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.
Varieties of the dog multiply, and in no class more than in the terriers. At one time "terrier" was the generic name for all and every vermin dog that was used to go to ground, and the name was restricted in its application to dogs so used, as indeed the term implies.
Now, however, its application has been broadened, and many varieties are included in it that are far from being" earth dogs," their size alone forbidding they should follow even the badger into his "lurking angles, dark dungeons, and close caves," whilst they would scarcely get their head into the holt of the otter, or some of the narrow and tortuous passages in which sly Reynard seeks shelter. Others, again, are so small, soft, and toyish they would not fright a mouse. The Aberdeen terrier is not of either of these kinds, for, although varying in size considerably, none are such small and silken toys as to be out of the working class, and none of them are too big to prevent them doing the real work of the terrier. They are about as "varmint" a looking set as I ever saw, rough-and-tumble customers, that will stand any work and any weather, however rough, that such a multum in parvo of strength, hardiness, and pluck as a good specimen represents can by the utmost stretch of physical laws be expected to perform.
Shorter in the leg, and not so nimble as the old hard-coated Scotch terrier, they equally show the true terrier "fire" in their eagerness for the fray, and the indomitable courage, the "dourness" with which they hold on, marking them as real "die-hards" among the terrier race.
Those who saw the prize winners in the Scotch terrier classes at the Alexandra Palace Show, 1879, saw the stamp of the Aberdeen terrier, and it seems to me a very great pity that the Kennel Club Show should on that occasion have been used so to misdirect public opinion, and to stultify the judgments previously given at their shows, when terriers nearer the type, or at least built more closely on the lines of the old Scotch terrier, won.
There is much in the general appearance of the Aberdeen Terrier that suggests to the mind a Skye terrier in the rough. Low on the leg, long in the back, an abundance of bone and muscle, a rough hide covering a big heart, a concentration of strength, a head of the useful punishing sort, and a countenance lit up by a keen and piercing eye, he is the best and merriest of companions for those who eschew the "pretty" and prefer in their peregrinations round the homestead to have the society of a dog that will take the sow by the ear and turn her out of the garden, or that if a rat presents itself, it is "dead for a ducat" before you can utter the words.
These dogs have natural prick ears, the muzzle is a medium length, teeth strong and level set, the whole body covered with a very hard coat of the horsehair texture taken from the mane, and about an average of a couple of inches in length. A dog's coat as hard as "pig's bristles or pin wire," as it is often said to be, I have never met with, and I hope I never shall.
I am quite sure these dogs - which, I understand, are plentiful not only in Aberdeen but throughout the north-eastern counties of Scotland - only require to be better known among English terrier lovers to be appreciated, and as I know several gentlemen in the south have taken to them and are breeding them, I have good hopes ere long of seeing classes for Aberdeen terriers at our shows.
The following are measurements of a couple of the breed:
A bitch owned by Mr. H. B. Gibbs: Age, about 3½ years; weight, 171b.; height at shoulder, 8¼in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 30¼in.; length of tail, 7in.; girth of chest, 181/2in.; girth of loin, 13½in.; girth of head, 12½in.; girth of arm lin. above elbow, 6in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 7in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 6¼in.; colour and markings, red.
A dog owned by Mr. H. D. Gibbs: Age, 4 years; weight, 181b.; height at shoulder, 9in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 25½in.; length of tail, 8in.; girth of chest, 19iin.; girth of loin, 15iin.; girth of head, 13in.; girth of arm lin. above elbow, 6in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 7¼in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 7in.; colour and markings, dark steel grey.