THE DOGS OF SCOTLAND
"20 Dogs" as in Skye terrier, and the strains described in that work by Mr. Gordon Murray as pure Skyes are the terriers now recognized as Scottish terriers.
Captain Mackie, whose name is so closely identified with the Scottish terrier, some years ago took a trip through the Western Highlands to glean information from the tod-hunters and gamekeepers who possess these terriers, and he has very kindly placed the following notes of his journey at his disposal: - -
My first playmate was "Bobby", who was bought from Banffshire by my father about forty-six years ago. My recollection of him is that he was a grizzly-looking wee beggar, and up to all sorts of doggy tricks. "Bobby" was stolen and another snarling, strapping, wiry-looking article from the same locality was brought by Aubtie Jean. Having gone to sea, I lost sight of "Bobby's" second edition, but even now, to hear father boasting of what they were fit for, reminds me of my wife praising the knowledge of our first-born when she won her first prize at school.
Perhaps it is from my father that I inherit my liking for animals but I cannot fancy from whom
I take the rambling, erratic, roving propensities that on more than one occasion have taken me into the most remote, dissolute, and all but uninhabited portions of our Highlands and islands. Likely I suffered from terriers on the brain, and I have little doubt that was the cause ; but be that as it may, I look back upon days and weeks among people and dogs that cause me to wish that next winter was at hand, so that I could do it over again.
Knocking about amidst wild, and among Gaelic-speaking folks, I have come across those who (p.21) looked upon me as terrier daft; others fancied I was a blackguard dog-tax collector, while others reciprocated my liking for the wee dogs and gave me all the information they possessed. It is this information, along with what I have seen, that I desire to convey to the reader. I cannot immortalize the "die-hards" as Sir Walter did the Dandie, but if I describe the types of terriers that I have seen ---tell who they belong to, and what they are used for --- I may be doing the breed a service.
Almost all the fox-hunters I have met say that they are the only possessors of the good old sort. McCorkindale, of Hells' Glen, has had the same blood for the past forty-right years; Robinson , of Lochlomondside, has had them for sixty years; Cameron, of Glenorchy, about thirty years; McGregor, living in a wee cottage at the south end of the Black Mount, has had them for fifty years; Cameron, of the Black Curries, had them from his predecessor twenty years ago; while on the Black Mount , Kinloch-More, throughout Morven Adramurchan, and, in fact, all the shires west of a line drawn from the Mull of Galloway to John o' Groat's, fox terriers --- as they were known by --- have existed from time immemorial.
I have listened to how Donnachie Bhan's wee "butch" killed the big dog-fox; and the summer in which John Bhua's "Dobhran" --- pronounced Doran --- went into the badger, and both were dug out dead a fortnight afterwards, having killed each other. I have also heard how Ian Dhu's "Cavack" caught the otter under water, brought it ashore, and carried it home alive, "alive, oh!". These and similar tales I have listened to, and pretended to believe, to keep friendship with the tellers. Foxes, otters, & e, take a lot of killing before they die; (P. 22) and our terriers, although game, and powerful enough to kill a cat or of like size, should have a bit more wisdom than to tackle otters, badgers & e, single-handed. I am quite well aware that if they are cornered they will fight, and "die-hard". My experience is that they are used to bolt the game as a ferret would a rabbit, and when the fox or otter does bolt, it is usually bowled over with as much shot as can be fired into it. Many a time I have waited till the fox or otter bolted, when I had a clink at hairy, even skinned it afterwards, and I have felt a person's pride walking homewards with the skin hanging from my gun barrel.
But to my journey. The time was winter. M'Guffie was my companion, and Charlie was the name of cob. Charlie, the gig and our accoutrements were shipped on board the steamer at Greenock bound for Helensburgh. A short sail across the Clyde, and Charlie is yoked on Helensburgh pier, and we are off on the road toward Luss.
There is no use in my describing the scenery, so I will confine myself as clearly as possible to what we saw in the doggie line.
Going along the banks of Loch Lomond we saw a stonebreaker at work on the roadside, and noticed what we took to be a Scottish terrier resting on his jacket. We pull up and learn that the pup belongs to old Robinson, the fox-hunter, that he is living at "Laird M'Murrich's," and that if we called there we might see him and his terriers. We carry on to Ardlui, where Charlie is stabled and there learn from the waitress that the fox-hunter is in the kitchen.
The old man is sent for. He had been indulging rather freely, but still was still sober enough to understand what we were after, and gave us an invitation to be (p. 23) at the Laird's at daybreak next morning to see his terriers.
