by   David Hancock

The list of terrier breeds as recognised by the Kennel Club could have looked so very different had fate played another role. In place of famous breed names like the Sealyham, Bedlington, Border, Manchester, Norwich and Parson Russell Terrier, we could so easily have ended up with the Rothbury, Roseneath, Shelburne, Trumpington, Cowley, Bewcastle, Heinemann, Jones, Will Norris and Squire Poole Terriers. In the early nineteenth century, many localities, even some valleys, like Elterwater, had their own favoured type of terrier, some of which became swept up in a distinct form we now call a breed. Some counties too might have claimed their own breed, such as Suffolk and Shropshire (with their black and tan dogs), Cheshire (with its mainly white terrier) and Devon (with its Russell type). Not much has been written about the terrier types that did not achieve KC breed status, mainly because terrier work was not a job for the educated, monied classes who could have written books about them. As a consequence, it is probably easier to research just one setter breed than all of our lost terrier breeds, such is the disparity of written material. In his 'The Terriers' of 1896, a volume in his Modern Dogs series, Rawdon Lee does make reference to the little known types of terrier found then. One of his illustrations is by Arthur Wardle and depicts 'Other Working Terriers'. The working terrier fraternity of Rawdon Lee's time could have provided evidence of ten or twenty additional "breeds". In Britain, we do have Scottish, Welsh and Irish Terriers by name but no English sporting terrier by name.

For the Australians, the Germans, the Czechs, the Russians and now the Japanese and the Brazilians to have a national terrier and not the English is hard to believe. Even the Tibetans have one - at least by name! As did the Maltese, for a while, admittedly a Toy breed. Yet we did once have two English terriers, not a Toy, by name: the Old English Black and Tan Terrier and the English White Terrier, the latter once so well known and bred so true to type that a restoration would be justified and a regrettable gap in the list of terrier breeds filled. Writing in his "Terriers" of 1922, Darley Matheson recorded: "The writer would like to see really serious attempts made to revive the English white terrier, because it is a type, or rather variety, of dog which makes an excellent companion..." I support that and was interested to read of his recommended blend to resurrect the breed: a white Bull Terrier bitch to a white Whippet dog, with a further outcross to the Manchester Terrier. He envisaged a 15 to 18lb dog and outlined a likely Breed Standard. I suspect that the English White Terrier was, until the late 19th century, a distinct breed-type favoured by the working classes, especially by sweeps, pugilists and rat-catchers. The advent of dog shows brought about the pursuit of a more refined dog and this desire, closely followed by the ban on ear-cropping, led to the loss of a breed that should have become a national canine treasure. It may have become too inbred and both too daintily-fragile in build (from alleged Italian Greyhound blood) and lacking the virility to last.

In his Show Dogs of 1925, Theo Marples wrote that "there is little doubt that the breed is a Lancashire production, where it has for the most part abounded." The breed was not classified separately by the KC until the early 1890s. Three of the most prominent early fanciers all came from Bolton in Lancashire. In The Kennel Gazette of January 1889, a contributor using the nom de plume 'Union Jack' wrote: "I am glad to see that efforts are being made to make white English terriers more popular. This beautiful breed has had a great many ups and downs and many of them quite in a wrong direction. We shall never see better stamp of terriers than old Tim and Godfree's Prince, the winners at Birmingham in 1865 and at Islington in 1869..." This hints at a show career for the breed of around half a century. The disappearance altogether of this much-admired breed from the KC's lists is a sharp reminder for the worthy people, including those at the KC, now giving attention to the list of vulnerable British breeds, most of them in the Terrier Group.

For many members of the public, a medium-sized, short-coated dog, without the instinct to hunt game or herd sheep, yet still a lively companion, without demanding huge amounts of exercise, would make an ideal house-pet. If the English White Terrier could be re-created, then bred true, be of stable temperament and free of the many inheritable defects currently plaguing so many pedigree breeds, then the dog-owning public would surely respond. We ourselves certainly have the genetic material and the breeding expertise to restore a national terrier to our currently incomplete, however distinguished, list of native terrier breeds. What a challenge for a skilled breeder! And what an accomplishment for a bunch of patriotic dog fanciers wishing to leave something worthwhile behind them as their life's work. I can't think that they would be out of pocket either in these days of pro-active English Heritage restoration.

