by Alton Pertuit
Published article by Al Pertuit Showsight Magazine
“What Wires Were Bred To Do”
The Midland counties of England, where hunting always has been a popular sport, are the origin location of fox terriers. Fox hunting replaced deer hunting as a sport there some two to three hundred years ago. To locate the fox when he went to ground, suitable terriers were necessary; so, terriers, later called fox terriers, were bred for color (predominately white, so it could easily be seen in a fox hole), size (ca. 15-18 lbs., so it could fit into saddle bag and into a foxhole), a strong tail of adequate length (called “the handle,” so the dog can be positioned/maneuvered when in pursuit), and character (not easily discouraged when in pursuit). The 15-18 lb. weight specified in the original British Standard (height was not mentioned) equates to ca. 15.5 inches at the withers. Some huntsmen breeders had a coat (i.e., smooth or wire) preference, so eventually two coats (breeds) were developed separately employing the same and different terriers/non-terriers for each coat/breed. In other words, the Wire and the Smooth do not have exactly the same ancestors; therefore, coat type is not the only difference between these two breeds.
Cropped from a hunt print, “His Same Old Game”
Notice the terriers in the hole as the hounds gather around.
When The Fox Terrier Club (UK) was founded in 1876, the two breeds became two varieties (Smooth and Wire) of the same Breed (Fox Terrier). One could interbreed them; however, interbreeding has not been allowed for years by breed clubs in the UK and the US .
Photo from The Complete Fox Terrier
by Irving C. Ackerman (1938)
At a hunt, the fox terrier does not “run with the hounds.” Instead, he rides in a Terrier Man’s saddle bag and is “entered” (i.e., allowed to follow the fox underground) once the fox has “run to ground” at the conclusion of the hunt. The fox terrier does not attack the fox. He simply locates the fox and holds the fox in position via barking, not retreating if scratched/nipped, so that huntsman can dig down to the fox.
Note the use of the “handle” as the dog is entered.
Today, in some European countries ( ie: France), fox terriers must demonstrate the ability to pursue the fox underground in order to acquire their conformation championships.