The Chilean Fox Terrier is a breed of Terrier developed in Chile by crossing the British Fox Terrier with local Chilean dogs. Already quite popular in Chile, where it is the only native breed, the Chilean Fox Terrier is rapidly growing in popularity throughout the entirety of South America. The breed is most famous for its appearance in the popular comic strip Condorito, but it is also known for its great skill as a vermin exterminator and suitability for life as a companion dog. Although the breed has not yet achieved formal recognition with any major international canine organizations, it has a dedicated breed club determined to achieve this recognition. The Chilean Fox Terrier is also known as the Chilean Terrier, Chilean Rat Terrier, Chilean Rat Hunter, Ratonero, and Terrier Chileno.
The Chilean Fox Terrier was first developed in the 19th Century by crossing two very different groups of dogs, the Fox Terriers of Britain and native Chilean dogs. It is unclear exactly when this breed was first developed. Development probably started between 1790 and 1850, picking up steam as time wore on. The breed was well-established by 1870, although some development and outcrosses almost certainly continued for several decades. Although the Chilean Fox Terrier is less than 200 years old, its ancestors can be traced back several centuries.
Although the modern Fox Terrier can only trace its ancestry back a few centuries, it is descended from a much older lineage. Originally, Terriers were primarily kept by poor British farmers. Although it is unclear exactly when Terriers were first developed, they are thought to have existed since at least Roman Times, and probably earlier. Terriers were responsible for exterminating rodents and other small pests, a task at which these dogs excelled. Bred to be small enough to pursue quarry down into underground burrows, the name Terrier loosely translates to, “One who goes to ground.” In the 16th and 17th Centuries, the British nobility began to seriously hunt foxes for sport. Because English Foxhounds are too large to enter a fox’s burrow, these early fox hunters began using Terriers to continue the chase. Eventually, a distinctive Terrier was developed specifically for fox hunting which became known as the Fox Terrier. The Fox Terrier was a substantially different animal at the time that the first breed members were imported to Chile. The breed was almost always smooth-coated, and was considerably more variable in appearance. In fact, several modern breeds would all have been considered Fox Terriers at the time, including Jack Russell Terriers, Parson Russell Terriers, and Smooth Fox Terriers. The Fox Terrier became so popular with the British Upper Classes that a large number of these dogs were kept primarily as companion animals. Regardless of the individual dog’s primary use, virtually all Fox Terriers in the 19th Century continued to possess the vermin eradication abilities of their ancestors, and many used for fox hunting and companionship would also rid a barn or home of rodents.
It is not entirely clear how the Fox Terrier was introduced to Chile, but it was probably the result of Chilean students studying at British schools, British traders operating in Chile, and a small number of English and Irish immigrants. Shipping in the 19th Century is very different than it is now. In the best circumstances, a trip from the United Kingdom to Chile took several weeks, and the journey was both quite expensive and quite dangerous. This meant that very few individual Fox Terriers would have arrived in the country. The first Fox Terriers in Chile were almost certainly limited to the country’s major seaports, but they quickly spread to the surrounding rural areas. Although fox hunting has never become a popular sport in Chile, Chileans quickly discovered that Fox Terriers were still immensely useful. Just as their ancestors had been doing for untold centuries, Fox Terriers in Chile hunted down and killed countless mice, rats, and other vermin. The small size and incredibly active nature of these dogs meant that they were equally suited to life in both the country and the city. In rural areas the breed helped prevent starvation and monetary loss from agricultural pests, and in urban areas the breed helped prevent the spread of communicable and food born disease by killing off potential carriers. Because not enough individual Fox Terriers arrived to sustain a population, especially in more remote areas, they were heavily crossed with local Chilean dogs.
Because no breeding records were kept, it is impossible to say exactly what local Chilean dogs were used in the development of the Chilean Fox Terrier. Most sources seem to believe that Native American Dogs were primarily used. The dog had already been domesticated when the first Native Americans entered Alaska from Siberia, and even the earliest settlers in the New World possessed them. Dogs were especially common in the Andean region, where they served a number of very important religious purposes along with hunting, property guarding, and companionship. Not much is known for sure about Native American dogs prior to the European conquest of the Americas, because the few Native cultures that did possess writing generally did not write much about them, and the first European settlers cared about spreading Christianity and acquiring gold, not about Native Dogs. What is clear is that there were two primary types of Andean dog, a hairless type that was the ancestor of the modern Peruvian Inca Orchid and an older, more primitive type very similar to an Australian Dingo or Carolina Dog. If the Chilean Native dogs were anything like those breeds, they would have been medium –in-size, highly intelligent, extremely well-adapted to local conditions, and very good hunters.
