less coat? If I was to save Skye, I'd probably allow crosses to more than one breed. Glen, Dandie, Scottie, Cesky, Cairn - and what about French bearded basset breeds like Fauve de Bretagne or perhaps dachshunds, either long-coated or bearded? Naturally not the low-legged British show dachsies, but the versions with little more leg.

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  7. There are some suggestions from writers on the history of the Bearded Collie Greyfriars Bobby wasn't a Skye Terrier but a small Bearded Collie. Another indication of how breeds have changed for fashion rather than healthy functionality

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  8. Again why let a good story get in they way of the truth. Of an owner of Skye Terriers for over 25 years, I can tell you they are a very healthy and robust breed, the can out run and out manuever almost any dog you would care to pitch against them. I have have had 7 and all lived long and healthy lives well above your 11 years. The breed clubs across the world have worked together to overcome any problem health wise the breed faced and put in robust practice to identify any problems and overcome them (working with various Kennel Clubs). If you really wanted a poor bred terrier go after the WHWT puppy mills or what about the terrier /poodle/ CKCS crosses or other designer dogs you hoodwinked the publicinto believer were healthy (and look at thousands being produced each year). I fear you just want a few extra quid in your pocket and a pre Crufts scaremonger article is about your limit.

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    1. Anonymouse now that you mention it my parents had two JRT X Maltese the most delightful dogs you could ever wish for. The Maltese influence worked like a charm. Both looked like the original Sealyham, cobby and scruffy with the odd placed patch of colour. These dogs were often mistaken for imported "genuine" broken coated JRTs as we lived in Africa and absolutely everyone wanted a pair.

      Yes they lived for seventeen years without a days health problems, and if they were ever feeling poorely they never showed it.

      The sire and dam didn't have pedigrees but were a very nice sort belonging to our neighbour a stock farmer. The Maltese was the wife's pampered pet and the JRT his. We knew both the dogs very well of course.

      Incredibly intellgent, exceptional watch dogs and absolutely charming. Will keep your house and garden pest free and be the perfect lap dog in the evening by the fire side.

      I highly reccomend a JRT x Maltese, it's a classic.

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    2. PS I thought this blog had become extinct! Just in time for Crufts is it? Whew.

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    3. Why let data get in the way of a good anecdote. The KC survey had 37 dogs. The Finnish database has 98 and gives an average of 10 years 1 month. Obviously those data are totally biased. Your 7 dogs, on the other hand, truly reflects the actual lifespan of Skye Terriers everywhere.

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  9. Lovely to see the blog back :) Spotted this on the RSPCA website, PDE is mentioned http://blogs.rspca.org.uk/insights/2015/01/12/cavalier-owners-unite-to-demand-change-for-their-breed/#.VMKdMJWzVMs

    Reb

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    1. Yes their heart is definitely in the right place with that article.

      Though health testing has its limits of course so I was pleased to see they added the bit at the end about pedigree dogs with intentional physical deformities, though also not touching on inbreeding this could've/should've been the main thrust, how to breed/select a healthy dog? Rather than how to get all the unhealthy dogs tested etc.

      If you exclude all those unhealthy dogs you might as well start again from scratch.

      For the Sky terrier is a global couple of Hundred dogs a viable population to carry on without outcrossing to a different breed? I doubt it. The Sealyham faced the same problem but they have for awhile already started outcrossing to shorty JRTs. The cross is proving a very useful desirable type in itself, people often post wanted ads for them these days on hunting forums as those available are snapped up in no time for sport. One little side affect is that they are also absolutely adorable, looking exactly the same as the prototype Sealyham.

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  10. There are beautiful Skyes in Finland or Estonia. We adore them and are willing to do all we can to help this superb breed NOT to become extinct !

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  11. we have had skyes 30 odd years one one died under eleven , they have always run with my rottweilers ,chased hares and been hardy dogs as I live rural, yes there has been a few health issues as with hundreds of other breeds. as the fashion for designer dogs is on the increase ,the majority not health tested surely the makers of pedigree dogs exposed should looking into that ,rather than having a pop at those of us that do all we can to preserve the skye in a healthy way. you cant please all of the people all of the time!

