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The Wire-hair Fox-terrier








The wire-hair Fox-terrier is, with the exception of its coat,
identical with the smooth Fox-terrier--full brother in fact to him.
The two varieties are much interbred, and several litters in
consequence include representatives of both; and not only this, but
it is quite a frequent occurrence to get a smooth puppy from wire-hair
parents, although for some generations neither of the parents may
have had any smooth cross in their pedigrees.

The North of England and South Wales (to a lesser extent) have ever
been the home of the wire-hair, and nearly all the best specimens
have come originally from one or the other of those districts. There
is no doubt that there was excellent stock in both places, and there
is also no doubt that though at times this was used to the best
advantage, there was a good deal of carelessness in mating, and a
certain amount in recording the parentage of some of the terriers.
With regard to this latter point it is said that one gentleman who
had quite a large kennel and several stud dogs, but who kept no books,
used never to bother about remembering which particular dog he had
put to a certain bitch, but generally satisfied himself as to the
sire of a puppy when it came in from walk by just examining it and
saying Oh, that pup must be by owd Jock or Jim, as the case might
be, 'cos he's so loike 'im, and down he would go on the entry form
accordingly. However this may be, there is no doubt that the sire
would be a wire-hair Fox-terrier, and, although the pedigree therefore
may not have been quite right, the terrier was invariably pure bred.

In the early days the smooth was not crossed with the wire to anything
like the extent that it was later, and this fact is probably the cause
of the salvation of the variety. The wire-hair has had more harm done
to him by his being injudiciously crossed with the smooth than
probably by anything else.

The greatest care must be exercised in the matter of coat before any
such cross is effected. The smooth that is crossed with the wire must
have a really hard, and not too full coat, and, as there are very,
very few smooths now being shown with anything like a proper coat
for a terrier to possess, the very greatest caution is necessary.
Some few years back, almost incalculable harm was done to the variety
by a considerable amount of crossing into a strain of smooths with
terribly soft flannelly coats. Good-looking terriers were produced,
and therein lay the danger, but their coats were as bad as bad could
be; and, though people were at first too prone to look over this very
serious fault, they now seem to have recovered their senses, and thus,
although much harm was done, any serious damage has been averted.
If a person has a full-coated wire-hair bitch he is too apt to put
her to a smooth simply because it is a smooth, whom he thinks will
neutralise the length of his bitch's jacket, but this is absolute
heresy, and must not be done unless the smooth has the very hardest
of hair on him. If it is done, the result is too horrible for words:
you get an elongated, smooth, full coat as soft as cotton wool, and
sometimes as silkily wavy as a lady's hair. This is not a coat for
any terrier to possess, and it is not a wire-hair terrier's coat,
which ought to be a hard, crinkly, peculiar-looking broken coat on
top, with a dense undercoat underneath, and must never be mistakable
for an elongated smooth terrier's coat, which can never at any time
be a protection from wind, water, or dirt, and is, in reality, the
reverse.

The wire-hair has had a great advertisement, for better or worse,
in the extraordinarily prominent way he has been mentioned in
connection with faking and trimming. Columns have been written on
this subject, speeches of inordinate length have been delivered,
motions and resolutions have been carried, rules have been
promulgated, etc., etc., and the one dog mentioned throughout in
connection with all of them has been our poor old, much maligned
wire-hair. He has been the scapegoat, the subject of all this
brilliancy and eloquence, and were he capable of understanding the
language of the human, we may feel sure much amusement would be his.

There are several breeds that are more trimmed than the wire-hair,
and that might well be quoted before him in this connection. There
is a vast difference between legitimate trimming, and what is called
faking. All dogs with long or wire-hair or rough coats naturally
require more attention, and more grooming than those with short smooth
coats. For the purposes of health and cleanliness it is absolutely
necessary that such animals should be frequently well groomed. There
is no necessity, given a wire-hair with a good and proper coat, to
use anything but an ordinary close-toothed comb, a good hard brush,
and an occasional removal of long old hairs on the head, ears, neck,
legs, and belly, with the finger and thumb. The Kennel Club
regulations for the preparation of dogs for exhibition are perfectly
clear on this subject, and are worded most properly. They say that
a dog shall be disqualified if any part of his coat or hair has been
cut, clipped, singed, or rasped down by any substance, or if any of
the new or fast coat has been removed by pulling or plucking in any
manner, and that no comb shall be used which has a cutting or
rasping edge. There is no law, therefore, against the removal of
old coat by finger and thumb, and anyone who keeps long-haired dogs
knows that it is essential to the dog's health that there should be
none.