Although rarely mentioned in the literature, a number of other European breeds almost certainly went in to the development of the Chilean Fox Terrier as well. Chile was first settled by Spanish and Basque immigrants in the 1500’s, but would go on to have perhaps the most diverse collection of European settlers in Latin America, with sizable numbers of German, Italian, French, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Dutch, Croatian, and Middle Eastern immigrants. All of these peoples were probably accompanied by their dogs, any of which could have gone into the ancestry of the Chilean Fox Terrier. Among the most likely candidates are the Bodeguero Andaluz, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, German Pinscher, Italian Greyhound, Spanish Water Dog, Pyrenean Shepherd, Catalan Shepherd, Podenco Canario, Ibizan Hound, Podengo Portugueso, and other breeds of Terrier.
The result of these Fox Terrier and local Chilean dog crosses became highly skilled vermin eradicators. The breed was so good at its job that it became known as the Ratonero, or Rat Hunter. The breed was very similar in appearance to the Fox Terrier, especially the Smooth Fox Terrier. There were some differences, including a slightly shorter face, somewhat smaller size, and more limited coloration. The Chilean Fox Terrier is also almost certainly better adapted to life in Chile’s incredibly varied environment than the Fox Terrier would be, likely as a result of the introduction of Native American dog blood. This adaptability is extremely important, because Chile contains some of the most varied terrain on Earth, including the world’s driest desert, some of the world’s tallest mountains, and vast stretches of rich temperate forests. The Chilean Fox Terrier also tends to have a somewhat less sharp temperament than most Terriers, although the breed does clearly exhibit a typical Terrier temperament. The small size of the Chilean Fox Terrier made it one of the most inexpensive dogs for Chileans to keep, and even the poorest families could usually afford to feed one of these dogs. At the same time, the breed’s association with the European aristocracy, especially that of the United Kingdom, made it prestigious enough for wealthy families to keep the breed as well. Because rodents prey equally on all social classes, the Chilean Fox Terrier was useful to all Chileans became one of the only breeds to be equally favored by all levels of Chilean society.
Initially, the Chilean Fox Terrier was most popular in the countryside which is where the majority of Chile’s population once lived. This situation changed drastically during the 20th and 21st Centuries, which have seen Chile become one of the most urbanized countries in both Latin America and the world. Many of these migrants to the cities brought their Chilean Fox Terriers with them, and the majority of the breed’s population is now almost certainly found in Chilean cities. The 20th Century also saw the development of countless technological improvements which made shipping and transport easier, safer, faster, and cheaper. Chile, which had once been among the most isolated nations on Earth, became closely connected to the global economy. Chile developed a new Middle Class, many of whom greatly preferred the Chilean Fox Terrier as a companion. At the same time, Upper Class Chileans began to greatly prefer foreign dog breeds. Such dogs were seen as being much more prestigious and desirable. The Chilean Kennel Club and Chilean dog shows were completely dominated by foreign breeds, and it does not appear that a single native Chilean breed has ever been granted formal recognition by a major canine organization, even within Chile. Almost no serious dog breeders paid any attention to the Chilean Fox Terrier, although it remained relatively popular. Chilean Fox Terrier breeders focused on breeding dogs for working ability and companionship rather than appearance conformation. The result was a breed that was quite varied in appearance but possessed excellent vermin eradication skills and an affectionate and loyal temperament. Although most breeders kept the dog pure, there was no official breed registry or stud book, and no one to recognize their dogs.
The history of the Chilean Fox Terrier dramatically changed in recent decades as a result of the comic strip Condorito. Created in 1949 by the Chilean cartoonist Rene Rios, Condorito depicts an anthropomorphized Andean Condor (Condorito is Spanish for, “Little Condor”) in a wide variety of humorous situations. Condorito owns a pet Chilean Fox Terrier named Washington, who talks in some strips but apparently cannot in others. In recent decades, Condorito has become extremely popular throughout Latin America, especially other Andean nations. The increasing fame of Condorito has greatly increased awareness of the Chilean Fox Terrier as well, both in Peru and foreign countries. Many children wanted to own the dog from Condorito, and many parents were willing to get them one. Beginning in the 1990’s, breed numbers in Chile began to consistently rise and a sizable number of Argentines, Bolivians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, and other nationalities began to import them. The breed’s growth greatly benefitted from the development of the internet, which made it cheaper and easier for breeders to advertise and sell their dogs in other countries. Although such popularity has proved disastrous for many breeds, it does not appear to have negatively impacted the Chilean Fox Terrier to a great extent.
