This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
It is not unfrequently said and written that the fox terrier is a comparatively modern invention, and that he was compounded from various elements, such as beagle, old English terrier, bulldog, etc, at no very remote date.
This, as a matter of fact, is very far from the truth, for whatever foolish persons have done in the way of manufacturing the breed for show purposes, the fox terrier, pure and simple, is in fact the old English terrier. As a proof of this let me quote Dr. John Kaye, or Caius, as he called himself, who was physician to Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, and amongst other works wrote one on English dogs. The title page runs thus: "Of English Dogges, by John Caius Doctor of Phisicke in the Universitie of Cambridge, 1576. Iohannes Caius a profound clerke and a ravenous devourer of learning, was requested by Conradus Gesnerus to write a treatise on the dogges of England." Then follows the list of them, which classes the " Terrare " with the "Harier" and the "Bludhunde," under the denomination "Hunde."
Writing then "of the dogge called a Terrar," he says:•"Another sort there is which hunteth the foxe and the badger or greye onely, whom we call terrars, because they (after the manner and custome of ferrets in searching for connyes), creep into the grounde, and by that meanes make afrayde, nyppe, and byte the foxe and the badger in such sorte that eyther they teare them in pieces with theyre teeth, beying in the bosome of the earth, or else hayle and pull them perforce out of their lnrking angles, dark dongeons and close caves, or at the least through conceaved feare, drive them out of their hollow harbours, insomuch that they are compelled to prepare speedy flight, and being desirous of the next (albeit not the safest) refuge, are otherwise taken and intrapped with snares and nettes layde over holes to the same purpose."
Here, then, we have the description of terriers' work, and a very good description it is, and we may assume that the terrier of those days was a rough and ready customer, suitable in size, coat, and gameness for the work he had to perform. Unfortunately Dr. Caius does not go on to describe his appearance, and we must come to a late date for information. "The Sporting Dictionary," published 1803, under the head Terrier, says -
"Terriers of even the best blood are now bred of all colours; red, black (with tan faces, flanks, feet, and legs); brindled, sandy - some few brown pied, white pied, and pure white; as well as one sort of each colour rough and wire-haired, the other soft and smooth, and what is rather extraordinary the latter not much deficient in courage to the former, but the rough breed must be acknowledged the most severe and invincible biter of the two.
' Since foxhunting is so deservedly and universally popular in every county where it can be enjoyed, these faithful little animals have become so exceedingly fashionable that few stables of the independent are seen without them. Four and five guineas is no great price for a handsome, well bred terrier."
Thus we may see that smooth and wire-haired fox-terriers existed contemporaneously in those days, and that the word terrier is not applied to any dog, except those fitted for hunting and going to ground.
The modern Manchester terrier, and white English terrier could not possibly be classed in such a category, while, as to the black and tan colour of the last century and beginning of this, it was quite different from that of the so called Manchester terrier: that is to say, the tan was lighter and more abundant - such things as pencilled toes, thumb marks, etc, being altogether absent, while the shape and character of the dog was that of the modern fox terrier, as may be evidenced by old pictures, and by the breed which the Duke of Beaufort, Treadwell, and others preserved until quite recently.
Now, having premised that wire-haired terriers have, or ought to have, as good antecedents as their smooth brethren, it behoves us to look at them as they are, and we shall find that while the smooth sort have for many years excited the greatest interest, the rough one has languished in comparative obscurity. Nay, at some shows, he has even been relegated to the ranks of the "Non-Sporting Dogs " - while the Kennel Club actually made a retrograde movement at their show in 1879 by removing the wire-haired division from the arbitrament of the fox terrier judges.
All this is a base libel on the breed. A good wire-haired terrier is one of the most sporting of all dogs - ready for anything; and though the writer of this has given more attention to the smooth kind, he would be the last to deny that, unless the smooth dog is of good and pure strain, with plenty of coat, the rough one is the better sportsman of the two.
It is, no doubt, a fact, that any breed of dogs that is vastly in fashion runs a great danger, So many specimens become valuable merely for their show qualifications that would otherwise have been knocked on the head as rank curs - or at least, never bred from. But, as it is, the unreasoning public breed indiscriminately from prize winners; and, besides that, certain sharp customers are for ever at work manufacturing what they consider better sorts than the real article. Is it said a terrier's head should be long; they go for assistance to the greyhound. He should have lots of bone; they obtain it from the beagle, and so on. Thus it is that a great number of our smooth fox terriers are irritating brutes without any idea of their work, or of hunting, which is a great point; for a terrier who is not a keen hunter, and does not lash an ever-busy stern, either along a hedgerow or in cover, is not the right sort at all; while if he will give tongue on a scent so much the better.
Avoiding, however, the mongrelised smooth dog, and sticking to good old strains, we should say there is not twopence to choose between the smooth and the wire-hair for work. It is submitted that a close, dense, smooth coat will always turn wet better than one that is broken.