This section is from the book "The Terriers. A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland", by Rawdon B. Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: The Terriers.
On several occasions I have quoted the number of entries in the "Kennel Club Stud Book" as indicative of the rise or fall in popularity of the different varieties of dogs to which they allude. These figures must not always be taken as an actual and infallible guide either one way or the other, for when the first volume was published the registration of dogs was, as it were, in its infancy. The general public knew little about the thing, and only those intimately connected with shows as exhibitors and breeders took the trouble to have their dogs entered. This is not so now, for pretty nearly everyone who has a dog of good pedigree will have him entered in the "Stud Book," whether it be shown or not.
However, so far as the little terrier whose name heads this chapter is concerned, the inference may be correctly drawn, for no one believes that this, the most fragile and delicate of all our terriers, is so common and easily to be found as he was a score of years ago. In the first volume of the "Kennel Club Stud Book," published in 1874, there are fifty-four entries under the head "English and Other Smooth-haired Terriers," which did not include black and tans, and was, as a matter of fact, confined to the English white terrier under notice. The second volume contained only ten entries, but in 1893 there were twenty-seven registered, the section being divided according to the sexes. Three years ago some little impetus was given the variety by the establishment of a club to look after its interests, and judging from the excellent entry made at Liverpool in 1894 this little club must be doing some service. At this show there was certainly the best collection of white terriers I have seen brought together for many years.
Little or nothing is known of the early history of the English white terrier; where he originally sprang from, who produced him, or for what reason he was introduced, there is nothing to tell the searcher after information on the matter. That he is, and has been for thirty years or so, a variety of the dog in himself there is no doubt. But, although he will kill rats, and is fairly plucky in other respects, he is not a sportsman's companion. He makes a nice house dog, is smart and perky in his demeanour and conduct, requires a considerable amount of cuddling and care, and so in his early days he was a favourite with the working man dog fancier of the large towns, who showed him in the bar parlour, and believed him to be the equal of any other dog in appearance. The earliest illustrations of a terrier of this kind showed him to be a white dog, with a coloured mark on his body here and there; and I should say that, until he had been bred for some generations to produce him pure white, there was seldom one born without marks of some kind or other. Even now, dogs with a coloured ear or a "patch" on some part of the body or face are found in almost every litter.
The most perfect specimens of the variety have sprung from London and its suburbs, from Manchester and other large manufacturing towns of Lancashire, including Bolton and Rochdale; whilst others were to be found in Birmingham and the Black Country. At some of our early dog shows there were large classes of the English white terrier, sometimes the entries reaching quite a score; but the quality was not uniformly good, as a tan ear or dark mark might have been observed; and some of the specimens were shaped more like an Italian greyhound than as a terrier. The London and Birmingham shows usually had the best entries, but I have seen excellent quality further north - at Belle Vue and Middleton, near Manchester, and at some of the more local Lancashire and Yorkshire exhibitions. The large London dog shows as far back as 1863-64, divided these classes of white terriers, one being for dogs and bitches under six or seven pounds weight, as the case might be; the other for dogs and bitches over that standard. To instance the popularity the variety held at that time, one exhibitor alone (Mr. F. White, of Clapham) had eleven entries in the class restricted to dogs under six pounds weight, and these were all good specimens. Indeed, Mr. White appeared to be a larger breeder of this variety of the English terrier than anyone else, so much so that I once heard it argued that it was called after him, and ought in reality be known as "White's terrier," and not as the white terrier. However, this would not suit our friends in the north, who in reality, even at that time, had equally good specimens that had never seen Clapham Common. Mr. John Hoodless, of Bayswater, showed some nice terriers between 1862 and 1866.
It has been surmised that the original English white terrier had been a fox terrier crossed with a white Italian greyhound (I never saw one), and again with the small-sized bull terrier. On the contrary, I believe that the small-sized bull terrier was stopped on its road to popularity by a cross with the variety under notice. If anyone will take the trouble to wade through the early pedigrees he will find white terrier blood in many of our leading little bull terriers. Possibly there came to be bull terrier blood in the white terrier, and the exhibitor was not always quite conscientious in his ideas, and if from one of his bull terrier bitches he produced an animal rather lighter in bone and longer in head than usual he forthwith entered it as a "white English terrier," and maybe won with it. At the same time he might be taking prizes with a brother or sister of the same animal in the class for small bull terriers. For some years - at any rate until the epoch of the Kennel Club and its Stud Book - there was a considerable amount of jumble in the pedigrees of both English white terriers and bull terriers, as the many-registered Tim in the former and Madman in the latter too plainly testify. However, as far back as 1862-3 Mr. F. White, already mentioned, showed at Islington and Cremorne a team of very handsome dogs, quite terriers in their way, with which he won all the prizes for which he competed. The names of these dogs were Teddy, Laddie, Jep, Fly, and Nettle; but at the same time, or at any rate two or three years later, Mr. J. Walker, of Bolton, introduced a dog called Tim, which was considered to be the best terrier of the variety up to that time produced, nor do I think he has been excelled since. This dog had been bred by a well-known Lancashire lad in the "fancy line," Bill Pearson, by him sold to Joe Walker, who in turn sold him to Mr. James Roocroft, of Bolton, the latter at that time owning a kennel of this variety of terrier that was never excelled. Tim was an exquisitely made dog, with the darkest of eyes and perfect black nose; he was lightly built, but well ribbed up, and did not exhibit in appearance the slightest trace of whippet or snap dog blood, with which no doubt the variety had been considerably crossed. This old Tim was not only good as a puppy, but there was no better dog than he when shown at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in 1873, where, although at least eight years old, he won third prize in an excellent class. Tim weighed about 141b., and I do not think we have had so good a dog since, and most of the modern strain contain some portion of his blood.