by   David Hancock

Despite the long history of terriers working with the foxhound packs in the hunting field, not one breed of terrier has the name of a famous foxhound pack to identify it. We have no Heythrop, Belvoir, Pytchley, Curre or Cotswold terriers by title - perhaps because the hounds were run by the 'toffs' and the terriers by the more lowly. Terriers from the packs have excelled as individuals but have not emerged to form distinctive breeds. In his Fox-Hunting from Shire to Shire of 1912, Cuthbert Bradley, or ‘Whipster’ of The Field magazine, wrote: “For many years the Belvoir had a noted fox-terrier, named Bluecoat, running with the pack; a dog with a wonderful character for work, who never tired in the longest day’s hunting. Bluecoat was about as game as they make them…A nearly all-white dog with a few blue ticks in a strong working coat, he was a good stamp of hunt-terrier, rather short in the neck, but good over the back, and through the loin. Known all over the Leicestershire and Lincolnshire district where the Belvoir hunt, he soon established a reputation for work and gameness, keeping up all day with the pack.” Clearly a terrier running with the hounds in this instance worked well; but Bluecoat was an outstanding animal, with legendary gameness. Appropriately, if sadly, he drowned swimming after a rat, but not before siring some excellent offspring. The title fox-terrier, used here, meant not the KC-registered breed with that title but the terrier used on fox. Today we have the Dandie Dinmont and Kerry Blue Terriers but no Bluecoat Terrier. No Lunesdale Terrier emerged from that pack's employment of Border Terriers. Russell never sought breed recognition for his type of hunt terrier.

‘Idstone’ writing in his The Dog of 1893, gave an authoritative quote: "My favourite author, Beckford, writing a little less than one hundred years ago, says that he ‘prefers the black or white Terrier’; but some, he says, ‘are so like a fox that awkward people frequently mistake one for the other. If you prefer Terriers to run with your pack, large ones at times are useful, but in an earth they do little good, as they cannot always get up to a fox.’ For my part, unless a Terrier is small enough to go to ground, I see little use in him; and the perfect Terrier should be able to make short cuts, and keep up with the Hounds, or be planted amongst the farmers at different points – of course, I mean fox-hunting farmers – so as to be handy when required…” Despite setting out certain criteria for a hunt terrier, he made no attempt to link them with the hunting style, method of hunting or conformation of the pack they support. You could argue that sportsmen preferred to call each pack of hounds used to hunt the fox, just as Foxhounds, why not be content to call the hunt terriers just that too. Knowledgeable terrier breeders made use of hunt terriers such as Grove Nettle but their stock was just subsumed into the Fox Terrier breed as a whole.

There is a quote in Rawdon Lee’s book on Fox Terriers of 1898 in which a Capt Handy, a Cotswold sportsman, remarks: “Now in these fast days, sportsmen cannot wait for a fox to be got out, and the order is ‘find another one’; hence the use of fox terriers to run with hounds has been discontinued, and the breed has not been kept up at Badminton.”  In his Encyclopaedia of Rural Sports of 1870, Delabere Blaine was writing: “Terriers, we have already stated, were formerly very commonly used to accompany packs of foxhounds for the purpose of unearthing the fox…They were usually of a medium size; if too large, they were unfitted for penetrating the sinuosities of an earth, or creeping up a confined drain; if, on the contrary, they are too diminutive, they cannot keep pace with the hounds of the present day…in some few packs, however, both large and small terriers still accompany the dogs.” Not surprisingly, how the hunt terrier was used affected its anatomy - but there was no desire to produce a tailor-made terrier for this hunt. Role decided size.

Even in the show ring, Fox Terriers were not always of uniform height. From 1876 and for a decade after, there were separate classes for dogs over and under 18lbs, and for bitches over and under 16lbs. At a show in 1875, one of Rawdon Lee’s winning dogs weighed under 15lbs. There was more concern over construction than size itself. Rawdon Lee wrote: “there are judges who have recently gone to extremes in awarding honours to these so-called ‘narrow-fronted’ terriers. Such have been produced at a sacrifice of power and strength. Most of these very narrow-chested dogs move stiffly, are too flat in the ribs, they are deficient in breathing and heart room, and can never be able to do a week’s hard working the country, either with hounds or round about the badger earth or rabbit burrows.” The show ring Fox Terrier of today would have depressed him. But why did sportsmen not identify the terriers from the packs so that the size suitable for the country being hunted was respected?