The Skye Terrier originated on the Isle of Skye, an island that is part of the Inner Hebrides on the West coast of Scotland, the Skye is recognised as one of the oldest Scottish Breeds.
As with all terriers, the Skye was bred and used to control vermin, for Skyes this would have been mainly badgers and otters, their short strong front legs were ideal for digging out setts. Although today’s Skye Terrier is a lot bigger than those early days, the shape of the Skye is virtually unchanged, the long coat would have worn away naturally in the harsh environment that the dog worked. It is believed that the coat of a Skye was the result of a chance introduction from dogs having survived the sinking of a ship from the Spanish Armada making their way to the shores of Skye and being used to mate with the local terriers, I quite like this idea but I guess we will never really know. For a full history of the Skyes ancestry on Skye, all Skye enthusiasts should read The World of Dogs Skye Terrier written by Sine Threlfall, an excellent read. Sine covers the origins of the Skye on its native land detailing the various clans that bred this wonderful terrier and then follows their rise in popularity around the world.
Throughout history their have been some famous people owning Skyes and indeed a much loved Skye in his own right, this of course was Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby lived in Edinburgh from 1855 – 1872. He belonged to John Gray who was a night watchman serving with the police. John would patrol the streets at night with Bobby alongside him, ensuring that all was well. In 1858 John Gray died of tuberculosis and was buried in Greyfriars Kirk. Bobby could not bear to be parted from his master and in spite of the best efforts of those trying to care for him, he would escape and run to the Kirkyard where he would lie on John’s grave. He was removed from the Kirk many times as dogs were not allowed, but each time he would find a way to return and did so for 14 years, a remarkable showing of love and loyalty. In 1867 there was a bylaw passed in Edinburgh stating that all dogs should be licensed, Bobby did not have an owner and could have been put down as a stray, fortunately he was well known and loved in the city and the then Lord Provost Sir William Chambers presented Bobby with a collar that said “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed”.
Bobby’s collar & bowl can be seen in the Museum of Edinburgh. In 1872, because of the interest in Bobby by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, President of the ladies committee of the RSPCA, a statue of Bobby was commissioned, this was completed by the Scottish Sculptor William Brodie. This stands at the corner of Candlemakers Row in Edinburgh and is another must see for all Skye Terrier lovers visiting the city.
Cullin was a Skye owned by Robert Louis Stevenson, a statue of Robert & Cullin can be seen at Collinton Parish Church in Edinburgh.
Queen Victoria owned several Skyes, probably the best known being Islay, who unfortunately died after a fight with a cat. There is a statue of Islay outside the Victoria Building in Sydney Australia, unfortunately on the Australian monument web site she is described as a cairn! It is believed that Mary Queen of Scots Skye was hidden beneath her skirt when she was beheaded in 1587, it was removed by staff after the execution and apparently later died of a broken heart.
Moving to modern times, after a suggestion by members of the Skye Terrier Club, the Club raised funds to have a statue commissioned & placed on the Isle of Skye. The statue depicts two Skye Terriers walking, returning home, hence the statue is called the “Homecoming”. The life size statue was completed by the renowned sculptor Georgie Welch and was unveiled on the 24th July 2014 by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. A truly memorable day and those involved are very proud of this lasting monument to our wonderful breed. The statue can be found in the grounds of Armadale Castle, Clan Donald and just as with the statue of Bobby in Edinburgh is becoming a “must visit” for all lovers of Skyes.