A very old breed of Terrier and the first breed in the fox terrier family to be given official recognition by The Kennel Club (circa 1875; breed standard 1876). The importance of this breed lies in the fact that a large number of modern Terriers are believed to have descended from it. As early as the 1500s, the Smooth Fox Terrier’s ancestors were conscripted into service throughout the British Isles fox and vermin hunting. Farmers valued these Terriers—or “earth dogs” as their name means in Latin—for their acumen in getting rid of unwanted animals that threatened their crops and livestock. These small dogs had to be strong and feisty, as they had to “go to ground” (chase the animal underground into its lair) and then “bolt” them (force their prey back out). A vivid description of how these dogs caught their prey is provided in a letter penned in 1576 (Dr. John Caius, author of as study of Britain’s dogs, to a Swiss naturalist): “Another sorte…which hunteth the fox and the badger…we call terriers; they creep into the ground and…make afrayde, nyppe, and bite the fox and the badger…[and] either tear them in pieces with their teeth, beying in the boxome of the earth, or…pull them penforce out of their…close caves.”
Smooth Fox Terriers originated in the 1700s, when they began to be more specifically developed by sportsmen for fox hunting. At that juncture in British history, hunting for sport had gained widespread popularity among the gentry class. Many sportsmen kept their own strains of Hounds and Terriers as hunting dogs. The Hounds would give chase to the fox while the hunters followed on horseback carrying their Terriers in a sack or box. As soon as the fox sought refuge underground, the Terriers would be let down to enter the foxes lair and do their work. A portrait from 1790 depicts a smooth-coated Fox Terrier named Pitch, belonging to sportsman Colonel Thornton which bears a striking resemblance to the modern Smooth Fox Terrier. Despite Pitch’s resemblance to modern Smooth Fox Terriers, the breed as we know it began to emerge in the 1860s, coinciding with their first forays into the dog show circuit at Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. Reliable pedigree records began to be kept for Smooth Fox Terriers, which allows modern fanciers to trace lineages from the present back to the 1860s with a good degree of certitude. Prior to that, any pedigree claims for Smooth Fox Terriers are unverifiable.
These early versions of the Fox Terrier varied widely in appearance and they were identified by that name solely for the nature of work they performed. These dogs were bred to suit the terrain and climate in which they lived and hunted, as well as the precise needs or preferences of their owners. These factors affected size, coat texture, shape, strength, and temperament. Color was either of no consequence or personal preference; Fox Terriers became categorized as either wire-coated or smooth-coated. Sportsmen often kept both varieties, using at least one of each on the hunt. In The Sportsman’s Cabinet, written in 1803, the author offers the explanation that the smooth-coated fox terrier was smaller and sleeker and used to go to ground first, paving the way and widening the hole, before retreating so that the larger Wire, who presumably was scrappier, could fit into the lair and finish the job.
Early breed historians thought Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers shared a common ancestry, but that theory has since been discounted. In fact, early breeders often crossed the two varieties to give the Wire more white color, a more classical outline and cleaner cut head shape. As a result of this mixing, today’s Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers are similar in size, shape, and temperament, differing mainly in the type of coat and shape of their head. The practice of interbreeding Wires and Smooths was discontinued in the early 1900s. The majority of modern breed historians believe that Wire Fox Terriers most likely descend from the Rough Coated Black and Tan Terriers of Wales, Derbyshire, and Durham. Smooth Fox Terriers are believed to be a combination of smooth Black and Tan Terriers (now the Manchester Terrier), Bull Terriers, Greyhounds, and Beagles.
Throughout the late 1800s, much variation existed and confusion abounded as to the proper size, appearance, and in the earliest days, even classification, of the breed. In 1862 when the first classes were held for Smooth Fox Terriers at the Islington Agricultural Hall, they were listed under “White and Other Smooth-haired English Terriers, except Black and Tan.” However by 1863 at the Birmingham show, they were classified as “Fox Terriers” and the name “Smooth Fox Terriers” became the permanent designation for the smooth coated variety. Disagreements among judges, exhibitors, and breeders as to proper size and look persisted until both the dog shows and the breed itself became better established. The advent of the Fox Terrier Club helped with honing the uniformity of Smooth Fox Terriers.
