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.
Much contained in the preceding chapter is applicable to the wire-haired fox terrier, for in colour, make, and shape, the two ought to be identical, though the one has a smooth close coat, the other a hard close coat and somewhat rough.
This should be hard and crisp, not too long, neither too short, but of a tough, coarse texture, finer underneath, all so close and dense that the skin cannot be seen or even felt, and, if possible, so weather and water resisting that the latter will stand on the sides like beads, and run off the whole body as it is said to do, and does, off a duck's back. There must not be the slightest sign of silkiness anywhere, not even on the head. A curly jacket, or one inclined to be so, is far better than a silky one. Indeed, some of the best coated dogs of this variety I have seen had more than an inclination to be curly - the crispest hair on the human head has usually a tendency to be so, and the straight hair is the softer and finer. There should be some amount of longish hair on the legs, too, right down to the toes, and when there is a deficiency in the coat in this respect, one may be pretty certain that some crossed strain is in the blood of the animal so handicapped. In attempting to produce straight coats, modern breeders have gone to extremes, and, according to their nature, produced fine ones, of a texture like silk almost; these are, again, likely to be thin, and quite inadequate to keep out the water and cold. Seldom do we see a wire-haired terrier with so close and hard a jacket as some of the otter hounds possess, or even owned by the best hard-haired Irish and Scottish terriers. Straighter they may be, but harder never, and what, indeed, is straightness but a useless beauty mark?
In the kennels of the Kendal Otter Hounds there was a black and tan hound called Ragman, who ran nine seasons, who possessed the best water and weather resisting coat I ever saw on any dog. Without being long enough to assist him as a bench hound, it was simply perfect for the purpose for which it is required - protection from weather and water. Take down the ribs, along the back, under the belly, on the head, anywhere, it was all there, hard as bristles, a little softer and closer underneath than near the surface; and I have seen that good hound swim for two, or three, or four hours maybe, come out on to the bank, shake himself, so throw the water off, roll in the meadow, and in a minute he would be as dry as the proverbial board. His coat inclined towards curliness, and, this notwithstanding, is the description of jacket that ought to be found on all wire-haired terriers. I know of none at the present day that possesses so good a one.
In judging this variety of terrier I should, without hesitation, throw out or disqualify every dog with a soft coat. The class is for "wire-haired" terriers, and anyone giving an award of any kind to one that is not as described does a triple injustice, for he dishonours the description, introduces a bad type, and proves his own incompetence. I have dwelt thus long on coat because therein lies the whole difference between the two great modern types of fox terriers.
From the time Dame Juliana Berners wrote of terriers, the varieties, rough and smooth, have grown up side by side, one man preferring the one, another the other, just as is the case now. The smooth variety has always been the more numerous - latterly the more popular, because the smarter, the more thoroughbred looking animal, and besides, on wet days he does not take so much dirt into the house. As to gameness, Jack is as good as his master, but by reason of the denser covering to his skin, the wire-haired can stand the cold, inclement weather of our north country climate better than his cousin; still, after all, a cross-bred dog is best for the really arduous work required with foxhounds hunting in a mountainous district, and with otter hounds.
Some old engravers and painters have given us portraits of wire-haired terriers black and tan, blue grizzle and tan, pepper and salt, and of various shades in red and fawn and yellow, as well as of the present time orthodox white and marked with fawn, or black and tan. Modern fancy has developed the black and tan into a new variety, whilst the others, of whole colour, equally useful in every way, have, except in a few instances alluded to later on, gone to the wall. In various districts of North Durham and Yorkshire the wire - haired terriers appear to have been produced in greatest numbers, but Devonshire also had them in the form they were wont to be used by the Rev. John Russell, a name so familiar to every sportsman throughout the many countries where the English language is spoken. The late "Robin Hood," the Field's well-known coursing correspondent, told me that even in Nottingham, supposed to be the home of the smooth variety, the "wire-hairs" were common enough when he was a boy forty-five years ago. And how visions of his early sporting days rushed before him when he told me of a terrier he had owned with an extraordinarily long head, which came from the Quorn when Sir Richard Sutton was the master. This dog was in every sense a pattern of the best we see to-day, 181b. weight, hard coated, strong-jawed, possessing at the same time the "ferocity of the tiger" when "cats" were about, and "the gentleness of the dove" in the presence of his genial owner. Mr. C. M. Browne ("Robin Hood") believed that a majority of the Midland counties strains of wire-haired terriers sprang from this dog, which became the property of Mr. T. Wootton, who certainly had some very good ones about twenty years later.
No further proof of the gameness of the modern wire-haired terrier need be adduced than was described in the columns of the Field not long ago, in connection with the local otter hounds, which were hunting the River Lune, near Hornby. An otter had been marked in a tile drain, an ordinary drain pipe indeed, and to drive him one of the hunt's terriers went to ground. There was no side drain to allow him to get behind the otter, and of course to draw Master Lutra badger fashion was impossible. However, in the end the otter was, if not actually drawn, fairly driven out of his stronghold, the plucky little terrier having actually fought his way underneath or over his enemy, and when once behind him, made the drain so uncomfortable, that the rough-and-ready notice of ejectment was acted upon. A fine otter dashed out of the drain's mouth, followed immediately by Turk, sadly bitten and bedraggled, but by no means seriously injured. This terrier, though the huntsman could give no pedigree with him, was in appearance of fashionable blood - a good-looking little fellow, about 151b. in weight, and handsome enough to win a prize on the show bench, which he has done. Bobby Troughton, who has hunted the Kendal Otter Hounds since their establishment, says this dog Turk was the gamest and hardest terrier he ever possessed - surely a glowing testimonial for a modern show animal.