The Skye Terrier, also known as the Isle of Skye Terrier or simply the Skye, appears much the same today as it did nearly four centuries ago: long, low to the ground, level-backed and about twice as long as he is tall. The Skye is known for his huge prick ears and flowing coat that falls straight down both sides of his body nearly reaching the ground. He was bred to be a working terrier, capable of tracking and overtaking badger, fox and otter and going to ground when necessary. The Skye is courageous, strong, even-tempered, loyal, friendly with friends and family and standoffish with strangers. The Skye Terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1887, as a member of the Terrier Group.
The mature male Skye Terrier should stand 10 inches at the withers, and adult bitches should stand 9½ inches in height. Adults typically weigh between 19 and 23 pounds. He has a double coat, with a short wooly undercoat and a hard, straight flat overcoat that is parted down the middle of the back. The coat color can be black, blue, dark or light gray, silver platinum, fawn or cream. There should be black points on the ears, muzzle and tail tip. His long coat can take up to 3 years to develop and requires regular grooming.
History & Health
The Skye Terrier was developed centuries ago on the northwestern islands of Scotland, called the Inner Hebrides, on the Isle of Skye, where it was used to hunt in rocky dens, burrow, cairns and coverts and even take to water if necessary to accomplish the task at hand. In the mid-16th century, English royalty became enamored with the Skye, making it quickly the most fashionable pet among nobility and commoners alike. Queen Victoria acquired a Skye in 1842 and became so fond of the breed that she began breeding them in her royal kennels. Queen Alexandria also owned Skyes.
One of the most famous Skye Terriers was a dog named Greyfriars Bobby, who was acquired by an Edinburgh police officer named John Gray in 1856. When his owner died in 1858 from tuberculosis - only two short years after their partnership began - the dog followed the funeral procession to the Greyfriars Churchyard in Edinburgh and refused to leave his grave. He was turned away but returned daily, until local townspeople began to feed him out of pity. The cemetery groundskeeper built Bobby a crude shelter. Bobby kept this vigil every day for 14 years, until he too died and was buried next to his master. A bronze statue erected in Bobby's honor stands in Edinburgh today. Bobby's tombstone says "Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all."
Skye Terriers were the most popular of all terriers in Britain through the end of the 19th century. They were shown at the first major dog shows held in Birmingham in the 1860s. Originally, the drop eared variety was favored, but today the dramatic prick eared Skye is favored for both pet and show. The first breed club was formed in 1876. Since then, their popularity has waned somewhat, with the development of a number of other popular companion terrier breeds, including the Yorkshire Terrier. However, the Skye Terrier has many devoted fans, and he remains favored in Scotland, England and America.
The American Kennel Club accepted the Skye Terrier into its registry in 1887. The Skye rapidly became one of the most recognizable dogs at benched dog shows throughout the United States. He continues to be competitive in the show ring and is a wonderful companion.
The average life span of the Skye Terrier is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include back problems, chronic hepatitis, foramen magnum dysplasia, glaucoma, hypochondroplasia (accepted as breed standard), ectopic ureters, renal dysplasia and Skye limp.
Temperament & Personality
Skye Terriers demand to be the center of attention at all times and will do whatever it requires to maintain that attention, including make mischief around the house. Skyes are laid back when indoors, happy to curl up on the first available lap for an afternoon of rest and relaxation, but they do enjoy getting out and moving several times a day. They are avid chasers and will bolt after anything that moves – no matter how big or how small – as these little dogs are fearless in the face of danger. They have minds of their own and don't like to be told what to do, but are affectionate and loyal dogs who adore their immediate family and make good companion animals.
Skyes can adjust to any living arrangement, be it a small apartment or a sprawling estate. They need to be exercised daily, but a brisk walk around the neighborhood and a couple rounds of ball-chasing meet their daily activity requirement. They do not have the drive or athleticism or endurance to jog or take long hikes, however, so they are well suited for a more indoor-oriented family.
Skye Terriers are not for softies who are prone to bend the rules. Training should begin early and should be conducted with excited praise and lots of treats in order to keep him interested. Absolute consistency is a must in order to raise a well behaved Skye Terrier, as they see rule-bending as an open invitation to take over. No matter how frustrating your training sessions, you should never physically correct a Sky, as harsh discipline will cause a Skye to become defensive and they can bite, even if all your are doing is pushing his bottom down into a "sit" position.
Skyes have an independent streak, but they are also fairly needy and don't like to be left alone for long periods of time. If your Skye is feeling ignored or abandoned, he will inform you by chewing, digging, relieving himself indoors or barking excessively. Proper exercise can help stave off these behaviors, but Skye Terriers are best suited for retirees, people with flexible work schedules, or families with a stay at home parent.
