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THE AIREDALE TERRIER
ALPHABETICALLY first in the sporting terrier group comes the Airedale—a sort of big strawberry on the top of the pottle, for he is by far the largest of his tribe, weighing double the average weight of his canine cousins. Indeed, there was a time when the question was debated whether the Airedale should not be grouped with the hound, and in the earlier days of his development he certainly had a very decidedly houndy look, as well as a houndy weight, and, if we may place reliance on the legends relating to his creation, a hound ancestry. For he is said to have emanated from a cross between an otterhound and a terrier — but whether Bull, Bedlington, Scottish, Irish, or “Working Yorkshire," and all have been mentioned in the conjunction, tradition cannot say with any degree of certainty.
The Airedale is a Yorkshireman, belonging to the valley of the river Aire, and Bingley, near Bradford, claims the honour of being his original birthplace. It is on record that a pack of otterhounds used to be kennelled at Bingley, which might account for one side of his pedigree ; and it is a fact that before Dalziel finally christened him “Airedale" (at the suggestion of several early exhibitors and breeders) he was known indifferently as the “Bingley,” the “Broken
that a pachhich might
haired” or the “Waterside” terrier, and first exhibited under the latter name, which correctly indicates his amphibious qualities, for, in the words of one of my correspondents, he can “dive like an otter and swim like a fish," and water-rat hunting and killing is one of his incidental occupations. Which proclivity would seem to point to his foresire's instincts, for where there are not otters to be found, water-rats might, peradventure, perform the offices of a substitute, and the Airedale's nippiness in catching them in water hint of hereditary accomplishment.
There is no doubt the Airedale was bred in the first instance for water work—to be a rough-and-ready companion, a sportsman by riverside and on the moor, able to snap a rabbit, and not above frivolling with a rodent to create a “divarshun.” Herein he displayed the terrier side of his character. His master was generally a working man in those early days, before the dog entered the realms of fashion ; sometimes a gamekeeper, who recognised his “all-round" qualities, but more often a miner or a mill-hand. You may read of individual specimens of this versatile breed whose accomplishments included marking game, like a pointer; following it, like a hound ; turning it out to the gun, like a spaniel ; retrieving it, like a retriever ; carrying letters, like a postman; bringing slippers, like a valet; playing with children, like a nurse ; and guarding property, like a mastiff. Take him all round, and your Airedale is hard to beat for general utility.
Almost as varied as his accomplishments was his coat : of all colours from a light tan to a jet black, of all textures from silky to wire-haired, of all lengths from smooth to shaggy. Moreover, his eyes and ears were often light and large, like a hound's, and as for “ type," you might have benched a dozen, each differing from the other completely, and no one to decide which was the correct thing to aim at.
From this primitive chaos the Airedale's sterling merits, and the skill and patience of his devotees have rescued him, and enabled the breed to win its way to a recognised and established position in the very first ranks of the developed twentieth century dog. Early in the 'Eighties Birmingham granted Airedales a class, and in 1886 the Kennel Club admitted them into the register. Even then they had not relieved themselves of their houndy taint, but with this advancement they received more attention, and the Airedale of to-day is as perfect a terrier in character and appearance as its size will admit. This should vary from 40 to 45 lbs., though cases have been known of dogs scaling 60. Such excess would, of course, place them out of competition, but its occurrence is a tribute to their ancestry, and if a terrier, as its name implies, is a dog that goes to ground, the Airedale cannot justify its generic title. Otherwise he is "all there." His coat has been equalised to a dense, hard, wiry texture; his colours definitely decided on-black or grizzled body, with tan head and legs, and certain recognised markings ; his eyes have grown small, dark, and keen: his ears no longer lollop, but have acquired the desired V-shape, the terrier carriage, and the size proportionate to that which we associate with the family; and his tail is docked in proper terrier fashion, though the Standard of Points still insists that it should not be carried "curled over the back”-a feat difficult of performance when it is only some 4 or 5 inches long.
