This section is from the book "British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, And Show Preparation", by W. D. Drury. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs: Their Points, Selection And Show Preparation.
Discussions concerning Skye Terriers have been numerous in the past, the most notable being that of twenty years ago, which dragged its slow length through the columns of the Country for many months, and was repeated ad nauseam in several other journals. In the first Edition of this work were given the views of the contending parties at considerable length. It is unnecessary to do so now, for the description as originally drawn up by the Skye Terrier Club is acknowledged by the Fancy generally.
The dog Gareloch, that was put forth to represent the Roseneath type, was not so long in proportion to height as the prick-eared Monarch, which was chosen to represent the generally accepted type. Gareloch was also, apparently, much shorter in coat. These, and softness in the texture of coat, were the main points that the advocates of the Roseneath strain contended the Monarch type were wrong in. These gentlemen asserted that the dogs that won at English shows were in length of body out of just proportion to height; that the coat was of a "soft, silky, and also a Berlin-wool texture," and that it was in length from 8in. to 12 in. Such statements were inaccurate. Eventually the advocates of the Roseneath type of dog drew up a description (and it duly received a number of signatures), as a kind of protest against the description furnished by the Skye Terrier Club. When, however, the two came to be seriously compared there was little that was not common to both.
There are some fanciers who hold that the Skye Terrier is a comparatively modern production, and that the Scottish Terrier is the oldest of Scotland's Terriers; while there are others who assert that the long-haired dog suggested by Caius in his "English Dogges," is a Skye Terrier, although it was described by that author as an Iseland Dog. Mr. Hugh Dalziel was of opinion that there have been kept, parallel with each other, two strains of these Terriers - one of the Otter type (a Scottish Terrier pure and simple, if we judge it by the modern acceptation), bred for work only, and the other more for its beauty and as a house-dog. There is nothing, said Mr. Dalziel, to astonish us in long-haired and comparatively short-haired dogs, related to each other, existing side by side, and the more each was bred within itself, the further would be the removal from each other in all points of difference. The Rough and the Smooth Collies furnish an instance in point.
Another supporter of the theory that the Skye Terrier was the Iseland Dog of Dr. Caius was Mr. John Flinn, who thus deals with the subject in the last Edition of this work: -
"Early writers on natural history have not left sufficient material to enable us to arrive at the origin of the different breeds of Terriers native to this country, consequently we are left to conjecture what it may have been; and this is all the more unsatisfactory when we consider, as Darwin says, that 'a breed, like a dialect of a language, can hardly be said to have a definite origin.' Some theorists assert that the Skye Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont are both descended from the original Scotch Terrier; but as the first named appears to have existed as a distinct breed as early as there is any mention of the Scotch Terrier, it would be difficult to prove this assertion. The first mention made of the Scotch Terrier is by the Bishop of Ross, who wrote in the latter half of the sixteenth century, but his description is too meagre to furnish data on which to base any argument as to its affinity to the other breeds. He says: 'There is also another kind of scenting dog of low height, indeed, but of bulkier body, which, creeping into subterraneous burrows, routs out foxes, badgers, martens, and wild cats from their lurking-places and dens. Then, if he at any time finds the passage too narrow, opens himself a way with his feet, and that with so great labour that he frequently perishes through his own exertions.'
No subsequent writer, until comparatively recent times, describes the Scotch Terrier with any minuteness; but Caius, who wrote his work on 'Englishe Dogges' a few years before the Bishop of Ross, mentions Iseland 'dogges,' which, there can be little doubt, were of the same breed as afterwards came to be known by the name of Skye Terriers. They were fashionable in his time as lap-dogs, and were 'brought out of barbarous borders from the uttermost countryes Northwards,' etc.; and 'they,' he says, 'by reason of the length of their heare, make show neither of face nor body, and yet these Curres, forsooth, because they are so straunge, are greatly set by, esteemed, taken up, and made of, in room of the Spaniell gentle, or comforter.' It would be vain to conjecture whence this 'straunge' animal came, or when it first found a home in the western islands, but it seems certain that it was there three centuries ago. Once there, everything was favourable for its preservation as, or development into, a distinct breed. The sea forms a natural barrier which would prevent contamination, and the only influences likely to effect any change in the characteristics of the dog would be food, climate, and selection, unless other dogs were brought to the island.
An incident did happen in 1588, as we are told on the authority of the Rev. (now Mr.) J. Cumming Macdona, in Webb's 'Book on the Dog,' by which a foreign blood was introduced amongst them. He informs us that the late Lady Macdonald, of Armadale Castle, was possessed of an extraordinary handsome strain of Skye Terrier, which was descended from a cross of some Spanish white dogs that were wrecked on the island at the time when the Spanish Armada lost so many ships on the western coast. So far as this particular strain is concerned, great care appears to have been taken to keep it pure and distinct from the breed common in the island; however, other dogs may have found their way to Skye in a similar manner, although there is no record of the fact. At the time when Professor Low wrote, the distinctive features of the Skye Terrier were well marked. He says: 'The Terriers of the western islands of Scotland have long, lank hair, almost trailing to the ground.' There could not be a happier description than this. There is no ambiguity about the length of the coat, and the word 'lank' conveys the idea that it lay straight and free, and therefore could not be soft or silky in texture. The coat Professor Low described so many years ago as a feature of the Terriers of the western islands - he does not call them Skyes, as probably they were not generally known by that name then - has always been, and is still, considered the proper coat of the true Skye Terrier. He also mentions a Terrier peculiar to the Central Highlands, and describes it as rough, shaggy, and not unlike the older Deerhounds in general form. Richardson likewise mentions this dog, and says it is commonly called the Highland Terrier. A gentleman of high standing in the medical profession in Edinburgh, and whose name is well known in literature, informs me that he remembers seeing Terriers in the island of Skye resembling 'miniature Deerhounds.'