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Scottish Terrier Standard

Scottish Terrier Standard

Knowing the Name of Something is not the Same as Knowing Something 

From a BBC Interview with Richard Feynman, Nobel Quantun Physicist 

By Kathi Brown and Darle Heck

The Guidelines for Writing Breed Standards identifies that the purpose of a standard is to be a guide for breeders and judges. The importance is to “keep in mind those features that make the breed unique,” those qualities the breed must possess to do the job for which it was created. The charge is to be clear and concise; thus the selection of specific vocabulary is essential to convey a clear image of the proper specimen of the breed. As we are aware, the standard format places “General Appearance” at the forefront of each standard, and it is within this paragraph that our breed club spells out the most important criteria of form to function.

The history and subsequent development of our Scottish Terrier standard has followed these expectations. Early in the breed history, there were a variety of breeds identified as “Scotch Terriers.” Each was bred by sportsmen for specific purposes and specific terrain. The “Scotch Terrier” began to be shown around 1860 with a diversity of types, among which were a number of what we now know as separate breeds. It shortly became evident that agreement needed to be reached on which characteristics would define the Scottish Terrier… those that make the breed unique and to be highly valued as a go-to-ground vermin hunter. Emerging was clarification and descriptors for the Hard-Haired Scottish Terrier. It was the form and function of dogs themselves that was the basis for the written word. Standard words have their origins in the actual object, and the standard’s words are the descriptors of excellence in the breed. The selected, concise use of vocabulary and clarity of terms creates a vision of the breed. There needs to be a constant and consistent toggle between terminology and the actual dog. For example, even the word “home” results in a different mental picture from location to location and from person to person. The choice of vocabulary, encapsulated within the all-important General Appearance section of our standard, contains critical adjectives for judging; small, compact, short-legged, sturdily-built, with a wiry, weather-resistant coat. It also cites a thick-set, “cobby” body and the breed’s very special keen, piercing, “varminty” expression. Understanding the terms “cobby” and “varminty” is based on each reader’s depth of experience.

In all learning, the closer the educational experiences are to the desired expectations—in this case, judging—the deeper the learning. We have likely experienced this when stepping into the ring to judge a large entry of a new breed. Having actual dogs to view and examine while learning is critical. These are “concrete” learning experiences. Visual depictions, including, drawings, photos, and videos, are opportunities that assist as secondary illustrative opportunities. The written word/words, as in our standards, are the most abstract and are dependent upon our experience.

As we are writing this preface, the term “cobby” continues to be highlighted in red by auto check as not being a word—and few dictionaries have a clear definition. Literacy and reading experts have graphic organizers and techniques for deepening our understanding of the written word. Learners are asked to “say it a different way,” provide a personal definition, use illustrations, pictures and drawings, list examples and non-examples, and incorporate the terms in their oral language. Below we will provide additional information on the standard’s wording of “cobby” and “varminty” which are so important in the Scottish Terrier standard. Hopefully, judges and breeders alike will utilize the terms frequently in the assessment of our breed and in discussions of the breed.

Official Standard of the Scottish Terrier

General Appearance: The Scottish Terrier is a small, compact, short-legged, sturdily-built dog of good bone and substance. His head is long in proportion to his size. He has a hard, wiry, weather-resistant coat and a thick-set, cobby body which is hung between short, heavy legs. These characteristics, joined with his very special keen, piercing, “varminty” expression, and his erect ears and tail are salient features of the breed. The Scottish Terrier’s bold, confident, dignified aspect exemplifies power in a small package.”


The Free Dictionary>cobby cob·by (kb’) adj. cob·bi·er, cob·bi·es Having short legs and a compact body; stocky. Used of animals. Wikipedia: The body may be described as “cobby” or sometimes by a ratio of height to length.

Throughout the early years of breed “development,” Terriers were often described by their observable characteristics; long-legged or short-legged, coat length and texture, color, etc. As sportsmen, when describing body type it was natural and easily understood to utilize terminology derived from their familiarity with horses. The term “cobby” as cited in the Scottish Terrier has its origins in, and likely harkens to, the original Cob horse. The Cob horse is defined as a horse short of leg, compact of body, with heavier bone, good strength of body, and a stockier build. Below are additional excerpts and descriptions of the Cob horse that may deepen our understanding of how the adjective rightly and accurately applies to the Scottish Terrier, differing this breed from others by body type.