It is in fact most necessary in certain cases, at certain times, to
pull old coat out in this way. Several terriers with good coats are
apt to grow long hair very thickly round the neck and ears, and unless
this is removed when it gets old, the neck and ears are liable to
become infested with objectionable little slate-coloured nits, which
will never be found as long as the coat is kept down when necessary.
Bitches in whelp and after whelping, although ordinarily good-coated,
seem to go all wrong in their coats unless properly attended to in
this way, and here again, if you wish to keep your bitch free from
skin trouble, it is a necessity, in those cases which need it, to
use finger and thumb.

If the old hair is pulled out only when it is old, there is no
difficulty about it, and no hurt whatever is occasioned to the dog,
who does not in reality object at all. If, however, new or fast coat
is pulled out it not only hurts the dog but it is also a very foolish
thing to do, and the person guilty of such a thing fully merits
disqualification.

Most of the nonsense that is heard about trimming emanates, of course,
from the ignoramus; the knife, he says, is used on them all, a sharp
razor is run over their coats, they are singed, they are cut, they
are rasped (the latter is the favourite term). Anything like such
a sweeping condemnation is quite inaccurate and most unfair. It is
impossible to cut a hair without being detected by a good judge, and
very few people ever do any such thing, at any rate for some months
before the terrier is exhibited, for if they do, they know they are
bound to be discovered, and, as a fact, are.

When the soft-coated dogs are clipped they are operated on, say, two
or three months before they are wanted, and the hair gets a chance
to grow, but even then it is easily discernible, and anyone who, like
the writer, has any experience of clipping dogs in order to cure them
of that awful disease, follicular mange, knows what a sight the animal
is when he grows his coat, and how terribly unnatural he looks.

The wire-hair has never been in better state than he is to-day; he
is, generally speaking, far ahead of his predecessors of twenty-five
years ago, not only from a show point of view, but also in working
qualities. One has only to compare the old portraits of specimens
of the variety with dogs of the present day to see this. A good many
individual specimens of excellent merit, it is true, there were, but
they do not seem to have been immortalised in this way. The portraits
of those we do see are mostly representations of awful-looking brutes,
as bad in shoulders, and light of bone, as they could be; they appear
also to have had very soft coats, somewhat akin to that we see on
a Pomeranian nowadays, though it is true this latter fault may have
been that of the artist, or probably amplified by him.

Perhaps the strongest kennel of wire-hairs that has existed was that
owned a good many years ago by Messrs. Maxwell and Cassell. Several
champions were in the kennel at the same time, and they were a sorty
lot of nice size, and won prizes all over the country. Jack Frost,
Jacks Again, Liffey, Barton Wonder, Barton Marvel, and several other
good ones, were inmates of this kennel, the two latter especially
being high-class terriers, which at one time were owned by Sir H.
de Trafford. Barton Marvel was a very beautiful bitch, and probably
the best of those named above, though Barton Wonder was frequently
put above her. Sir H. de Trafford had for years a very good kennel
of the variety, and at that time was probably the biggest and best
buyer.

Mr. Carrick, of Carlisle, was also a prominent owner years ago, and
showed some excellent terriers, the best being Carlisle Tack, Trick,
and Tyro. The latter was an exceptionally good dog.