Smooth Fox Terriers grabbed the public’s interest after the 1863 National Exhibition in Birmingham. At this show, Old Jock, shown by Mr. Wootton, won first place and Old Trap (born 1859), owned by Mr. Balyly, won second. These first and second place winners constituted two of the four Smooth Fox Terriers that became the main foundation stock for the breed. Besides Old Jock and Old Trap, Tartar and Grove Nettle laid the foundation for the modern Smooth Fox Terrier strains. Both Old Jock and Grove Nettle came from Grove Kennel, run by Mr. Jack Morgan. The Grove and Belvoir Kennels were the frontrunners in the late 1800s when it came to producing quality Smooth Fox Terriers. Grove Nettle has been dubbed by breed historians as the “Fox Terrier Mother Eve”. Her name is likely to be found in most pedigrees if traced back far enough, and often more than once. In the Kennel Club Stud Book she is registered as sired by Grove Tartar and whelped by Stine. Old Jock was sired by Jock, owned by Captain Percy Williams, master of the Rufford; his dam was Grove Pepper, a black and tan Terrier, owned by Mr. Jack Morgan, huntsman to the Grove. Old Jock had several different owners; the last one was Mr. Murchison. Old Jock’s last dog show was in 1870 at the Crystal Palace. At ten years of age, he won second, beaten out of first by Trimmer, also owned by Mr. Murchison.
Old Trap was from the Oakley Kennel and Tartar was the foundation dog of the strain owned by Reverend Jack Russell. Tarter came from Mr. Stevenson of Chester’s kennel, well known in the 1870s. Tarter sired Tyke and Trumps, other notable Smooth Fox Terriers. Captain Lindoe bred Tarter, along with other well acclaimed Smooth Fox Terriers such as Rattler, Grip, Gipsy, and Trap. Captain Lindoe was a longtime and active member of the Kennel Club. In fact he was one of its earliest members, joining in 1873.
The Smooth preceded the Wire Fox Terriers in the show ring by over a decade. By 1869 Fox Terriers were surging in popularity, becoming “fashionable, amongst the fair sex especially” as dog historian Vero Shaw wrote in The Illustrated Book of the Dog. The year 1875 ushered in a steady increase in the numbers of Fox Terriers entered in Kennel Club dog shows. The Smooth Fox Terrier enjoyed a quick rise and widely held level of popularity.
Pushing their popularity forward was the formation of the Fox Terrier Club of the U.K. (FTC) in 1876, which included both the Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers. Mr. Harding Cox spearheaded the meeting which took place at his home at 36 Russell Square. Among the men that were present were Francis Redmond, a noted Smooth Fox Terrier breeder, Mr. J.A. Doyle, Mr. Fred Burbidge, and Mr. Robert Vicary, a Master of Foxhounds in Devonshire. Most who attended were sportsmen, so i the standard they wrote depicted a Terrier well capable of running with the hounds and going to ground. The original breed standard drawn up by the club has remained almost the same; the major change was the reduction of the male Fox Terrier’s show ring weight to eighteen pounds (from twenty pounds).
The FTC remains strong and active today, even though separate breed clubs for Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers were eventually founded. When the Wire Fox Terrier Association (WFTA) was formed in Great Britain in 1913, the genetic registries of the Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers were separated. The Smooth Fox Terrier Association of the U.K. (SFTA) came into existence in 1932; W. S. Glynn was the club’s first president.
Prominent Smooth Fox Terrier kennel owners and breeders of the late 1800s included Mr. Burbidge, Messrs. Clarke, and Mr. Luke Turner of Leicester who had the Belvoir strain which included Ch. Bockenhurst Joe, Ch. Olive, and her offspring Ch. Spice. Other key players in the early history of the breed were Mr. Gibson of Brockenhurst, (whose winning dogs were Tyke and Old Foiler), Mr. Murchison, and Mr. Francis Redmond. In 1876 Mr. Fred Burbidge’s dogs were hard to beat in the show ring. He had a reputation for being unwavering in acquiring any dog he set his sights on, which resulted in the purchase of great dogs for his kennel. Among his Smooth Fox Terrier acquisitions were Dorcas, Tweezers, Nettle, and the famed Hunton strain (Hunton Baron, Hunton Bridegroom, Bloom, Blossom, and Tweezers II). His 130 dogs were sold at auction in 1892 when Mr. Burbidge met an untimely demise.
Messrs. A.H. and C. Clarke founded a kennel about the time Mr. Burbidge’s closed. Their kennel produced Roysterer who sired Result; Result was considered the best of his breed and his daughter, Rachel, was the best female Smooth Fox Terrier of her time.
