Airedale Terrier

 

The Airedale Terrier (often shortened to "Airedale") is named after its birthplace of Airedale, a valley in the West Riding of Yorkshire that lies between the Warf and Aire Rivers in South Yorkshire, England not far from the Scottish border.  The Airedale is believed to be the result of crossing the now extinct Rough Coated English Black and Tan Terrier and the Otter Hound during the early to mid 1800’s. Traditionally the Airedale has been referred to as the "King of Terrier" because it is the largest of the terrier breeds.
 

 

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
X-Large 55-90 lb
LifeSpan: 
10 to 12 Years
Trainability: 
Moderate Effort Required
Energy Level: 
High Energy
Grooming: 
A Couple Times a Week
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
Yes
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Pets
May Have Issues With Other Dogs
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
5-8 puppies
Names: 
Waterside Terrier, Bingley Terrier, Airedale, King of Terriers

Height/Weight

Males: 
23-24 inches, 55-65lbs
Females: 
Slightly Smaller

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

Prior to the Airedale, the sporting men of Yorkshire used both the Rough Coated English Black and Tan Terrier and the Otter Hound for hunting fox, badger, weasel, otter, water rat, and other small game in the valleys of the rivers Calder, Warfe, Coke, and Aire.  These would often be run together; it would be up to the hounds to scent the prey and pursue it to a point where the terriers could “go to ground” or enter the preys lair and make the kill.  It was essential that these early hunting terriers had the right balance of size; they needed to be large enough to tackle the prey, but not so large that they would be unable to maneuver within the preys burrow.  Courage was another key aspect of a quality hunting terrier, as these dogs needed the moxie to go toe-to-toe with prey on its own turf in dark underground burrows without the aid of human handlers.

 

As hunting for necessity gave way to hunting for sport, contests were devised to test the abilities of these early hunting terriers on pursuing and killing the large river rats indigenous to the Aire River. The success of a hunting terrier in these contests was based on two judged criteria.  First, their ability to use scent to locate an active den along the river banks when a ferret would then be loosed into the burrow to drive out the prey. Second,  the dogs would be judged on their ability to pursue the prey through water to make the kill. As the popularity of these early hunting contests grew and with it the demand for ever more proficient dogs; a need was born for a single breed that would excel at all the required tasks.

 

The Rough Coated English Black and Tan Terrier brought excellent agility, eyesight, hearing, and untiring courage to these early hunts while the Otter Hound brought its keen nose and swimming ability.  In 1853,  hunters realizing the unique attributes that each breed possessed decided to cross the two in a constructive attempt to embody the positive virtues of both in a better breed of larger and stronger terriers.

 

This new multipurpose large terrier would come to be known as the Airedale Terrier; although, at the time this resultant crossbreed was called the Rough Coated, Working, Bingley and Waterside Terrier. This large long-legged terrier was too big to “go to ground” in the same fashion as the smaller terriers. However, it excelled at every other aspect of the hunt, and was particularly proficient in water work.  Able to use its hound nose and size, the role shifted from use primarily at a ratter into that of a larger game hunter. This new Airedale Terrier could scent and track game while utilizing its size to bring down the larger animals. Intelligent, vigilant, and strong, the Airedale could be taught to retrieve, be broken to a gun and made an excellent guardian of the farm and home. The hunting terrier of the common man, it was frequently used to poach animals from the areas around large wealthy estates that were otherwise off-limits to commoners.  The Airedale was a versatile hunter able to scent, track and retrieve game wounded or killed by its master, or scent, track, pursue, kill and retrieve fresh game itself.

 

The Airedale Terrier exhibited under different names including Rough Coated, Bingley and Waterside Terrier made its first professional show debut in the Airedale Agricultural Society’s sponsored championship at Shipley, in the Aire River Valley in 1864. Fanciers of the breed decided on the name of Airedale Terrier in 1879; a tribute to its birthplace, a name which the Kennel Club (United Kingdom) accepted when it officially recognized the breed in 1886.

