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.
In all our other varieties of domestic animals we have been changing their outward forms, and improving the breed; but in some breeds of dogs I think we are, to use the favourite expression, improving them in the wrong direction. Those who keep animals for their utility and not for their beauty study their requirements. So it is that we find in the island of Skye a different dog from that on the mainland, where the dogs are kept as pets. Scottish Terriers are called Skye Terriers in many parts of the island, and it might be said with some show of reason that they were the original Terriers of the island.
Much confusion has been caused by the nomenclature adopted by the different families, who, when selling or giving away dogs, used the name of the strain instead of that of the breed, and it was difficult for those who did not know the breeds to say whether they had a Scottish Terrier or a Skye Terrier. Here, as in most other things, it was the least informed that made the most noise, and a man who gets a dog from the island, and is told that it is the pure article, will pose as an authority upon the breed, although it might turn out that the specimen he had got was a mongrel. If those who denounce the Skye Terrier wish to convince the public that there is another dog that has a better right to the name, why not get a class for working Skye Terriers?
We are assured that foreign blood has been infused into the show breed, and that such dogs have been contaminated somewhere; but what the infusion has been I have never seen stated. I do not think that any cross was required to bring out the points of the present show dog; nor, in my opinion, has there been any admixture of foreign blood. Statements of the kind unsupported by proof are of no value. The long-haired dog is no new creation, for Johannis Caius, in his book published in 1576, mentions a breed 'which by reason of the length of their heare, make showe neither of face nor of body,' which might be the ancestors of our show Skye Terrier. But for the sake of argument, suppose we allow that the present show dog is a usurper so far as the name is concerned, that cannot affect it as a breed, which, it will be agreed, is now well known and thoroughly established, and which under any other name would bite as quick.
I am of the opinion, and I have been all along, that the show Skye fanciers laid themselves open to censure when they claimed for their dog the title of a working dog. He is nothing of the kind, and never was. He may be, and no doubt is, capable of hunting and killing vermin; but he has never been kept for that purpose. As well might we say that the Collie, because he may be taught to point and to carry, is a field dog.
Skye Terriers as pets and companions are everything that one could wish in a dog. They are not over-demonstrative, are peaceably inclined, and where a few are kept together, they do not fight and destroy each other. They are more inclined to snap and snarl than to bite intentionally, I presume from fright, as, owing to the hair obstructing their vision, they often do not see an object until it touches them.
Those who keep Skye Terriers for show and wish to win have to give the dogs' coats unremitting attention. The coat must be combed and brushed every day, the oftener the better, and no parasites must be allowed to lodge therein, or the dog will destroy his coat by scratching himself. To prevent this the feet are encased in chamois leather bags. I do not know if such a proceeding can be called cruel; but it cannot be a very pleasant experience for the dog who finds himself itching to be unable to scratch the affected part. I do not approve of washing dogs, and in the case of Skye Terriers it tends to soften the coat. It may be necessary sometimes to wash a dog; but the less often it is done, the better; and if the coat is well groomed each day it should not require washing.
Skye Terriers make excellent house-dogs, and do not give off the offensive smell that many other long-coated dogs do. They will thrive with little exercise - but that should be given wherever possible - if not overfed or restricted to a luxurious dietary.
The favourite colour of late years has been iron-grey of a dark shade; but of all the colours I admire a deep fawn, and if with black points all the better. I prefer the body all of one colour and not mixed with dark hairs, as is often found in the working breed."
From what has been stated by Mr. Thomson Gray, as well as by other writers in the same field, there is very little room for doubt that the Skye Terrier, as we n6w know it, is a modern production. Years of inactivity, coupled with the greater attention the coat has received in the way of grooming, and the general improvement as regards its housing, have modified considerably the coat that stood the working animal in such stead. In fact, from being a rough-and-ready sort of Terrier (as he doubtless was in the days of Dugald Ferguson the fox-hunter and George Clark), he has become one of Fashion's darlings - an interesting and companionable pet-dog, but useless for the work associated with his remote ancestors. Clark, it will be remembered, was the Duke of Argyll's head game-keeper at Mull, and he it was who afterwards, popularly, at any rate, had the credit for preserving the strain of Skye Terrier associated with Roseneath, and referred to in more detail under the Scottish Terrier.
Even as long ago as 1837 the Skye Terrier was a popular variety with ladies, and Lady Fanny Cowper is said to have owned a beautiful specimen at that time. Lady Macdonald, of Armadale Castle, Skye, had a famous strain of this Terrier; and, coming to recent days, perhaps the finest kennel of Skye Terriers as known upon the show-bench belonged to a lady - Mrs. W. J. Hughes (one of whose famous dogs is illustrated at Fig. 102); while Mrs. M.
Tottie was at one time a prominent breeder. In the early days of dog shows Mr. James Pratt was a power in the Skye Terrier fancy; while the Rev. T. Nolan and the late Mr. Dobbie were very successful alike as breeders and exhibitors.