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.
Mr. Jacob Robson, who has been connected with the Border Foxhounds all his life, and whose family, I need scarcely say, is one of the very oldest in the county, says:
"The strain of terriers that has been bred by my family, and in Northumberland and the Border, for so long, is now called the Border terrier, from the fact that they are principally used and bred in the country hunted by the Border Foxhounds. This nomenclature is, however, of recent date, as they used formerly to have no particular name, but were well known for their hardness and gameness. Reed-water, North Tyne, Coquet, Liddesdale, and the Scottish borders are the districts where they have been principally bred. My father, when he lived at Kielder, had some rare representatives of the breed, and Mr. Hedley, Bewshaugh, and Mr. Sisterson, Yarrow Moor, near Felstone, have also bred excellent terriers of this strain. My father and the late Mr. Dodd, of Catcleugh, preferred this breed of terriers to all others for bolting foxes, their keenness of nose and gameness making them very suitable for this purpose.
"They vary in weight, from 151b. to 181b. is the best size, as when bigger they cannot follow their fox underground so well, and a little terrier which is thoroughly game is always best. Flint, a mustard dog we had here nearly twenty years ago, was small, but the best bolter of foxes I ever saw. He was slow in entering to fox, but when he did begin was so thoroughly game and keen of nose that he very rarely failed to bolt his fox, in fact I have seen six or seven terriers, considered good ones at their work, tried at a hole without going to their game, but as soon as Flint was put in he challenged his fox, and without what is locally termed as 'manning' (encouragement by word of mouth). Flint was a very wise dog, and if he passed a hole you might feel quite certain there was not a fox there. I have known him on several occasions to be in a hole for three days at a time with a fox, and taken out none the worse for the prolonged sojourn underground.
"The favourite colour is red or mustard, although there are plenty of the variety pepper coloured, and others black and tan. Their coat or hair should be hard and wiry and close, so as to enable them to withstand cold and wet. They have generally been bred for use and not for looks, but I have seen some very bonny terriers of this same strain. They should stand straight on their legs, with a short back, and not made like a Dandie Dinmont, long-backed and crooked; their ears ought to drop like those of a fox terrier, but this is not a sine qua non. A strong jaw is a great point, but not nearly so long in the nose as the usual strains of Dandies and Scottish terriers. They may be either red or black nosed; in fact, the former colour is often preferred, as there is a belief that the red-nosed dogs are keener scented than those with black noses.
"Some of the best of the breed I have known were Nailer and Tanner, belonging to the late Mr. Dodd, of Catcleugh; Flint, Bess, Rap, Dick, and Pep of Byrness; Rock, a son of Flint's, belonging to Mr. Hedley, Burnfoot; Tanner, Mr. R. Oliver's Spithopehaugh; Bob, Mr. Elliott's, of Hindhope; and Ben, belonging to Mr. Robson, of Newton. As I have said, a number of grand terriers of the strain have been bred by the Sistersons, of Yarrow Moor in North Tyne, and in Lidderdale by the Scotts, Ballantynes, and others. I have also been told that the terriers owned by Ned Dunn, of Whitelee, Reedwater, were more of the type of these Border terriers than of the Dandie Dinmont, and I rather think that the Dandies of fifty or more years ago resembled the Border terrier in many respects, more so, at any rate, than they do now".
To further prove, if further proof were required, that the Border terrier, although new in name, is not a modern creation, it may be stated that there is, in the Robson family, a picture of a once well-known character in Tynedale, Yeddie Jackson, who was known as the" hunter king " in North Tyne and throughout Lidderdale and the adjoining country. The painting, which was executed about 1820 or a few years later, includes a foxhound and a terrier, the latter just the same kind as the strain of which I now write. As Mr. Jacob Robson says, the colours are mostly red, wheaten, or what I should call a yellow, in varying shades; others are pepper and salt, more or less light or dark, the latter almost approaching black; white is usually found on the chest, a white foot or two occasionally, less frequently they have a white streak up the face; black and tan is not often found, and entirely black and white and tan markings, as on a modern fox terrier, are never found in the pure strain, and it has been kept entirely pure now for fifty years or more, whatever might have been the case earlier.
Some of the terriers follow hounds regularly, and are continually brought into use, not only amongst the rocks and in rough ground of that kind, but in equally or in more dangerous places - wet drains or moss holes, or "waterfalls," as they are called in Northumberland. A dog that goes in here may have to swim underground and find his fox, which is perhaps lying up in a side drain or earth quite dry. There are numerous crossings and cuttings in these peat moss drains, which are more or less, as the case may be, natural or artificial. It is by no means unusual for terriers to be lost therein, and even when rescued to have afterwards died from the undue exertion, the lack of air, and the general unhealthiness of being some hours underground in a peat bog. And this though the Border terrier has an excellent constitution. If he had not he would never have survived amongst the hardy northern sportsmen, who consider him the best of all the terriers so far as work is concerned. He can go where a Dandie Dinmont cannot follow him, or a Scottish terrier either, and, quite as game as the Bedlington, he is not nearly so quarrelsome.