The old man gave us a bit of his history and a lot of his fox-killing experience, and wished to impress us with the fact that he had killed ten foxes with one shot, which was accounted for by his killing a vixen carrying nine young ones.
We were out of bed early enough next morning to do our two or three miles' walk to "the Laird's" before daylight, but there was no old fox-hunter there. A short petticoated, red armed, tousie-headed lass told us the dogs were in a dilapidated-looking outhouse which she pointed out. The door was unhung, the floor was damp and dirty; two couple of terriers and a couple of bleary-eyed, mangy looking , aged foxhounds occupied the shanty, along with an ancient muzzle-loading fowling piece, a powder horn, and a staff that could have done duty as a pike.
The building, dogs, gun, and general surroundings seemed to carry us back to the days before game laws or gun licenses were thought of.
The terriers stood about the height of the modern fox-terrier. Their coats were a bit open and rough looking, but still hard enough to satisfy a fancier's wish; they had foxy-looking heads, semi-erect or half-cock ears, gaily carried tails; in colour they were a sort of rusty grey, and each had one or more white feet. On our way down the hill towards the hotel and our breakfast, we met the fox-hunter, looking quite as bleary as the foxhounds. He told us he had had his "morning," but did not object to go back to the hotel for a second edition. Mentioning that his terriers white feet, he explained to us that some twenty or thirty years ago he had a particularly game terrier that (P. 24) he got from McCorkindale of Hell's Glen, and he liked it so well that he had bred from it till he could get stock no longer. The dog always got a puppy or two with white feet, and as long as he could get them with white feet he would have no other.
The weight of the terriers would be from 17 to 20 lbs.
As I was anxious to hear the old fellow had to say about the terrier of forty or fifty years ago, I asked him to take breakfast with us. While he was at breakfast he informed us that the terriers of his youth were about the size and weight of those he had now, but were shorter legged and deeper ribbed; that in colour they were much like what he at present had, but that in parts of Argyleshire they were of a sandy colour, with one ear up and the other down; while in Perthshire they were of all colours, but that rusty grey and pepper-and-salt colour prevailed. He did not want terriers with long legs, but he could not help himself, as the old breed was nearly extinct. That the old man's terriers both wise and game was proved by his killing forty-seven foxes to them in one short spring.
Breakfast over, Charlie is yoked; we go down to the side of Loch Lomond and have a good look at it.
The mountains blend their flickering shadows over the browny-grey surface; grey lichen-covered boulders and leafless trees lend their aid to produce a picture the hand of man could not copy.
We get on the road to Crianlarich in Perthshire, and I occasionally leave Charlie and the rig to McGuffie's care, while I wander off the road to visit a gamekeeper or farmer who keeps a terrier or two, but I found nothing worth mentioning all the way to Crianlarich. Charlie is soon stabled, and we are in the inn waiting (P. 25) on our dinner, and hungry enough to do justice to whatever is brought to us.
A nice-looking girl told us that as we had not sent word we were coming all we could have was braxy and broth. We did fair justice to the broth, braxy, and potatoes; and I may add that a Lord Mayor's dinner could not take me away from such a "blow out" as we had. The very thoughts of the braxy and other good things that we put out of sight that afternoon causes me to crave even now for just such another appetite and such a dinner.
Ye dyspeptics, get yourselves a couple or more thousand feet above the level of the sea on a winter's day, exercise yourselves, and if you cannot eat braxy and drink your share of "Scottish mountain dew," lay yourselves down in a conservatory and die.
Next day we are off on the road to Tyndrum, but we halt for a spell at Donald Malloch's. Donald is a keeper of the rare old sort, and has seven or eight good old-fashioned terriers. Donald is a fair judge of a beast, a bit of an orator, a topper to fish, a good shot, likes his wee dogs, and hates foxes. He makes his own fishing rods, repairs his own guns, and is a firm believer in, and not a bad judge of, the qualities of the "Auld Kirk".
The kennel door is opened, and out stream half-a dozen sturdy-looking wee terriers. They have a thoroughly Scottish look about them, and would shame two-thirds of the "messans" we sometimes see on the show-leash. They are of divers colours, from a grizzly brindle to sandy ; in weight they will run from 17 to 20 lbs.; knowing-looking big heads, sharp muzzles, powerful jaws, very large teeth, ears semi-erect, or "cock-and-a-half-cock"; stout bony legs, the fore ones slightly bent.