Mr. Sam Hill, of Sheffield, had also a strong kennel, always well
shown by George Porter, who is now, and has been for some years, in
America, where he still follows his old love. Mr. Hill's name will
ever be associated with that of his great dog Meersbrook Bristles,
who has undoubtedly done the breed a great amount of good. Mr. Mayhew
is another old fancier, who nearly always showed a good one. Mr.
Mayhew has been in America now for many years. One dog of his, who
it is believed became a champion, viz. Brittle, did at one time a
big business at stud, perhaps not to the advantage of the breed, for
he was possessed of a very bad fault, in that he had what was called
a topknot ring, a bunch of soft silky hairs on his forehead, an
unfailing sign of a soft coat all over, and a thing which breeders
should studiously avoid. This topknot was at one time more prevalent
than it is now. Whether it is a coincidence or not one cannot say,
but it is a fact that in the writer's experience several terriers
possessed of this fault have also blue markings, which again are
almost invariably accompanied by a soft coat, and taking these two
peculiarities together it would seem that at some time, years ago,
a cross with that wonderfully game but exceedingly soft-coated
terrier, the Bedlington, may have been resorted to, though if so it
would appear that nowadays any effect of it is gradually dying out.

Mr. George Raper is one of the old fanciers who has for many years
owned some of the best specimens of the variety, Ch. Go Bang perhaps
being the most notable. Go Bang was a beautiful terrier; there was
no denying his quality. Mr. Raper sold him to Mr. G. M. Carnochan,
of New York, for something like P500, probably the biggest price that
has ever been paid for any Fox-terrier. Mr. Hayward Field is another
gentleman who has been exhibiting the breed for very many years, and
has owned several good terriers. The late Mr. Clear had also at one
time a strong kennel, the best of which by a long way was Ch. Jack
St. Leger.

Mr. Wharton was a well-known exhibitor and judge some time back. It
was he who owned that excellent little terrier Ch. Bushey Broom, who
created quite a furore when first exhibited at the Westminster
Aquarium.

Mr. Harding Cox was years ago a great supporter of the variety. He
exhibited with varying success, and was always much in request as
a judge; one knew in entering under him that he wanted firstly a
terrier, and further that the terrier had to be sound. Mr. Cox
has of course played a big part in the popularisation of the
Fox-terrier, for, as all the world knows, he was the instigator of
the Fox-terrier Club, it being founded at a meeting held at his house.
His love has ever been for the small terrier, and certainly the
specimens shown by him, whatever their individual faults, were
invariably a sporting, game-looking lot. Mr. Sidney Castle has for
many years shown wire-hair Fox-terriers of more than average merit;
and thoroughly understands the variety, indeed, perhaps as well as
anybody. Messrs. Bartle, Brumby Mutter, G. Welch, and S. Wilson, are
all old fanciers who have great experience, have bred and shown
excellent specimens.

In mentioning the names of celebrated men and terriers of years gone
by, reference must be made to a terrier shown some time ago, which
was as good, taken all round, as any that have so far appeared. This
was Ch. Quantock Nettle, afterwards purchased by a gentleman in Wales
and renamed Lexden Nettle. Of correct size, with marvellous character,
an excellent jacket and very takingly marked with badger tan and black
on a wonderful head and ears, this bitch swept the board, as they
say, and unquestionably rightly so.

No article on the wire-hair Fox-terrier would be complete without
mentioning the name of the late Mr. S. E. Shirley, President of the
Kennel Club. Mr. Shirley was a successful exhibitor in the early days
of the variety, and while his terriers were a good-looking lot, though
not up to the show form of to-day, they were invariably hard-bitten,
game dogs, kept chiefly for work.

On the question of size nearly all the principal judges of the
Fox-terrier are agreed. Their maxim is a good little one can always
beat a good big one. The difficulty arises when the little ones are
no good, and the big ones are excellent; it is a somewhat common
occurrence, and to anyone who loves a truly formed dog, and who knows
what a truly formed dog can do, it is an extremely difficult thing
to put the little above the larger. All big dogs with properly placed
shoulders and sound formation are better terriers for work of any
sort than dogs half their size, short on the leg, but bad in these
points. It is in reality impossible to make an inexorable rule about
this question of size; each class must be judged on its own merits.





Next: The Airedale Terrier

Previous: The Smooth Fox-terrier



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