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The Airedale Terrier








There is perhaps no breed of dog that in so short a time has been
improved so much as the Airedale. He is now a very beautiful animal,
whereas but a few years back, although maybe there were a few fairly
nice specimens, by far the greater number were certainly the reverse
of this.

In place of the shaggy, soft-coated, ugly-coloured brute with large
hound ears and big full eyes, we have now a very handsome creature,
possessing all the points that go to make a really first-class terrier
of taking colour, symmetrical build, full of character and go, amply
justifying--in looks, at any rate--its existence as a terrier.

Whether it is common sense to call a dog weighing 40 lb. to 50 lb.
a terrier is a question that one often hears discussed. The fact
remains the dog is a terrier--a sort of glorified edition of what
we understand by the word, it is true, but in points, looks, and
character, a terrier nevertheless, and it is impossible otherwise
to classify him.

People will ask: How can he be a terrier? Why he is an outrage on
the very word, which can only mean a dog to go to ground; and to what
animal in the country of his birth can an Airedale go to ground?
Above ground and in water, however, an Airedale can, and does, perform
in a very excellent manner everything that any other terrier can do.
As a water dog he is, of course, in his element; for work on land
requiring a hard, strong, fast and resolute terrier he is, needless
to say, of great value; and he is said to be also, when trained--as
can easily be imagined when one considers his power of scent, his
strength, sagacity, and speed--a most excellent gun-dog. He is, in
fact, a general utility dog, for add to the above-mentioned qualities
those of probably an incomparable guard and a most excellent
companion, faithful and true, and ask yourself what do you want more,
and what breed of dog, taken all round, can beat him?

The Airedale is not of ancient origin. He was probably first heard
of about the year 1850. He is undoubtedly the product of the
Otterhound and the old Black and Tan wire-haired terrier referred
to in the chapters on the wire-hair Fox and the Welsh Terriers. When
one considers the magnificent nobleness, the great sagacity, courage,
and stateliness of the Otterhound, the great gameness, cheek, and
pertinacity of the old Black and Tan wire-hair, such a cross must
surely produce an animal of excellent type and character.

Yorkshire, more especially that part of it round and about the town
of Otley, is responsible for the birth of the Airedale. The
inhabitants of the country of broad acres are, and always have been,
exceedingly fond of any kind of sport--as, indeed, may also be said
of their brothers of the Red Rose--but if in connection with that
sport a dog has to be introduced, then indeed are they doubly blessed,
for they have no compeers at the game.

Otter-hunting was formerly much indulged in by the people living in
the dales of the Aire and the Wharfe, and not only were packs of
Otterhounds kept, but many sportsmen maintained on their own account
a few hounds for their personal delectation. These hounds were no
doubt in some instances a nondescript lot, as, indeed, are several
of the packs hunting the otter to-day, but there was unquestionably
a good deal of Otterhound blood in them, and some pure bred hounds
were also to be found. Yorkshire also has always been the great home
of the terrier. Fox-terriers, as we now know them, had at this time
hardly been seen. The terrier in existence then was the Black and
Tan wire-hair, a hardy game terrier, a great workman on land or in
water.

Whether by design or accident is not known, but the fact remains that
in or about the year mentioned a cross took place between these same
hounds and terriers. It was found that a handier dog was produced
for the business for which he was required, and it did not take many
years to populate the district with these terrier-hounds, which soon
came to be recognised as a distinct breed. The Waterside Terrier was
the name first vouchsafed to the new variety. After this they went
by the name of Bingley Terriers, and eventually they came to be known
under their present appellation.

The specimens of the Airedale which were first produced were not of
very handsome appearance, being what would now be called bad in
colour, very shaggy coated, and naturally big and ugly in ear. It,
of course, took some time to breed the hound out at all satisfactorily;
some authorities tell us that for this purpose the common fighting
pit Bull-terrier and also the Irish Terrier were used, the latter
to a considerable extent; and whether this is correct or not there
is no doubt that there would also be many crosses back again into
the small Black and Tan Terrier, primarily responsible for his
existence.

In about twenty years' time, the breed seems to have settled down
and become thoroughly recognised as a variety of the terrier. It was
not, however, for some ten years after this that classes were given
for the breed at any representative show. In 1883 the committee of
the National Show at Birmingham included three classes for Airedales
in their schedule, which were fairly well supported; and three years
after this recognition was given to the breed in the stud-book of
the ruling authority.

From this time on the breed prospered pretty well; several very good
terriers were bred, the hound gradually almost disappeared, as also
did to a great extent the bad-coloured ones. The best example amongst
the early shown dogs was undoubtedly Newbold Test, who had a long
and very successful career. This dog excelled in terrier character,
and he was sound all over; his advent was opportune--he was just the
dog that was wanted, and there is no doubt he did the breed a great
amount of good.

A dog called Colne Crack, who was a beautiful little terrier was
another of the early shown ones by whom the breed has lost nothing,
and two other terriers whose names are much revered by lovers of the
breed are Cholmondeley Briar and Briar Test.

