West Highland White Terrier: Breed Profile

| Updated: August 19, 2023
West highland white terrier on a porch laying down happily with tongue out

Origin History of the West Highland White Terrier:

The West Highland White Terrier, affectionately known as the Westie, has a long and colorful history. Originally bred in Scotland in the early 1700s, the Westie was developed by Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch as a small breed of earth dog used for hunting fox, badger, and otter. According to breed lore, it was Colonel Malcolm who inadvertently gave the breed its signature white coat after he mistakenly shot and killed one of his wheaten-colored Cairns. Determined to make sure such a mistake would not happen again, he decided to breed only white dogs.

These white terriers eventually became known as the Poltalloch Terrier and then the Roseneath Terrier. It wasn’t until 1906 that the breed was officially recognized by the Kennel Club of England as the West Highland White Terrier. Since then, the Westie has become a beloved companion and show dog, appearing in various films and television shows, including Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.

The Westie is closely related to other terriers, such as the Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Scottish, and Cairn Terriers. All of these breeds were once classified as Scotch Terriers and were only distinguished by color. The Westie has been bred with the Cairn Terrier until 1917 when the American Kennel Club barred the registration of any dog from such interbreeding.

Today, the West Highland White Terrier is a popular and beloved breed known for its intelligence, loyalty, and spunky personality. With their signature white coats and happy-go-lucky attitudes, the Westie is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

West highland white terrier trio against a white background
Credit: Csanad Kiss / EyeEm/ Gettyimages

West Highland White Terrier Appearance:

The physical appearance of the West Highland White Terrier is unmistakable. With a deep chest, a slightly rectangular shape, and a bright white coat, it is easy to recognize a Westie in any crowd. The males are usually about 11 inches tall and weigh between 15 and 22 pounds, while females average about 10 inches tall and weigh between 13 and 16 pounds.

This breed is known for its thick double coat, which is longer on the tail, legs, chest, and belly. The coat should be brushed frequently, as it tends to shed quite a bit. The breed is also characterized by its neatly pricked ears, black nose, and dark, almond-shaped eyes with a lively expression. The breed is known for its alert expression and lively, friendly personality—all of which are reflected in its physical appearance.

Diet and Nutrition:

Like all dogs, West Highland White Terriers need a balanced diet to stay healthy and active. As an owner, it’s important to make sure your Westie is eating the right food in the right amounts.

West highland white terrier running through grass with tongue out
Credit: Martin Ruegner/ Gettyimages

When it comes to diet, high-quality dry food is ideal. Look for food that has plenty of protein and is high in fiber. It should also be nutrient-rich and contain omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Avoid foods that contain fillers or artificial ingredients.

In addition to their daily food, West Highland White Terriers also need plenty of fresh water. Make sure to change out their water at least once a day. You should also consider adding in some wet food or supplements for extra nutrition. Some owners opt to feed their Westies raw or home-cooked meals, but be sure to check with your vet first.

It’s also important to monitor your Westie’s weight. Many people make the mistake of overfeeding their pets, which can lead to health problems. Feed your Westie the recommended amount of food according to their weight and age. If you’re unsure, always consult your vet. With the right diet and nutrition, your West Highland White Terrier can stay healthy and happy for years to come.

Common Health Issues Affecting West Highland White Terriers:

West Highland White Terriers are generally a very healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12-14 years. However, they are still prone to some health issues, including inherited conditions and infections.

Inherited conditions affecting West Highland White Terriers include hip dysplasia, eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy, and atopy, which is a form of allergic skin disease. Breeders should have their stock tested for these conditions prior to breeding.

Infections that can affect West Highland White Terriers are mainly respiratory and skin-related. Respiratory infections, such as kennel cough, can be contracted from other dogs and can be prevented by vaccination. Skin infections, such as ringworm, are often caused by parasites and can be treated with topical medication.

It is important to keep West Highland White Terriers on a regular flea, tick, and heartworm prevention program to reduce the risk of these conditions. Regular vet check-ups are also important to ensure that any health issues are caught and treated promptly.

West highland white terrier standing in grass looking past the camera
Credit: Robert Pickett/ Gettyimages

Interesting Facts About West Highland White Terriers:

West Highland White Terriers, or Westies, are a beloved breed with a storied history. Here are some interesting facts you may not know about this lively and lovable breed.

First and foremost, the Westie’s signature white coat is actually the result of a tragic accident that occurred during the nineteenth century. A fox hunter, Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch, accidentally shot one of his wheaten-colored Cairns, and he decided to breed only white dogs from then on so that they wouldn’t be mistaken for foxes again.

Westies are known for their spunky personalities and their love of life. They’re friendly with everyone, but they’re not exactly lapdogs. They’re known for their mischievousness, and they can be quite lively. They’re also prone to same-sex aggression, with females tending to be more alpha than males.

Despite their small size, Westies are surprisingly sturdy dogs. Males usually stand at 11 inches tall and weigh anywhere between 15 and 22 pounds, while females are usually 10 inches tall and can weigh up to 16 pounds. However, these numbers can vary widely if the Westie has a particularly persuasive personality.

Westies are beloved for their spunky personalities and their love of life, making them one of the most popular breeds in the world. With their interesting history and adorable personalities, they’re sure to steal your heart.

Where to Adopt or Buy:

If you’re looking to adopt or buy a West Highland White Terrier, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, you should look for a reputable breeder or rescue organization that has a good track record with the breed. This can be done by checking with breed clubs or local animal shelters. You should also research the potential health problems associated with the breed and make sure that the dog you are looking to adopt or purchase is healthy.

It is very important to ask questions of the breeder or rescue organization to make sure that the Westie has been socialized, is up to date on vaccinations, and is healthy overall. Finally, you should consider the cost of a Westie puppy or adult dog. While a Westie puppy may be more expensive than an adult dog, a puppy is easier to train and socialize and will be with you for many years to come.

West highland white terrier dog enjoying spring in dandelion field
Credit: Jane Khomi/Gettyimages


The West Highland White Terrier is a small, active, and friendly breed that is full of character and personality. He is loyal and loving to his people, and he loves to be a part of the family. He is a spunky, determined little dog that loves to explore and play, and he is also a good watchdog.

The West Highland White Terrier has a strong prey drive and is not suitable for homes with small animals, but he can get along with cats if he is raised around them. He is good with older children but should be supervised around younger ones. He tends to be dominant with other same-sex dogs but is generally friendly with other dogs.

The West Highland White Terrier is an ancient breed with a long history, and his white coat was developed to prevent hunting accidents. He is an easygoing, courageous, and devoted companion who will bring a lot of love and joy to your home.


Q: What is the temperament of a West Highland White Terrier?

A: The West Highland White Terrier is a bold, confident, fun-loving, and intelligent dog who loves to be part of a family. He loves to play and loves to be around people. He’s an active dog and needs lots of physical and mental stimulation. He can be spunky and mischievous, but he is also friendly and gets along with everyone.

Q: How much exercise does a West Highland White Terrier need?

A: West Highland White Terriers need a fair amount of exercise. They need at least one to two hours of exercise a day to stay happy and healthy. This could include walks, playtime, or activities like agility or obedience training.

Q: Is the West Highland White Terrier good with children?

A: The West Highland White Terrier is generally good with children and loves to play with them. However, like any breed, it’s important to supervise and teach children how to interact appropriately with a dog.

Q: Does the West Highland White Terrier bark a lot?

A: The West Highland White Terrier is not a particularly noisy breed and will not bark excessively. However, they can be territorial and may bark to alert you of strangers or other animals in the area.

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