The Scottish Terrier: Lovely Fire

  • May 31, 2019
  • by Mrs. Evelyn Kirk

From the May 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe. Pictured above: Long head-in proportion to the size of dog, skull medium width, good fill under eye, good strength of muzzle with sizable teeth. Illustrations throughout article by Darle Heck

I first read Evelyn Kirk’s essay “Lovely Fire” a few years after beginning in the breed. Throughout many years, actually decades, I have returned to reread her heartfelt description of my breed. As an owner, breeder, exhibitor and now judge it reminds me of the character, self-confidence temperament and “indomitable spirit” that is the Scottish Terrier. Pictured to the right: Evelyn Kirk.

Descriptions of the structure of the breed are important to the original purpose of a go-to-ground badger dog with persistence and seriousness of purpose. We still seek the proper front and rear quarters. The description of the front is as critical today as in the past. The forechest should fill your palm and extend well in front of the dog and the chest is deep. Our standard cites, “The lowest point of the brisket should be such that an average man’s fist would fit under it with little or no clearance.” It is meant to determine the important depth of the heart-shaped chest. Too often the chest is becoming round. This sturdy short-legged breed needs well-laid back shoulders and the length of upper arm necessary to bring the elbow well back on the dog. Her description of the rear, well-muscled thighs and “Good Hams” complete the dog and are in concert with the front. It has been quoted in the past that the Scottish Terrier should have the front of a barmaid and the rear of the cook (no offense to barmaids or cooks intended).

The Scottish Terrier expression is described in our standard as “very keen, piercing, and varminty.” Eveylyn cites ‘His deep-set eyes have a dark expression of composure and something else, not definable.” I thrill at the exhibit that looks down his nose at me with the absolute certainty that he is self-important.

The Scottish Terrier expression, entire body and demeanor should exude that “Lovely Fire.” I hope you enjoy this essay on the breed and find the dog that has “his commanding presence, his unflinching gaze, and his deep rooted conviction that he is his 
own man.”

-Kathi Brown



Lovely Fire  - By Evelyn Kirk

About six years ago, when asked about it, Tony Stamm agreed that “Type, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder.” I think to a great extent that is true. I’ve been present (on the other end of the lead) when a judge said, “This is a close decision: the two dogs are so much alike,” when I thought they were like night and day. Also, the other extreme, “These two dogs are very different, each good in his own way,” when I thought them almost identical.

But, what makes the dog typical, what sets him apart from all the other animals in the world? I believe it’s his pride in being a Scottish Terrier!

His commanding presence, his unflinching gaze, and his deep rooted conviction that he is his own man; these are the attributes of the adult Scottish Terrier of a proper type. Once witnessed, this attitude is hard to forget. Seldom seen, it is a thrilling experience.

I don’t want to mislead you; the dog must have all the other features which label him a Scottie, even to the untrained eye. The inexperienced spectator can pick the right dog almost every time because he dog is so pleasing to behold.

Pictured Throughout Article: Key Elements of Scottish Terrier Type

Regarding the key elements, the pages are from the Illustrated Guide and it is also viewable on the AKC website under Conformation, Judging Resource Center, Judges Study Guides, Scottish Terrier, Study Guide.

Below: Heavy bone and substance for the size of the dog.


This is where good balance comes in. The dog must not look as if he is going to tip over on his nose. In outline, he must have that beautiful line down his arched neck, over his well-knit withers, and onto his rather short back to his handful of tail. It’s a pleasure to run your hands over such a dog. It should be a continuous flow, not interrupted at the withers by too-straight shoulders or a roach over loin.

There should be enough of him extending behind his tail to balance his forepiece. Well-muscled thighs fill your hands and you think to yourself, “Good Hams.” You’d like to give that broad bottom a pat, but you feel the impropriety of such a gesture. The feet are firmly planted and the upright hocks unyielding to pressure.

His brisket is deep, deep and well-padded with flesh to protect the point of ribs when he is hard at work. It is on this pad that his body rests, freeing his forelegs to dig. A round rib cage is a detriment to a typical Scottish Terrier. The rib cage extends well back so that his last rib is definitely beyond the halfway point on his body.

The forelegs do not come down straight from the point of shoulder on the typical Scottish Terrier. They extend down from his elbow, which is at the end of his upper arm. This upper arm, often overlooked, is an essential part of his front assembly. The proper length of upper arm allows the dog’s forelegs to be set well back at his sides, displaying his broad chest and providing the room needed for his deep brisket between those legs. His proper lay-back of shoulder blade will give him the reach needed to offset the thrust of his powerful hindquarters.

Below: Temperment-shows true Terrier temperment, no shyness or timidity. 

COAT - Harsh outer coat & dense undercoat-to protect dog from injury & inclement weather.

The beauty of his head can be enhanced by proper grooming. Whiskers combed forward, the head is a rectangle. Lean at the sides of the skull, it diminishes very little to the muzzle. It is filled in under the eyes in the molar area of the upper jaw.

His large black nose twitches with interest as you approach and he allows you to examine his wide, scissor bite. His head is heavy in your hands and you can hardly encircle his muzzle with your fingers. His deep-set eyes have a dark expression of composure and something else, not definable.

Overall, there stretches a tight jacket of various textures. Softest of all is on his small ears. The rest of his hair is hard with his back coat being of great coarseness. As you test his coat in a scratching motion, your fingertips come in contact with and undercoat of incredible thick down.

As the dog is placed on the floor to exhibit that gait which is peculiarly his own, he invariably shakes. He must get comfortable again, after being lifted onto and off the table and after you have touched him and disarranged his hair. He gives you a quick disdainful glance as he moves off about his business.

You wonder, as you watch him gait, pose and stalk past his competitors, how could so much dog be packed inside that small package? Where did he get that indomitable spirit; from whom did he acquire that unshakable faith in himself?

Without this temperament, the “Lovely Fire,” as Heywood Hartley expresses it, the dog is just another dog. The “cutey-pies” that wag, and kiss, and wiggle their way into your heart, makes friends for the breed and we thank God for them, but the dog that makes you spine tingle, that makes a lump come into your throat, who stands alone in his undeniable glory is the typical Scottish Terrier. 

Article written by Breeder Judge Mrs. Evelyn Kirk, Balachan Scotties in 1977. Reprinted with permission of Laura Kirk Zimmerman.

Movement- Gait is unique to the breed with forelegs that incline slightly on acceleration while rear legs move true. A correctly built Scottish Terrier should cover ground well despite his short legs.

below: Low to ground-deep brisket ending below the elbow. Compact from withers to tail, however, longer from point of chest to point of rump. Obvious forechest and obvious rear shelf add to length. 








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