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    1. Anon@15:15 I think this hysteria around designer dogs is misplaced.

      All pedigree dogs are in fact designer dogs even some of the most primitive looking ones or the oldest recognised breeds. Just because a breed has been around for a couple of hundred years doesn't make it less of a designer dog than one created yesterday, it just makes them more prone to health problems because of closed stud books which has led to inbreeding over many years, plus in most case inbreeding and linebreeding to fix desirable traits based on the popular dogs winning in the show ring.

      Some of these breeds are more popular than others and have retained sizeable numbers but this doesn't mean they are any less prone to being crippled messes.

      This is different for working dogs which are bred for function, as the criteria is based on performance rather than a fix standard. These breeders will in some cases readily outcross to another breed even to tweak that performance, but functionality is prized beyond all else.

      Besides the worry you have about "designer dogs" the confidence placed in health testing to cure pedigree dogs of health problems and genetic bottle necks is also misplaced.

      The only way that can be achieved is to outcross to unrelated breeds once in awhile much like "designer" dogs are produced or most pedigree dog long time ago. The problems start arising when designer dogs are in fact bred like pedigree dogs are today for showing and to fix type. The default method of inbreeding and line breeding within closed stud books to fix traits to a fixed standard to win ribbons. More and more diseases appear this way not to mention loss of function and illnesses associated with exaggerations like whacky giant bat ears, excessive coats or flat noses, long backs short legs etc are awarded and rewarded to the breeds detriment.

      Side by side all pedigree dogs represent in fact a "mish mashed" single species Canis lupus familiaris

      All the time and energy in health testing does not automatically give a breeder a Noddy badge. Improving genetic diversity in a way that matters does though for all breeds even new or "designer" ones.

      I suggest you read http://www.border-wars.com/2013/05/health-testing-in-dogs-is-limited.html because there are in fact ways to help the Sky terrier regain genetic diversity and be healthy at least if you avoid any exaggerations associated with illness and lack of function.

      Dog breeds are a lot more flexible and forgiving to out crossing to other breeds than people realise even with just the three hundred and thirty nine FCI recognised breeds alone staring at us right in the face. Many breeds, shapes but one species all Canis lupus familiaris.





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  12. Better research would have stopped you writing this article. It just proves your lack of knowledge about Skye terriers...
    No further comments

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  13. I've had skye terriers for 41 years. In those 41 years of skyes I have had no breed specific health problems, and have had few health issues. I have NEVER, EVER had a back problem with any skye, and they were longer than many seen in the ring today. This article and many of the comments only prove that the writers have little, if any, actual Knowledge of skye terriers.

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  14. Sharon K. Middleton26 January 2015 at 23:05

    As an owner of Skyes for over 18 years, I can say that the breed is healthier today than it was when I first got involved in it. In 20 years, there have only been about 20 to 25 cases of known renal dysplasia in the WORLD. Yes, we worry about genetic anomalies because of our tight gene pool, which is also why most Skye breeders are working hard to expand our gene pool by importing dogs, and semen for AI's from unrelated dogs. That is how we expand a gene pool in a rare and endangered species like Skyes. ALL canines have a 1 in 3 chance of developing cancer in their lifetime, usually due to environmental issues and diet. To say that Skyes should die out is outrageous. Skyes have long been known as long, low and level. Our standard calls for 2 times the height for the length because in dachshunds, 1.5 times tends to result in bad backs. I have seen few Skyes with bad backs over the years. Yes, now and then you see one with elbow dysplasia or premature closure. We are all working together worldwide to do OFA certifications on our dogs, and to breed healthy dogs to healthy dogs, to eradicate those problems, like they did with PRA in English cockers. I love my Skyes. They are a nice size, and are fun dogs. Mine are good with children, and in fact, my grandkids love them. My grandson loves to show one of our Skyes. . They are protective, loving, and loyal. They are a mid-sized dog with short legs. Mine have lived 12 plus to 14 plus in age. That is not a bad life span for a mid sized dog. Others I know have died older, and others younger of cancer, but again, 1 in 3 dogs of any breed or of mixed breed will contract cancer in the United States. Did you know that Mary Queen of Scots died with a Skye beneath her skirts? Did you know that I own 3 drop eared Skyes, and they all closely resemble Greyfriar's Bobby? Did you know if you look at lithograps of Skyes from even the mid 1800's, they look much like Skyes do today. Your author has no idea what they are saying when they say they look nothing like they used to look. That is ridiculous. I will be happy to post photos if you would like to see historical photos of Skyes and current ones. This article is a horrible travesty and unfair representation of our beloved breed. The author clearly knows little about Skyes. It is sad that all many people will hear about Skyes is what this fool has written today.

