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THE WIRE-HAIRED FOX TERRIER.
MUCH contained in the preceding chapter is applicable to the wire-haired fox terrier, for in colour, make, and shape, the two varieties ought to be identical, though the one has a smooth, close coat, the other a hard, close coat, somewhat rough. Although the Fox Terrier Club distinguishes this dog, with doubtful propriety. as the “rough fox terrier,” I prefer to recognise him by his proper title, which heads this chapter.
The coat of the wire-haired fox terrier should be hard and crisp, not too long, neither too short, but of a tough, coarse texture, finer underneath, all so close and dense that the skin cannot be seen or even felt, and, if possible, so weather and water resisting that the latter will stand on the sides like beads, and run off the whole body as it is said to do, and does, off a duck’s back. There must not be the slightest sign of silkiness anywhere, not even on the head. A curly jacket, or one inclined to be so, is much better than a silky one. Indeed, some of the best coated dogs of this variety I have seen, have 0r had more than an inclination to be curly—the crispest hair on the human head has usually a tendency to be so, and the straight hair is the softer and finer. There should be some amount of longish hair on the legs, right down to the toes, and when there is a deficiency in this respect, one may be pretty certain that some so-called “foreign” or smooth coated strain is in the blood of the animal so handicapped. In attempting to produce straight coats, modern breeders have gone to extremes, and, according to their nature, produced fine ones, of a texture like silk almost; these are, again, likely to be thin, and quite inadequate to keep out the water and cold. Seldom do we see a wire-haired terrier with so close and hard a jacket as some of the otter hounds possess, or even owned by the best hard-haired Irish and Scottish terriers. Straighter they may be, but harder seldom, and what, indeed, is straightness but a useless beauty mark?
In the kennels of the Kendal Otter Hounds there was a black and tan hound called Ragman which ran nine seasons and possessed the best water and weather resisting coat I ever saw on any dog. Without being long enough to assist him as a bench hound, it was simply perfect for the purpose for which it is required—~—protection from weather and water. Take down the ribs, along the back, under the belly, on the head, anywhere, it was all there, hard as bristles, a little softer and closer underneath than near the surface; and I have seen that good hound swim for two, or three, or four hours maybe, come out on the bank, shake himself, so throw the water off, roll in the meadow, and in a minute he would be as dry as the proverbial board. His coat inclined towards curliness, and, this notwithstanding, is the description of jacket that ought to be found on all wire-haired terriers. I know of none at the present day that possesses so good a one.
In judging this variety of terrier I should, without hesitation, throw out or disqualify every dog with a soft coat. The class should be for “wire-haired” terriers, the Fox Terrier Club notwithstanding, and anyone giving an award of any kind to one that is not as described does a triple injustice, for he dishonours the description, introduces a bad type, and proves his own incompetence. Ihave dwelt thus long on coat because therein lies the whole difference between the two great modern types of fox terriers.
The question is often asked how to make a soft
coat hard, and in reply to this it is as repeatedly stated that keeping the dog in a cold kennel will have the effect required. This is certainly not the case; cold and exposure will thicken the coat and make it closer and warmer for its owner; but outwardly it becomes less hard and less crisp to the hand—more flannelly, and thus affording greater protection to the dog. This close, warm, softish, flannelly jacket is to be found on all dogs indigenous to cold climates. Those of the North of Europe, the Arctic regions, &c., form cases in point. A “soft coated wire-haired” terrier, if one may be permitted the use of such an “ Irishism,” is more likely to have its outward jacket hardened by being kept in a warm place than if kennelled in a cold one; but at the same time much of the so-called under-coat will possibly disappear, the jacket becoming hard and comparatively open. These remarks, though perhaps contrary to accepted opinions, have when carried out in practice been found quite correct.
From the time Dame Juliana Berners wrote of terriers, the varieties, rough and smooth, have grown up side by side, one man preferring the one, another the other, just as is the case now. The smooth variety has always been the more numerous —latterly the more popular, because the smarter, the more thoroughbred looking animal, and besides, on wet days he does not take so much dirt into the house. As to gameness, Jack is as good as his master, but by reason of the denser covering to his skin, the wire-haired terrier can stand the cold, inclement weather of our north country climate better than his cousin; still, after all, a cross-bred dog is best for the really arduous work required with foxhounds hunting in a mountainous district, and with otter hounds.
Some old engravers and painters have given us portraits of wire-haired terriers, black and tan, blue grizzle and tan, pepper and salt, and of various shades in red and fawn and yellow, as well as of the present time orthodox white and marked with fawn, or black and tan. Modern fancy has deve-V loped the black and tan into a new variety, whilst the others, of whole colour, equally useful in every way, have, except in a few instances alluded to later on, gone to the wall. In various districts of North Durham and Yorkshire the wire-haired terriers appear to have been produced in greatest numbers, but Devonshire also had them in the form they were wont to be used by the Rev. John Russell, a name so familiar to every sportsman throughout the many countries where the English language is spoken. The late “Robin Hood,”