he first came to have that coat there is not a particle of reliable evidence to be found. Maybe it was natural, as the mountains and lochs are to the island the name of which it bears ; maybe, like Topsy, it “ growed.” Anyhow, here is the strain which is as distinct from that of the ordinary hard-haired Scottish terrier as a Pekin duck is from a Rouen. That the Skye terriers were able to hunt and kill rats, and possessed unusually good noses I know; but careful tending to the coat, nursing and petting, and the sacrifice of every useful point for long hair have wrought a complete change in the animal, and he is now nothing more than a toy or pet dog. And his long, trailing jacket does not prove a recommendation when he goes into the house from the streets on a dirty day and rests in the drawing or dining room. I am told that an attempt is being made to place the modern Skye terrier on his proper footing, and that in future he will have to be first of all a terrier and a ladies’ long-coated dog afterwards.

The late Mr. Thomson Gray, in his “Dogs of Scotland” (1891) gives particulars of an interview he had with George Clarke, who for fifty years had been head gamekeeper on the Mull Estate of the Duke of Argyll. Mr. Gray writes : “When Mr. Clarke left the duke’s Mull Estate for Inverary, he took with him three of these terriers to infuse fresh blood into the Inverary kennel, where the old Skye had been carefully bred from time immemorial, and on leaving there twenty years later for Roseneath he brought this breed of terrier with him, and by constantly introducing dogs unrelated to his own has kept the blood pure, and of exactly the same type from that day till now. They were kept for the purpose of bolting from cairns and burrows the foxes, polecats, and numerous vermin which infested the wilds of the Argyllshire highlands.


“Mr. Clarke stated that such was the condition of the districts with which he was associated, that even within his own knowledge sheep could not be kept at large on the hills, until the landlords and farmers clubbed together in each district and appointed a man as foxhunter, who was paid a sum by each farmer according to the number of sheep kept. This functionary kept a pack of small terriers of from 121b. to 16lb. weight, and a couple of luat/zchain (swift dogs), either staghounds or foxhounds.

“The foxhunter and his terriers were constantly on the move over his district, and when a shepherd found a dead lamb, supposed to have been destroyed by a fox, he at once set out for this nomadic individual, and by daylight next morning the foxhunter and shepherds were on the ground with the dogs. On the hounds finding the scent they were uncoupled, and on ‘starting’ the fox went off in full cry. The fox generally sought refuge in a burrow or cairn. The services of the terriers were then brought into requisition, and when let loose they rushed in to do battle, cheered on by the hunter’s ‘ Staigh sinl’ Many a good terrier has met his coup de grdce while engaged in these subterranean fights, and many more have come forth to carry for the remainder of their restless days the scars of battle. If reynard did not sell his life dearly under cover, his fate was sealed on making from his stronghold.


“This was the description of work for which the old Skye terrier was kept in the Duke of Argyll’s kennels at Inverary and Roseneath, and from my personal knowledge of their build and temperament, we can corroborate what Mr. Clarke has said of their qualifications as working terriers. . . . About fifty years ago her' late Majesty Queen Victoria was presented with a couple of them by the county gentlemen of Argyllshire, one of these being from the Duke’s kennels, and the other from that of Dugald Ferguson, the foxhunter.”

This little dog from Roseneath is alluded to in a preceding article on the Scottish terrier; and, asthere stated, classes have been provided for him at

[ocr errors][graphic]
« ForrigeFortsett »