Skyes have a strong desire to chase, so they don't do well in homes with cats or other small animals. Outdoors, Skye should be kept on a leash or in a fenced yard at all times, both his safety and the safety of other animals. In the yard, however, your Skye should always be supervised as these dogs like to dig and can make quick work of your flowerbeds.
Skyes can be dog aggressive. They can do just fine living with another dog, as long as they are raised together, but strange dogs can expect to be greeted with a lot of barking and grousing, and they aren't afraid to pick fights with larger dogs.
The Skye Terrier is a dog of style, elegance and dignity: agile and strong with sturdy bone and hard muscle. Long, low and level-he is twice as long as he is high-he is covered with a profuse coat that falls straight down either side of the body over oval-shaped ribs. The hair well feathered on the head veils forehead and eyes to serve as protection from brush and briar as well as amid serious encounters with other animals. He stands with head high and long tail hanging and moves with a seemingly effortless gait. He is strong in body, quarter and jaw.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--The ideal shoulder height for dogs is 10 inches and bitches 9½ inches. Based on these heights a 10 inch dog measured from chest bone over tail at rump should be 20 inches. A slightly higher or lower dog of either sex is acceptable. Dogs 9 inches or less and bitches 8½ inches or less at the withers are to be penalized. Proportion--The ideal ratio of body length to shoulder height is 2 to 1, which is considered the correct proportion. Substance--Solidly built, full of strength and quality without being coarse. Bone is substantial.
Long and powerful, strength being deemed more important than extreme length. Eyes brown, preferably dark brown, medium in size, close-set and alight with life and intelligence. Ears symmetrical and gracefully feathered. They may be carried prick or drop. If prick, they are medium in size, placed high on the skull, erect at their outer edges, and slightly wider apart at the peak than at the skull. Drop ears, somewhat larger in size and set lower, hang flat against the skull. Moderate width at the back of the skull tapers gradually to a strong muzzle. The stop is slight. The dark muzzle is just moderately full as opposed to snipy. Powerful and absolutely true jaws. The nose is always black. A Dudley, flesh-colored or brown nose shall disqualify. Mouth with the incisor teeth closing level, or with upper teeth slightly overlapping the lower.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck--Long and gracefully arched, carried high and proudly. The backline is level. Body pre-eminently long and low, the chest deep, with oval-shaped ribs. The sides appear flattish due to the straight falling and profuse coat. Tail long and well feathered. When hanging, its upper section is pendulous, following the line of the rump, its lower section thrown back in a moderate arc without twist or curl. When raised, its height makes it appear a prolongation of the backline. Though not to be preferred, the tail is sometimes carried high when the dog is excited or angry. When such carriage arises from emotion only, it is permissible. But the tail should not be constantly carried above the level of the back or hang limp.
Shoulders well laid back, with tight placement of shoulder blades at the withers and elbows should fit closely to the sides and be neither loose nor tied. Forearm should curve slightly around the chest. Legs short, muscular and straight as possible. "Straight as possible" means straight as soundness and chest will permit, it does not mean "Terrier straight." Feet-- Large hare-feet preferably pointing forward, the pads thick and nails strong and preferably black.
Strong, full, well developed and well angulated. Legs short, muscular and straight when viewed from behind. Feet as in front.
Double. Undercoat short, close, soft and woolly. Outer coat hard, straight and flat. 5½ inches long without extra credit granted for greater length. The body coat hangs straight down each side, parting from head to tail. The head hair, which may be shorter, veils forehead and eyes and forms a moderate beard and apron. The long feathering on the ears falls straight down from the tips and outer edges, surrounding the ears like a fringe and outlining their shape. The ends of the hair should mingle with the coat of the neck. Tail well feathered.
The coat must be of one over-all color at the skin but may be of varying shades of the same color in the full coat, which may be black, blue, dark or light grey, silver platinum, fawn or cream. The dog must have no distinctive markings except for the desirable black points of ears, muzzle and tip of tail, all of which points are preferably dark even to black. The shade of head and legs should approximate that of the body. There must be no trace of pattern, design or clear-cut color variations, with the exception of the breed's only permissible white which occasionally exists on the chest not exceeding 2 inches in diameter.
The puppy coat may be very different in color from the adult coat. Therefore, as it is growing and clearing, wide variations of color may occur; consequently, this is permissible in dogs under 18 months of age. However, even in puppies there must be no trace of pattern, design, or clear-cut variations with the exception of the black band encircling the body coat of the creme colored dog, and the only permissible white which, as in the adult dog, occasionally exists on the chest not exceeding 2 inches in diameter.
The legs proceed straight forward when traveling. When approaching, the forelegs form a continuation of the straight line of the front. The feet being the same distance apart as the elbows. The principal propelling power is furnished by the back legs which travel straight forward. Forelegs should move well forward, without too much lift. The whole movement may be termed free, active and effortless and give a more or less fluid picture.
A Dudley, flesh-colored or brown nose shall disqualify.
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Sources: American Kennel Club