by Mountaineer 1886
Sir, The dormant spirit of an old fell hunter has been keenly awakened by the remarks of your correspondents relative to the merits of the Elterwater terriers, which breed, I am informed, is nearly extinct, Thirty years ago Mr. Robinson, of Elterwater, kept a pack of rough coated hounds equally hood at otter or marten cat. the summers were devoted to pursuit of the “fishmonger;” in the winter the marten cat was our game. I can endorse every word of your correspondent as to the gameness of the terriers that followed Tom Myers (the huntsman) over crag and fell. The origins of the breed is rather confused, and not to be relied on; “Ye Ken John Peel, I reckon?-one of his sort,” was the usual Westmoreland reply to the inquiring stranger.
Let me try to describe one of the best terriers that ever went to ground after letter, badger, fox, or marten. Old Mart weighed 12lb. or 14lb.; long-backed, broken-haired, with black back and tan legs ; a small head, with powerful jaws; ears small and tulip shaped-so small that they almost looked as if they had been cropped. Then there was Wasp, out of Mart by a dog that followed the Patterdale Hounds. Wasp was low set, of a blueish color, smaller her mother-in fact, she reminded of of a diminutive Bedlington. Then we had a larger terrier, broken-haired, which i always fancied had a touch of the bull in him. One who has hunted on foot with them for 10 years, and is now nearly “shelved” may be pardoned for a little senile egotism.
Let me relate the pluck of these three little beauties. Returning home from a marten hunt from Scot Sandal, our terriers marked, and went to ground under Helen crag, which consist of large boulders and loose stones. We were not long waiting before a scrimmage was taking place far beneath us. To get to them away was useless; the languor of removing the rubbish was immense. With air of some willing assistance after wounding all night, we came upon the terriers with their foe, a badger. They had fought the badger for more then 10 hours. Poor Mart was lifted out almost lifeless, and never recovered her assailants bites; Pincher lost his nose, and his frontisppiece was for ever marked ; while little wasp seemed to have escaped with few scares. Rydal Head and Helvellyn have been the scenes of many a joyous hunting day after marten cat and foul mart. “Forsitan hae olim meminisse juvabit.”
I brought down to North Devon a pup of wasp’s she did not disgrace the courage of her progenitors. Many an otter has she tackled on the river taw, and on my fishing excursions my faithful companion has aroused me by her fighting an otter under the banks and after a time otter and terrier would bolt into the river, Vic holding on and going under water with the otter until breath failed. I regret to say that old age has told its tale, and she has departed- a game and faithful companion for fourteen years.
The Elterwater terriers had plenty of go in them, and no shaking or trembling at your heels, in frost and snow, like so many of the terriers trembling at your heels of present day. would that i could get one of the right sort now!