Looking Back at the Airedale Terrier

Explore the Airedale Terrier dog breed’s history from its origins to the standard in 1916.

From the Archives of Dog World: Enjoy this all-access pass to dog history from the pages of the longest published dog magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

The Airedale Terrier dog breed was originally bred from a cross between one of the old rough-coated Scotch Terrier and Bull Terrier. What is meant by the old Scotch Terrier is a dog weighing from 12 to 20 lbs; with a bluish-grey back and tanned legs, with a very hard and coarse coat. This cross, of course, did not produce a large dog, neither had the dog a very keen nose, so it was then crossed with another hound, thus producing a large, ungainly dog, with big “falling” ears, and very soft coat.

This was then crossed and recrossed, first with the original cross, and then with the Bull Terrier to produce a good terrier ear and good feet. This again was crossed with the other hound, neither having such a soft coat, but possessing a good nose for hunting, and a fondness for water as well as great gameness, both from the Bull Terrier blood as well as from the Hound. Then this was crossed with Bull Terrier again, and then the offspring crossed and recrossed with the terrier till it was brought up to the present standard.

You will find that a great many of the Airedale Terriers of the day are dogs of ungainly appearance, with big hound ears and narrow long heads, also flat-sided and very badly built behind, as well as with a great weakness about the pasterus, causing the joint to give, and thus pressing the foot out sideways. This dog breed was originally started about 60 years ago by workingmen about Leeds, Shipley, Otley, Bingley, altho many people had them, and in all the towns and villages in the valley of the Aire, hence the name Airedale Terrier.

Airedle Terriers were used by them for water-side hunting after rats, waterheas, ducks, and in fact for anything that might turn up. They are also used for porching hares and rabbits, the gates in the field being quietly netted, and the dog sent in to “seek up.” He would hunt the entire field over without ever a whimper, if properly trained to it. If broken to the gun Airedale Terriers are one of the best sporting dogs out, as they will hunt, retrieve, and set and carry either “fur or feather” without hardly a mark, and get, if told, will chase and kill and almost catch anything, and they are game to the core.

The Airedale Terrier Dog Breed Standard

Head—Long, with flat skull, not too broad between the ears and narrowing slightly to the eyes, free from wrinkle. Stop hardly visible, and cheeks free from fullness. Jaw deep and powerful, well filled up before the eyes, lips tight. Ears V shaped with a side carriage, small but not out of proportion to the size of the dog. The nose black. The eyes small and dark in color, not prominent, but full of Terrier expression. The teeth strong and level.

Neck—Should be of moderate length and thickness, gradually widening toward the shoulders and free from throatiness.

Shoulders and Chest—Shoulders long and sloping well into the back, shoulder blades flat. Chest deep, but not broad.

Body—Back short, strong and straight. Ribs well sprung. 
Hindquarters—Strong and muscular, with no droop. Hocks well let down. The tail set on high and carried gaily, but not curled over the back.

Legs and Feet—Legs perfectly straight, with plenty of bone. Feet small and round, with a good depth of pad.

—Hard and wiry, and not so long as to appear ragged; it should also lie straight and close, covering the dog well all over the body and legs.

Color—The head and ears, with the exception of dark markings on each side of skull, should be tan, the ears being of a darker shade than the rest. The legs up to the thighs and elbows being also tan, the body black or dark grizzle.

Size—Dogs, 40 to 45 pounds weight. Bitches slightly less.

It is the unanimous opinion of the Club that the size of the Airedale Terrier as given in the above standard is one of, if not the most important characteristics of this dog breed; all judges who shall henceforth adjudicate on the merits of the Airedale Terrier shall consider undersized specimens of the dog breed severely handicapped when competing with dogs of the standard weight. And that any of the Club’s judges who, in the opinion of the committee, shall give prizes or otherwise push to the front dogs of a small type, shall be at once struck off the list of specialist judges.

Excerpted from Dog World magazine, December 1916, Vol. 1, No. 12. For back issues of Dog World, click here.

Article Categories:
Dogs · Lifestyle