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11 Distinguished Facts About the Scottish Terrier

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This adorably gruff-looking canine can be found everywhere from game boards to candy. Learn more about Scotland’s favorite little dog. 


As the name suggests, Scottish terriers come from Scotland—and that’s about all we know. The first known mention of the dog was by Bishop John Lesley in his book History of Scotland from 1436 to 1561. As he describes them, they are a "dog of low height, which creeping into subterraneous burrows, routs out foxes, badgers, martins, and wild cats from their lurking places and dens.” 


Scotties are a kind of terrier, meaning they were bred to burrow. The name terrier comes from terra (meaning earth) because they “go to ground.” Strong-willed and fierce, the dogs were used to clear out vermin from buildings and drive badgers from their homes. When facing something as fierce as a badger (on its home turf, no less) the dogs needed to be tough and recklessly brave. At one point, an author earnestly speculated that Scotties may have originated from bears instead of dogs.


Despite having a background in extermination, the little dogs have also enjoyed the finer things in life. King James VI of Scotland was a huge fan of the Scottish terrier in the 17th century and helped popularize them in Europe. He even sent six Scotties to France as a gift. Queen Victoria was also a fan of the breed and kept some in her expansive kennel. Her favorite was a Scottie named Laddie. [PDF


Scotties had their first dog show in Birmingham, England in 1860. After that, there were numerous shows that featured similar breeds, including Skye terriers, Yorkies, and Dandie Dinmonts, all claiming to be the real deal. Scottish breeders were annoyed by the mockery of their precious breed and took to print to voice their complaints. They wrote to Live Stock Journal with their arguments about what the standard should be. The arguments continued at such a ferocious pace that the publication finally put a stop to it, issuing a statement: “We see no use in prolonging this discussion unless each correspondent described the dog which he holds to be the true type.” 

Captain Gordon Murray accepted the challenge and wrote up the proper description of the perfect Scottie. It stuck until fancier J.B. Morrison finally drew up an official standard in 1880. In 1882, the Scottish Terrier Club was formed for both England and Scotland. Separate clubs were formed for each after the breed's popularity grew, but the two regions have since developed an amicable relationship. 


When Scotties get too excited, they might experience something known as the Scottie Cramp. This neurological disorder causes the muscles to tense up, making it difficult to walk. Dogs experiencing this cramp exhibit “a goose-stepping gait” and might somersault or fall over. Luckily, these episodes don’t last long and do not appear to be painful for the dogs. 


According to Matt Collins, former vice president of marketing for Hasbro Games, the Scottie has been one of the most beloved game pieces in Monopoly since its introduction in the 1950s. In fact, it received the most votes in a recent competition to determine which pieces would get to stay a part of the set. (Sadly, the iron was voted out.)


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The Scottish terrier and the German shepherd are the only two breeds to make three appearances in the White House. The Roosevelt family was infatuated with the breed and had two: Eleanor Roosevelt had one named Meggie and FDR had one named Fala (short for Murray the Outlaw of Falahill). Roosevelt loved his dog so much that he was scarcely seen without it. You can even see a statue of Fala next to his bronzed owner at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C. 

Eisenhower was also a fan of the smart looking dogs and had three named Telek, Skunkie, and Caacie (though there is some argument about whether any actually lived in the White House). Most recently George W. Bush had two named Barney and Miss Beazley. Barney was something of a movie star and appeared in nine White House-produced films.


Most modern day Scotties can trace their lineage back to one female named Splinter II. She was owned by J. H. Ludlow, founder of the Scottish Terrier Club of England. She’s considered the mother of the breed.


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Besides the wire fox terrier, the Scottish terrier has the most Westminster Dog Show wins of any breed, with a whopping eight awards. The most recent win was in 2010 with a dog named Ch. Roundtown Mercedes Of Maryscot (Sadie for short). 


Families will have no trouble getting affection from their Scotties, but strangers might have to work for it. The dogs are naturally wary of new people and it takes them a while to come around. 


Scotties are born diggers. Terriers were bred to dig and find prey, so it makes sense that they would be compelled to hit the dirt. Even if your Scottie is not a hunter, they might dig for comfort or out of boredom. To keep your rhododendron safe, make sure your dog is mentally stimulated and gets plenty of exercise.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b


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