The Highlands, the West Coast of Scotland and the Western Isles are the source of the West Highland White Terrier, as they are for the Cairn, Skye and Scottish Terriers. Today the Westie is one of the most popular terriers and very high in the list of all breeds, capable of offering a strong challenge to any terrier breed on sheer merit.
It is known with some exactitude where the fancy for a white terrier began, which is not the case for the other three breeds. There seems little doubt that the modern type of West Highland White Terrier was first fostered by the Malcolm family of Poltalloch in Argylshire. By the time these terriers reached the show-bench in 1904 they are known to have been kept by the Malcolm family for at least 100 years. The reason for the family’s preference for a white terrier is recorded as arising from a shooting accident in which a favourite sandy-coloured terrier was shot in mistake for a fox after which it was decided that only white and cream terriers would be kept at Poltalloch. Many owners destroyed white puppies in litters of working terriers as it was felt that they were not as hardy as the coloured ones, but the Malcolm family kept them and proved them equally brave, dour and able at their work as the coloured ones (later to be recognised as Cairn Terriers). These white terriers were kept purely for work and strict adherence to pedigree or breeding to type was not to come for many years. It was not until 1924 that the Kennel Club decreed that white puppies born in litters of Cairn Terriers could no longer be registered as West Highland Whites.