 

The outstanding hunting abilities of the Airedale Terrier led them on a transatlantic journey west to the United States in 1881, five years before their recognition by the Kennel Club (United Kingdom). The first of which; an Airedale named Bruce, would later go on to win the terrier class in the New York dog show. As word of their hunting prowess and versatility expanded so did their popularity with American hunters, where the Airdale Terrier was rapidly becoming known as a three-in-one gun dog – perfectly suited to hunting waterfowl on water , game birds on land, and four-legged mammals wherever they might appear. In 1888, Airedale Terriers began to appear in Canadian Stud book registrations as well.

 

An English Kennel Club devoted to Airedale breeding was established in 1892, with emphasis being placed first on refining the exterior of the breed and secondly on its temperament. Slight changes were made to the Airedale that resulted in a rapid rise in popularity among the more affluent English people and the Airedales regular appearance in show rings.

 

Commonly claimed to be the progenitor of the modern Airedale; Champion Master Briar (1897-1906), an Airedale who came to great recognition through his show wins and whose great sons, Champion Clonmel Monarch and Crompton Marvel, carried on his legacy is not the first Airedale. This misrepresentation is probably the likely result of him being one of the first Airedales and the first to acquire the Ch (Champion Designation) combined with the fact that his son Champion Clonmel Monarch was exported to and excelled at dog shows in the United States. In actuality he is the grandson of “Airedale Jerry” the more than likely true progenitor of the breed and the son of a lesser known male Airdale Terrier named Cholmondeley Briar, who was mated with a female named Betty to produce, Champion Master Briar.

 

It was around this time that the size, tenacity, loyalty and intelligence of the Airdale Terrier began to peak the interest of those in the military.  Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson, a military dog trainer for the British Army, is credited as being responsible for the development of military messenger and guard dogs.  In 1902, while describing how he became interested in using dogs for the military he wrote:


"It was in 1895, while shooting on a friend's moor in Scotland I took notice of a ' foreigner' buying a sheepdog from a shepherd and learned that the man was an German agent, sent over by the German government to purchase large quantities of collie dogs for the German Army . I was told that these dogs were found to be excellent for the work required, and that they had nothing in Germany, which could compare with them. It was at this point that I told myself that someday we may find our own dogs of service for our country, our soldiers."

 

From that day forward, Richardson and his wife; who was also interested in training dogs, started work toward training war dogs, not just for amusement, but as an experiment. Together they established the War Dog Training School at Shoeburyness in Essex, England.

 

When the Russo-Japanese War broke out in 1905, the Russian Embassy in London sent communication to LtCol. Richardson asking him if it was possible for him to supply ambulance dogs for the Russian troops to assist in moving wounded from the battlefield. In response he sent several Airedale Terriers for both communication and ambulance duty. Although all of these initial dogs perished, they had performed so well that the Dowager Empress Marie, sent him the Red Cross medal and the Czar, a gold and diamond watch and chain for his assistance. Based on their performance these working terriers were reintroduced into the Russian military during the early 1920s and special service dog units were created by 1923.  From here Airedale Terriers were used as police tracking dogs, guard dogs, demolition dogs and casualty dogs.

 

In 1906, Richardson unsuccessfully tried to sell the idea of using dogs to accompany and protect officers on patrol at night to the British Police. However, this initial rejection was to be short lived. Mr. Geddes, Chief Goods Manager for Hull Docks in Yorkshire upon hearing Richardson’s idea took a trip to Belgium to observe and evaluate the usefulness of police dogs. He was so impressed by their performance, that upon his return he convinced Police Superintendent, Mr Geddes, to create and implement a plan for utilizing dogs to accompany officers while they patrolled the docks. After some evaluation, Airedales were selected to fill this role based on their intelligence, work drive, aggressiveness, tracking abilities and the lack of maintenance needed for their coat.

 

In 1916, during the height of World Word War I, the British Army who like the police initially rejected the idea, came to realize the need for these unique canines. The Army needed messenger dogs that could quickly deliver correspondence to the front from the trenches.  Richardson initially provided two Airedales (Wolf & Prince) for use as message carriers, both of which quickly proved their value, and successive Airedales were given additional duties such as guard dogs, and locating wounded.

