The West Highland White Terrier is generally compact and short. Their short legs aided in maneuverability in different types of terrain. They have strong teeth and jaws. Their harsh double coat, especially the hard, straight outer coat, helped to provide protection from the elements. Their often have long tails.
The West Highland White Terrier shares their roots with the other terriers of Scotland, protecting homes and farms from fox, badger, and rodents. At one time the Westie, Skye, Cairn, and Scottish Terriers were all considered one breed with considerable diversity. Selective breeding based on such qualities as coat type or color likely produced the different breeds who would have easily remained distinct in the relative isolation of the various parts of the Scottish mainland and the western islands of the country.
The Westie first gained attention in 1907 as the Poltalloch Terrier, named for the home of Col. E.D. Malcolm, who had been promoting the short-legged white terriers for many years. The breed has gone under several different names, including Roseneath, Poltalloch, White Scottish, Little Skye, and Cairn. In fact, the AKC first registered them as the Roseneath Terrier in 1908, but the name was changed to West Highland White Terrier in 1909. Since that date they have made quite a name for themselves, being established as one of the most popular terriers in the home.
The busy Westie is often happy, curious, and always in the thick of things. They can be affectionate and demanding, one of the friendliest terriers. They are not friendly, however, toward small pets. They enjoy a daily walk or playtime in the yard, as well as playtime at home. They are independent and somewhat stubborn. They can be vocal and can dig.
The West Highland White Terrier often enjoys the outdoors and are a well mannered member of the household, if taken for regular exercise. They need either a short to moderate walk on leash or a good game in the yard every day. Their wire coat needs combing two or three times weekly, and potentially professional grooming every three months. In some areas, it may be difficult to keep their coat white.