History of the West Highland White Terrier Club

Founded in 1905 by Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch, we are recognised as the parent West Highland White Terrier club. Why?
Because our club was the first West Highland White Terrier club to be registered anywhere in the world.

The year 1905 stands out in the history of the West Highland White Terrier. As on the 26th January of that year, 13 gentlemen “favourable to the formation of a club” to promote this white terrier met in the Religious Institution Rooms in Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch presided. Although this white terrier had long been associated with Poltalloch and the Malcolm family had to a great extent, developed the strain over many years, the Colonel preferred that the breed should be identified by the more general name of the White West Highland Terrier.

He stressed the working qualities of this terrier, which was required to work amongst rocks and cairns rather than to work in the open. Such a terrier had to be strong, supple and resourceful and able to spring a considerable height.

The office bearers and committee were duly elected, the rules and regulations were agreed and, a standard of points was drawn up. This was the birth of The White West Highland Terrier Club.

The following year (1906) a second club was formed south of the Border. It was at this time that The Kennel Club decided that the breed should be renamed as The West Highland White Terrier. The original club agreed and since that day has been known as The West Highland White Terrier Club. The later club was named The West Highland White Terrier Club of England.

Some may feel that the original name chosen at that meeting in Glasgow was more appropriate to the origins of the breed. Small working terriers had been used for centuries throughout the West Highlands to hunt fox, otter and badger. They were rough-coated and a variety of colours - red, grey, sandy, wheaten and, even a dirty white.

It is said that any white whelps tended to be discarded for, as in many breeds, white was considered wrong, weak, undesirable and even unlucky. However the Malcolm family, Duke of Argyle and others favoured the white terriers and promoted them.

Colonel Malcolm did not claim these white terriers as a breed “manufactured” at Poltalloch, but rather as an old breed having been seen in Ross-shire, Skye and many parts of Argyle for many years.

The West Highland White Terriers promoted by the Malcolm`s, were working terriers. They were not required for burrowing into soft, sandy earths, but rather to follow fox, otter and badger up and down screes, under, over and between rocks. For this work they had to be game, hardy, agile and sure-footed, able to spring from rock to rock. The terriers ribs should never be barrel-shaped else they would have stuck between rocks.

The West Highland White Terrier today is seldom worked as Colonel Malcolm intended. There are rabbiters, ratters and hunters, but very few of the present day dogs would get the chance to hunt as fox, otter and badger are now protected. (If we are honest those of us who have a “natural” would rather they didn’t anyway in case we lose them.)

The game, active, hardy and fearless characteristics are still in West Highland White Terriers today. It is these qualities that endear them to their owners. The West Highland White Terrier is still a popular breed as thousands of registrations here and overseas demonstrate. It is to be hoped that the Breed`s popularity does not prove its undoing.