Observe the two photos of horses below. How would you describe the two different body types? How does your view match the horseman’s adjectives utilized in identifying the Cob horse?

Scottish Terrier Standard

Scottish Terrier Standard

What is a Cob?

“It can be both a breed and a type of horse.” “A cob is stocky, sturdy & robust with a handsome and noble head.” – Taken From What Really Is a Cob? by Anna Bowen

What really is a cob? (

Where does the word “cob” come from?

The etymology of the word “cob” appears to be from late Middle English. It meant a strong man or a strong leader, and it seems the underlying sense of the word was to imply a strong, sturdy, and rounded shape. This is perhaps why a round loaf of bread is also known as a “cob” and where the word “cobblestone” also comes from.

What does it mean with respect to horses?

“As you might expect from the origin of the word, a cob is ‘strong’ and ‘rounded.’ A cob is simply a type of horse that has a sturdy build, strong bones, large joints, and generally stout appearance. They can be any size, but traditionally, they have been thought of as a small horse; above pony height. This differentiates them from sturdy ponies and larger draft horses with a similar build.” What is a cob? – Good Horse (

The Irish Cob – History & Information About the Irish Cob: “The Irish Cob is compact and powerful, ample both in muscle and bone, yet with an ability to perform as a good all-purpose animal. Some Irish Cobs tend to be more “stocky” than others. The Irish Cob is well-balanced and proportioned, standing straight and square, and offering an imposing appearance. General appearance including topline relates to animals in good condition.” Irish Cob, its origin, description and details of the irish cobi (

“The Norman Cob is a breed of mid-sized, light draft horses that hail from the French province of Normandy. Even though it has been selectively bred to produce general subgroups within the breed that are characterized by different heights and weights, it has a great degree of similarity with a Thoroughbred in terms of its conformation. It has an elegant appearance, with a short back and an overall square profile.” Norman Cob Horse Info, Origin, History, Pictures (

Although it is not necessary to compare the cobby Scottish Terrier and the racy Irish Terrier, perhaps we can now clearly differentiate the cobby dog within the breed itself as preferred in our standard. Above are two illustrations. As a judge, which would you seek in your evaluation as being cobby? The illustrations are of the general outline as first viewed in the judging process. True determination of the cobby dog requires appraisal from the front for proper width as well as from the top of the dog.

Scottish Terrier Standard
Cobby, Illustration by Darle Heck
Scottish Terrier Standard
Not Cobby, Illustration by Darle Heck


It has been stated that if all the Terrier breeds were lined up behind a fence, and all you could see were the heads, you should be able to determine which breed is which by the head alone. Given this statement, it is the unique characteristics of the Scottish Terrier head that conveys the impression as described in the standard as having a “very special, keen, piercing, varminty, expression” that typifies his bold, confident nature.

What are the anatomical specifics that define the unique Scottish Terrier head and how does it differ from other Terrier heads? In the paragraphs that follow, the structures that are essential are discussed. We have chosen to infuse this article from our experiences as a breeder, exhibitor, and judge. The accompanying illustration provides an image surrounded by many of the standard and historical descriptors. It is a “look” that is somewhat difficult to find. However, “When you see it, you know it.” It is the dog that looks at—and through—you with all the strength and confidence of his being, and the one that exudes the belief that he is better than you.

The Scottish Terrier head is heavily weighted in the standard. While it is only one component of the totality of the dog, it is often one of the first parts viewed after assessing the balance and outline (cobby). The ability of our breed to “look down his nose at you” both figuratively and structurally conveys the attitude and totality of his indomitable spirit. This does not occur if the underlying structure is not correct. Thus, I will speak of each of the components as well as clarifying some possible misconceptions.

Scottish Terrier Standard says that the heads are not narrow. Rather, they are of medium width which gives the impression of narrowness due to the cleanness of skull and length of head in proportion to the overall length and size of the dog. Averages do not work here, as each specimen may vary in size. A bitch head might be more refined than a dog head, yet both are equally correct. A common misconception is that our “Diehard” head is lean or narrow. This is incorrect and certainly could create a commonality with other breeds within our Group, and more importantly, affect the necessary balance and strength the Scot needs to accomplish his purpose as a go-to-ground badger hunter. Consider this quote when assessing the head: “His head, accentuated by eyebrows and whiskers, should appear long for the size of body… clean rather than ‘lean.’” (Penn-Bull 75, 77) There is a difference.

Over many years, “varminty” is a term that we have heard people struggle to define in books and seminars. In our studies of the breed, we’ve come to see it as the result of the correct structure of the head, combined with correct eye shape and placement. Varminty is not just a term defining the eyes. It’s a term that defines the entire expression. In fact, the entire head structure and all of its parts contribute to being “varminty.” Some of these parts include the color, shape, fill under the eye, correct stop, and the planes of the head.

When the head planes are parallel, the proportion of muzzle-to-skull is equal. The muzzle is well-filled below the eye, with good strength to the end. The skull is clean and of medium width. The top plane of the skull will run parallel and slightly above the plane of the muzzle. The stop is slight but definite. Either too much or a lack of stop distorts the expression. Any deviation in the planes weakens the leverage and changes the expression. If the head planes are not parallel, if the dog is down-faced with the muzzle dropping away from the skull, the eye orbit is opened up. The eye is no longer under the brow and the eye will appear larger and rounder, and will give a softer, less desirable expression.

The correct definition of the stop enables the eyes to be placed nearly at right angles to the general line of the skull. Then the brows project over the eye, more especially at the outer edges. The small, dark, and almond-shaped eye, set deeply under the brow, facing forward, gives the impression that the Scottish Terrier is looking down his nose at the world with a hint of the devil in him. When that dog alerts to a varmint, all of these factors come together to create the perfect structure of the head.

This piercing, intense expression can be accentuated by becoming almost triangular in shape, with the upper line of the eye lifting and forming an angle, and the lower lid being curved. This is what we define as a varminty expression. It is a breed characteristic that should be highly sought after as a critical component of breed type. It is the look of a Scottish Terrier that is instantaneously identifiable as he peers over the aforementioned fence with his Terrier relations.

Scottish Terrier Standard
Scottish Terrier Standard
Not Varminty

Above are two illustrations of the Scottish Terrier head. Which one is “varminty?” Can you identify at least four differences that contribute to this expression! (Illustrations by Darle Heck)

About the author – Kathi Brown

Scottish Terrier Standard

Kathi Brown is a breeder, exhibitor, and AKC judge of three-plus Groups. She serves as Judges’ Education Coordinator for the Scottish Terrier Club of America. She has served as a member of the Standard Review Committee as well as the committee that produced the Illustrated Guide to the Scottish Terrier. Kathi has written numerous articles on the Scottish Terrier. She has judged many Specialties and Terrier Group shows, including the Scottish Terrier National Specialty in Canada and in the US. Her limited “Blueberry Hill” breeding program has yielded top-quality Scottish Terriers for forty-five years. Her dogs include many Best in Show and National Specialty winners as well as three years as Number One in the breed. She is Past President of Ladies’ Dog Club, the Scottish Terrier Club of America, New England Terrier Club, and the Scottish Terrier Club of New England. Professionally,Kathi is an education consultant working with states, districts, and colleges, providing professional development on learner- and outcome-based instruction in science and mathematics.

About the author – Darle Heck

Scottish Terrier Standard

Darle started showing and grooming her parents’ Scotties as a child, winning her first Group at age 12. She has shown and bred Scotties since then. She worked for a professional handler during her teens, and at that time, she fell in love with Bouviers and brought three into Canada. These were some of the earliest Bouviers brought into Canada and many top-winners have come down from these lines. Since 1995, she has also been breeding and showing Wire Fox Terriers, all under the Beinnein prefix.Beinnein Kennels has consistently produced dogs that have been Specialty winners as well as dogs that have been nationally ranked at the top of their Breed and Group in Canada and around the world.

Darle has been judging since 2000 and has had the honor of judging in Canada, the US, Australia, Chile, China, Columbia, Ecuador, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Slovenia, Uruquay, and New Zealand. She has judged several National Specialties, including the US National at Montgomery for Scottish Terriers.

Darle is also well-known for her canine artwork. She has done illustrated guides for several breed clubs and limited edition prints in a number of breeds.

Darle is currently on the Breed Standards Committee for the Scottish Terrier Club of America and is a Past President of the Canadian Scottish Terrier Club. She is licensed as an all-breed judge by the Canadian Kennel Club.