How Scottish are Scottie dogs?

Scottie dogs stars of Commonwealth Games opening show

Scottish terriers stole the show at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, leading every nation as competitors walked around the stadium. But how did Scottie dogs come to be a symbol of Scotland, asks Vanessa Barford.

If a dog's status is in its name, the Scottie is top dog.

Whereas other terriers that originated north of the border - the Skye, West Highland White, Cairn and Dandie Dinmont - have kept their regional roots (in name at least), the Scottie - which is sometimes referred to as the Aberdeen Terrier - has the whole nation on its shoulders.

But how Scottish are Scotties? The Scottie is a standard terrier in that the dog was originally bred as a "ratter" and used to hunt vermin, according to Liz Bradley, chairman of the Scottish Terrier Society. Terrier comes from the Latin word terra, meaning earth.

"People bred them for different work. The West Highland White is a lighter dog. The Scottie became more substantial - it's a heavier boned, deep-chested breed that worked in the heather up in the Highlands," she says.

Appearance wise, the Kennel Club describes the breed standard as "thick-set", "short-legged", "alert in carriage" and "suggestive of great power". "Head gives impression of being long for size of dog. Very agile and active in spite of short legs," it says.

Describing the dog more generally, the club says: "His public image is often that of a dour Scot, but to his family and friends he is affectionate and cheerful".

Bradley agrees with the suggestion Scotties share some character traits with the Scots. "They are a very fun breed, great thinkers, loyal, and rather stubborn. They can be seen as a little standoff-ish, but at the same time they are partygoers."

Scotties are "big dogs on little legs", she says. "They may be short, but they have the heart of a lion. They would strut up to the biggest dog in the world and still think they are bigger."

Lynn Allardyce, owner of Pet behaviour Scotland, agrees. "They are lovely wee dogs, but they can be a bit grumpy, which some might say is a Scottish trait," she says. "Terriers have a good temperament, but they can be a bit nippy [and] are very, very stubborn, which is often said to be a Scottish characteristic," she adds.

But Scotties aren't the most popular dogs in Scotland, according to Allardyce. "That title probably belongs to the Labrador," she says.

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