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Dandie Dinmont Terrier - History and Health

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Dandie Dinmont Terrier


The Dandie Dinmont Terrier was first recorded as a distinct breed in the late 1600s or early 1700s, reportedly descending from rough native terriers owned by hunters in the Hills between the borders of England and Scotland. Some fanciers think that the breed developed purely from crosses of Scottish and Skye Terriers; others speculate that the Dachshund and/or other hounds must have contributed to the Dandie’s long ears and low-slung body. Most experts agree that the Dandie Dinmont comes largely if not entirely from the same stock as the Border, Scottish, Cairn, West Highland White, Skye, Lakeland, Bedlington and Welsh Terriers, with some infusion of hound blood contributing to the shorter, crooked legs. Regardless, this breed was developed to “go to ground” and hunt otter and badger in their underground lairs. The Dandie had to be neither too large and clumsy, nor too small and delicate, to perform this task. It needed strong jaws, a strong neck and a flexible body. It retains these characteristics today.

Offspring of the early otter and badger terriers ended up with farmers in the Teviotdale Hills. In the early 1800s, a border farmer named James Davidson (who was a tenant on Hindlee Farm) acquired a pair of these terriers and named them “Tarr” (short for Mustard) and “Pepper.” Tarr was sandy-colored, and Pepper was gray. The author Sir Walter Scott apparently stumbled upon similar dogs during his travels. When he wrote the famous novel Guy Mannering, published in 1814, Scott based one of his farmer characters on James Davidson, giving him the fictional name “Dandie Dinmont.” While there is no evidence that Sir Walter Scott personally knew James Davidson, it is uniformly accepted that the Dandie Dinmont character was based on Davidson. In the novel, the Dandie Dinmont character owned a small pack of terriers known as “the immortal six”: Auld (Old) Pepper, Auld (Old) Mustard, Young Pepper, Young Mustard, Little Pepper and Little Mustard. The names could not have been a coincidence. After publication of Guy Mannering, Davidson’s friends teasingly called him “Dandie Dinmont,” and his dogs became known as “Dandie Dinmont’s Terriers. Soon, other farmers adopted the name for their similar but as-yet nameless working terriers, eventually modifying their name to the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, which remains the breed name today.

The Brittish Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club was formed in 1875, and swiftly wrote a breed standard. The American Kennel Club admitted the Dandie Dinmont into its Terrier Group shortly thereafter in 1886 (the AKC was only founded in 1884). The modern Dandie Dinmont is known as the “gentleman of the terrier family.” He thrives as a household companion and does equally well living in the country or in the city. He remains dignified, reserved and tolerant of both cramped living conditions and well-behaved children.


Dandies have an average life span of 12 to 15 years. Breeed health concerns may include intervertebral disc disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, refractory corneal ulceration, hypothyroidism, primary lens luxation and hypochondroplasia, which causes short, bowed legs, accepted in this breed standard.

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