“Loyalty and Duty are Skye Terrier watch words and he never fails to adhere to the terms of that standard even when his owner may waiver. A Skye Terrier never forgets and never forgives.” - Dr. Richard Meen
I have collected dog breed books since I was a child. When I was 11 years old I was visiting a flea market near my family’s cottage and found a tiny book on Skye Terriers from 1965. The guide was less than 70 pages long and even though the vendor wanted more than half my weekly allowance – 3 dollars for the paperback – I knew I had to have the rare collector’s item.
It took another 12 years before I saw a Skye Terrier in real life. When I first arrived in Toronto a friend took me on a long car ride tour of every neighbourhood in the city. It was upon entering the affluent community of Rosedale that I saw two well-dressed, silver-haired gentlemen walking two gorgeous Skye Terriers one silver and one cream. I made my friend pull over so that I could tell the men how excited I was as I had never seen one, let alone two, Skye Terriers! I now know those men to be Dr. John Reeve-Newson and Dr. Richard Meen, internationally respected breeders and judges.
In order to write a blog about such an interesting and rare breed, I knew I would have to call in an expert. Instrumental in helping me put together this blog, Cynthia Crysdale of Harambee Kennels, began breeding Skye Terriers 18 years ago alongside her mentor, and best friend, Dr. Richard Meen, under the Kishniga prefix. Cynthia graciously provided all of the photos used in this piece.
The exact date/place of origin of the Skye Terrier isn’t easy to pinpoint, however it is most likely that they originated on the island after which they were named; ‘the Isle of Skye’.1 These ‘Skyes’ were a cross of Scotch Terriers and long-coated, small, white dogs (probably of the Maltese family) which were shipwrecked on the Isle of Skye during the period of the Spanish Armada, around the year 1588.2 Skye Terriers were held in high esteem by the Scottish Lairds, valued as both pets and hunters.3 Believed to be the ancestors of the modern Skye, it is said that Lady MacDonald, of Armadale Castle, owned dogs of unsurpassed beauty, truly outstanding in appearance.4
Skyes were seldom, if ever, seen anywhere other than on the Isle of Skye in the 16th century, but by the 19th century, they were drawing room favourites in England, and a common sight on Scottish streets.5 Queen Victoria had a kennel full of Skye Terriers, and Mary, Queen of Scots had one under her skirt when she was beheaded.6 Greyfriars Bobby, a famous Skye Terrier who gained notoriety for his loyalty, even has his own statue in Edinburgh!7 However, these days Skye Terriers are on the verge of extinction.
Skye Terriers were developed to hunt a variety of prey, including badger, otter, fox and other low ground lying vermin. When you look at a Skye’s body you can see how their build makes them well-matched for their game. A proper specimen of the breed can pursue at great speed, enter burrows, bolt holes and dens, bringing their prey back to the surface.8 Agile and athletic, Skyes can move across both rocky terrain and water with equal ability.9 The Skye’s low, long, level and lank-coated conformation makes them unique among the Terrier Group.
Skye Terriers shed moderately, but depending on the type of coat, can mat and tangle. Although they have a glamorous appearance, the Skye coat can be easily maintained with a weekly brushing, though many owners choose to brush several times a week. A monthly bath is also recommended to help maintain their long, clean coat. While you don’t need to trim a Skye, some pet owners trim their dog’s coats shorter for easier maintenance. A Skye should never be shaved.
When properly socialized as puppies, fans of the Skye Terriers say they are a joy to live with. Engaging, quick, charming, affectionate, eager, intensely keen to receive love from their people, Skyes are a lot of fun. Well-bred Skyes should have a steady, good-tempered nature. Because of their Terrier nature, Skyes are exceedingly friendly and affectionate with those they know, and often reserved with strangers. Skyes will always want to be near their people. If not sitting beside you on the couch, they will lie at your feet. Owners say they are the epitome of loyalty and devotion.
With such a devoted nature in a size suited to city or country living with easier than it looks grooming requirements, you might be asking “Why are Skyes so rare?”. The simplest answer is that people have forgotten they exist. Other breeds have become more popular and with little ‘commercial’ popularity, the ownership of, and demand for Skye Terriers, has decreased. If you decide to get a Skye Terrier, you will not only be helping an endangered breed, but will probably be the only one in your neighbourhood with one. You will also get the chance to meet your neighbours often as everyone will be asking “What type of dog is that?!?”.
A Skye Terrier Might be the Breed for you if:
- You understand and enjoy the terrier breeds, and their natures.
- You are comfortable with a breed that has a strong character.
- Are able and willing to care for their coat.
- Enjoy an intelligent, charming breed with a great sense of humour.
- Are keen with an overtly loving, loyal dog.
A Skye Terrier Might Not be the Breed for you if:
- Prefer a less engaging, more low-key breed.
- You don’t want a breed that requires regular grooming.
- You are unable to properly socialize a dog.
“A Skye Terrier is in fact one of those “Iseland Dogges” that surfaced centuries ago and continues to this day to be a challenge to describe. Its uniqueness has survived the winds of time but not the winds of fashion or the arrogance of elitism.” - Dr. Richard Meen
Rare in numbers and unforgettable in appearance the Skye Terrie is a dog of fierce loyalty and impressive courage. If the Skye Terrier interests you, use the Canadian Kennel Club’s Puppy List to connect with breeders near you. http://www.ckc.ca/Choosing-a-Dog/PuppyList/Breed.aspx?breedname=Skye%20Terrier&breedcode=SYT
1 Brearley, Joan McDonald & Anna Katherine Nicholas, This is the Skye Terrier (T.F.H Publications, 1975).
2 Meen, Richard. “The Skye Terrier”. Judge’s Education Seminar. Cobourg, ON. 2014 3 Ibid., Meen
4 Ibid., Meen
5 Ibid., Meen
6 Montgomery, E.S, The Complete Skye Terrier (Howell Book House, 1962).
7 Ibid., Montgomery
8 Ibid., Brearley, McDonald & Nicholas
9 Ibid., Brearley, McDonald &