by Arthur Heinemann June 13th 1908
Terriers, those keen little auxiliaries and addicts of every pack of foxhounds and otterhounds, are at the present moment attracting that attention that is due to their naughty deeds above and below ground, and more especially the latter. And when i say terriers, i don’t mean those monstrosities of the modern show bench, but real workmen, whose welcome task it is to evict fox for their tall kennel-mates, who are baying impotently at the mouth of anon earth, to which wily old Uncle Brock has supplied the latchkey, or to bolt from some wet drain or hollow pollard the wide-wandering otter on whose trail rough hound and smooth hound alike have been busy for miles from river bend to river bend, or, most crucial test of all, to find and corner that most formidable of earth dwellers, the badger, in his subterranean labyrinth. Comparisons are odious and unnecessary in this connection, of only those owners of show terriers were content with the cups and prizes to carry off at the Crystal Palace or elsewhere.
But there are many who would have us, believe that these same terriers are as good in their work, as their less ornamental, but certainly more useful cousins, the working terriers, who lay claim to no consideration at the hands of the Kennel Club judges, preferring the honorable if disfiguring scars of battle to a cleverly faked and trimmed coat. Far be it from me to say that no show bench terrier can go to ground and do his work there; but i do say that the majority of them are bred on such leggy lines that they cannot get to ground, even if they have the needful pluck to do into the dark, and that the majority of them have lost their hereditary instincts as workers, owning perhaps to the natural distinction of their breeders to risk those disfigurements (from the show point of view) of jaw or ear that fox or otter, but badger more espeically, so often inflict on the terrier who has the temerity to intrude on his seclusion and invade the privacy of his subterranean stronghold.
If you want terrier to show you sport, there is only only one line to breed on, and that is “merit in work”. Workers will beget workers, and when you have secured this first desideratum, then such other points as coat and appearance shall be added unto you; the mere fact that a dog is a worker ensures his size being correct, so there is no need to worry about that point. By all means put your bitches to your best-looking dog, but only provided he is a workman; but, as one who has for years bred terrier to provide sport, more especially in Badger-Digging, the writer has found his purpose best served by using the dog who is best in his work of appearances, who might be against him. Many modern working terriers have Skye or Dandie Dinmont cross, which always reveals itself in soft silky coats and quarrel some dispositions , but to my mind the only admissible outcross with the wire-haired fox-terrier is a faint cross of bull, which gives the valuable qualities of nose and doggedness, power to wind up the quarry, and preserving tenacity to lie up to him him until pick and spade, biscay and shovel lay bare the scene of conflict. One must admit it is very difficult to breed very uniform terriers of an exact type, but it is possible, as i have for years proved, to breed terriers with the same gameness and working instincts as their ancestors for generations are frequently recurring in my kennel. Perhaps the great secret in breeding working terriers is to avoid extremes; pygmies like ferrets are useless as giants like giraffes; a terrier should be high enough on the leg to surmount such obstacles as long heather, banks, rocks, &c., yet not too high on the leg to get to ground, A terrier that has to be carried in a pannier to the scene of the operation is ludicrous a sight as one who, when he gets there, cannot go in. Crooked-Legged, wide chested terrier, however low to the ground, cannot thread their way through a badger’s talliers as well as a narrow chested, straight-legged dog, eve though he is higher on the leg.
This very year letters have reached me containing such disparaging remarks as the following “I can’t stand the present type of show terrier, all legs”; “I am anxious for a terrier without any of the modern and useless Fox-terrier in it”; “Show terriers are no use for work, no Pluck and constitutions, and no “brains”. (These two latter remarks from a Lady who keeps twenty to thirty terrier for sport and work only). Another writes, “I don’t want a dog anything like the present pattern show terrier”. “I have no use for that long legged and brainless dogs at present shown on the bench” is the remark of one who has seen the deal of terrier work in the deep and difficult earths of Cornwall. At first sight it appears somewhat of an anomaly that Peterborough and Reigate Hound Shows should have improved the foxhound, though even to this there are one or two dissentients, but that fox-terrier shows should have irretrievably deteriorated the fox-terrier. But the explanation is quite simple. Fox hounds every hunting season are busy developing their natural instincts, while show terriers, too valuable, as a rule, to work thereby allow these same instincts to atrophy. Few modern Irish terrier could get into a earth. or draw, and it is lamentable to see such erstwhile genuine breeds of working terriers as Dandy Dinmonts and white West Highland terriers going the way of all show terriers. and becoming useless to work. I must expect Bedlingtons, who are certainly red hot, but too hot to do much good in a big earth. It was pitiable to see the exhibition of utter incompetence to work a badger above or below ground that three well breed Dandies made this year in Devonshire, after hearing their proud possessor discourse on the gameness of the breed, and its structural adaptability for underground work, and equal sad to listen to the excuses made for the three white West Highland terrier bu their disappointed owner who they failed to fulfill the expectations aroused bu their success on the show bench and relation to once real workers. One dog disliked the crowd, another disliked the thud of the tools, another was jealous of other dogs and work except alone, and another even objected to the roots at the mouth of the earth, and brambles that put him off his work! Yet there are still people who want classes at shows for their varieties of working terriers, and are anxious to form a club to breed working terriers on certain lines.
