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.
I IMAGINE that were one of our great-grandfathers to be shown a specimen of the modern black and tan terrier he would be unable to recognise it as the same variety of dog that, when he was a boy, ran about the stable yards, destroyed vermin, and was made into a household pet. The original fox terrier was a black and tan terrier, at any rate many terriers used for the purpose of driving foxes from their holes were black and tan in colour, and from them must have sprung the "black and tan" as he is seen to-day, crossed probably with some lighter built dog, maybe with a small greyhound.
With his rich red-tan markings, his deep black colour, pencilled toes, and thumb marks on the feet, elegant shape, sprightly appearance, and general gameness, he is no doubt a dog that might have had a popular future in store. But the fates decreed otherwise, and fashion suggested that he would look better with a portion of his ears cut off, and man carried out the needless mutilation. This system of cropping I have already descanted upon in the chapter devoted to the bull terrier and to the white English terrier, and I have no more to add on the subject. I am of opinion that had as much care been used in producing on the black and tan terrier a small thin drop ear, or a neat semi-erect one, as there has been in breeding for colour, he would be a more popular and commoner dog to-day than is the case. He had everything to recommend him for a house dog. He is not too big, is smooth-coated, handsomely shaped, intelligent in expression, brilliant in colour, which being dark is less liable to show dirt, and therefore in advance of any white animal in a town where grimes and smuts prevail and dirt is one of the common objects of the streets. In addition to the illegality of "cropping," there are all the trouble and an unpleasantness connected therewith, which are quite sufficient to keep such a dog from being found in almost every household. I am not alone in the opinion that this mutilation, continued for so many generations, has had a most injurious effect upon his health and general nature. The black and tan, like other terriers with their ears cut, is more liable to deafness than dogs whose ears remain as nature made them, and so far as the first-named is concerned, I believe that his spirit is in many cases broken by the cropping process in his youth, and he is never so game and smart a dog as he would otherwise be. At least, this is my experience of black and tan terriers; and others who have kept them as house dogs bear a similar opinion to that expressed here. He is now a purely fancy dog, i.e.) he is not used as an assistant to the gamekeeper or to destroy vermin, foxes and such-like creatures. He may kill rats and rabbits, indeed he can be trained until he is quite an adept at the first-named rude branch of sport, but his tender ears are against his going to ground and hunting in the coverts and coppices, as he would do in his natural condition.
It is much to be regretted that the endeavours to put a stop to "cropping" have not been more successful. So far back as 1879, at the instigation of Mr. James Taylor, of Rochdale, the Birmingham committee, or one of its members, gave special prizes for "black and tans" with uncut ears, and these prizes were continued for three years, but received little or no encouragement from exhibitors. Then the old Black and Tan Terrier Club, established in 1884, followed on the same line, and offered prizes at many exhibitions up and down the country, but with no better result. They received no encouragement in their good work from the Kennel Club.
With few exceptions the breeders of the dog have become educated to the mutilation, and believe the black and tan terrier looks smarter and handsomer with ears tapered almost to a point than he does with small aural appendages dropping down like those on a fox terrier. I know several admirers of the variety who gave over breeding their favourites because to compete successfully against what were perhaps inferior specimens the ears had to be operated upon. However, it is not a mere matter of opinion that a "cropped" dog can never be a popular animal, and if the present "black and tan terrier clubs" desire him to be so, they will have to return to the system adopted by the original club, and persevere in offering prizes to be competed for by unmutilated dogs only.
To leave this unpleasant part of my subject, let me say that the black and tan terrier as he is found to-day is of modern manufacture. Daniel in his "Rural Sports" (1802) certainly describes a terrier of that colour common in his time, but this was a more stoutly built dog, made on the lines of a modern fox terrier and used for a similar purpose and as a gamekeeper's assistant. Indeed, the common terrier of a hundred years ago was for the most part black and tan in colour, with white on his chest and on his feet.
The late Rev. T. Pearce ("Idstone") tells us of the black and tan terrier which his family had sixty or seventy years ago, and other writers follow in the same vein. These were bred for work and work only; the modern production is a purely fancy animal, whose "markings" are of more value than gameness, and his elegance of shape more than stoutness of constitution. Dog shows first brought him into prominence as a "fashionable beauty," and at our earliest exhibitions he was extremely well represented. Still, he was not then so uniform in quality and markings as he came to be later on, and every class contained some dog or other that was badly marked, and by no means of the type that was then coming into vogue. There is no doubt that between 1850 and 1860 the old-fashioned dog was crossed with some other variety of a lighter build, and this may have been a small dark coloured greyhound. Anyhow, the "long lean heads" more often than not showed some greyhound cross, however remote it might be, and the black and tan terrier was and is more tucked up in loins and not so level in the back as the fox terrier ought to be. Then his feet are not so round and catlike, a longish foot, though it might be thick enough, being preferred, as then the "pencilling" on the feet - black marks on the tan ground might be better defined when the toes were rather long.