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.
"He now mounted the bank, and crossed the meadow, where he was soon hidden from view by the high grass . . . Tally ho! he has again taken to the water, and concealed himself in one of his old holts, or burrows, under the bank.
"It was some time before we could persuade him, by shaking the ground, to stir from his well known retreat. But he again bolted, and just as he was about to land on our side was prevented from so doing by seeing us. I threw my harpoon and missed him. He again dived, and we thought we had lost him, but he at last came up, and was so much exhausted from being hard pushed and remaining so long under water, that he was forced to make for the same shore to take breath, and having reached a bush that projected over the stream, and screened him from our sight, prepared to stand at bay. He had posted himself with his back to some old rat holes, and, his flanks protected by two stumps of trees, he presented his front to his enemies, only one of whom could come at him at a time. He showed good generalship, and had all the advantage of position.
"Vixen, swimming across to the place, soon pinned the otter by the neck, a favourite point of attack of hers, as I afterwards heard from her master; but the powerful animal shook her off, and seized her in turn in his terrific jaws. Vixen, extricating herself from his grip, returned with fresh courage to the conflict; but, owing to the projection of the bank and the thick bush overhanging the water, R------could not come to the assistance of his little favourite, and stood, not without some misgivings as to the result, within a few paces of the combatants. The battle was long doubtful, but at length the otter seized Vixen by the throat, and made his fangs meet in her jugular vein. The water was dyed with blood. The bitch gave a short, low howl of agony, and in a few minutes we saw her extended on her back as if dying, and borne down with the current.
"R------, forgetting the otter in his anxiety for his little pet, rushed into the water up to his middle, and succeeded in reaching and bearing her out, when he laid her on the grass and endeavoured to staunch the blood with his handerchief".
The otter ultimately escaped, the wounded terrier was taken to the inn, and made as comfortable as possible. "Viper lay down by Vixen, and by low whines told the excess of his grief, and endeavoured to lick the mortal wound. He could not be induced to take any food or to quit her side." As expected, poor Vixen was found dead in the morning.
The day following Viper was missing, and after several hours' search it was thought he had been stolen. The otter hunting expedition thus being spoiled, R------ returned to Builth, and Captain Medwyn, with his angling friends, sought the banks of the Tivy, the waters of which were now swollen by over-night rains. The narrative proceeds : "We came at length to the spot which had been the scene of the otter hunt so fatal to the brave little Vixen. Curiosity led me to look if any fresh marks of the dourgie were visible, or if he had forsaken his kennel. To my surprise I perceived some drops of blood; these we followed; they became more numerous, and led to - what do you suppose, reader? Yes; rolled up together, and stiff and cold, were discovered, in the embrace of death, the otter and Viper. From the appearance of the ground the battle had been a desperate one, the turf was reddened with their gore. ... It was a memorable incident, a proof of sagacity - an instance of memory, thought, and reasoning combined in one of the canine species, which proves their intellectual superiority to all other animals".
The terrier was buried, the otter taken away as a trophy; it was found to weigh 3olb., and was the largest the Tivy ever produced. So much for the terriers that Captain Medwyn saw when he was in Wales.
One of the most useful strains of terrier which still survives, and has done so without the bolstering up of any specialist clubs or dog shows, but lives and excels on its own merits alone, is a rough and ready sort of dog kept in Northumberland and on the Borders. This dog is neither a Dandie Dinmont nor a Bedlington terrier, and I am inclined to agree with what those who keep it say, that it is an older breed than either. Mr. Jacob Robson, of Byrness, near Otterburn, forwarded me a photograph of a team of these terriers, and Mr. Wardle has successfully copied the group, so those who are interested in the matter will be well able to see what these terriers are like. Lately the name "Border Terrier" has been given to them, an apt enough nomenclature, but whether they require any particular designation now after doing their work so well for a hundred years, and perhaps more, is an open question.
These terriers are exact counterparts of such as we had in Westmoreland twenty, thirty, and more years ago; they are like such as the Cockertons had, and similar to those the gunpowder makers owned at Elterwater. The yellow dogs are of the same stamp as the little bitch Worry, already alluded to, though they appear to be a trifle heavier and with more coat; the black and tans, or pepper, on the right and left resemble the good terriers that won on the bench and were bred from Worry and Crab. It is remarkable how most of these Border terriers have kept their good looks whilst they have been bred only for work - at least some of them have, and I do not care a jot whether a terrier has a white chest or not so long as he does his duty well. Indeed, a good dog cannot be a bad colour, and I am not certain whether one or two cherry or Dudley nosed terriers I have known have not been amongst the gamest of which I have had experience, and it does not require a man to have a particular eye for beauty to find out how ugly a red nosed dog looks.
I take it that these Border terriers have been running up and down Northumberland and other of the more northern counties from time immemorial almost. Of later years they have been taken in hand by some of the "hunting men" on the Borders, as more useful for their purpose than any of what may be called, without prejudice, fancy or fashionable varieties.