Here at Terrier Owner, the West Highland Terrier (Westie) and the Scottish Terrier (Scottie) are two of our favorite breeds.
Having grown up with a Westie, it’s always been easy for me to tell Westies and Scotties apart. However, those who have not spent much time around either breed sometimes get them confused.
These two Scottish Highland breeds can sometimes be mixed up due to their similar origins and terrier traits.
So, what’s the difference between Westies and Scotties?
The main differences between Westies and Scotties lie in their coat color, facial structure, and temperament. Westies, known for their white coats and rounded faces, have friendly and outgoing personalities, while Scotties, usually black, have elongated faces and a more reserved demeanor.
So, no, Scottish Terriers are not just Westies with black coats.
- Breed Origins
- Coat Colors
- Double Coats
- Size and Appearance
- Temperament and Behavior
- Life Expectancy
Both the Westie and the Scottie share a history that traces back to a common ancestor: the Roseneath Terrier. This now extinct breed from the Scottish Highlands came in many different colors and was selectively bred for specific coat colors, which over time resulted in the formation of separate breeds.
The Westie and the Scottie, each with their distinct appearances and temperaments, are a result of this selective breeding process. These two breeds are part of a larger family known as the Scottish Highland Terriers, which also include the Cairn Terrier, Skye Terrier, and Dandie Dinmont Terrier.
Their roots in the rugged Highlands of Scotland not only shaped their physical traits but also influenced their hardy and determined terrier temperaments. Despite their differences, their common ancestry ties them together, making them both distinct and interconnected parts of the terrier family.
One of the most immediate differences between Westies and Scotties lies in their coat color.
The West Highland White Terrier, as the name suggests, is renowned for its distinctive white coat. This color is so integral to the breed that it’s even in their name.
However, it’s worth noting that Westies can sometimes have a light wheaten colored coat, although this is less common.
On the other hand, Scottish Terriers are most commonly associated with a black coat. This gives them a slightly more formal appearance, leading to their nickname as the ‘black tie’ of dog breeds.
However, much like the Westie, Scotties also have some variation in their coat color. They can be found in wheaten or brindle shades as well. If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘brindle’, it refers to a pattern of black and brown or grey striping that gives the coat a rich, textured look.
Double Coats: A Shared Trait
Despite the stark differences in their coat colors, Westies and Scotties have something in common when it comes to their fur: both breeds sport a double coat. This shared trait is a testament to their shared ancestry and the conditions in which these breeds were developed.
A double coat is a specific kind of fur structure seen in many dog breeds, particularly those from regions with variable climates. It consists of two layers:
- The outer coat, also known as the guard hairs, is typically rough and weather-resistant. This layer is designed to repel water and protect the dog from dirt, thereby providing the first line of defense against the elements. In the case of Westies and Scotties, this outer coat is particularly hard, which served a vital function in their history.
- The undercoat, as the name suggests, lies beneath the outer coat. It is generally softer, denser, and serves as an insulating layer. This layer helps the dog regulate its body temperature, keeping it warm in winter and cool in summer.
Originally, Westies and Scotties were bred to hunt small rodents in the rugged Scottish Highlands. This environment, known for its harsh weather conditions and rough terrain, required a coat that could withstand these challenges.
The hard outer coat provided protection against small claws and teeth during hunts, while also shielding them from weather extremes. The soft undercoat offered insulation, keeping these breeds warm during cold Highland winters.
Even though most Westies and Scotties today live as companion animals rather than working dogs, this double coat remains a distinctive feature of both breeds.
One common concern for potential dog owners is allergies. Thankfully, both Westies and Scotties fall into the category of hypoallergenic breeds. This means that they are less likely to cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to dog allergens.
When we say a breed is hypoallergenic, it doesn’t mean that these dogs are completely allergen-free. Instead, they produce fewer allergens compared to other breeds.
Because Westies and Scotties have a double coat that sheds minimally, they tend to spread less dander around the home. This makes them a better choice for people with allergies.
Size and Appearance
When it comes to size, both Westies and Scotties are relatively similar. Scottish Terriers typically stand about 10 to 11 inches tall and weigh between 18 and 22 pounds.
West Highland White Terriers share a similar height range, standing 10 to 11 inches at the shoulder, but they are slightly lighter, weighing in at 15 to 20 pounds.
Despite the similarities in size, these breeds differ significantly in body shape. Scottish Terriers have a compact, sturdy body that reveals their strength. They have well-developed muscles and a deep chest, hinting at their original role as diligent hunters.
Their topline, or back, is level but slopes down slightly towards the tail, giving them a somewhat angular appearance.
Westies, on the other hand, boast a more balanced and proportionate body. Like Scotties, they are compact, but their physical structure is not as pronounced.
They have a level and straight topline, which contributes to their more symmetrical appearance.
One of the most distinctive ways to tell a Westie and a Scottie apart is to look at their faces. Westies have a more rounded face with a short muzzle, which contributes to their lively and alert expression.
Their eyes are set wide apart, giving them an endearing and friendly look that is often associated with the breed.
Scotties, on the other hand, have a more elongated face and a longer snout. Their eyes are almond-shaped and set under thick eyebrows, giving them a keen, intelligent, and somewhat serious expression.