Next page (p. 26a) a picture of a Scottish terrier – Mr.J. D. Lumsden's (late Mr. J. A. Adamson's) Scottish Terrier "Skittles." Sire, Bon Accord Dam, Ashley Morag
(P. 26) If these little dogs have any faults, I would say the fault lay in their ears being heavy, and their tails being inclined to curl slightly.
Their coats were all that could be desired, unless it may be that they looked a trifle long, but then they require them so, as they live and work a long way above sea level.
Charlie having finished his "bickerfu' o' corn," we are off for Tyndrum.
We had a dreary cold day, dry small snow falling all the time. The sheep were being gathered off the mountains, and the Black Mount deer were huddling in the glens and corries. The wind came down the mountain sides in fitful gusts, and the dry snow was finding its way down our necks, making us damp and nasty.
Arriving in Inveroran all right, we concluded we had gone far enough. Charlie is all right in the stable, and after dinner we conclude we will tramp to the Black Mount kennels. Mr. McDonald was from home, but a deer-stalker acted the part of showman.
They had only three terriers about the place –-- "Shadrach", "Conan", and "Sperack". "Shadrach" was a very wiry-haired, short-legged, cobby little dog, about 19 pounds weight. His ears were erect, and a trifle on the big side, but a more compact, thick-necked little fellow I never saw. In colour he looked a mixture of black, white, and red hair, while his coat lay flat, and was not more than one inch and three-quarters long. He would have been a rare one to breed from had it not been for his age—some thirteen years. "Conan" was a fawn-coloured dog, with semi-erect (P. 27) ears, fair head, long sharp muzzle, very large teeth, small eyes well protected by heavy-looking eyebrows; stout hard hair about the face and head; on the body the hair was hard, straight, close, and of medium length. He stood upon short, stout legs, and was altogether a fit companion for "Shadrach." I purchased "Conan" a year after my first visit to the Black Mount, and may add that, although I bred from him on three occasions, he has left nothing behind him at all equal to what he was.
"Sperack" was a nonentity by one of Donald Cameron's terriers.
The Seven or eight staghounds were a rare lot, but in a filthy state. They were all dark brindles and just such a team as a prize-winner could be chosen from. I fairly fell in love with a majestic-looking old dog; his legs, feet, body, head, ears, coat--- in fact taken as a whole, he was just such a picture as only a Landseer could do justice to. I was told that the staghounds were kept more for ornament than for use, as sportsmen prefer stalking the deer and killing them outright with a well-planted bullet; but they still have occasion to slip a couple of hounds to bring a wounded deer to bay. In our journey further north, I found that deer-stalkers preferred a cross about three-parts collie and one part staghound for their purposes as they were better trackers, were more tractable and wrought, more by nose than sight.
The snow lay deep on the ground next morning; but as Charlie was fresh and willing and as our way lay downhill toward Kingshouse, we concluded to go on. Midway between Kingshouse and Inveroran there is a house on the roadside occupied by one of the deer watchers, and as he had what we were told was a (P. 28) "raal tarrie" we called a halt to inspect it. One sight was enough.
Kingshouse brought us up about midday. The house was cold and miserable; the stable was no better. We gave Charlie an extra feed, made him as comfortable as possible, and started on a four miles' tramp across the Black Corries to find the Iron Lodge, and Donald Cameron the fox-hunter.
The Iron Lodge is a comfortable little erection on the moor, and was tenanted by the deer-forester's family, a tutor for them, a great big sonsy servant baking scones, and our friend the deer-hunter.
The terriers he had there were not up to much in the way of looks, but , like most of the fox-hunters I have come across, he fancied they were "a' wonners." They at least did what he required of them, viz, bolted foxes, and now and then found a badger which had to be dug out. How they were bred I know not, but, like Cheap John's van, they seemed to contain a little of all sorts, or, as an old friend of mine puts it, "there was a wheen o' guid breeds in them."
On our way back to Kingshouse we came to the conclusion that we were a pair of wonder-seekers, as we seemed to be on the wrong tack to find Scottish terriers. As the snow was too deep in Glencoe , and as there was no comfort at Kingshouse, we decided, even although night was on us, to go back to Inveroran and civilization. We arrived all right, and slept so soundly, that if the girl had not called us for breakfast I am certain we would have done the round of the clock.
While we slept more snow had fallen, causing us to abandon the Glencoe route, so after breakfast we took the road for Tyndrum, intending to train it to Oban.
(p.29) We spent the night at Tyndrum , and left next morning for Dalmally, by Bridge of Orchy and through Glenorchy. About midway down the glen we called on Cameron, the fox-hunter, and saw from fifteen to twenty terriers of divers shapes, colours, and sizes.