The growing interest in the Chilean Fox Terrier convinced a number of long-time Chilean Fox Terrier breeders that their dog should be standardized and formally recognized. At the same time, many dog show exhibitors and conformation breeders took a newfound interest in the breed. These breeders decided to form a breed club, develop a written standard, and begin to standardize the Chilean Fox Terrier. Their organizational efforts were aided by the increasing availability of the internet, which allowed for cheaper and easier communication across great distances. Initial efforts began in the 1990’s but really picked up steam in 2004, when a group of breeders and owners began to work with the Asociacion Gremial de Criadores y Expositores de Perros de Chile (The Association of Chilean Dog Breeders and Exhibitors) to earn the breed full recognition. In 2007, the Club Nacional Terrier Chileno (CNTC) (National Chilean Terrier Club) was founded to promote and protect the breed. That same year a formal written standard was agreed upon and published. The standard is written in a format consistent with Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) rules because the CNTC’s eventual goal is full FCI recognition.
The initial response from Chilean Fox Terrier fanciers to the CNTC’s efforts has been overwhelmingly positive. The CNTC continuously gains new members and new breeders. The club now regularly hosts breed shows throughout Chile which are usually well-attended. Standardization efforts are also proving successful as more breeders are working toward developing animals which more closely match the written standard and are able to actively compare their dogs to others in the show ring. The breed is also benefitting from the fact that it is the only breed native to Chile and therefore attracts some nationalist pride. The breed’s first step towards full FCI recognition will almost certainly be full recognition with the Chilean Kennel Club. The Chilean Kennel Club has not yet granted full recognition to the Chilean Fox Terrier, and it is unclear whether the organization has plans to do so in the immediate future. However, the Chilean Fox Terrier is already one of the most popular and well-known breeds in Chile, and it would seem that full recognition will come eventually.
The future of the Chilean Fox Terrier looks quite secure. Breed numbers are consistently growing in a number of South American countries, especially within Chile. This dog is one of the only breeds to be adaptable enough to live comfortably and work across Chile’s varied environments and is quite common across the entire nation. Efforts to have the breed formally recognized are also progressing, which will only increase the breed’s worldwide awareness and popularity. It is unclear whether any breed members have been exported to the United States, but the CNTC hosts major international events in that country, especially the state of Florida which is home to a very large Latin American community. Like most modern breeds, the Chilean Fox Terrier is now primarily kept as a companion animal, especially in urban areas and foreign countries. Unlike most modern breeds, the Chilean Fox Terrier has consistently maintained its working ability, and many of these dogs still serve as vermin eradicators across Chile.
The Chilean Fox Terrier is very similar to its ancestors the Smooth Fox Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier, and most casual observers would probably not be able to distinguish between these breeds. However, this dog does have a unique appearance, and experienced Terrier fanciers would have little trouble telling these breeds apart after a quick examination. Part of this difference comes from the Chilean Fox Terriers great variability. Although standardization efforts have been progressing well, this breed still is considerably more variable in appearance than other modern Terrier breeds.
The Chilean Fox Terrier is small to medium in size. Most males stand between 12½ and 15 inches tall at the shoulder, with the ideal height being 13¾ inches. Most females stand between 11 and 13¾ inches, with the ideal height being 12½ inches. Male Chilean Fox Terriers in good condition usually weigh between 11 and 17½ pounds with the ideal weight being 14½ pounds. Females usually weigh between 8¾ pounds and 15½ pounds with the ideal weight being 12 pounds. This breed should be very squarely proportioned. Males are ideally the same length from chest to rump as they are tall from floor to shoulder, and females are ideally 10 inches long for every 9 inches tall. This is a very athletic and physically capable breed and should always appear as such. Chilean Fox Terriers are very well-muscled and physically fit dogs. This is a very sturdily constructed dog for a breed of this size, but a breed member should never appear stocky.
A significant number of Chilean Fox Terriers are born with naturally short tails, and such dogs are given preference in the show ring. When not naturally short, the tail of the Chilean Fox Terrier is traditionally (essentially always) docked after the first or second vertebrae resulting in a short stub. However, this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural tails of breed members that are not naturally bobbed are still quite short and usually carried upright with a curve.
