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.
Since "Stonehenge's " "Dogs of the British Isles" was first published in 1867, which included the same varieties he had given eight years earlier in his "Rural Sports," great strides have been made in the improvement and classification of our terriers, and the volumes of the Stud Book of the Kennel Club contain varieties which, by careful selection, no doubt originally came from one stock, with the additions of various crosses. Our newest strains have become popularised, and as it were individualised, - including the Welsh terrier, the Airedale terrier, the Clydesdale or Paisley terrier, and perhaps the Scotch and Irish terriers (though I fancy that both these varieties are actually much older as such than they are usually given credit for); whilst the bull-terriers, Bedlington terriers, Skye terriers, fox terriers (rough and smooth), black and tan terriers, white English terriers (including English and other smooth-haired terriers), broken haired Scotch and Yorkshire terriers, with the toy terriers, rough and smooth, had places given them in the first volume of the "Kennel Club Stud Book," published in 1874.
It is, perhaps, interesting to state that the first two dog shows held, which took place in 1859, at Newcastle-on-Tyne and in Birmingham, did not offer prizes for terriers; but at the latter show the following year classes were provided for black and tan terriers, white and other English terriers, Scotch terriers (both winners being Skye terriers) and for toy terriers (the four classes having twenty-three entries, seven of which were "toys"), ten Scottish (Skyes), four white English and two black and tan terriers. Now, thirty years later, we can hold a show of terriers that will produce over a thousand entries, and at an exhibition at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, in February, 1893, there were 162 classes provided for terriers, and they contained something like 880 competitors. Such figures as these prove the extraordinary popularity terriers have attained during the present generation, and, whilst years ago a ten-pound note was considered a high price for one of the best of them, ten times that sum and even more, will be given for a perfect specimen at the present day. As I write this, £300 has just been given for a fox terrier called Despoiler, which by the greatest stretch of imagination could not be considered of greater quality than second class. No doubt the appearance of the terrier all round has generally improved, though whether this is at the expense of his ability to work and do the work for which nature originally intended him is an open question.
Perhaps a word or two as to the shapes and sizes of our modern terriers may not be amiss. In size they vary greatly, for, whilst a "toy" may perhaps not scale more than 41b. to 51b. in weight, an "Airedale" is not out of place if he scales 451b. to 5olb., and there are terriers of every weight between the two. Perhaps some time the weight of the terrier may be restricted to 2olb. at most. This is, however, not likely to be the case, for few of the varieties are now required to go underground after the fox, or badger, or otter, a majority of them being used for purely fancy purposes, as companions and house-dogs, or as casual assistants in the shooting field. As a matter of fact, those best adapted for hard work either with foxhounds or otterhounds are cross-bred, hardy dogs, specially trained for the purpose, although many of the "pedigree" animals will do similar duty to the best of their ability, but their "pedigree" and no doubt inbreeding to a certain extent, has made them constitutionally and generally weaker than their less blue-blooded cousins.
"Some terriers have long bodies and short legs," says an old writer, and so they have at the present time. Dr. Walsh ("Stonehenge") ascribed those long-bodied, crooked-legged terriers to the fact of a cross with the dachshund. Personally, I consider that this deformity - and crooked fore legs are a great deformity, and one that should not be allowed in any terrier, Scottish, Dandie Dinmont, or Skye, any more than it is allowed in an Irish terrier or a fox terrier - arises from the dogs having been bred for length of body. This long, unnaturally long, body, heavy too, has gradually forced down the legs until they have become bandy or crooked through sheer weakness - an "inherited deformity" that some breeders have come to look upon as the correct thing. All these unduly long-bodied terriers have more or less "crook" on their fore legs, like unto those of the basset and dachshund. These hounds would be better with straight legs, so would the terriers. The Dandie Dinmont is, perhaps, the most crooked legged of any of our terriers; he is not an active dog, and is little use for work in a "stone wall country," nor is his "crook" the slightest advantage in any way. I fancy breeders are now trying to produce them with legs as straight as possible, and this can be done if length of body is to an extent sacrificed. The prototype of the original Dandie Dinmont was a more active and useful animal than is the case with our modern specimens.
The Scottish terrier is another crooked legged dog, but his admirers have already seen that he is more active and comely on straight fore legs; and in due course we shall see as few Scottish terriers winning whose legs are crooked as we do fox terriers and black and tans with a similar deformity; and I repeat emphatically that no terrier should have crooked fore legs. I have had them, Dandie Dinmonts and Scottish ones too, Skye terriers likewise; but, game and well trained as they were, they were of little use with hounds. They could not keep up with those with which we used to hunt the otter, much less with the fleeter foxhound; and again, in an earth amongst the rocks and crevices, a short-legged, heavily-bodied terrier might get down a shelf up which he could not possibly return, and many and many a time have the Dandie Dinmonts had to be lifted through the fences over which a straight-legged dog could scramble.
In addition to the usual varieties as they are commonly known, named, and recognised in the Stud Books, I have appended a chapter on what may be called actually working terriers; such animals as have been kept in certain districts and by certain families as the best for the purposes for which they were originally produced. Such dogs have survived for their work alone, for their hardihood and gameness, and will no doubt continue so to do to the end. Perhaps there may be so-called varieties of these rough-coated, hardy terriers not mentioned by me; but, of course, I cannot do more than allude to such as I have seen, and with which I have been personally acquainted.
The "Border terriers," as I have stated, have been for a long time indigenous to the Border counties, and extending even so far south as Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. In some localities their noses have, as it were, been put out of joint by "new breeds," which are probably smarter in appearance, and more taking to the eye. The Sealy Ham terriers have had a reputation in certain districts in Wales for over half a century.
A more modern strain to which I have drawn attention is the extremely varmint-looking, short-legged, wire-haired terrier, which Mr. Cowley (in Hertfordshire) has taken - and is still taking - such pains to cultivate, and I believe that these three - varieties if you like - are, for working purposes, equal to anything that can be obtained at the time I write. Whether they are handsome will be seen from the illustrations.
The terrier is a charming dog as a companion, and if he is nicely brought up and trained, even the bull terrier, which has obtained a reputation as a fighting dog, will be found as faithful, cleanly, and quiet as the long-coated, diminutive Yorkshire terrier; indeed, if anyone requires a good house dog, he will not go astray if he procures a terrier - any of the several varieties which I have endeavoured to describe in the following chapters.