 

Richardson, in a  report evaluating the effectiveness of messenger dogs during the war:

 

“During a very heavy bombardment by the enemy the casualties among the runners, especially when they have to cross much open country exposed to snipers, machine gun fire, or a heavy barrage, are heavy, and sometimes none succeed in getting through. A runner has sometimes taken two or three hours to do a journey from the trenches, which a dog has done in half an hour or less.”

 

The most famous of the Airedale war dogs was Jack, a dog that embodied loyalty, courage and devotion by giving his life to deliver a message from the trenches to the front that saved an entire British battalion of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment (The Sherwood Foresters) from being annihilated by the enemy.
In the British War Museum there sits a small wooden memorial: 

 

“To the memory of Airedale Jack, a hero of the Great War"


"Not just a dog but a hero who in 1918 saved a whole British battalion from certain annihilation by the enemy. Airedale Jack was sent over to France as a messenger and guard. There was a big push on, and he was taken by the Sherwood Foresters to an advance post. The battle raged, and things went badly against the Foresters. The enemy sent across a terrific barrage, cutting off every line of communication with headquarters, four miles behind the lines. It was impossible for any man to creep through the walls of death that surrounded them and certain destruction of the the entire battalion was inevitable unless reinforcements could be secured from headquarters.  But there was just one chance - Airedale Jack. Lieutenant Hunter slipped the vital message into the leather pouch attached to the dog's collar. A pat on the head and then simply: 'Good-bye Jack . . . Go back, boy'. The battalion watched Jack slip quietly away, keeping close to the ground and taking advantage of whatever cover there was, as he had been trained to do. The bombardment continued, and the shells fell all around him. A piece of shrapnel smashed the dog's lower jaw . . . but he carried on. Another missile tore open his tough, black and tan coat from shoulder to haunch - but on he went, slipping from shell-crater to trench. With his forepaw shattered, Jack had to drag his wounded body along the ground for the last three kilometres. There was the glaze of death in his eyes when he reached headquarters - but he had done a hero's work and saved the battalion. “

 

Jack was presented with a posthumous Victoria Cross; the highest military decoration awarded for valor in the face of the enemy to members of the armed forces of the Britain.

 

As WWI came to a close, soldiers brought home with them stories of the Airedale Terriers courage and bravery from the battlefield; bringing the popularity of the Airedale Terrier to an all time high during the 1930s and 40s. This was a time of extreme demand for the Airedale; with everybody seeming to want one. Even heads of state were not immune to Airedale desire with Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding and Theodore Roosevelt- who chose Airedales for his big-game hunting trips- all owning Airedales. President Harding's Airedale was named Laddie Boy. The breeds popularity peaked in 1949, with it ranked 20th in popularity among 110 breeds. Currently the breed ranks 50th out of 146.

 

President Roosevelt claimed that "An Airedale can do anything any other dog can do and then lick the other dog, if he has to." while Calvin Coolidge stated  "Any man who does not like dogs and want them about, does not deserve to be in the White House."

 

It was during this time that Capt. Walter Lingo, an American Breeder from LaRue Ohio, created his own type of Airedale called the Oorang Airdale. The name was derived from an extraordinary Airdale Champion named King Oorang 11, a utility dog for which there was no equal. King could drive cattle and sheep, retrieve waterfowl and upland game, tree raccoons and even bay mountain lions, wolves and bears. King even participated in a dog fight against one of the best fighting bull terriers of the time and killed his opponent.  His versatility also extended into working with the Red Cross, and serving in war as a member of the American Expeditionary Force stationed at the front in France.

 

In his quest to create the perfect versatile utility dog called the “King Oorang” Capt. Lingo imported the best Airedales the world had to offer. Field and Stream magazine called the Oorang strain of Airedales “the greatest utility dog in the history of the world”. In order to promote the King Oorang, Lingo went as far as to create a National Football League team called the Oorang Indians which played two full seasons in 1922 and 1923. Breeding and refinement of this super Airdale continued at his Oorang Kennel Company until his death in 1969, a point that pretty much marked the end of the true King Oorang Airdale.