Mr. Luke Turner, a prominent breeder and owner, brought the best traits out of what became the outstanding Belvoir strain; at the time he took over, they had been sorely neglected. Mr. Luke Turner acquired Belgrave Joe, who was sired by Belvoir Joe, when the dog was “running about the streets of Leicester utterly unappreciated”, according to Mr. Jacquet in The Kennel Club History and Work (1905). Mr. Turner also bred Rev. T. O’Grady’s Hognaston Dick, who was the great-grandsire of New Forest and Vesuvian. New Forest and Vesuvian were fine breed specimens, according to Mr. Jacquet, “whose lines about represent everything of note in Fox Terriers.”
Mr. Turner’s Belgrave Joe was born in 1868 and died at nineteen years of age on January 13th, 1888; he was considered one of the best, and one of the last, of the renowned Belvoir strain of Fox Terriers. Many noteworthy specimens of the breed descended from him; Belgrave Joe himself sired the famous Smooth Fox Terrier Champions Olive, Brokenhurst Joe, Spice, and Tom. Belgrave Joe was so revered that his skeleton is in the Members Room of the Kennel Club, as per Mr. Turner’s wishes. Near the dog’s skeleton is an inscription which reads, in part: “The celebrated Smooth Fox Terrier, Belgrave Joe…is justly described as one of the strongest pillars of the Stud Book in connection with his breed. Restored in the year 1903 by the following members of the Kennel Club: S. Castle, A.H. Clarke, A.W. Emms, W.Glynn, W.S. Glynn, F. Redmond, J.C. Tinne out of respect to the memory of their great personal friend, Luke Turner.” Clearly both Mr. Luke Turner and Belgrave Joe left their marks on the history of the Smooth Fox Terrier breed.
In the early years of the 1900s, Mr. Desmond O’Connell played a strong role in developing and promoting the Smooth Fox Terrier. He was a knowledgeable and well respected breeder, judge, and authority on Fox Terriers. In 1904 he was a Smooth Fox Terrier judge at a show in Toronto and also that year at the Western Province Kennel Club’s show in South Africa. He delivered lectures while in Capetown on Fox Terriers to breeders in Cape Colony. In 1905 he was the judge-elect for the Kennel Club Dog Show for Smooth Fox Terriers. His Ch. Oxonian was the outstanding sire of the first half of the 1900s. Mr. O’Connell bred him from Redmond and Vicary dogs and some Burbidge, and Clarke—all well renowned strains of Fox Terriers.
Ch. Oxonian was a fine breed specimen, but the first time Mr. O’Donnell showed him, the Smooth Fox Terrier went unnoticed by Judge J.C. Tinne. Mr. O’Donnell was so disheartened, he sold him to Mr. Frank Reeks for 40 Lira. Soon after that, Oxonian became a Champion and, to add to Mr. O’Donnell’s comeuppance, Mr. Reeks earned over 1,400 Lira in stud fees off the dog.
Smooth Fox Terriers were first brought to the United States in 1879, a few years ahead of the Wire Fox Terrier. The AKC recognized the Smooth Fox Terrier in 1885 and the parent club, the American Fox Terrier Club (AFTC), was formed in 1885 also, adopting the English breed standard verbatim. The AFTC was the first specialty club to become a member of the AKC, which it did in 1888. Cricket was the first Fox Terrier to be registered by the AKC in 1885. It was not until a full 100 years later, in 1985, that the AKC officially separated Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers into separate breeds; the breed standards for both are still maintained by the AFTC.
The late 1880s were a boom time for importing Smooth Fox Terriers to the United States, so much so that one dog breed authority characterized it as a kind of game of one-upmanship, where the latest import was probably going to win first prize. Mr. August Belmont and Mr. John E. Thayer were key players in creating this wave of Smooth Fox Terrier imports. Well connected in the world of dog breeding, these men were able to import the finest specimens. Some of Mr. Belmont’s outstanding importations were males Lucifer (solid white), Dusty Trap, Bacchanal, and female Smooth Fox Terriers Diadem and Marguerite. In the 1890s Mr. Belmont’s Blemton Victor II (whose parents were Dusky Trap and Verdict) was considered the best of the American bred Smooth Fox Terriers. Mr. Thayer imported Dona and Richmond Olive, the latter considered the top female of the breed of her time, and Richmond Dazzle in 1887. Mr. Thayer also owned Belgrave Primrose, whom he bought from Warren Kennel.