The prevailing colour was fawn or sandy, while others were different shades of brindle; some had white breasts, more had white beards, others had white feet, while one comical-looking old codger of the one-ear-up-the-other-down type had one side of his head pure white, while all the rest of him was covered with hard wiry short hair of a chestnut colour. I saw one dark brindled little bitch with short legs, small ears nearly erect, a good tail – in fact, an all round good one. She was about two years old , and fit to win in good company. I was prepared to purchase her, but when I learned that the piebald-faced "old codger" was her father, and that "her mother was a bonnie wee Skye terrier wi' long silky hair," I would have nothing to do with her. I did purchase a young dog from him; but, suffice it to say, I sent him to France.
We stayed in Dalmally over night, and as next day was Sunday, we concluded Charlie could be the better of a rest, and that we would be none the worse of a twenty miles out-and-home walk. After breakfast on Sunday morning, we crossed the bridge at Dalmally over the Orchy, and footed it up the glen along the river side till we came to M'Gregor the deer forester's cottage. He was at one time employed destroying foxes, and still kept a couple of bitches and a dog of the old breed of terriers.
Natty, nice looking things they were, with short heads and faces, short legs, long bodies, well carried tails, and fair coats. Their ears were after the staghound type; (p. 30) the trio had a determined ferrety vermin look about them, and would, bar the ears, have done credit to an exhibitor a few years since.
We found our way to church in the afternoon, and next morning I found my way back to M'Gregor's, and purchased a young dog and a young bitch from him. I also bought a pair of puppies, which I left with him to rear. I am pleased to say that the bitch has produced more than one good litter, and is the dam of the best Scottish terrier at present before the public.*
Frost and snow combined made the roads so slippery that Charlie had to be sharpened, and we changed our route by going from Dalmally to Inverary, thence along the banks of Lochfyne to Lochgilphead. After a day's rest there, we went to Ardrishaig, Cairnbaan, and back to Ardrishaig, on to Kilmartin, thence to Oban , and home.**
Now that wild oats are almost extinct in the Highlands, the only wild animals of any consequence with (p. 31) which the Scottish terrier has to cope are foxes, those sly depredators amongst the lambs during the spring-time, and on the hen-roast when opportunity offers; on this account the dogs are termed in the glens "fox"-terriers.
In Skye, otter hunting also forms a considerable item in terrier sports.
Scattered throughout the different mountainous parts of our country there are immense cairns of stones where the fox takes up his abode, and it is to drive Reynard from his retreat among the stones that the terriers are employed.
In olden times each district had its tod-hunter, and, as will be seen from Captain Mackie's interesting notes, that functionary still exists in different parts of the Highlands.
The following graphic description of the tod-hunter and his gang, with their modus operandi, was given by a correspondent in a letter to the Fanciers' Gazette:-
"In many districts of Flgin, Aberdeen, and Nairn, foxes were a great scourge. Lambs,sheep, and poultry were frequently taken by them in open day, and I have known as many as twenty lambs slaughtered in one night. I can remember being in a certain church, where after sermon and before the blessing was pronounced, the precenter, i.e., the leader of the singing (Lord love you! Such singing then in the auld kirk!), rose up and exclaimed, 'Noo, lads, min' we're guan tae hunt the tod on Tiesday; ben' up at tae laird's house in guid time,andJohnie Fraser'a comin wi' a' his dougs.' This last was quite a character in his way; he hailed from Glenlivet, and well I mind auld Johnie's dogs. He had a few hounds, large heavy-headed animals, much resembling in appearance the description given of the Irish wolf-....
(at bottom of p. 29)
** Beasts and birds of prey are gradually, though the process in human warfare, being exterminated from our British Islands. The wolf and wild boar are already creatures of the past; the wild cat and the royal eagle are slowly following in their train. In a very few districts these inhabitants have outlived, to a measure at least, the apparition of man. Noticeably is it so in many parts of Invernese-shire, Ross-shire, and the North Western Isles. There the population is sparse and consequently the warfare is less determined. This, combined with the marvelous agility and perception of the wild cat and eagle, has procured for them an extended lease in these Highland ??men. With regard to the wild cat, many domestic cats degenerating(?) to the position of wood inhabitants may excuse some confusion, but a moment's examination at once draws the line between the two. The long, slender body, akin in a great measure to the squirrel or ferret, and strong, tough coat, at once single out the wild cat. I have frequently seen this animal shot in Glen Stesthfarm?? and Glen Affarin, during the past few years (1876-82)--- Rev. H.M.Campbell, M.A., F.R.A., in a note to the Author.