 

The present day Airedale is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. In 1996 Disney produced a live action version of "101 Dalmatians" which starred Kipper, the heroic Airedale terrier who saves the puppies.  The original story, an animated version, featured an Old English Sheepdog in that role, but producers reportedly wanted to use an Airedale because of their trainability and their intelligence.  Whether in the home, on film or in the hunt, Airedales are intelligent and versatile dogs that have demonstrated their prowess in many events, including the show ring. Albert Payson, in an article for Nature magazine summed up the Airedale Terrier as follows: 

 

"He is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, an ideal chum and guard.  There is almost nothing he cannot be taught if his trainer has the slightest gift for teaching. Compact, wiry, he is 'all there'...A perfect machine, a machine with a brain plus."      

 

Appearance: 

 

The largest of the British Terriers, the typical Airedale male stands 23-24 inches at the withers with a weight of 55-65 lbs, with females being slightly smaller. There are however, much larger Airedales weighing up to 120 lbs and standing 26 inches plus called King Oorangs.  Due to their heroic exploits as messenger dogs following World War I, their excellent temperament and the ensuing rise in popularity, the Airedale became one of the most popular breeds in America during the early 1920’s. As a consequence, unscrupulous breeders seeking to capitalize on the high demand of Airedales disregarded the preservation of proper breed standards in order to cash in on their fame like status. Dogs of diminishing quality, widely varying sizes and notably inferior temperaments began to flood the American continent as these breeders farmed Airedales like livestock. This led to the production of Airedales that were notably more aggressive and giant in comparison to the standard, some weighing in excess of 120lbs.

 

The proper Airedale is a medium sized, squarely-built, muscular, and well-boned dog.  The skull is long and flat in appearance being very nearly the same length as the muzzle. The nose is black. The v-shaped ears are spaced widely atop the skull and fold gently either to the side or the front. The jaws are powerful with a vice like grip; the teeth are large, usually a bit overlapping; the top teeth close over the bottom and meet in a level scissor like bite. The lips are tight. The foreface is angular, strong and muscular with dark, small, not prominent eyes, full of terrier expression, keenness and intelligence. Light or bold eyes should be considered a fault and are highly undesirable.

 

The Airedale should stand square in appearance, with height at the withers nearly the same as the length from the front of the shoulder to the buttock while appearing alert, interested and inquisitive, with an intelligent, steady quality. The male Airedale should appear masculine and refined without appearing common, while females should have a definite feminine appearance without appearing fragile or fine-boned. The chest is deep with large powerful lungs, and well sprung ribs.

 

The back is level from withers to base of the tail. The tail is carried high giving the Airedale a proud, self-confident appearance. The AKC standard states “The root of the tail should be set well up on the back. It should be carried gaily but not curled over the back. It should be of good strength and substance and of fair length.” In the United States the tail is usually docked within five days of birth, while it is illegal to dock tails except for medical reasons within the United Kingdom. Tail docking is not required to meet breed standards.

 

The shoulders are solid with front legs that are perfectly straight, leading to small, round solid feet with thick pads and toes that are slightly arched, not turned either in or out. The thighs are long and powerful with a muscular second thigh; the stifles should be will bent, not turned either in or out. When viewed from behind the rear legs appear parallel to each other running from rump to ground.

 

The Airedales hard, dense and wiry coat lies straight and close, covering both the body and legs. The outer coat is wiry and stiff, while covering a shorter softer undercoat. Hair that randomly extends in all directions, the presence of soft undercoat extending out past the outer coat, or coats that are soft and curly are undesirable and to be considered faults.

 

Tan should dominate the head and ears with the ears being a slightly darker shade. The presence of darker markings on either side of the skull is permissible. Airedales have a black saddle color meaning the sides and upper parts of the body should be black or dark grizzle, while the legs up to the thigh, chest and underside should be tan. Often times a slight mix of red can be found within the black, or the tan color may extend up and onto the shoulders, neither is considered a fault. Some strains of the breed have a characteristic small white blaze on the chest.

 

Temperament: 

 

Like most Terriers, the Airedale Terrier, is a hunter bred to work independently of its master. This has created a dog that is not only highly intelligent but  also independent, strong willed, stoic and at times a bit stubborn. Ranking 29th in Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs”  they are above average in working and obedience intelligence. A sensitive and responsive breed, with the right training an Airedale can easily aspire to the highest levels of obedience training; many Airedales compete consistently at the elitist levels of competitive obedience, dog agility and Schutzhund. It is important that proper training is conducted in a positive manner by an owner that knows how to be “Alpha Dog”. It is important to steer clear of harsh or overbearing training methods as an Airedale will respond poorly to this regimen, either with all out refusal or by becoming mistrustful and refusing commands.