These imported Smooth Fox Terriers provided strong foundation stock for the early kennels in the U.S., which led to an abundance of quality strains of American bred dogs for the show ring. American kennels that played key roles in this development in the late 1800s and early 1900s were the Warren and Sabine Kennels and, to a lesser extent, Texas and Vickery Kennels.
The oldest of these, the Warren Kennel, was started prior to 1880 by Messrs. Lewis and Mr. Winthrop Rutherfurd. Bowstring and Royal were two winning dogs from Warren Kennel. Mr. Rutherford won the cup at New York for the best team of four; all four Smooth Fox Terriers he bred himself. He was the only dog fancier of his time who could make such a claim. The Sabine and Warren Kennels dominated the show bench in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with many high quality dogs bred in the U.S. While Sabine had more Champions, Warren Remedy, American bred Smooth Fox Terrier, was one of the best breed specimens of that era.
Another notable Smooth Fox Terrier in the United States was Ch. Nornay Saddler. He was bred in the U.S. by Mr. Frank Coward and sold to Mr. James M. Austin of Wissaboo Kennels, Old Westbury, Long Island, New York. Nornay Saddler won Best in Show in America fifty-five times, before retiring in October 1940. He has left his mark on Smooth Fox Terriers in the U.S., having sired twelve sons and daughters who became Champions.
The heyday for Smooth Fox Terriers has passed, but breed fanciers still enjoy acclaim in the show ring. However, they have never taken off as popular household pets in the United States, despite their strong presence in media culture. The Smooth Fox Terrier became the most widely recognized purebred dog in the U.S. in the 1920s, when RCA used a picture of a Smooth Fox Terrier, for its logo. The dog, named Nipper, is shown with head cocked to one side, as though he is listening to a record player. In addition, Smooth Fox Terriers have appeared in numerous commercials, TV shows, and movies.
Not the most popular breed, according to the AKC registration statistics from 2010, the Smooth Fox Terrier is 110th position out of 167 breeds. In the U.K. the Smooth Fox Terrier is considered a “Vulnerable Breed” (a title given to breeds registering under 300 puppies a year) due to the consistently low number of registrations for the breed each year with the KC. In 2010 only 155 Smooth Fox Terriers were registered. Although, the modern Smooth Fox Terrier is rarely used for hunting, the breed can be found serving in the fields of search and rescue and drug detection. They also work as service dogs for the disabled and participate in and excel at obedience and agility competitions.
Smooth Fox Terrier males should be no taller than 15 ½ inches when measured from ground to withers; females should be a bit shorter, proportionately. The length of the dog’s back, measured from the withers to the root of the tail should be no longer than 12 inches. The head should measure between 7 and 7 ¼ inches. A male dog with such measurements must weigh 18 pounds for dog show competition; a female two pounds less (give or take a pound either way).
Balance and proportion are key to the look of the Smooth Fox Terrier. The height and length proportions mentioned above are points of consideration for balance, the ideal would be when height and length are the same. Note that height and length, however, are approximations, while head measurements should be exact. The head and back should also be in proper proportion to each other, as well as the skull and foreface.
The color of the Smooth Fox Terrier’s coat is mostly white; other color markings can be anything other than brindle, red, or liver. Their coat hair is abundant; they should have hair on their bellies and undersides of the thighs as well. The Smooth Fox Terrier coat is hard and dense, and at the same time smooth and flat.
They have flat, somewhat narrow skulls that gradually diminish in width toward the eyes. While they have very little stop, in profile view they have more of a dip between the forehead and the top jaw than the Greyhound. The skull and foreface are about the same length. The foreface tapers from the eyes to the muzzle; the muzzle tapers toward the black nose. The points of their upper incisors are either outside of or slightly overlap the lower teeth.
Smooth Fox Terriers have round, deep set eyes that display keen intelligence and a lively spark. Their dark eyes are somewhat small; eye rims are also dark. They have small, V shaped ears, with the ear fold sitting above the top line of the skull. Their ears drop forward toward their cheeks; the cheeks are not full.
Smooth Fox Terriers’ necks are muscular but not throaty, widening toward their long, sloping shoulders that show a clear cut at the withers. They have short, level backs without any slackness. Their deep chests are not broad; the foreribs arch moderately and the back ribs are deep and well sprung. Their loin is muscular with a slight arch. The tail is set high, carried jauntily, without curling over their backs. If the tail is docked, three quarters of the natural tail should remain.
