If you are a Westie owner, there’s a good chance that someone has told you about the time they saw a black Westie.
This claim might have left you puzzled, as Westies are primarily known for their distinct white coat.
Even their name, West Highland White Terrier, suggests that they are always white. But can Westies be black?
The short answer is no, Westies cannot have black coats. A purebred Westie’s coat is almost always white or, in some cases, a light wheaten (off-white) color.
In this post, we will further explore the Westie’s coat and why other black terriers are sometimes mistaken for Westies.
Westie Double Coat
West Highland Terriers have a unique double coat that serves several purposes for the breed. This double coat consists of two distinct layers: the outer coat and the undercoat.
The outer coat is made up of straight, hard white hair that’s about two inches long. This layer of the coat is shorter around the neck and shoulders. The undercoat, on the other hand, is soft, dense, and provides insulation to keep the Westie warm in colder weather.
These two layers work together to protect Westies from various weather conditions as well as the small claws of vermin they were bred to hunt. The double coat not only serves a practical purpose, but it also contributes to the iconic appearance of the West Highland Terrier.
White Coat: The Standard for Westies
The standard coat color for West Highland Terriers is white, which is a key feature of the breed and even reflected in their name: West Highland White Terrier. This white coat sets them apart from other terrier breeds and has become a defining characteristic.
A purebred Westie’s coat is almost always white, and it is not genetically possible for them to have a black coat. The genes responsible for coat color in Westies do not include the possibility of a black coat, which means that a purebred Westie with a black coat simply cannot exist.
However, not all Westies are white as we will see in the next section.
While Westies are almost always white, there are some instances where a Westie may have a light wheaten (off-white) coat color. This wheaten coat is slightly different from the standard white coat but still falls within the range of acceptable coat colors for a West Highland Terrier.
A Westie’s wheaten coat is often so light that you may not notice it all unless they are standing next to a pure white Westie.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) considers a wheaten coat color to be a “fault” in Westies, meaning it’s not the breed standard. However, it’s important to note that having a wheaten coat does not preclude a dog from being registered as a Westie with the AKC.
The presence of a wheaten coat color may affect a Westie’s performance in dog shows and competitions, but it does not have an impact on their behavior or personality.
Westie or Scottie: The Difference
At first glance, West Highland Terriers and Scottish Terriers, also known as Scotties, may look quite similar. They look similar enough that black Scotties are the dogs that are most often confused for black Westies.
Both Westies and Scotties are descendants of the Roseneath Terrier and share a close genetic relationship with other Scottish Highland terrier breeds like the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Skye Terrier, and Cairn Terrier.
As we went over earlier, Westies simply cannot have black coats, so if you see a black terrier it is not a Westie. If you come across a black-coated dog resembling a Westie, it’s likely either a Westie-Scottie mix or a Scottie with a haircut similar to a Westie’s.
However, while the typical Scottie has a black coat, Scottish Terriers can also have wheaten colored coats just like Westies. In this case, color cannot be used to determine the breed of the dog.
Paying close attention to other physical traits can help you determine whether you’re looking at a Westie or a Scottie.
The best way to tell a Westie apart from a Scottie is by looking at the dog’s facial structure. Westies have a rounder face, while Scotties have a longer, more elongated face.
Can Westies Be Melanistic?
A hereditary condition known as melanism causes an animal’s skin, fur, or feathers to have more black or dark pigment than they typically would. In some dog breeds and individual dogs, melanistic traits can result in a very dark coat.
However, when it comes to West Highland Terriers, the situation is different. The melanism gene does not appear to be present in Westies, meaning that they cannot have a black coat due to melanism.
As previously mentioned, Westies’ coat color is determined by their specific genetic makeup, which does not include the possibility of a black coat.
Black Skin in Westies
Although Westies cannot have a black coat, there are some skin conditions that can cause their skin to appear darker or black. Two of the most common disorders that can lead to black skin in Westies are Alopecia X (Black Skin Disease) and Malassezia (a yeast infection).
Alopecia X, also known as Black Skin Disease, is a skin disorder that can cause hair loss and darkening of the skin in affected dogs. This condition is more common in certain breeds, including Westies, but it does not change the color of their coat.
Malassezia is a type of yeast infection that can affect a dog’s skin, leading to irritation, inflammation, and, in some cases, darkening of the skin. If a Westie’s skin appears black or darkened, it may be due to a Malassezia infection that requires treatment from a veterinarian.
It’s important to note any changes to your Westie’s skin or coat, as they could be a sign of an underlying health issue. If you notice any changes, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
So, are there black Westies? No, Westies are known for their white coat and the only variation is a light wheaten color.
Although they may look similar to Scottish Terriers, Westies can be distinguished by their coat color and facial structure.
It is important to emphasize that it is not genetically possible for a terrier with a black coat to be a purebred Westie. The same is true for other terriers like Jack Russells with black coats.
Any black-coated dogs resembling Westies are likely either a mix with another dog breed or a Scottie with a Westie-like haircut.