Rare Breed Spotlight: Rat Terrier

This frisky firecracker is an intelligent and devoted companion.

The Rat Terrier could be dubbed the This ’n That Terrier; few dog breeds have such a varied background. Its initial ancestors are believed to be the Smooth Fox Terrier and Manchester Terrier, interbred in Great Britain around 1820. For good measure, the Bull Terrier and the now-extinct English White Terrier were added to the mix along with other breeds that existed at the time.

In the 1890s, English immigrants brought this canine conglomeration to the United States. The spunky dogs quickly caught on with Americans, who decided they were ideal farm dogs. In the South, Beagles were added to the breeding mixture to enhance the hunting ability and add a bit of bulk. Farmers in the Midwest wanted superior speed and agility so their farm dogs could chase and catch the jackrabbits that dined on their crops. For these traits, they crossed the terriers with Whippets and Greyhounds.

For no known reason, Toy Fox Terriers, Chihuahuas and Italian Greyhounds also became part of the picture, along with more Smooth Fox Terriers. And if that wasn’t enough, the Basset Hound, Bedlington Terrier, Bloodhound, Dachshund, Dalmatian, Harrier, Parson Russell Terrier and Spanish Pointer, may all have been branches on the Rat Terrier’s family tree, prior to judicious pruning, according to the Rat Terrier Club of America.

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