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    1. Hi Sharon, my family totally agrees with you. We would LOVE to know how you managed to get 3 drop eared Skye Terriers...we love that style of ear too. We rescued our first Skye from the woods.... a lost Skye Terrier a number of years ago and fell in love with the breed. We were able to track down who bred the dog; who his sister was, etc. and even to guess how he ended up where he was. He was 4 years old at the time and lived with us to age 14. We soon managed to rescue 3 other Skye Terriers...2 prick-eared and 1 drop-eared, all girls. We had never known there was such a thing as a drop eared. They are from different families. 2 from Peekskill, NY, but bred in Central Florida...original owner passed away. Our drop-eared Skye was rescued from near Atlanta, GA. It should be noted that cancer in humans as we age is common....so having a dog with cancer is not unheard of. While we are not breeders, we have grown to love this breed. There must be some way to save these beautiful dogs.

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  15. Sharon K. Middleton26 January 2015 at 23:17

    Jemima, you clearly do not know Skyes.

    First of all, in the United States, 1 in 3 of ALL canines will contract cancer. Period. It is considered due to environmental and dietary issues in large part. ONE IN THREE DOGS WILL CONTRACT CANCER.

    Secondly, since the 1980's about 20-25 Skyes have had confirmed cases of renal dysplasia. This is less than 1% of the gene pool.

    Thirdly, most breeders today are looking very hard and long at pedigrees and doing health testing before breeding. We want to avoid those problems. There are only about 3000 Skyes in the world, but we can find diverse genes by importing from other places, and by importing semen for AI's. You don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water just because the baby got dirty.

    My own Skyes have lived from 12 to 14 plus years. I have friends who have had Skyes live 15 plus years and others who died far too young. But again, ONE IN THREE DOGS OF ALL BREEDS WILL DIE OF CANCER IN THE UNITED STATES. CHECK THE FACTS WITH THE CENTER FOR CANINE RESEARCH.

    Skyes have a long back, and have been known for centuries as low, long, and level. You claim they are not recognizable from Skyes 100 years ago. That is untrue. First of all, I own 3 drops. They all look remarkably like Greyfriar's Bobby. Secondly, I would be more than happy to post some lithographs for you from 100 years ago to show you what Skyes actually looked like then. They were low, long, and level.

    Yes, many today have longer hair than in the past. They are not hunted as much as in the past. When they run in the fields all day, you cannot maintain that lovely, long coat. But that is not a change in the structure of the dog; that is a change in the manner of care for the coat.

    My Skyes are loving, loving, devoted members of my family. They are excellent with children. We love them, and it hurts to hear people like you who clearly do not know or understand the breed or the people trying to perpetuate the breed to attack it in such a frivolous manner. Yes, my dear, frivolous. Why don't you go meet Maude Hawkes or Gail Marshall, Skyes breeders in the UK, who are also judges, and in Maude's case, a geneticist, and ask them about our breed?

    After World War II, it is true that the genetic pool was very depleted. I imagine the breed almost died out at that time, and might have died out but for the concentrated efforts of some very devoted breeders. We are lucky today that the numbers are creeping up again. They are a lovely breed, and certainly not deserving of the bad rep you have dished out on them here.

    By the way, did you know that Mary Queen of Scots died with a Skye beneath her skirts? Or that Queen Victoria is painted with several Skyes?

    Check with the Skye Club if you want correct information about our breed.

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    1. Was the Sky always a dachshund type hound dog? That statue doesn't look like one to me.

