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.
Blome's description may, however, be interesting to the curious, so here it is. "The terrier is a very small dog, used for hunting the fox and the badger, his business being to go into the earths and bay them - that is, to keep them in an angle (a fox's earth having divers) whilst they are dug out, for by their baying or barking is known whereabouts the fox is, that he may be the better dug out. And for this use the terrier is very serviceable, being of an admirable scent to find out. A couple of terriers are commonly used, in order that a fresh one may be put in to relieve that which first went under ground".
There is nothing wrong in the above, nor is there in the following extract from the same author: "Everybody that is a fox hunter is of opinion that he hath a good breed, and some will say that the terrier is a peculiar species of itself. I shall not say anything to the affirmative or negative of the point." Blome concludes by writing that the cross already mentioned "generally proves good; the result thereof hath courage and a thick skin as participating of the cur, and is mouthed for the beagle".
Whatever was the case during the seventeenth century, there is no doubt that now the "terrier is a peculiar species of itself," careful and judicious selection during a series of generations having made it as much so as any other quadruped we possess.
In the "Compleate Sportsman" (1718), Jacobs mentions two sorts of terriers, which he describes pretty much as Nicholas Cox had done before him, so a repetition thereof need not be made here. In fact, with the country overrun as it was in those days, with four-footed vermin of all kinds, which destroyed the poultry and played sad havoc with the flocks, dogs of one kind or another to keep down the marauders were simply a necessity; and a terrier small enough to drag the fox from his earth, or kill him therein, was found the most useful for the purpose. So long as he could do this, appearance and colour were not much taken into consideration.
About 1760, Daniel, in his "Field Sports," goes a little out of the beaten track in writing on the terriers of his day, and his description must be taken as a correct one, made from the animals themselves, of which it has been said that the author kept a considerable number. "There are two sorts of terriers," said he, "the one rough, short-legged, long-backed, very strong, and most commonly of a black or yellowish colour, mixed with white; the other is smooth - haired and beautifully formed, having a shorter body and more sprightly appearance, is generally of a reddish-brown colour, or black with tanned legs. Both these sorts are the determined foe of all the vermin kind, and in their encounters with the badger very frequently meet with severe treatment, which they sustain with great courage, and a thoroughbred, well-trained terrier, often proves more than a match for his opponent".
Perhaps, as a matter of completeness, before dealing, as it were, collectively with the authorities, and the various sporting publications which saw the light during the first fifteen years of the present century, attention may specially be given to the "Cynographia Britannica," written by Sydenham Edwards, and published in 1800. He describes our terriers more fully than previous writers, but much in the same strain. His note about the so-called "Tumbler" is specially interesting and valuable.
After giving us the origin of the name of the dog, Edwards proceeds to say, "That from the evidence of Ossian's poems, the terrier appears to have been an original native of this island. Linnaeus says it was introduced upon the continent so late as the reign of Frederick I. (this would be towards the end of the seventeenth century). It is doubtless the Vertagris or Tumbler of Raii and others. Raii says it used stratagem in taking its prey, some say tumbling and playing until it came near enough to seize. This supposed quality, so natural to the cat race, when applied to the dog I consider a mere fable; but it has led to a strange error - later writers having, from Raii's description, concluded a dog of valuable and extraordinary properties was entirely lost.
"The most distinct varieties are the crooked-legged and straight-legged; their colours generally black, with tanned legs and muzzles, a spot of the same colour over each eye; though they are sometimes reddish fallow or white and pied. The white kind have been in request of late years. The ears are short, some erect, others pendulous; these and part of the tail are usually cut off; some rough and some smooth-haired. Many sportsmen prefer the wire-haired, supposing them to be the harder biters, but this is not always the case.....
The terrier is querulous, fretful, and irascible, high spirited and alert when brought into action; if he has not unsubdued perseverance like the bulldog, he has rapidity of attack, managed with art and sustained with spirit; it is not what he will bear, but what he will inflict. His action protects himself, and his bite carries death to his opponents; he dashes into the hole of the fox, drives him from his recesses, or tears him to pieces in his stronghold; and he forces the reluctant, stubborn badger into light. As his courage is great, so is his genius extensive; he will trace with the foxhounds, hunt with the beagle, find for the greyhound, or beat with the spaniel. Of wild cats, martens, polecats, weasels, and rats, he is the vigilant and determined enemy; he drives the otter from the rocky clefts on the banks of the rivers, nor declines the combat in a new element".
As he was known then and a couple of centuries earlier, the reader must not expect to find shapely, handsomely marked animals like the varieties of the present day. Possibly any little dog that "Caius, the profound clerk and ravenous devourer of learning," had running at his heels was black or brown coloured, long-bodied, on short legs, the latter may be more or less crooked; and, if he were produced by a cross between "the mongrel mastiff and the beagle," his weight might be nearer 40lb. than 151b., the latter no doubt the most useful size for underground purposes.