I am indebted to Mr. Edward Wrightson Thorp, the Honorary Secretary of the Standard Airedale Terrier Club, for the following interesting notes on the variety, and his description of an “ideal ” Airedale :
It is a far-off cry since the days of the old waterside terrier, whose home was round about Bradford and the valley of the Aire (from which the dog now derives its name). No one could imagine that the shaggy-coated dog, which some twenty-five years ago accompanied the miner and the mill-hand in their leisure hours on ratting expeditions along the waterside, and, maybe, a little rabbiting on the squire's estate, would develop into the fashionable Airedale terrier of to-day. Probably no dog has undergone so great a change in its general appearance as the Airedale. The houndy expression, which used to be so marked a few years back, is less and less seen every year, and the efforts of Airedale terrier breeders to breed dogs uniform in colour and size, and full of terrier character, are being rewarded. The Airedale terrier is not only a dog good to look upon, but he is a very useful dog. He is first and foremost a genuine companion, his business-like style makes one feel that he is to be relied upon ; whether it is for right down hard work in the field of sport, or on the battlefield, for the Germans tested him in the late war in China, and did not find him wanting as an alert sentinel. My friend, Mr. T. P. Mallorie, of Waterside Kennels, Easton, U.S.A., who is a Yorkshireman, and the first to take Airedale terriers to America, informs me that on the other side of the Atlantic they are crossing Airedales with hounds to get a dog to hunt the bear. The result is a very useful and intelligent cross, which, unlike the hound, does not run in and attack his quarry, but gets round it, snapping at the bear, and so attracting its attention from the hounds until they get in and finish the work. Americans are of opinion that the Airedale in England is getting too short on the leg, and are very definite in their statement that they want no more toys." This reminds me of Mr. Alexander Walker's idea of the size of an Airedale : “He should be well on the legs to enable him to walk along the waterside, without having to swim, and to get over the stone walls in Yorkshire, which a short-legged dog cannot do without being lifted.” Mr. Walker was a Bradford man, and did a great deal for the breed in its early days. I have often heard it remarked by those who owned an Airedale that “they could not be without one," and I am not surprised, for the genuine affection he entertains for his master, together with the intelligence he displays, makes one love him.
MR. THORP'S IDEAL AIREDALE TERRIER.-The head being the first thing a judge looks at I will descrbe it. In a dog of about 44 lbs. weight it should not be less than 9 inches in length ; the skull and muzzle should be as nearly as possible in
equal proportions. The skull should be flat, except for the wee channel which runs up the centre from the stop to the occiput. The eye-bones should be nearly flat, not rounded; the jaws deep and strong, well filled up under the eyes and carrying plenty of whisker; the teeth white, strong, and level. I like the ears to be small and V-shaped, set well at the back of the head ; when at rest, a little side carriage, but when excited carried somewhat higher. The eyes should be dark, very dark, almost almond in shape, and not more than one and a half inches apart at the stop. The nose of course should be large and black. Now we come to the neck: this should be of moderate length and thickness, gradually widening to the shoulder, and slightly arched. The shoulders should be flat, and shaping well into the back; front should not be too wide, back short in proportion to size, ribs well sprung, brisket deep, and showing a graceful line towards the flank. Stern should show plenty of muscle ; tail set on high, and carried gaily ; the hocks well let down ; the legs with plenty of bone; the feet small, round, and very compact. The Airedale terrier being an animal intended to travel fast it is essential to have a good “roadway” between his legs, as in a horse ; if he possesses this he is almost certain to be a good mover. As to coat, I like the head, front, and quarters, including the legs and feet, to be dark orange tan, and the saddle black, or only slightly grizzled ; the texture of coat should be very hard, and lie flat. The man who has got a dog answering to the above description need not be afraid about getting a championship.
With this “ideal” dog in the mind's eye, I will proceed to give criticisms of the type as it exists to-day :
MR. THOMAS BAINES.—The Airedale is nearing perfection, with the exception of coat, which in many of our noted winners are wavy; many judges do not pay attention to this all-important point.
MR. EDWARD BLUNT.— The present type is a decided improvement, taken all round, on the breed as it was a few years ago, though some of the best specimens have a leaning to the small side. Size, with quality, is what is required, and sound coats.
MR. E. W. THORP.-So many breeders have a type of their own, which they will persist in perpetuating, with the result that we see many thick-headed, weak-muzzled, light-eyed, houndyexpressioned specimens on the show-bench--a state of things