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    2. Stories I read about Queen Mary of Scots, was the dog was a small black spaniel and as small spaniels were the court dogs of this time, I seriously doubt the provenance of saying, the dog found under her petticoat was a Skye Terrier. I have yet to find a painting of Queen Mary of Scots with a Skye type dog, but paintings of her with small type spaniels can easily be found.
      At this time Skye terriers would not of been court dogs, they were hunting dogs, so very unlikely she had one in court as a lap dog.

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    3. The Skye (as in Isle of Skye) has always been a long and low terrier with lots of coat. In London, at the Natural History Museum, you can see Wolverley Chummie, born in 1899. He lived until he was 11 years old.
      Unfortunately I cannot add a photo in this comment, but here is a link.
      http://piclib.nhm.ac.uk/results.asp?image=100929&itemw=4&itemf=0003&itemstep=1&itemx=1

      Here again you can find a photo of Wolverley Duchess, born 1894. You can see the proportions and coat better.
      http://www.skye-terrier.net/html/marz1.html

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    4. Jerry Alley Chair: Skye Terrier Rescue26 April 2015 at 22:32

      If you will check my Pintrest page you will find several pictures of Mary Queen Of Scots with her Skye Terriers. History also confirms that she favored Skyes. Having owned Skyes for 37 years, being a breeder as well as a judge I feel qualified to certify that you, River P., are definitely an idiot. You could not be more incorrect about the breed, and I doubt seriously if you have ever seen one. It is sad that well meaning people will read your drivel and accept it.as knowledgeable. May I suggest that for the near future that you limit your comments to the African Piss Ant

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    5. Well that told you, River P... ;-)

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    6. Jerry Alley you forgot in your flush of excitement to leave a link. Its interesting to note anyway that one of the three "Skye terriers" owned by queen Victoria was called Dandie Dinmont. Im sure Sir Walter would've been pleased at least.

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  16. Oh yes thanks for that @11:59

    That German site shows the change of the dog from a working dog to a show dog very nicely. I can read and understand German perfectly just dont ask me to speak any.

    "Shaws Flora" pictured is a lovely dog. As the caption states this dog represents the original working Sky. I can easily see Greyfriars Bobby in there, they look almost identical. Bobby cast from a live example has a very slightly more luxuriant curly coat is the only difference. There would have been more healthy and slight variety in the dog then, but nothing approaching as extreme as what we have today.

    Then came the show bench and it all went wrong as we can graphically see. The type changed completely. Im guessing the Scottish terrier fits in here somewhere too as a deviation.

    The showing version is not the same dog at all sadly. I would agree that the original working dog was longer than tall, a bit like many JRT's today rectangle rather than square etc.

    The coat changed dramatically into what looks like long soft and useless for day to day wear and the ears went up into a strange also covered in silky hair happening. All in all a bit like what happened to the Yorkshire terrier which is a complete travesty as a show dog. What a pity the tail vanished between its legs too or do they do this naturally when leashed, that embarrassed look.

    I love that original dog it looks charming with its stiff eyebrows and whiskers, it can see properly too! I reckon you could easily use any of the other small terriers on the modern show dog to improve them if desired. Cairn, Norwich types like that. The coat needs shortening too its completely dysfunctional even for a family pet. Believe me I know I kept Sealyhams and far far far highly recommend a cross with a short haired JRT in there and fairly recently if not F1.

    Just makes you wonder what breeders were thinking it does. I definitely agree that the dog as a functional pet companion and or working dog has been ruined in favour of an abomination of a fanciers dog. But I guess that's all people know these days so its hardly a wonder the defenders are up in arms.

    Yes absolutely Im sure they are still adorable beneath all of that if their characters haven't been ruined too, they are dogs after all. Does it tend to be a one persons dog as someone here suggested because that's a real problem and not in any way a virtue in my books at least.

    Hey eleven is not old for a little terrier. That's prime time.