 

It important to understand that this is an intelligent breed that can perceive what is required of it very quickly, being overly repetitive by requesting the same action be performed over and over again will become boring for the Airedale and they may refuse to continue. Variety and creativity in training is the key to success with an Airedale. Keep the training fun and exciting, by changing the routine or taking a play-break to keep them engaged and stave off boredom. Being a terrier, the Airedale may challenge for dominance any family members he sees as submissive.  If the owner is passive in their demeanor, the Airedale may respond with willful disobedience; mind over matter, the Airedale won’t mind because the owner does not matter.

 

The true attribute of an Airedale is its great sense of humor. For those that can appreciate the unique Airedale personality and laugh along, the dog will become a unique and entertaining member of the family.  For those that do not appreciate a dog that will outsmart them from time to time, then owning an Airedale can be a taxing experience.

 

When someone asks me "What's it like having an Airedale?" I respond, "Imagine Robin Williams with four legs and a tail. Only crazier."  --Anonymous

 

Airedales are a self-confident breed, unafraid of people or other dogs, they tend to be more reserved around strangers than other terrier breeds, but should not act skittish or shy when approached by strangers.  Airedales are naturally affectionate, loving and loyal to their master and his family, and protective of his property. This is an exuberant breed that makes an excellent playful companion for their master by entertaining him with their clown-like sense of humor.  Airedales are large, strong and energetic dogs that because of their rough style of play may knock over a small child or elderly person. It is important that they be taught not to jump on people at a young age, and that they are well socialized with other animals and children.  Although not typically aggressive with other dogs, they sometimes try to dominate them. The Airedale is not a breed known to back down from a challenge either. If another dog enters their property or decides to challenge them the Airedale may respond aggressively to this perceived threat. In general they tend to get along with the other animals of the home, and it is again imperative that they are socialized early to avoid potential aggression toward other animals.

 

The typical Airedales will be more than happy to please you, so long as there is nothing more pressing in the environment such as a chipmunk, other dog or food. Although they are an extremely loyal breed, they are also avid hunters that are likely to chase small animals if they get the chance. A naturally lively breed, that tends to make an excellent house dog, they can become very rowdy or destructive if the owner fails to provide enough daily mental and physical exercise.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

Owning an Airedale Terrier, be it for a pet or for show takes a commitment to grooming on the part of the owner. The Airedale has a broken coat which will require regular hand stripping to maintain the harsh, wiry topcoat if the intent is on showing. This is an extremely tedious, monotonous, arduous and time consuming task. For this reason the majority of owners that do not show their Airedales will have them clipped short. While it is true that regular clipping will tend to ruin the coat in that it will soften and fade over time, it is considerably more easy than hand stripping the entire dog with a serrated edged groomers knife.

 

Broken-coated breeds such as the Airedale do not shed their coats in the same manner as smooth coated breeds, thus they are less likely to cause issues for people that are prone to dog allergies. The soft undercoat needs to be brushed fairly often, and the more often it is brushed the less shedding will occur.  The beard tends to collect dirt, food, and other grime and should be washed and cleaned with regularity.

 

Health Issues: 

 

Typically a very hardy breed, the average lifespan of an Airedale is about 11.5 years, which is in line with other breeds of similar size. As with all purebred dogs the propensity for congenital defects and health related issues is a reality. Most commonly the Airedale falls victim to various forms of cancer, in a study conducted by the Kennel Club (United Kingdom) the leading causes of death for Airedales were as follows: cancer (39.5%), old age (14%), urologic (9%), cardiac (7%).

 

Other healthy issues known to be associated with the breed include:

 

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Acral lick dermatitis
  • Hot spots 
  • Itchy or flakey skin.
  • Under/over-productive thyroid glands
  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Distichiasis
  • Entropion
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Von Willebrand's disease
     
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