This facial structure, combined with their usually dark coat, often gives Scotties a more dignified and somewhat stern appearance compared to Westies.
The ears of Westies and Scotties also differ in size, providing another way to distinguish between these two breeds. Westies have smaller ears that are set wide apart on their head. They’re pointed and stand erect.
Scotties’ ears are larger in comparison, but like Westies, they are also pointed and stand upright. They are set high on the head, further contributing to the Scottish Terrier’s alert and intelligent appearance.
The size of their ears relative to their head size gives Scotties a unique look within the terrier group.
In essence, while Westies and Scotties may share a common lineage and similar sizes, their appearances are distinct. From the shape of their bodies to the way they carry their tails, these differences are a part of what makes each breed unique.
Temperament and Behavior
When it comes to temperament and behavior, Westies and Scotties each have their unique characteristics.
West Highland Terriers
Westies are known for their friendly and outgoing personalities. They are often characterized by their high energy levels, curiosity, and love for play. Their alert and lively demeanor makes them excellent companions for active owners who enjoy outdoor activities.
Despite their small size, they are courageous and not easily intimidated.
However, it’s important to remember that, like all dogs, Westies are individuals. The Westie I grew up with, Murphy, was not friendly with other animals.
This was primarily due to her not being properly socialized with other animals. Therefore, early socialization and consistent training are crucial to help your Westie become a well-rounded dog.
Scotties, in contrast, are often more aloof and independent. They are known for their dignified and somewhat reserved nature.
This does not mean they are unfriendly; they simply have a different way of expressing their affection. They are loyal to their families and can be quite protective, which makes them excellent watchdogs.
Scotties are less likely to get along with other dogs compared to Westies. However, this varies from dog to dog and is greatly influenced by factors such as socialization, training, and individual temperament.
Despite these general breed traits, it’s essential to remember that every dog is an individual with its own personality. These descriptions provide a general idea of what you might expect, but there can always be variations within a breed.
Whether you’re considering a Westie, a Scottie, or any other breed, it’s crucial to spend time with the dog before making a decision to understand if its individual temperament fits well with your lifestyle.
When it comes to the health of Westies and Scotties, it’s important to note that while both breeds are generally healthy, they each have a predisposition to certain health conditions. These conditions are not guaranteed to occur in every individual, but potential owners should be aware of them.
Shared Health Concern: Atopy
Atopy, or skin allergies, is a minor health concern that Westies, Scotties, and other closely related breeds share. Atopy occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to common environmental allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, and mold spores.
Symptoms can include intense itching, redness, inflammation of the skin, hair loss, and secondary infections. Regular vet check-ups and a proper skincare routine can help manage this condition and ensure your dog’s comfort.
West Highland White Terriers
Although rare, a major health concern for Westies is White Shaker Dog Syndrome. This condition is characterized by tremors and, in severe cases, seizures.
The cause is unknown, and while there is no cure, early diagnosis and treatment can dramatically help to improve the dog’s quality of life.
Treatments usually aim to manage symptoms and may include medications to control the tremors and seizures.
One major health concern for Scottish Terriers is a higher than average risk for Congenital Deafness. This is a condition in which dogs are born without the ability to hear.
It’s a genetic disorder that affects many breeds, but Scottish Terriers are more prone to the condition than most. There is no cure for Congenital Deafness, but dogs with this condition can live full and happy lives with the right training and care.
Regular vet check-ups are essential for early detection and management of these and other potential health issues.
Life expectancy in dogs can vary widely based on a multitude of factors such as breed, size, genetics, and overall health.
West Highland White Terriers
Westies are known for their relatively long lifespan, typically living anywhere from 12 to 17 years.
The most common cause of death in Westies is lower respiratory tract disorders.
My family’s own West Highland Terrier, Murphy, lived to be a spry 16 years old, attesting to the breed’s longevity.
Scottish Terriers also enjoy a long life, although their average lifespan is slightly shorter than that of the Westies. Most Scotties live between 12 to 15 years.
It’s important to remember that these are just averages. Individual dogs, regardless of their breed, can sometimes live significantly longer or shorter lives.
What’s the Difference Between Westies and Scotties?
While both Westies and Scotties hail from a common ancestor, they differ in coat color, facial features, and personality traits. Westies, identifiable by their white or light wheaten coats and round faces, are generally more sociable and outgoing, whereas Scotties, typically black or brindle with elongated faces, tend to be more aloof and reserved.
Whether you’re drawn to the friendly and outgoing Westie or the dignified and somewhat reserved Scottie, both breeds have their unique charms and quirks that endear them to their owners. Their shared ancestry, distinctive appearances, and unique temperaments all contribute to their appeal.
Though they have their differences, both the West Highland White Terrier and the Scottish Terrier are true terriers at heart: spirited, loyal, and full of character.
Remember that each dog is an individual and will not necessarily fit all characteristics typical of their breed. It’s important to spend time with a dog before deciding if they’re the right fit for your family and lifestyle.
Regardless of your choice, owning a Westie or a Scottie, or any dog, is a long-term commitment. Regular vet check-ups, a good diet, plenty of exercise, and lots of love will ensure that your four-legged friend lives a long, healthy, and happy life.