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  17. If anyone thinks breeding dogs with unmanageable coats is a good idea take a look at these horrific images of Puli dogs entrapped in their own coats unable to walk see or hear.

    https://www.thedodo.com/shaggy-dog-transformed-uk-949470523.html

    It's simply inhumane to breed dogs like this. It might be fine for some dedicated showing owners but its a complete and utter nightmare for any dog whose coat is even slightly neglected. Lets face it this atrocity will happen to most of these breeds. Any dog that cannot more or less look after its own coat is in danger as they are totaly dependant on humans who are all too unreliable.

    This applies to cats as well.

    It should be outlawed to breed for characteristics that endanger the welfare of the dog. End of story.

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  18. River P with regards to Dogs says so much and knows so little

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    1. We must presume you are an expert then ?

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    2. Yes, but compared to River P, most people would be!! Odd how the majority of people on her who have owned the breed show just how unbalanced the original post was, yet Miss Harrison has not replied to any of them, or indeed garnered any evidence to support her "claim".

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    3. I think this is a real problem in dog breeding. Most of the supposed "experts" cannot even recognise that their dogs are deformed never mind that the fact that their dogs are so dangerously inbred. This is what they think defines "pedigree" their inbred monstrosities and not healthy dogs.

      Of course if you bring this to their attention they attack you for not being an expert.

      To me it makes complete sense how the only thing any breeders or owner here has said of any worth is that there "might" be a small pocket of dogs of the breed around in the world somewhere who could save the small majority facing complete extinction. Only if of course their pedigrees where actually fully recored which they're not.

      A true expert of course would suggest outcrossing to a different breed altoghether! Catterpillar? (:

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  19. Jerry Alley Kamal Saluki & Skye Terriers1 February 2015 at 23:33

    The writer of this article obviously has never spent a moment with the Skye Terriers of the USA. I cannot speak for the Skyes of other countries as I have not seen them but I would assume that they are of similar quality as I have seen and judged several imports. My Skyes do well in the confirmation ring and I hunt them for rats on the river that is close to my home. Trust me they can still do what they were bred for. I have never had Skye with a back problem and I have had Skyes for 32 years. Yes there is a limited gene pool, but there is a treasure of dedicated breeders who are working very carefully to enlarge the available gene pool and reduce tight in breeding.. And yes the breed has low numbers but it is the result of our not introducing new people into the breed rather than some supposed fault with Skyes. May I humbly suggest that the writer spend some time with a Skye and its breeder. I can recommend several in various countries. What you will find are people dedicated to the health and well being of their chosen breed. Don't spend to much time with a Skye or you will have to print a retraction to the nonsense that you have loosed on the public. Shame on you.

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    1. Same old, unless you live with the bred, I've been in the bred so many years years, I know best. Either ignoring the statistical evidence or twisting to suit them.
      I live with dogs and they are also brilliant and can catch rats and don't need to have a long back and short legs to do so. Some of the best terriers for ratting are the longer legged in variety. It actually don't take much to catch a rat, other than luck. All dogs if allowed to know they are a dog, if given the opportunity can catch a rat, it's a dog thing, something they do, even if they are not a Skye terrier.
      I wonder why not many new people are coming into the breed ? Taking a stab at an answer, would be because of people like you stuck in the Victorian ideology of breeding dogs.

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  20. @14:17 I agree with the first there is definitely breeder blindness to many suggestion of welfare issues in breeds that are clearly suffering, this is legendary, the hush hush its ok no one will notice is a problem. The dogs certainly notice, though.

    As far as ratting is concerned and this is a completely different subject of course but I must here disagree. On behalf of all the perfectly good dogs who wont catch a rat and all the best ones that do what you claim is just not true.

    What Im saying is of course perfectly obvious, a lot of breeds are not hunting dogs at all, in any sense. They don't have the drive or gameness. Then there are those that do that are bred for hunting that aren't interested in a mouse or rat either. These are specialists, a retriever isn't much interested for example.

    While it could make me feel warm and fuzzy to offer up anecdotal evidence I have in fact kept, we have kept over the years many hunting dogs, mostly hunting dogs. Borzoi to Pointers (sigh) JRT's, retrievers, Africanis (not the pedigree number) even a pitbull etc. Most have been sufficiently game to do a job on a large farm where I grew up. Some of these dogs progeny and their descendants are still hunting and producing hunting dogs in various forms often crossed with other breeds as is the way in some parts of the world where there isn't a neurosis about pedigree. I can still see the influence of our Borzoi for example in the coursing hounds of our district up in the cool highlands where they are used to catch deer. This is to say Im not entirely unfamiliar with hunting dogs.

