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.
Crab was the name of another little terrier, a great celebrity with one of the best north country packs of otter hounds. I fancy he was of the same strain that Tom Andrews, the Cleveland huntsman, formerly possessed, but Tom has been dead for twenty years, and it is doubtful to what extent his strain now survives. Certainly it does not do so in sufficient numbers to reintroduce the genuine article to the great British public. Of course, a spurious imitation could be manufactured easily enough, but in this there would be that something missing - character it is called - which in humanity marks the man of noble blood a distinct being from the one of plebeian origin.
A good stamp of terrier is depicted in that fine old engraving, "Safer Within than Without," where the terriers watch the rat inclosed in the wire trap; and "Distinguished Burrow Members," sitting near sundry rabbit holes, a group a good deal quieter in the pursuit of their duties than many distinguished and honourable Borough Members of the present day. These two engravings are admirable as representative of a variety of terrier seldom found now, and certainly more picturesque than some modern strains.
A few years since I came across a somewhat odd, but not an unusual mixture to find in a man - a combination of gamekeeper, fisherman, poacher, and labourer. He belonged to the north country, and always told me his blood was of the best. Certainly his name was the same as that of a family that had been settled on land of their own before the conqueror William came over, and whose pride it was to boast that they had never paid fee or fealty to any Norman invader. This fellow and I were friends for years. He was fond of sport of all kinds, observant of the habits of animals and fish, whilst the rarer plants and ferns did not escape his penetrating eyes. The first time we met was at the riverside, when fishing a deep hole for salmon with worm. Whilst I was tying up my rod he had a bite, which he said was that of an eel, for the line quietly travelled down the current just in the manner it does when such a fish is running away with the bait. However, in this instance the eel turned out to be a nice, bright 71b. grilse, which was hooked, and, in due course, neatly netted by the writer.
My newly-found acquaintance proved a good fisherman in all branches of the craft, and, although never confessing to the soft impeachment, I fancy he was as well acquainted with the use of the net as with the rod, reel, and line. He owned a useful sort of dog, about 2olb. in weight, smooth but close-coated, almost all tan in colour, still with sufficient black on the back to make a black and tan terrier without much exaggeration. But it was nothing like the Manchester strain of to-day. He was a leggy dog, and like galloping; his ears were small, V-shaped, and "dropped" beautifully. His excellence lay in the formation of his head, which, of great length from occiput to nose, was of perfect terrier shape, with immense jaw power; his eyes, too, were perfect. A dog of his kind you seldom find without good legs and feet and strongly developed in his muscles generally. Nor was this any exception to the rule "You've a niceish terrier there," said I. "Yes," was the reply, "it's a fair 'un. You kna a bit aboot dogs, mister," he continued, "but you mappen don't ken this sort?" "No, indeed I don't," was the reply. "Whia he's a Bewcastle tarrier!" Such a variety I had not previously heard of, nor have I since. Still, the animal had unmistakable distinctive features, and, as usual, he was "the best in the world." She, rather, I should say, for the "Bewcastle terrier" was a female.
I was soon a willing listener to all the stories of the feats this wonderful bitch "Bess" had performed; foxes killed "single-handed," otters bolted, foulmarts and sweetmarts exterminated; but all tales were "capped" by one, where, in conjunction with her owner, she killed twenty-three weasels out of a large pack which attacked them one afternoon. This was the usual weasel tale, when one, being hunted and sorely pressed, squeaked or chattered an alarm, and forthwith scores of little heads peered from a stone wall, to be followed by the bodies of the active little creatures, which swarmed round man and dog. Both had to fight hard for their lives. Bess was sorely bitten, and it was not until close on two dozen ferocious little blood suckers had bitten the dust that the survivors beat a retreat. Personally, I always considered Bess a mongrel, and when I found that her owner never saved her puppies, but lent their dam out as a foster-mother to a greyhound breeder, my opinion was in part justified. Still, she was a stamp of terrier quite attractive, and possessed the sense of a man. The way in which she once ran alongside a stone fence to take a short cut to a gap through which a hare we had started was likely to go, proved her a poacher of the first water, and when she made her stroke at puss she killed. Without vouching for the truth of her feats with the larger vermin and the weasels, I can speak in the highest terms of her credentials as a bitch to shoot fur over, which she retrieved capitally. Her end was an untimely one, being brought about by a runaway engine on a local railway line.
It will be nearly thirty years since a sporting high sheriff brought north from London a black terrier with cropped ears and a short wiry coat. This was a 241b. dog, low on the legs, sturdily and stoutly made; he was said to be of fighting strain, and his character was such that a good round sum (for those days) had been paid for him. In the north he was a failure, for the country dogs could beat him at his own job; and in hunting and rough fell work he was no use at all, for his early training had been neglected.
Some there may be reading this chapter who will recollect Spring, a rough-coated black and tan terrier, about 151b. in weight, celebrated more for a wonderful knack he had of catching rabbits on their seats than for any actual gameness. This dog was light in limbs, but close in coat, which was rather long; he had a nice "whip" tail, carried straight, in correct show form fashion; his ears were small and dropped well; but his jaw was somewhat weak, and he lacked terrier character. A distinctive feature he possessed was an enormous quantity of hair and jacket about his neck; I never saw a terrier that had so much, and it is to be regretted that this leading and protective characteristic of the working terrier is lost sight of almost entirely nowadays. I rather fancy Spring had some of the Elterwater strain in him, but, his education being conducted by a gamekeeper and rabbit catcher, it was as the latter he excelled. On an occasion, specially invited to witness Spring's excellence at rabbiting, in one afternoon he caught no fewer than twenty-four rabbits on their "forms," or seats, and the two guns had not opportunity to shoot more than a dozen in addition. This was on wildish, semi-cultivated ground, where the rabbits either sat in tufts and bunches of dead grass or underneath small bushes. I do not know whether it is an unusual gift, possessed by some terriers, to be able to distinguish a hare from a rabbit, but about the same time that Spring was in his hey-day, an old gamekeeper in Westmoreland had a yellow terrier that would not follow a hare a yard. On the contrary, after a rabbit he would go until, without fail, the latter was either caught or run to ground. This terrier was a murderous sort of creature, his wide chest and broad skull denoted a cross of the bulldog, which he undoubtedly possessed, and his fighting propensities made it an impossibility to work him in company with other dogs. Rabbits or rats might surround him, but such small vermin would be totally neglected if there were a dog within sight to worry. Some of the navvies who worked in the construction of the early lines of railways owned sundry hard terriers, mostly dashed with bulldog blood. These, like their masters, could fight, were generally kept for such a purpose, and when once properly entered thereto, were almost useless for the actual work a terrier is required for.