Author of "The A.rcdaie Terrier," "The West Highland White Terrier" etc.
Historically, although the Airedale cannot boast of a long line of distinguished ancestry, yet so far as the show ring is the authority for comparative pureness of breed, he is on the same level as the Scottish terrier, for both breeds have only come under the influence of dog shows for about a quarter of a century.
How the Breed was Made
Bred originally in the valley of the Aire, from whence the dog takes his euphonic title, the cardinal idea was to manufacture a terrier which combined with indomitable gameness ability to live in the water. Sporting proclivities had to be abundantly present as well as a fine nose for hunting and tremendous constancy to man. The keenness and cleverness of the "manufacturers" was finely proved, for in less than four generations dogs were evolved which possessed these characteristics.
This mixture looks unpromising enough from an aesthetic point of view, and yet scores of the breed can be seen at any of our leading shows which are unchallengeable by any other breed for style and contour, together with unrivalled terrier character.
I have personally broken many to gun and ferrets, and have had them broken to cattle, which they drive with all the elan of a drover's dog, and without his numerous errors of judgment. Rats, of course, are child's play to them. For quickness and happy despatch, they are alone comparable to the mongoose. The keenness and determination with which they will stick to the trail of hares and rabbits must be seen to be believed. In North America I have seen them tree coons, and slaughter them on the drop without fuss or the turning of a single hair. To weasels they are sudden death, and they are as game and as indefatigable as the otter-hound, with a note of glorious music.
I know of no other terrier which will stay as long in a dust-up with a badger. "Brock" has to come out or put the Airedale hors de combat.
The high courage of the Airedale has often been questioned, and his pose of shy aloofness is doubtless responsible for this, and the hound blood in him prevents "constant trailing of the coat"; but should his enemy prove insistent, the Airedale is too full of the spirit of savoir faire to be disobliging, and the opponent either cries peccavi, or is immolated on the altar of his foolishness.
The Airedale takes a very friendly interest in all affairs of the house, especially the baby element, whom he will guard with his life; possesses all the tact and unassuming confidence, together with the mildness of great strength, which goes to make fine manners and mark him as a terrier one may choose for perfect companionship.
The breed stands to-day as one of the best possible investments. A tremendous number of breeders in Great Britain are making a comfortable living from merely keeping a few bitches and selling their produce. I have myself during one single season bought specimens for from fifty to one hundred pounds.
The enthusiastic fanciers of the United States annually pay many thousands of pounds to secure the best specimens. The American people are probably the most practical nation on the earth, so that it can easily be imagined that they are captivated not only by the breed's great personal charm, but by its general adaptability to any kind of sport.
A bitch bred on the finest lines of blue blood can be obtained for from five to ten guineas. The service of a good class stud dog will run the sum up to eight guineas or thirteen guineas, and the total outlay at the time when the pups are two months old should not exceed fifteen pounds, and by the time they are six or seven months, not more than twenty pounds.
Then, should the owner possess the nous to do the pups in the best manner, accustom them to lead on slip or chain, and encourage them to show all the gay debonair character that they should have inherited, his or her reward will be ample and immediate.
Putting aside the possibility that a star of the first magnitude may be amongst them, which would fetch a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds, without ever even having seen a dog show, the pick of the litter will, providing the above conditions are fulfilled, assuredly be worth from twenty to thirty pounds, the second best from ten pounds to fifteen, and the rest in inverse ratio.
It is, of course, a sine qua non that the brood bitch should possess, if possible, in abundant measure the leading characteristics of the breed, and her blood lines should also be unimpeachable. One may not purchase a rara avis for five guineas, but there are certain essentials which are imperative.
Other essentials are bone and substance; soundness both fore and aft should be looked for, and a hard texture of jacket insisted upon. If the colour be also black instead of a grizzle, so much the better. The tan on the head, legs, feet, and quarters should be a rich golden colour. The eyes should be dark and show considerable fire; the ears small, and carried rather high; the skull should be flat, not round or thick, and the jaw should be as strong as possible, and barrel-like in formation under the eyes.