Some years ago, when the breed was in the stage referred to above,
a club was formed to look after its interests, and there is no doubt
that though perhaps phenomenal success did not attend its efforts,
it did its best, and forms a valuable link in the chain of popularity
of the Airedale. It was at best apparently a sleepy sort of concern,
and never seems to have attracted new fanciers. Some dozen or so years
ago, however, a club, destined not only to make a great name for
itself, but also to do a thousandfold more good to the breed it
espouses than ever the old club did, was formed under the name of
the South of England Airedale Terrier Club, and a marvellously
successful and popular life it has so far lived. The younger club
was in no way an antagonist of the older one, and it has ever been
careful that it should not be looked upon in any way as such. The
old club has, however, been quite overshadowed by the younger, which,
whether it wishes it or not, is now looked upon as the leading society
in connection with the breed.

At a meeting of the first club--which went by the name of the Airedale
Terrier Club--held in Manchester some eighteen or twenty years ago,
the following standard of perfection and scale of points was drawn
up and adopted:--

* * * * *

HEAD--Long, with flat skull, but not too broad between the ears,
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 light; 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 colour, not prominent,
and full of terrier expression; the teeth strong and level. The neck
should be of moderate length and thickness, gradually widening towards
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. HIND-QUARTERS--Strong and muscular, with no drop; 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 good depth of pad. COAT--Hard and wiry,
and not so long as to appear ragged; it should also be straight and
close, covering the dog well over the body and legs. COLOUR--The head
and ears, with the exception of dark markings on each side of the
skull, should be tan, the ears being a darker shade than the rest,
the legs up to the thigh and elbows being also tan, the body black
or dark grizzle. WEIGHT--Dogs 40 lb. to 45 lb., bitches slightly less.

* * * * *

At the time of the formation of the Southern club the state of the
Airedale was critical; possessed of perhaps unequalled natural
advantages, lovely dog as he is, he had not made that progress that
he should have done. He had not been boomed in any way, and had been
crawling when he should have galloped. From the moment the new club
was formed, however, the Airedale had a new lease of life. Mr. Holland
Buckley and other keen enthusiasts seem to have recognised to a nicety
exactly what was required to give a necessary fillip to the breed;
they appear also to have founded their club at the right moment, and
to have offered such an attractive bill of fare, that not only did
everyone in the south who had anything to do with Airedales join at
once, but very shortly a host of new fanciers was enrolled, and crowds
of people began to take the breed up who had had nothing to do with
it, or, indeed, any other sort of dog previously.

Some few years after the foundation of this club, a junior branch
of it was started, and this, ably looked after by Mr. R. Lauder
McLaren, is almost as big a success in its way as is the parent
institution. Other clubs have been started in the north and elsewhere,
and altogether the Airedale is very well catered for in this respect,
and, if things go on as they are now going, is bound to prosper and
become even more extensively owned than he is at present. To Mr.
Holland Buckley, Mr. G. H. Elder, Mr. Royston Mills, and Mr. Marshall
Lee, the Airedale of the present day owes much.

The Airedales that have struck the writer as the best he has come
across are Master Briar, Clonmel Monarch, Clonmel Marvel, Dumbarton
Lass, Tone Masterpiece, Mistress Royal, Master Royal, Tone Chief,
Huckleberry Lass, Fielden Fashion, York Sceptre and Clonmel Floriform.
Nearly everyone of these is now, either in the flesh or spirit, in
the United States or Canada.

In all probability, the person who knows more about this terrier than
anyone living is Mr. Holland Buckley. He has written a most
entertaining book on the Airedale; he has founded the principal club
in connection with the breed; he has produced several very excellent
specimens, and it goes without saying that he is--when he can be
induced to take the ring--a first-rate judge. Mr. Buckley has
frequently told the writer that in his opinion one of the best
terriers he has seen was the aforesaid Clonmel Floriform, but, as
this dog was sold for a big price very early in his career, the writer
never saw him.

Most of the articles that have been written on the Airedale have come
from the pen of Mr. Buckley, and therefore but modest reference is
made to the man who has worked so whole-heartedly, so well, and so
successfully in the interests of the breed he loves. It would be
ungenerous and unfair in any article on the Airedale, written by
anyone but Mr. Buckley, if conspicuous reference were not made to
the great power this gentleman has been, and to the great good that
he has done.

The Airedale is such a beautiful specimen of the canine race, and
is, in reality, in such healthy state, that every one of his
admirers--and they are legion--is naturally jealous for his welfare,
and is wishful that all shall go well with him. It is gratifying to
state that he has never been the tool of faction, though at one time
he was doubtless near the brink; but this was some time ago, and it
would be a grievous pity if he ever again became in jeopardy of
feeling the baneful influence of any such curse.

There is one serious matter in connection with him, however, and that
is the laxity displayed by some judges of the breed in giving prizes
to dogs shown in a condition, with regard to their coats, which ought
to disentitle them to take a prize in any company. Shockingly
badly-trimmed shoulders are becoming quite a common thing to see in
Airedales. There is no necessity for this sort of thing; it is very
foolish, and it is impossible to imagine anything more likely to do
harm to a breed than that the idea should get abroad that this is
the general practice in connection with it.





Next: The Bedlington Terrier

Previous: The Wire-hair Fox-terrier



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