Terriers are an enduring and popular breed of dog, and in appearance alone it’s easy to see why.
But it isn’t just the timeless, refined, or pampered looks of these former rat catchers that makes them such fabulous companions.
Terriers are affectionate, energetic dogs, full of life, capable of long walks and fearless loyalty.
Yes – they remain very good at hunting vermin – but hopefully that’s not what you need one for!
We love them, and we’re not alone in that regard.
They’ve trounced the Westminster dog show for years, best in show more than any other breed. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the proud black Russian, to the miniscule Biewer.
Today, we’re looking at the smaller end of the spectrum. Here’s 7 small terrier breeds for you to look out for and love.
- Scottish Terrier
- Welsh Terrier
- West Highland Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Boston Terrier
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- What is a terrier?
At between an average weight of 19-22 lbs for males and 18-21 lbs for females, and of a height of between 10-11 inches, we’re starting this list with the wiry haired Scottish terrier, one of the most iconic terrier breeds, with a coat ranging from dark gray to jet black and brindle.
‘The diehard’ as it was nicknamed by the fourth Earl of Dumbarton, it’s one of several dogs in this list that take their name from places in the British Isles, with a dignified, independent character befitting of a dog that once roamed the grounds of Scotland’s stately homes.
It surely remains ample at picking shortbread crumbs off the carpet.
Briskly trotting over the verdant, craggy mounds and moody skies of the picturesque Scottish countryside, this hard working huntsman remains well placed as a watchdog, affectionate to its owners, but suspicious of newcomers (and their dogs!).
Caring for a Scottie can be demanding to an owner – they require frequent grooming and energetic play to keep pace with their hunter’s instincts, but their intelligent, spirited personality and timeless, compact appearance makes this dog breed a wonderful companion.
Second in our Brit Pack, the Welsh Terrier comes in at an average weight of around 20 lbs, and a height of 15 inches.
Alongside its Celtic companion, the Scottish terrier, the Welshman is a sturdy, compact breed, which claims the title of oldest dog breed native to the UK.
But across the pond we know the Welsh Terrier for its black and tan coat and its lively, independent personality that remains a fine fit for life outside of the rugged coastline and heather beaten moors of Wales.
In full recognition of its transatlantic popularity, here is a dog that went from picking badgers out of their sets and foxes from their holes, to happily trotting the fine carpet of the oval office as a companion to President John F. Kennedy.
Though regarded as a little calmer than some similar breeds, this is a high energy dog that requires frequent play.
West Highland Terrier
The West Highland Terrier, or Westie, also has its origins in Scotland.
At an average weight of 15-20 lbs, and height of between 10-11 inches, this boisterous white bundle of excitement and affection is a beloved companion on both sides of the Atlantic, commanding Cruft’s pedigree and a placement among America’s most popular dog breeds since the 1960s.
But their popularity extends far past the era of swing – King James VI of Scotland is reported to have sent a dozen of these charming, full faced and double coated companions to the Kingdom of France.
If only he knew how exhausted they would be looking after the lot of them!
There are few dog breeds as instantly recognisable as the Yorkie.
At an average weight of around 7 lbs and a height of 7-8 inches, this tiny terrier is mostly known for its long silken silver-blue and cream coat, but can also be seen with a dark, rough coat.
The long coated variety requires regular brushing to keep it fine and glossy, and owners should be aware that the breed can be hypoallergenic.
But let’s not simply focus on this toy-sized terrier’s looks.
It displays all the affection and feistiness of its other terrier cousins, though requiring much less physical exertion to keep it happy and healthy, as such it’s become a perfect breed for trotting around town, and makes a fabulous companion for children.
The original Yorkshire Terriers were bred in competition by mill operatives in Yorkshire, England, and as such the Yorkie received its name.
Now for a distinctly American addition to this so far Brit bolstered list.
At an average weight of 12-25 lbs, and a height of 15-17 inches, this ‘American Gentleman’ is the 21st most popular dog in the United States.
Unlike the many other breeds we have looked at so far, the Boston Terrier has a short coat, which varies from brindle to gray to black (all with distinct white markings that give it its characteristic ‘tuxedo look’) and therefore requires far less grooming.
Like the Yorkie, the Boston Terrier only requires moderate exercise, making it perfect for city living, and its lively, refined, and protective demeanor makes it an excellent pet for families.
Easy to train and fantastically sociable, this American native truly is an upbeat urban gent.
Jack Russell Terrier
Our pleasant Bostonian detour comes to a close as we leap back across the pond for our next small terrier.
The Jack Russell comes in at an average weight of 9-15 lbs and a height of 10-12 inches, and while we often associate the breed with a tan and white coat, this sturdy, balanced burrower can be seen with black or brown inflections over a mostly white body – smooth, rough, or broken coated in appearance.
The origins of this recognisable breed began this time in the flatter, less rugged English south, flushed with farmers’ fields, airy, deciduous woodlands and plenty of holes dug into the earth for the dog to flush out small game from.
Its unique, two hundred year long career as a huntsman has imbued the breed with a balanced temper, though it nonetheless remains as animated and energetic as some of the other breeds on this list, and owners should provide it with ample exercise.
We’ve reached the final dog on this list, and with it we return back to the highlands of Scotland for the rugged Cairn Terrier.
At an average weight of 13-14 lbs, and a height of 10 inches, this hardy, pint sized adventurer is one of Scotland’s earliest working dogs.
Make no mistake, despite its weather-beaten heritage and shaggy coat (which comes in a range of charming colors from cream, to deep red, apricot or black), this curious, loyal companion is as comfortable on an adventure as it is snugly nestled in your lap.
A busy worker bred to hunt between the cairns – the tall, ramshackle stone stacks erected by traversers of Scotland’s mountains – this breed is an unfussy (it requires less grooming than other breeds), intelligent, and requires only moderate exercise, making it adaptable to a range of environments.
Well, we’ve come to the end of the list – there’s so many other terriers to talk about but we had to end somewhere!
You may be left with some more questions about the terrier breed as a whole. We’ll try and answer some of those briefly.
What is a terrier?
Terrier comes from the Old French phrase ‘chien terrier’ – earth dog. It’s a pretty accurate name for how the breed could be best described in its infamy, snout to the ground, peering into warehouses and food stores in search of rats and mice. Terriers were bred originally for this purpose, and their hunter’s instinct explains their animated nature and fearlessness.
That said, as we have discovered there is plenty of variety between the breeds, with differences in size, coat and temperament.
The smallest terrier to appear on this list is the Yorkshire terrier, while the largest is the Boston Terrier – in fact the Yorkshire Terrier is one of the smallest dogs in the world!
Terriers have large variations in their coats, not just in color, but in texture and length as well. The Boston Terrier, for instance, has a thin coat, the Yorkshire, silken, and the Westie double coated. Grooming is an important part of caring for any dog, and be sure to consult the website of the American Kennel Club for more information.
While all terriers are known for their happy, confident and energetic demeanours, the amount of exercise required varies from breed to breed – although it’s more than likely your terrier will be able to beat you for stamina!
And with that we’re at the end of today’s article. What’s my favorite terrier, you may wonder? Well, I like to think of myself as an adventurer at heart – but mostly I just want to cuddle up on the sofa. I think the Cairn Terrier and I have a lot in common.