The dog’s forelegs are straight when viewed from any direction. The elbows hang perpendicular to the body and, when moving, swing parallel to their sides. When in motion, their fore and hind legs are carried straight forward. Their hindquarters are strong and muscular; their thighs are long, stifles curved without turning either in or out. The hocks are well bent, near to the ground; when viewed from behind they are parallel to each other. Their round feet are compact, not large; they have hard soles with moderately arched toes that do not turn in or out.
Smooth Fox Terriers are playful, friendly, and high-energy dogs. In fact, according to the Kennel Club, they are “one of the most lively and alert of terriers.” They are affectionate, loyal, and protective of their families. If you and your family are not energetic, active people, enthusiastic about incorporating your pet into your daily routine, this may not be the right breed for you.
Socialize your Smooth Fox Terrier as a puppy with children and people of all ages, because Smooth Fox Terriers love to participate in family life and to spend time with you. Smooth Fox Terriers are great with children and can be playful companions, but like any dog breed, should be supervised with young ones. In addition, children should always be taught to be respectful of any dog’s boundaries. This breed enjoys human companionship and is outgoing toward people, and therefore will not be happy if left alone all day, most days.
While the breed loves people, it is less amenable to other animals. Smooth Fox Terriers need to be socialized as puppies with other dogs and any household cats. Non-canine pets may not be safe with a Smooth Fox Terrier in the household because of the dog’s strong hunting instinct, especially small animals like gerbils or rabbits. Please note that knowing that Smooth Fox Terriers will chase small animals means making sure they are never off leash in an unenclosed location. They tend to chase cats, but if socialized from an early age with household cats they may coexist with them in peace. This breed tends to be aggressive with other dogs and will not back down from a fight if challenged or threatened, regardless of the other dog’s size. Smooth Fox Terriers should be socialized from puppyhood with other dogs; if you want two dogs, it is better to if they are of the opposite sex, to avoid dominance issues.
Smooth Fox Terriers are terrific watch dogs because, even though they are medium sized dogs, they have a big dog bark and are protective of their people. They will give a good warning if a stranger is approaching your home. However, that is as far as it goes, since they tend to be friendly toward humans.
Smooth Fox Terriers are inquisitive and love to explore their environment. This quality makes them fun and lively; it also means you need keep your dog’s environment safe by “dog proofing” your home and if you have an enclosed yard, make sure fencing is secured below ground and at the top. They do enjoy running loose, so try to provide opportunities for them outside and off leash in a safe, enclosed area. It is also important to supervise your dog when in the yard. Note that they are fast and enthusiastic diggers, so if you have a garden you will need to make sure your Smooth Fox Terrier does not have access to it. Unless, of course, you need your soil tilled.
This breed needs a lot of physical exercise, including tasks to perform. With their high level of energy, they are always game for a long, brisk walk, a jog, or a run. They need a total of an hour of exercise every day, including a daily pack walk on a leash. These dominant and energetic dogs require mental and physical exercise, as well as social stimulation; otherwise they may become bored and frustrated, which could lead to destructive behavior.
Smooth Fox Terriers are of average intelligence and so are neither particularly easy, nor difficult, to train. They desire to please their people, but they are also bred to be independent thinkers; obedience training can be challenging because of their independence and stubborness. You must be a strong and consistent leader with your dog. Set routines, rules, and limits for your dog and enforce them, showing confidence and strength. Training and correction should always be positive, but firm. If you are not a strong leader with your Smooth Fox Terrier, the dog will run your home and display destructive behaviors.
Smooth Fox Terriers can adapt well to apartment living, provided they get enough daily exercise. They are also suited to living in a home with a yard or out in the country, as well. (Although the KC does caution, somewhat tongue in cheek, not to let this dog loose “on a hillside covered with sheep”)!
Small Fox Terriers are low maintenance as far as grooming. Their coats need trimming once a year. They can be brushed only once a week as they do not shed a lot. However during peak shedding times (twice a year) you may want to brush them more often to remove hair that will otherwise wind up on your floor and furniture. Brush your dog’s coat with a firm, bristle brush and bathe only when needed. Between baths, their close fitting coat can be given a quick rubdown with a damp towel to remove dirt. Nails need to be trimmed; teeth should be checked and cleaned on a regular basis.
Smooth Fox Terriers are a healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, with some living till age nineteen. No major genetic problems have occurred in significant percentages of Smooth Fox Terrier populations.
Health concerns that may affect this breed are: