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Skye Terrier

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Skye Terrier
Alternative names
Country of origin
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 3 Section 2 #072
AKC: Terrier Group
ANKC: Group 2 (Terriers)
CKC: Group 4 (Terriers)
KC (UK): Terrier
NZKC: Terrier
UKC: Terriers
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Skye Terrier is an old and dignified dog breed originating, as have so many terriers, in Scotland. First bred on the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides, this dog was bred to go to ground to hunt aggressive predators, such as foxes, otters, and badgers. They were the aristocrats of the farm dogs, not left out with the other herding and ratting animals, but often kept in their owners' homes, a rare privilege as most working dogs would not be allowed inside.

A statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a famously loyal Skye Terrier A statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a famously loyal Skye Terrier

The Skye was first popularized outside their home island in 1840s when Queen Victoria began breeding the dogs. Before then, the drop-eared variety was the most popular, but the prick-eared is now the most common, partially because of the Queen's love of the type.


The Skye Terrier is often called "a large dog with short legs", and their height of 10 inches (25 cm) at the withers is deceptive, as they are twice as long as they are tall, generally 20 inches (51 cm) long in a properly proportioned dog.

The head is held high, and should be both long (but not snipey) and powerful, with strong jaws typical of the terriers. The dark eyes, closely set, should be alert and intelligent.

The body is long and low, with a level backline and a deep chest. The tail is long and well feathered, carried either low or level with the back, in which case it may be mistaken for a continuation of the back. The forearms curve slightly around the large chest, and the hindquarters are muscular and well developed. The Skye should have long "hare" feet, pointing forwards, with strong nails.


The Skye is double coated, with a short, soft undercoat and a hard, straight topcoat, which must be flat against the body and free of curl. The ideal coat length is 5 1/2 inches (14 cm), with no extra credit for a longer coat. The shorter hair of the head veils the forehead and eyes, forming a moderate beard. The ears should be well feathered and, in prick-eared examples, the hair should fall like a fringe, accenting the form, and blending with the side locks.


Fawn, blue, dark or light grey, cream, and black with black points (ears, tail, muzzle) all occur. They may have any self colour, allowing for some shading of same colour on the body and a lighter undercoat, so long as the nose and ears are black. There should be no further patterning on the body, but a small white spot on the chest is permissible.


Except for the shape and size of the ears, there is no significant difference nor preference given between the prick- and drop-eared types. When prick, they are medium sized, carried high on the skull and angled slightly outwards. In the drop type, the ears are set lower, are larger, and should hang flat against the head.


The Skye Terrier coat is resistant to tangling, and needs to be brushed at least once a week. The Skye should be kept natural and untrimmed.


The Skye Terrier is a dog of strong personal character, who responds well to the same trait in his owners. Loyal, steadfast, and sensitive, but never submissive, the Skye must respect his owner, in which case he will endlessly please, but no amount of yelling will earn that respect. Nor will exceeding affection forced upon him win his approval. A light but firm touch, especially the ability to say No, will win undying devotion. The Skye is nothing if not selective, and prefers reserved, calm people who reflect his attitude to life.

Affectionate towards their owners, they are reserved and aloof to strangers, sometimes even close friends of the family, and prefer to spend their time with one person. Much socialization is needed to reduce their aloofness, but though exceedingly warm, playful, and sensitive to a few, they will never be a social butterfly.

Training that works for one sort of dog may not for the Skye; they are intelligent and have a desire to work, but get easily bored with long training sessions, yet an hour a week with a Skye often has the same results as several hours with another breed, if you can capture their attention. They require firm boundaries and positive reinforcement, but can excel in many activities such as competitive obedience, dog agility, and tracking.

In spite of all this, for the right person, the Skye makes the ideal terrier, as they don't require long walks nor do they have energy to burn by digging and racing around. They can be an ideal apartment or city dog.


Being an achondroplastic dog breed with extremely short legs, the Skye Terrier has particular health concerns. The most preventable is often called Skye limp or Puppy limp, and it is due to premature closure of the distal radial growth plate. If a Skye is exercised too often, too young, especially before 8 months, they can damage their bone growth, leading to a painful limp and possibly badly bowed legs. Jumping up and down from objects, climbing over objects, running, even long walks, are all things to be avoided for the first 8 to 10 months to prevent later problems and allow for correct closure of the growth plate.

Degenerative disc disease is also a common problem in short-legged dogs, and as many as 10% of Skyes will suffer from it.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of Skye Terrier deaths, with Hemangiosarcomas (a malignant tumour of the blood vessels), Autoimmune disease, and Hyperthyroidism[1] as other concerns of the breed.

Overall, the breed is still considered quite healthy, and the average lifespan is 12-15 years.

Famous Skyes

  • Greyfriars Bobby

External links

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