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.
However, perhaps what Mr. E. Bairstow, of Bradford, has written about the Airedale terrier in "The Dog Owner's Annual," and which has been revised for publication here, will be of interest, he being one of the oldest breeders of this dog, of which I need scarcely say he is a most enthusiastic admirer. He says :
"This very popular terrier is now taking the front rank amongst our national terriers, which it deserves, because of its adaptability to almost every kind of sport. If you want to go out with your gun, the Airedale terrier can be trained to do the work of the pointer, setter, spaniel, and retriever, or if you like coursing he is all there; as a guard and companion or watchdog he has no equal - in fact, he is, without a doubt, the most useful dog living. He is rough, hardy, and strong; if indoors, there is no strong smell from his coat or skin, as he has no dense undercoat. If left outside in the most severe winter weather, he is not affected by the cold; no trouble in washing, brushing, and combing, only a walk to the waterside and into the water he goes, diving like a duck, or breasting and swimming against the stream with the strength and power of a dog double his size; never tired, working as long and as fresh as any dog living. No wonder, then, that this dog should become the more popular the more he gets known.
"In all my experience, I never came across any person who ever had an Airedale terrier over twelve months who would utter one word of disparagement against him.
"This breed owes its origin to the working or middle class inhabitants of Airedale and surrounding districts; take Bradford as the centre, and say about a 15 miles radius. About fourteen years ago, or perhaps more, the local dog societies commenced making classes for them, as 'waterside terriers,' at their annual shows, until they at last gained the highest number of classes, and the largest number of entries, on some occasions upwards of 200 entries of Airedales at one exhibition; in fact, the large number entered at Bingley show caused the surprise of a very popular dog judge, who said to the committee: - 'These waterside terriers are very good, and seem to be constantly increasing in numbers and popularity, why not give them a proper name? They are worthy of it, I am sure.'
"Everyone present acquiesced, and after much discussion the name of Airedale terrier was agreed upon, seeing this was the Airedale Show, and that the variety was always well represented there. When the new name was fixed, fresh interest was excited. Other shows made classes for them, fresh competitors entered the lists, and strong competition for premier honours has now become general, and the excitement and interest to be seen by the crowds round the judging rings at Otley and Bingley gatherings when the judges are adjudicating upon the Airedale terriers exceed, in my opinion, that shown in any other breed in England. I should commend this sight to any fancier visiting Otley or Bingley at show time, and I am certain he will be surprised at the number of onlookers and the amount of interest displayed.
"At the time when these dogs received their present name one called Bruce was at the head of the breed, and I think we might confer upon him the honour of being the father of the variety. This dog I sold to Mr. C. H. Mason, to take out with him to America along with his noted kennel of prize dogs. Bruce was the father of the dog so well known as Champion Brush, this dog was blind in one eye, but an excellent animal in other respects, and most valuable at stud. After these we come to those noted prize winners Rover III., Tanner, Young Tanner, Rustic Twig, Venom, Newbold Fritz, and Rustic Lad. If shown with the dogs of to-day, they would have to take a back seat; and why? Because the breed is so very much improved, all fanciers seeming to vie with each other to exterminate every point foreign to terrier and terrier character, and in this we must say they have been most successful, and we think that no other breed in England has improved so rapidly as the Airedale terrier. Time was when we could find six or seven different kinds in one class as distinct as the two Poles from each other; some light coats, some black coats, some long silky hair, some smooth hair; some with light eyes, very large ears full of hound character. But I am pleased to see all this changed completely, and now there is greater uniformity of colour, size, coat, etc, and, consequently, a much nearer approach to the ideal terrier and perfect dog. My terrier Rustic Kitty, at one of the Oldham Shows, beat some well-known prize-winning black and tan terriers for the special prize given for the best black and tan terrier or Airedale terrier in the show, thus proving we have Airedale terriers as perfect as the old-established breed of black and tan terrier. Since then, at the Crystal Palace Show in 1891, the Airedale terriers divided the honour of winning the cup for the best team of terriers in the show, beating the fox terriers, Irish terriers, and other more popular breeds. This, I think, speaks volumes for the quick and vast improvement of this variety. I may here, in passing, just mention a few of the best of the present day: Newbold Rush, Newbold Test, Norwood Rover, Colne Crack, Cholmondley Bondsman, and Briar, Victress, Queen Lud, Rustic Flora, Rustic Kitty, Rustic Triumph, Frodsham Yeoman, and Jerry II.
"A description of the ideal and perfect Airedale terrier may be interesting. Weight: Dogs, 351b. to 451b.; bitches, 30flb. to 401b. Build square, same length as height, head long and straight, muzzle strong and powerful before the eye, eyes very small and dark, ears V-shaped, medium size (on the small side if anything), and carried well, pointing to the eye, and set nearly on top of skull, not allowing too much space on the top of the skull between the ears, skull flat on top without dome, neck well defined and strong, shoulders not loaded or heavy, chest deep and narrow, fore legs straight as gun barrels, with plenty of bone, feet well drawn together, small with a good pad underneath, body short, ribs well sprung and rounded, loins strong, hams and second thighs must be full, powerful, and muscular, tail docked and set on moderately high and carried nearly erect, coat very strong, dense, and wiry, laying well to the body, colour dark badger grizzle on back and neck, thighs, legs, head, chest, and ears a deep tan, teeth must be perfectly level and white, nose black; action must be free and showy, as if always on the alert and never tired. If you ever come across such a one as described above, and get possession of it, you can reckon yourself the owner of the best Airedale terrier living, because up to the present such a one is still unknown, and we think would be considered perfect by all true terrier fanciers. I think the nearest approach to the ideal terrier is Vixen III., the property of Mr. E. N. Deakin, and Rustic Kitty, belonging to the Airedale Terrier Kennels, Bradford. These are both terriers built on the same lines, and very much alike, in fact, as near alike as any two Airedales living of any note.