    Most of ours haven't been much interested in a rat or mouse except the JRTs the pit and the African dog and quite obsessively and succesfully so.

    Im not very familiar with the showing world of dogs but Im sure a lot have lost the ability if not the instinct to do the job they first started out doing but some have retained a fair degree of gameness this I know to be true. So even if the Sky looks like it can't it very well might still want to or even be fairly successful at it, yes.

    While retaining a healthy degree of scepticism I don't think there is a need to disagree with everything pedigree showing people with experience of a breed say because that is perhaps not as constructive as engagement is where possible.

    TBC...

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  21. Going back to the ratting thing quite few of the sharper breed types like Border collies and the more primitive breeds etc will take to ratting I know this but again its a type.

    On the very emotive (apparently) issue of long or short legs in the JRT it all depends on what you need in a JRT which might determine if they are a shorter type or longer in the leg. By the way I also think its healthy to have a useful variety in any type.

    Im based in China at the moment and not too far from us is a soya factory yard. They ferment soya in extremely large (very attractive) earthenware pots sunk into the earth, glazed shiny black inside from years, generations of soya production. As far as factories go this soya one is quite charming, organic, more like a farm. The smell is pungent but deliciously yeasty savoury from a distance.

    The antique and newly seasoned pots sunk in rows outdoors present a problem when it comes to rats and mice as they they live in the dark shelter beneath the rims.
    Factory dogs which are a motley bunch of quite primitive Oriental looking medium sized dogs here chase these rats which they also catch and readily eat. These dogs can only catch them in the open once flushed by much smaller dogs and in this case fairly newly introduced JRT's.

    I've spent many a pleasant afternoon chatting with the soya baron in his excellent and perhaps paradoxical Oxford English accent while watching his dogs at work.
    The most prized dogs on the property are the two very short legged, longer backed (just an illusion actually) JRTs. He had bought three from one litter no pedigree, purchased based on working reputation, classic all white brown patch short haired types. Two grew up very short and one with long thin legs. The short ones have no difficulty at all zipping beneath the rims of the pots and are extremely successful in dispatching mice and rats. The longer legged one just doesn't have the speed as he must crouch down and wiggle (admittedly very fast) but he doesn't often catch anything unless one of the others has flushed it his way. He spends most of his time trying to dig passages unsuccessfully through the thick woven matting between the pots.

    All depends on the terrain who is best and where. Horses for courses and all that.

    Obviously these dogs are some of the happiest dogs on the planet as they live for the job. These short, proportionally also small headed JRTs are highly esteemed for the job as a result. You see not everyone is hunting ground hogs in Punxsutawney or where ever and what ever they do out there.

    For general terrain I think both short and long legs would be ideal in fact, like around a farm yard for instance. I think its pointless to discriminate because the working and pet ones without pedigrees are indeed generaly happy healthy dogs after all (:

    I can think of other situations too where the shorter ones have proven ideal, hunting in boulder country in Africa the shorter ones have a big advantage being close to the ground. They dont fall off easily being close to gravity and can get between and under easily too. I also know of a taller one crossed with whippet who makes the best silent pointer in the grass at the edge of forest thicket for shooting wild African boar. Stealth plus gamness. She can spend hours tracking primates too, absolutely silent then dead still nose pointing into a tree.......many more jobs than just flushing a fox in the home counties, absolutely!

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  22. West Highland White terriers are short-legged, hairy, need regular clipping, and white to boot! Yet they are extremely popular -at least in Spain-, so you never know ...

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  23. I met a Westie yesterday in Australia, he's 15 and in very good nick, maybe a bit stiff but otherwise doesn't show his age at all. Still runs around the farm chasing "chooks" and is a well behaved city dog during the week, chauffeured in a plush limo from townhouse to farm every weekend. I have no idea if that age is exceptional for a Westie but I was quite impressed when he leap out of the car after the choooks I must say.

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