This section is from the book "The Terriers. A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland", by Rawdon B. Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: The Terriers.
"The Skye terrier is a purely Scottish dog, and is not generally well known in England. But England is the chief market for his disposal, and purchasers are readily imposed upon by a large showy specimen that may have been awarded a prize, even although destitute of Skye terrier character. The breed has been lately rising in public favour, and numbers of new breeders have entered the field, some of whom have obtained genuine specimens, others have not.
"The work for which the Skye terrier is specially fitted became largely accomplished, his coat was difficult to keep in order, so another species was found fitted for the remaining work, and more easily kept in trim. Hence his disappearance to a great extent. Though I have repeatedly visited Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, Argyle-shire, and once Skye, I have scarcely ever met with a real Skye terrier till within the past few years; but Colonel Malcolm, of Poltalloch, writes me that the Laird of Waternish, in Skye, has always had a pack, and I believe that Lord Macdonald, of Armidale, Isle of Skye, has never entirely lost the blood. Within considerably less than half a century the breed was also carefully kept at Mull, Inverary, and Roseneath (the Duke of Argyll's), and at Bargamy (the Earl of Stair's). From these strains most of the existing race claim to have sprung, and of late years there has been a decided and increasing effort not only to extirpate the spurious and restore the true breed, but also to bring the latter up to the typical standard.
"In his native Highland home, especially where he had generally disappeared, but where solitary specimens and abundant traditions still linger, a special interest is being taken in their restoration. At Inverary, where the breed was wont to be found in perfection, the lately deceased Duchess of Argyll had taken steps for its revival. At Oban it has found patrons not a few, and at Inverness, Dingwall, Skye, etc, numerous and enthusiastic breeders have arisen. All are bent on cultivating the genuine article only, and they are able to recognise, in the standard of the clubs, the conditions which their localities required, and its correspondence with all hereditary information they possess. If the efforts to bring up the breed to the standard of the club are to succeed, attention must be given to the defects that abound in the more typical specimens as well as to the exclusion of the wrong type.
"In judging Skye terriers I should put lowness and length first; head, chest, and shoulders second; coat third; level back fourth; all other points being inferior and subordinate. Most of the older judges decide by length of coat alone - a most deceptive and injurious standard - the coat concealing faults and becoming softer the longer it is, and encouraging untypical breeding - 5½ inches of coat is ample.
"During the past two years I have attended most of the large shows from Inverness to London, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Preston, Liverpool, Manchester, Crystal Palace, etc, and have witnessed the prevailing defects specified.
"Some leading breeders of the true type make weight their chief objection to winners of the present day, and wish to reduce them to from 141b. to 161b. each. This, I think, would be a most fallacious standard. A good head will alone weigh about 51b., although the present prevailing head is under 41b. A small, well-built dog will often weigh heavier than a larger loosely built one, and it is always easy by starving to reduce weight. Size, therefore, is the proper test, and should form the foundation without which all other points should be comparatively valueless. A skilful and practised eye can readily determine size, but not so easily weight.
"The noble head, wide at the top of the brow, and long from the back of the skull to the eyes, indicative of brain power, is now the exception; and a long, snipey muzzle, indicative of weakness of jaw, prevails. The broad, massive chest and shoulders frequently give place to contracted forequarters. So seldom is the characteristic level incline of the back - from the highest point, at the top of the hip joint, to the lowest point, at the back of the shoulder bone - to be seen, that when it does appear it is often considered a defect. The fore legs are generally too long, and should never be absolutely but only comparatively straight, so that the dog may stand straight upon them. If higher at the back of the shoulders than 10in. it is the worst fault a Skye terrier can have. It unfits him for anything but a fancy pet. And as a general rule most of the exhibits and most of the prize winners are in every way very considerably larger than the adopted standard of the clubs, although allowance has been made therein to the extreme limit for the more genial circumstances in which the modern Skye terrier is generally placed. It will require the most strenuous and persistent endeavours of both the clubs and every individual member of them to effect a thorough reformation. It has been said that the English club, during its seven years of existence, has done nothing or little to improve the breed. It remains to be seen whether the Scottish club, which has existed only three years or so, is to be successful. Should it fail in being so it will prove an exception to the good fortune which usually attends that tenacity of purpose, perseverance of effort, and application of skill for which the natives of North Britain are distinguished".
From the above valuable contribution it will be seen that there is a desire to remove the Skye terrier from the category of pet dogs, into which they have gradually drifted, to their proper position as working terriers. Whether this will prove successful is an open question, and we have yet to find that both show and work can be obtained in the highest perfection in the same long-coated terrier. Moreover, with scarcely an exception, the best specimens of the race now on the bench are by the length of their coats quite inadapted to act the part of ordinary terriers, and whether exhibitors are prepared to curtail the quantity of coat in any great degree is a matter of grave opinion. Take Mr. Dobbie's own excellent dog Roy of Aldivalloch, and no one can gainsay the fact that he is a first-rate specimen, what would he be on a wet day amongst the rocks and cairns and drains? The same with the Rev. T. Nolan's dogs, and such as Mr. D. Cunningham has so often bred and shown successfully.