About the Airedale Terrier

 

The History & Purpose of the

Airedale Terrier

 
History

The Airedale Terrier, or the “King of Terriers”, is a relatively young breed in comparison to many other breeds of dogs, with its origins being traced back to a little over 150 years ago. The Airedale Terrier (often shortened to "Airedale") was developed by the workingmen from the Aire valley of Yorkshire in England. These men spent time hunting along the river valleys of the area and wanted a dog that could run with the hunters, was obedient to their masters, courageous and versatile and then return home at night as a companion to their families. The workmen of the day, not being well off, appreciated that the Airedale was not a greedy eater and only needed a nutritious meal to support their growth and maintain the dog’s substance. 

 It is generally accepted that the dogs produced by breeding using the Black and Tan Terrier and the Otterhound, which provided the Airedale’s size and bone, fulfilled this need.   The result of this matching enabled the dog to "swim down" river otters during a hunt, and a dog also capable of controlling vermin such as a quarry of rats, badgers, otters, polecats, martens, weasels, rabbits, hares, badgers, ducks, moorhen, fox, weasel and small game in the valleys of the rivers. Selective breeding using other breeds such as the Old English Terrier and Irish Terrier, helped to diminish the “coarseness” of its Hound-Terrier features to be more Terrier like and eventually produced the Airedale from which our breed of today has developed. 

 Over the years many have speculated to what breeds dominated in the development of the Airedale Terrier. The breed has been recognised as one which improved faster than almost any other breed with the result being a black and tan, long legged, game dog with a broken coat. In the early days of the breed it ranged in size from fifteen to twenty-four inches, and weighed between thirty and eighty pounds (13 to 36kgs).

 


"Airedale Jerry," the forefather of the modern Airedale.  Every Airedale today can theoretically trace its lineage back to Jerry.  (Photo taken from The New Complete Airedale Terrier by Gladys Edwards Brown.)

 The first Airedale was exhibited in England in 1864 at a championship dog show sponsored by the Airedale Agricultural Society. In 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognised the Airedale Terrier breed. The breed first began to appear regularly in shows in England during the 1870’s and just 20 years later Airedale Terriers appeared in Australia. The centenary of the breed in Australia was celebrated in 1976.

 By the 1920’s in Australia, the number of breeders had gradually grown and the first Airedale Terrier Championship Show was held in 1931 in Victoria with the breed reaching its height in popularity in the 1950’s. The centenary of the breed was celebrated in Australia in 1976.

 Purpose

 

 The Airedale Terrier is recognised as a versatile dog, bred to work independently, and known to be used as a working dog, a hunter, retriever, and reliable messenger during war times. It is also known for its use in guard and schutzhund work, search and rescue amongst many other attributes. Airedales also exhibit some herding characteristics having no problem working with cattle and livestock. Strong-willed, with the tenacity commonly seen in terriers, the Airedale is a formidable opponent.

 During the middle of the 19th century, regular sporting events took place along the Aire River in which terriers pursued the large river rats that inhabited the area. A terrier was judged on its ability to locate a "live" hole in the riverbank and then, after the rat was driven from its hole by a ferret brought along for that purpose, the terrier would pursue the rat through water until it could make a kill. As these events became more popular, demand rose for a terrier that could excel in this activity. The result was a long-legged dog which eventually developed into the dog that is recogniseable today as the Airedale Terrier. Unlike smaller working terriers which were designed to go to ground, the Airedale was considered too big to for this purpose, however, it was ideal for other purposes expected of a sporting terrier, especially when working in fast flowing rivers.

 During WW1 this breed was used extensively as a police dog as well as serving a very important purpose as Red Cross rescue dogs and as "four legged spies" on the front lines.  The Airedale’s size, dedication and stoicness when injured made them well suited to the job.  As ambulance dogs, they saved lives by helping to locate wounded soldiers from among the casualties on the battlefield.

 The Airedale has been known to excel in obedience, agility and schuntzund work, however, the Airedale can often be difficult to train. Being a highly intelligent and a quick learner, he is often stubborn and unforgiving of harsh treatment.  

 Because of the Airedale’s hound ancestry it has extraordinary hunting abilities with the capablilty to scent game and it has been used extensivley in countries such as Canada, Africa and the USA. Because of its size it is able to tackle larger animals such as mountain lions, boar and bear to woodchuck on New England farms. It could be broken to gun and taught to retrieve game. A Hunting/Working committee was formed by the Airedale Terrier Club of America in 1985. This committee holds an annual workshop in conjunction with hunting tests such as the Upland Bird, the Hunting Dog Fur and the Hunting Dog Retriever tests which require the Airedale to hunt and retrieve a shot bird on land or water or for the dog to follow a track of raccoon scent, bark or "bay," to declare the find.

 The Airedale developed his ability to protect and guard by being devoted to his owner and his family.   They are very loving, always in the middle of the family activities with some fanciers claiming that the Airedale is the only breed that has the ability to babysit young children. Thus, the Airedale we have today is as much at home hunting vermin and larger game, as he is being a police dog, or a never tiring playmate, guard dog and family companion.

 
References

1.    The New Complete Airedale Terrier (3rd Edition) by Gladys Edwards Brown

2.    The New Airedale Terrier by June Dutcher and Janet Johnson Framke (Howell Book House inc. 1990)

3.    Airedale Terriers by Mary Swash and Donald Millar (The Crowood Press Ltd, 1991)

4.    The Airedale Terrier Today by Janet Huxley (Ringpress Books Ltd, 2000)

5.     How to Raise and Train an Airedale by Evelyn Miller, TFH Publications Inc (1983)

6.    Airedale Terrier by Dr Christa von Bardleben

 


Contact Details

Keith Lovell
Darnum, VIC, Australia
Phone : (03) 56278110
Email : webmaster@airedaleclub.com