 We also lost the old English Black and Tan Terrier, a distinct and historic type of rough-haired working terrier, partly represented today by the Lakeland, but, some claim, 'misrepresented' by the Welsh Terrier of today, allegedly 'stolen' from the English by the avaricious Welsh! Robert Leighton, writing early in the twentieth century had a wide knowledge of terriers. In his Dogs And All About Them, published by Cassell in 1914, he gave an admirable summary of the emerging and non-emerging breeds: “A wire-haired black and tan terrier was once common in Suffolk and Norfolk, where it was much used for rabbiting, but it may now be extinct, or, if not extinct, probably identified with the Welsh Terrier, which it closely resembled in size and colouring. There was also in Shropshire a well-known breed of wire-haired terriers, black and tan, on very short legs, and weighing about 10lb. or 12lb., with long punishing heads and extraordinary working powers. So too, in Lancashire and Cheshire one used to meet with sandy-coloured terriers of no very well authenticated strain, but closely resembling the present breed of Irish Terrier; and Squire Thornton, at his place near Pickering in Yorkshire, had a breed of wire-hairs, tan in colour with a black stripe down the back…Possibly the Elterwater Terrier is no longer to be found…” But no club or lobbying group pressed the case for the old black and tan working terrier of England to be so named.

Then, at the Bangor Show of 1885, a group of Welsh terrier fanciers decided to approach the Kennel Club with the understandable desire of having their dogs registered as just that by name. Equally understandably, some north of England breeders of similar dogs wished their rights to be acknowledged too. So, in November 1885, to satisfy both parties the KC agreed to enter in the Stud Book the classification 'Welsh Terrier or the Old English wire-haired Black and Tan Terrier - Class 53'. Later, the fanciers of the English dogs failed to form a club and in time any reference to English terriers was deleted in registration and show documents. At a meeting of the Welsh Terrier Club in February 1890, the motion ‘That no dog or bitch the sire or dam of which is a Fox, Irish, Airedale or Old English terrier shall be eligible to compete at any show…’ was only narrowly defeated. The words of this motion indicates the existence (and potential loss) of the old English terrier.

Subsequently, the Welsh Terrier has long had a loyal show following, with around 250 registered in 1908, 1960 and 2000, rising to 360 in 2008. This appealing breed exemplifies the old rough-coated black and tan terrier once found all over Britain; England could well have claimed the working type as hers too. Bigger than a Lakeland and smaller than an Airedale, the Welsh Terrier makes up in character what it lacks in physical identity. Once accused of being a wire-haired Fox Terrier in a different jacket, there have been accusations too of infusion of the latter's blood in this Welsh dog's development. The silhouette is markedly similar. It was argued that the old Welsh Terrier had a Chippendale front, poor shoulders, a big coarse apple head and big round bold eyes. The infusion of Fox Terrier blood allegedly produced a smarter-looking terrier but also introduced the long muzzled head. Robert Killick, a distinguished breeder of Welsh Terriers, recently commented ‘After more than ten years in Welsh Terriers (my only breed) the result of a mating between my own three generation bitch and my own four generation dog produced a litter of three Wire Fox Terriers (and fine specimens) and one Welsh Terrier.’ Past out-crossings whether covert or overt so often reveal themselves. For me, this breed has now become too tall and lacks the old 'scrubbing-brush' coat.

I see black and tan Fell Terriers and Patterdale Terriers that could pass muster as Old English Black and Tan Terriers and there might be merit in their fanciers getting together and resurrecting the old neglected breed. It might look a little like a smoother-haired German Hunt Terrier but reassuringly has a longer lineage. It might even restore the true terrier coat, hard, wiry, stiff and cocomat-textured; so many Welsh and Lakeland Terriers have developed woolly, fluffy pelage, neither weatherproof nor traditional. With the Bull Terrier now so absurdly-headed and the show terriers in rough-haired black and tan coats so open-coated, we could benefit from restoring the English White Terrier and the English Black and Tan Terrier to our list of terrier breeds. This should offer no affront to devotees of the admirable Welsh Terrier or indeed to those of the similar Lakeland Terrier. If the Parson Russell Terrier, arguably a lesser Fox Terrier, can be added to our national terrier list, surely two historically-justified English terrier breeds can achieve long-merited recognition. A revived English White Terrier might be a better bet than the struggling Miniature Bull Terrier, and could be bred to implement less-stiff a gait and, more certainly, a more aesthetically-appealing head!