A Fox will go where a badger can’t get; he is half as tall again, but then he is straight on the leg and narrow chested. It is a very common fallacy to depend on a dogs weight. Weight is no criterion whatever, and has proven a snare and a delusion to many shape or natural conformation is the thing. It is a big dog-fox that weights 16lb., yet who would buy a terrier his size to go to ground? A badger will weigh perhaps 25lb or 35lb., yet who would buy a terrier his weight to go to ground?
Another point the show men aim at is a long and so-called punishing head, yet the badger, than whom no other underground animal has more powerful jaws, is surely a better type of skull to take than the weaker longer headed fox? The otter. too, is no mean adversary when it comes to biting, yet he has a piggy head. Colour, too, plays an important part of the terrier-breeding, for hounds can more easily distinguish a white or lightly marked terrier than a whole-colored one, and are less apt to worry their friend in mistake for their enemy, when fired to fancy at the kill, he the quarry fox, otter or badger.
Even white terriers smothered in blood and mud, tombing out among the expectant pack close-locked with their quarry, only too often fall victim to the undiscriminating hounds, as, alas! I have before no found to my cost the death of an otter being dearly purchased by the loss of a valuable terrier. So much then, for size, shape and color, but a working terrier must possess other qualities. What marking hounds are to a pack of Otterhounds, what road hounds are to a pack of Harrier, so are finding terrier to a team of Badger digging terrier. Unlike the pet, they are, as a rule. made not born, though occasional exception occur to my mind. In a small earth your terrier finds his badger at once, but in a veritable maze of galleries he may easily miss him. I once bolted a fox from a badger-earth, and saw little ruby coming out, when all of a sudden she winded something, stood up on her hind legs close to the mouth of the hole, and bayed two badger who were on the ledge above her head all the time. Many terriers will scamper through an earthy and come out with “Blank” written on their smug faces, though Brocky is there all the time. Others will pretend to draw an earth, but tae jolly good care not to find, if a badger is the tenant; others , again, find all right, and tell you all about it, but directly the badger retires to his ingots sanctuary, they are utterly at fault. To do any good in a big earth, our terrier must never leave the badger to his own devices, or he will bury himself, or , rather, wall himself in, when the best terrier in the world will not be able to locate him. Then, too, he must throw his tongue to where to dig. And so it comes about that you don’t want a terrier too hard, or you cannot tell where to dig, if Bedlington-like he closes and says nothing, thought to bolt an otter, a hard terrier often comes useful. Hard terriers are a sore thorn in fox hunters flesh, for no fox can stand their onslaught. Such terrier should never be out in under any circumstances until there is abundant evidence that the sole Tennant of the earth is a badger. A terrier that will tackle a badger will always, or almost always, tackle an otter, and always a fox-at least, that is my experience – and terriers who don’t take kindly to badger will very often turn out nailers to fox.
A badgers way of charging headlong and gruffing terrifies many terriers, to say nothing of their strange scent; whereas a fox seems to a dog a more natural enemy. Cat killing and dog fighting are no part of a terriers training, besides getting one into bad odor with one’s neighbors, and many village champion has turned tail when a badger charged him. Ratting is all right, but one of the best i ever saw to a badger mumbled his rats; he had soul above them, i suppose. Rabbiting is dangerous, for it teaches your terrier to speak to them underground . There have been unfortunate days when terriers marked a rabbit in the badgers absence, but i also remember one day when i threw three rabbits out of the trench just ripped up and left by the terriers, who had gone on with their badger, whom i presently unearthed. A terrier will often draw a thick place better than a hound, and find his fox or otter or hare, so that it is a shame to see them led or carried, besides discouraging any interest they may have in the days proceedings, and terriers so led lose much of their individuality and initiative, though they may do their work at a pinch when called upon. Only pick them up at the kill lest hounds worry them together. It’s not playing the game. Big hearts (and dear hearts) in little bodies, “by their works ye shall know them.”