Plan to save Scotland’s rarest pedigree dog breeds

The Dandie Dinmont terrier breed is one of the rarest in Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna/TSPL
The Dandie Dinmont terrier breed is one of the rarest in Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna/TSPL
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It is one of the rarest pedigree breeds of terrier in the UK, with just 17 puppies registered in Scotland by the Kennel Club in 2015.

The Dandie Dinmont, which originates in the Borders, takes its name from a character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Guy Mannering.

Skye terries, despite being made famous by Greyfriars Bobby, are a rarity in Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams

Skye terries, despite being made famous by Greyfriars Bobby, are a rarity in Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams

Despite its literary credentials, the dog is one of several of Scottish origin whose numbers are falling to historically low levels.

Skye terriers, made famous by Greyfriars Bobby, are also classed as a vulnerable native breed, with 23 registered last year - the most recent statistics available.

Scottish deerhounds are similarly rare, with 38 registrations, while the Gordon setter fares little better, with 42.

In comparison, 595 West Highland white terriers and 793 Golden Retrievers - by far the most popular breed of Scottish origin - were recorded in the same period north of the border.

Looking to reverse the trend, the Kennel Club Educational Trust last week agreed a grant of £20,000 towards the creation of a new Dandie Dinmont discovery centre and a bronze statue at The Haining in Selkirk.

The terrier is the only breed named after a fictional character and sees fewer than 100 Kennel Club puppy registrations across the UK.

With less than 300 being bred worldwide each year, there is a real fear that it is only a matter of time until the breed disappears altogether.

“We’re committed to saving and preserving the vulnerable British breeds and this of course includes some of the breeds of Scottish origin whose registration figures are falling far below where they ought to be,” said Gerald King, chairman of the Kennel Club Educational Trust.

“Everyone knows what West Highland white terriers and Border Collies are, and naturally these iconic Scottish breeds have a lot to recommend them and are deservedly hugely popular, but we would urge potential pet owners to not forget about the lesser known breeds such as the Dandie Dinmont and Skye terrier.

“These breeds are very important as often they were the ancestors of the more modern breeds, but somehow over the years we have forgotten about them.

“This is why a project such as the discovery centre is so vital – it will give a breed such as the Dandie Dinmont the opportunity show off its charms while at the same time encouraging much-needed publicity for the endangered Scottish breeds.”

The discovery centre in Selkirk will educate the visitors about the breed as well as tell the stories of the nine other dog breeds which have the Dandie in their heritage.

Paul Keevil, coordinator of the project, said the breed could be traced back to a dog named Old Ginger, born at The Haining in 1842.

“As the father of the breed, The Haining can be considered the birthplace of the Dandie Dinmont,” he said.

“Every Dandie in the world today goes back ultimately to Old Ginger. Uniquely, the actual kennels he was born in and the kennel run still exist in the grounds of The Haining.

“It is exciting for us that the trustees of The Haining are not only allowing us to open the Dandie discovery centre on this important landmark, but are also making the entire Haining Estate dog friendly.”

Alexander Stoddart, the Queen’s sculptor for Scotland ,has been commissioned to produce a bronze statue of Old Ginger, which will be unveiled on June 4, 2017, his 175th birthday.