Saturday, June 4, 2011

Survival of the fittest?

It´s strange, but sometimes when talking to breeders (unfortunately successful ones especially) one often would think that they singlehandedly “invented” the breed one today calls the Scottish Terrier. To remind everyone how it actually happened, read on:

The genesis of the Scottie breed was in Scotland in the 19th century, and it´s history is nowhere near as pure and simple as one might expect: Originally the Scottish Terrier was bred to be a serious working farm dog. It hunted vermin, and exterminated them. These Terrier dogs needed to be able to work independently of the farmer. The dog had serious work to do and he was expected to do it with little direction from the farmer - who had more then enough of his own work to do. The breed was bred to protect the farmer's land and had to be intelligent and confident.

In 1883 a group of Scottish Terrier owners wanted to purify and maintain the Scottie as a separate breed.  A standard was written and adopted by a specialty club in Scotland for the "Hard-Haired Scotch Terrier". In 1887 a Scottish Terrier Club was established in England, then in 1888 a similar club was established in Scotland.

Up until then each region (in Scotland) would breed for type, that is how we now have the Cairn Terrier-, the West Highland White-, the Dandie Dinmont-, and the Scottish Terriers.  The Dandie Dinmont was the first of these terriers to break off into it´s own separate breed.  However, the remaining three were grouped together until 1917, this is when The Kennel Club of Great Britain prohibited interbreeding. It is believed that until this time, all three types could be found in the one and same litter.

From 1917 until today the Scottish Terrier has become a much more elegant type of dog than it´s working dog roots would suggest. Take a look at the evolution illustration I have made for this piece.Obviously this change has taken place in the hands of dedicated breeders, to start with in the UK, with the rest of the world following. Many impovements have been made, both externally and internally.

What type of dog is the Scottish Terrier evolving into in the early 21st century? Let´s look at some numbers: Only half of the reproducing bitches in Sweden self whelp (the percentage is probably similar in most countries, I´m only using this country as an example because I know the figures).  Fertility is almost certainly down, or at an all-time low. But this is harder to document as the club magazines no longer seem to publish matings (I wonder why?).

Why is this happening? What is nature telling us? What does this mean for the future of the Scottish Terrier? We all must make an effort to ensure this lovely breed´s development for the years to come. Is the way we are going now the right way? I fear that research and facts suggest otherwise.

The British philosopher Herbert Spencer´s and Charles Darvins´s theory about only the fittest animals surviving in nature, and being allowed to reproduce, is not relevant in dog breeding. In the dog world the breeders (us humans) decide which individuals we use for breeding. The question we should be asking ourselves is: Are we breeding solely to win in the showring, or are we also breeding for healthy individuals that can produce, and reproduce, naturally?

Norsk oversettelse følger.

History source: Bark Bytes, Lee Weston 
Photo: Montage. Foto: Montasje


  1. Veldig interessant, men også alvorlig. Estetisk sett er dagens skotter absolutt vakrest, men når det går på bekostning av evnen til å overleve blir rasen veldig utsatt og avhengig av moter og interesser.

  2. Overrasket over din interesse for oppdrett av skotsk terrier, Tone! Trodde du var allergisk!?!

  3. Jepp, men jeg ignorerer det. Åndens seier over materien!
    Hvis jeg bare får nok detaljer, blir jeg interessert i hva det skal være. Dessuten har dette tema overføringsverdi sosioligisk sett.

  4. Very interesting. I definately breed, groom and show my scotties to look like the 4th dog, the 5th dog is over exagerated and not so attractive.
    As for the mating - I have often said I wished I had a Jack Russell when mating (Im sure it would be easier) - sometimes it is so hard to mate a scottie and then you cannot guarantee a litter even if you get a tie.

  5. Agreed! Thanks for your comment, Scottiedog!