The head and faces of the Chilean Fox Terriers are the breed’s most variable characteristics. The head and muzzles combine to form a triangular shape, broadest at the back of the skull and narrowest at the tip of the muzzle. The forehead of this breed is usually slightly convex, making it appear that the top of the skull slopes gently into the muzzle. The muzzle itself is medium to long in length, but it is usually somewhat shorter than that of the Smooth Fox Terrier. The muzzle should always appear powerful enough to quickly and easily kill rats. The lips of this breed are tight-fitting. The nose of the Chilean Fox Terrier is always black on tricolor and red dogs but is brown on chocolate dogs. The ears of the Chilean Fox Terrier are usually small and high set, but their shape is quite variable. Standards call for dogs that with ears that are forward facing and partially erect but with drooping tips, but individual dogs often have fully dropped, backwards facing, sideways-facing, rose-shaped, or a combination of two different ears. The eyes of the Chilean Fox Terrier are small and usually dark in color, although lighter eyes are acceptable on dogs with lighter coats.
The coat of the Chilean Fox Terrier is short, tight, and lustrous. The hair is somewhat finer on the ears, neck, inner and lower parts of the forequarters, and the backsides of the thighs. The proper coloration of the Chilean Fox Terrier is best described in the official breed standard. “Predominant color is white, which covers the whole body including neck and tail, and excluding head and ears. This zone presents black and tan, brown and tan and blue and tan coloring. Tan marks should distribute symmetrically above the eyes, both cheeks and inside ears. There is also a bicolor type which is rare that presents only black or tan coloring, always limited to the head and ears”. Occasionally, a Chilean Fox Terrier is born in an alternate color, such as solid black. Such dogs are ineligible in the show ring and should not be bred but otherwise make just as excellent companion or working dogs as any other breed members.
The Chilean Fox Terrier has a temperament that is very similar to that found in other Terrier breeds, although it does tend to be less sharp than most. This breed tends to be very loyal to its family, with whom it forms close bonds. Chilean Fox Terriers are usually very affectionate with their families, though they are generally not fawningly affectionate. When raised with a family’s children, most breed members do quite well with them. However, this may not be ideal family dog for very young children because not all breed members are especially fond of rough play. Proper training and socialization are very important to ensure that a Chilean Fox Terrier is tolerant of strangers, but this is not an aggressive breed. Most of these dogs make excellent and highly alert watchdogs, but they lack the size and aggression to make effective guard dogs.
Like most Terriers, Chilean Fox Terriers often develop dog aggression issues. Terriers of both sexes are naturally dominant and combatative with other dogs, especially other dogs of the same sex. Training and socialization will usually greatly reduce dog aggression issues but in most cases will not eliminate them entirely. The Chilean Fox Terrier and its ancestors have been bred to relentlessly hunt down and kill small animals for untold centuries. As a result, this breed is usually highly animal aggressive. Although most breed members will tolerate animals their own size or larger if they have been raised with them from a young age, putting a small animal such as a hamster or guinea pig in the presence of a Chilean Fox Terrier is essentially giving that animal a death sentence.
The Chilean Fox Terrier is considered to be highly intelligent. Most who have worked with this breed say that it very trainable and considerably easier to work with than most Terriers. However, all Terriers can prove difficult to train for novice owners. These dogs can be extraordinarily stubborn, and many are openly willful and disobedient. Most Terriers will do whatever they want to do, not what their owners want them too. These dogs will only respond to firm but calm owners who are able to maintain a constant position of dominance.
This is a very active little dog that requires a substantial amount of vigorous daily exercise. This breed should receive a minimum of between 30 and 45 minutes of exercise every day, although more would be preferable. Although Chilean Fox Terriers do not have extreme exercise needs, this is a breed that will take any exercise which it is provided. Without the proper exercise, these dogs will probably develop behavioral problems such as excessive barking, destructiveness, hyperactivity, over excitability, and aggression. Although this breed’s activity needs may cause problems in an urban environment, the Chilean Fox Terrier does adapt well to apartment life if its needs are met.
The Chilean Fox Terrier is a relatively low maintenance breed. These dogs should never require professional grooming, only a regular brushing. Other than that only those routine maintenance procedures which all breeds require such as nail clipping and teeth brushing are necessary. There do not seem to be any reports on the Chilean Fox Terrier’s Shedding. However, it is probably safe to assume that this breed does shed, but only to a light or average extent.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Chilean Fox Terrier, which makes it impossible to make any definite statements on the breed’s health. Fanciers seem to believe that his is an incredibly healthy breed. No known health problems have been identified in this breed which is also said to regularly live to advanced ages of 14 or more. The breed has likely benefitted from being bred primarily as a working dog, and also from having a sizable gene pool. None of this means that the Chilean Fox Terrier is immune from genetically inherited conditions, but it does mean that the breed suffers from fewer of them and at substantially lower rates than is the case with most purebred dogs.
Although skeletal and visual problems are not thought to occur at high rates in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although health studies have not been conducted for the Chilean Fox Terrier, a number have been on similar and closely related breeds. Some of the problems of greatest concern hound in those breeds include: