Back to Basics: A Comparison of the Scottish Terrier and Sealyham Terrier

When viewing both of these wonderful breeds, balance and type are essential elements. Both of these terriers are keen, alert, outgoing and enjoy ownership of the ring.

These two wonderful breeds are unique unto themselves, yet terrier temperament abounds. When viewed next to each other, the Sealyham Terrier and Scottish Terrier are similar in size and shape. They are both low-legged, large-bodied and rectangular in shape.

The Scottish Terrier was derived from a type of working terrier in Scotland known as the Scotch Terrier. It was used for hunting foxes, badgers and rats. This was a “type” of terrier that varied significantly in size, color and coat — having varieties and groups within itself. A brief description of the original Scotch Terrier variety appears in The New Complete Scottish Terrier, by Jon Marvin: “low in stature, muscular body, short bodied, large head, pointed muzzle, small half prick ears, harsh matted coat, and varied colors of black or sandy.”

The Scotch Terrier is believed to have contributed to the Scottish Terrier, Cairn Terrier, West Highland White Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier that we know today. Another variety of terrier, the Skye Terrier, may also have contributed to the substance, length of head and powerful jaws of the Scottish Terrier.

The Scottish Terrier Club of England was founded in 1883. This was the first known club dedicated to the breed. The Scottish Terrier was introduced to America in the early 1890s, but it was not until the years between World War I and World War II that the breed became popular. The Scottish Terrier Club of America was formed in 1900, and a standard was written in 1925.

The foundation of the Sealyham Terrier, also used for hunting foxes and badgers, began in the south of Wales in 1850. The origin of the Sealyham is a mystery with no verifiable history or formal records. The founder of the Sealyham was Captain John Edwards, a very wealthy, eccentric man with a strong dislike for badgers and dissatisfaction of the quality of pack dogs used for hunting. Captain Edwards was focused on creating a strong, fearless dog. His breeding program was based on the instinct and ability of the dog to hunt. It was also important for the color of the puppies’ coats to be white to differentiate from the quarry. Puppies were trained at a young age using live rats. By the age of 2 to 3 years, dogs were tested and chosen to be part of the pack. Those that did not fare well met a bleak end.

There are several theories on the history of the Sealyham. It was thought for many years that the Welsh Corgi was utilized for its short legs and length of back. This theory has been questioned recently, but genetic mapping has linked the Welsh Corgi to the Sealyham. Belief exists that the Dandie Dinmont contributed its “nature,” the West Highland its “size” and the now-extinct Cheshire Terrier its “white coat and strong jaws.” It is also possible that the Wire Fox Terrier and Smooth Fox Terrier were utilized to contribute the “type.” Recently, a pedigree document was produced clearly showing a Smooth Fox Terrier in the lineage of a bitch born in 1906. This bitch’s grandfather (father of the famous Peer Gynt) was a great-grandchild of a Smooth Fox Terrier. Interestingly enough, there is no knowledge of the Scottish Terrier being used in the development of the Sealyham.

By the 1900s, the traits of the Sealyham were still very diverse. Around 1908 breeders began to concentrate on true type and conformity, and by 1914, there were 600 Sealyhams at the Pembrokeshire Hunt Club.



The Scottish and Sealyham Terriers differ greatly both in and out of the show ring. The Scottish Terrier takes itself very seriously with an independent confidence. One may find that females are more independent than males.

The Scottish Terrier is often referred to as a “die-hard.” When judging the Scottish Terrier, it is imperative that the dog show with tail and head up, demonstrating a true terrier attitude in the ring. Any deviation from this should be severely penalized. In and around the show ring, it is very likely you will see Scottish Terriers quarreling or scrapping in line or when standing near each other. Interestingly, if the leads were removed, the dogs would likely get along with each other much better than expected.

The Scottish Terrier adapts easily and welcomes new experiences and environments. However, keeping the Scottish Terrier happy and willing to please can be quite challenging. It is best to let him think that what is being asked of him is his own idea, as they tend to like to please themselves. The Scottish Terrier loves nothing more than to misbehave or squirm on the table for examination, and often the more they are challenged, the worse they will be. The Scottish Terrier, when brought out to spar, should be willing to acknowledge the other dogs with ears and tail up. The beauty of the Scottish Terrier “pulled together” and “owning the ring” is a breathtaking picture.

The Sealyham Terrier is a light-hearted, comical, spirited terrier devoted to its person. In the ring, the Sealyham Terrier should appear “keen and alert.” The Sealyham is willing to please, fast to learn and responds well to praise. The Sealyham is not as assertive ringside or in the ring, but when brought together to spar should be more than willing to stand and present himself. The Sealyham can be a difficult kennel dog, particularly with people who do not understand the dog’s need for personal interaction. This is not to say, however, that the Sealyham is a needy breed. He loves to be pleased with himself, and his confidence shines through in the show ring.


Comparing the Breeds

At first glance, the Scottish and Sealyham Terriers appear to be similar overall in shape and size. Most importantly, both have bone and substance. They are low-legged with deep chests and an overall rectangular shape. The Sealyham’s powerful, sturdy stature is critical to its type, but there should be no coarseness or clumsiness. Even though the breed’s overall form is clearly rectangular, it should measure about 101/2 inches at the withers and also 101/2 inches from the withers to the set-on of the tail. Dogs should weigh 23 to 24 pounds and bitches slightly less. The forechest and extension behind the tail contribute to the basic shape. The topline is to be level when standing and moving, as is also the case with the Scottish.

The Scottish Terrier is compact and powerful with a strong, long head. The measurement at the shoulders is 10 inches, with the current standard calling for an 11-inch back to the set-on of the tail. The Scottish Terrier should weigh 18 to 21 pounds, which is a bit less than the Sealyham. Again, the Scottish Terrier is to be rectangular in shape, with a protruding forechest and rear. Both of these breeds are bred to go to ground and to hunt aggressive animals larger than themselves.

According to Betty Penn-Bull’s The Kennelgarth Scottish Terrier Book, “a Scottish Terrier should never look higher than its length, although it is possible for him to be a little longer than his height and still retain type.” Balance and bone are essential to the breed’s “shape,” calling to the importance of the shortness in the loin. Upon examination, it is important to feel for density of bone; lack of bone should be penalized when judging the breed. The front assembly should have well laid back shoulders, and the forearm should be equal in length to the upper arm. The Scottie has a more pronounced sternum than the Sealyham. When examining both of these low-legged terriers, it should be common practice to place one’s fist under the brisket with little or no space to spare.

The back and body should be strong and well-muscled with short, strong loins. The Scottie has a slightly more rounded rib at the point of the elbow before again tapering to the point. The Sealy is not to be slab-sided but is not as “well sprung” as the Scottie. The elbows should be tight and close to the body, and the front legs should be fairly straight with large feet pointing straight forward. The rear feet are to be smaller than the front in both breeds. The rear should be powerful and broad when viewed from behind, with low short hocks, good bend of stifle and high-set tail with an obvious “shelf” behind the set-on of the tail. It is critical that breeders work to correct the balance and type of these breeds.


Head and Neck

The heads of these two breeds vary greatly, mostly by length and width. The Scottish Terrier’s head is significantly less broad and is longer than the Sealyham Terrier’s head. Both heads require parallel planes and equal proportions of the muzzle to the back skull. Although the Scottie’s head is long, it should not be similar to a Fox Terrier’s — it should be long and lean with no protuberance. The back skull should have a slight dome. The sides of the cheek should be flat with no coarseness in either breed. The Scottish Terrier head should be long, clean and strong, with a full and powerful muzzle. The ears should be fairly high-set, pointed and small for the size of the head. The use of the ears is a major contribution to the Scottie’s showmanship. The nose should be fairly large for the size of the dog. The very large teeth should form either a scissor or level bite. The eyes should be almond-shaped with a color from dark brown to black. The eyes should be wide-set and placed well below the brow.

The Sealyham Terrier’s head is powerful and moderate, with the length of the head being approximately an inch longer than the neck. The head should exude power and strength and not contain any form of cheekiness.

Again, it is important that this breed have parallel planes. From the side, the Sealyham’s back skull should not look round. The Sealyham should have a moderate stop with a slight dome between the ears and the unusual trait of an indentation running between the brow. A scissor or level bite is acceptable. Be aware that a lack of pigment around the deep-set, oval eye is not a fault. The ears of the Sealyham, when pulled forward, should reach the outside corner of the eye. The ear should be level with the top of the skull, the inside corner of the ear held close to the cheek when the ears are being used.

The neck should be fairly thick and muscular for both the Scottie and the Sealyham. The Scottie should be in balance with the length of head to the length of back. The Sealyham’s length of neck should be slightly less than two-thirds the height at the withers, and the neck should flow smoothly to the shoulders.


Coat and Color

The Scottish Terrier comes in three colors: wheaten, black and brindle. Judges should show no color preferences. The double coat is hard and very dense, and it should be difficult to get your fingers through to the skin. It should have a harsh texture to the touch with a dense undercoat. The coat should fit tightly over the body, blending down to the furnishings. The furnishings should be harsh but not as harsh as the body coat. A slight wave is acceptable but should be minimal. On the black Scottie, occasional white hairs or a small amount of white on the chin is acceptable.

The Sealyham coat is unique unto itself. It should have a hard wire topcoat, with a thick and dense undercoat. The coat is a challenge, as it is extremely difficult to keep in condition for even the most skilled groomers. It is also very difficult to pull possibly due to the contribution of the Cheshire Terrier in the development of the breed. The Sealy should be white, with lemon, tan or “badger” markings on the head and ears allowed. Sealys with body markings or heavy ticking are to be discouraged for use in breeding programs. Early on, body markings were looked poorly upon, as they were a reminder of the involvement of the Wire Fox Terrier in the development of the breed. The Sealyham Terrier head was trimmed similar to the Scottish Terrier until the arrival of Ch. Polrose Pacesetter in the show ring in the 1960s, who was advertised with a full fall.



The tail on the Sealy should be thick, straight and docked. It should be set on high and held straight up. The length of the tail should balance with the neck. As a teenager, I was told that the length of the tail should be at least the length of a man’s fist so the dog could be pulled from the quarry’s hole. The Scottish Terrier should never be docked. The tail should be thick, tapering to a point, and be held at 12 o’clock or slightly over the back.



Sealy movement should be parallel both in the front and the rear with reach and drive, moving with power and enthusiasm. The Scottish Terrier should track parallel with the front and rear as well. However, due to the deep chest and short legs, the front differs slightly. As the front leg is brought forward, there is a slight lifting in the leg and turning inward, and then the foot is placed on the ground forward from where it began. There should not be crossing over when the Scottie is coming at you, nor should it be wide or lifting outward from the front. The rear feet should move parallel with each other, so you see the pads of the rear feet when the dog is moving away. The Scottie should have extension both front and rear, but it will have less extension compared to the Sealyham due to the deeper, broader shape.

When viewing both of these wonderful breeds, balance and type are essential elements. Both of these terriers are keen, alert, outgoing and enjoy ownership of the ring. Even though both of these breeds were bred to go to ground, they are truly loyal companions.



Johns, R. (1934). Our Friend the Sealyham. New York, N.Y.: E.P. Dutton and Co. Inc.
Lee, M. P. (1994). The Official Book of the Scottish Terrier. Neptune City, N.J.: T.F.H. Publications.
Marvin, J. T. (1982). The New Complete Scottish Terrier. New York, N.Y.: Howell Book House.
Penn-Bull, B. (1983). The Kennelgarth Scottish Terrier Book. Hindhead, Surrey, England: Triplegate.
The Illustrated Standard of the Scottish Terrier, 2009.
The Illustrated Standard of the Sealyham Terrier, 2012.


From the October 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine, or call 1-888-738-2665 to purchase a single copy.

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