Author: Haynes, Williams, 1886-1970
|I.||The Biggest and Best Terrier||9|
|II.||The Airedale’s History||21|
|III.||The Care of a Terrier||35|
|V.||Dog Shows and Showing||65|
|VI.||The Useful Airedale||79|
THE BIGGEST AND BEST TERRIER
It was in the Merchants’ Hotel, Manchester—a famous gathering place for the dog fanciers of the English Midlands, the most thickly dog populated district in the whole world—that one autumn evening I heard the best definition of an Airedale that I ever knew. A party of us, fresh from some bench show, were seated round a table waiting for dinner, and naturally we were talking dog, telling dog stories, anecdotes, and jokes. I gave the American definition of a dachshund; “half a dog high and a dog and a half long,” and Theodore Marples, editor of Our Dogs, turning to a quiet little man, noted as a wild fanatic on the subject of Airedales, asked him his definition of his favorite breed. Quick as a spark he answered, “The biggest and best terrier!”
There are thousands of people, all sorts of people from bankers to beggars, scattered all over this earth from Dawson City to Capetown, from Moscow to Manila, who will echo the statement that the Airedale is indeed the biggest and the best of all the terriers. Moreover, their votes would not be bribed by mere sentiment, but based upon good, sound reasons, for it is certain that he is the biggest, and he is “best” at doing more things than any other dog in the stud book.
An Airedale will drive sheep or cattle; he will help drag a sled; he will tend the baby; he will hunt anything from a bear to a field mouse. He can run like a wolf and will take to water like an otter. He does not “butt in” looking for trouble with each dog that he passes on the street, but once he is “in” he will stick, for he is game as a pebble. He is kind, obedient, thoroughly trustworthy as a companion for children, or a watchman for your property. He has the disposition of a lamb combined with the courage of a lion. He is certainly the most all-round dog that there is and, unlike many Jacks-of-all-trades, he is apparently quite able to master all tasks a dog is called upon to perform.
Over and above his talents and his character, the Airedale has a constitution made of steel and stone. He is equally at home in the snow wastes of the Arctic Circle and on the alkali deserts of Arizona. The dry, bracing air of Colorado and the fever-soaked atmosphere of Florida’s Everglades both seem to agree with him perfectly. A sick Airedale is just about as common as a dodo.
“The biggest and best terrier” indeed fits him to a T, but it does not convey any very definite idea as to what he should look like. Even his most enthusiastic admirers never claimed beauty for the Airedale. He is not pretty, unless we acknowledge that “handsome is that handsome does,” and can see the beauty of perfect symmetry under wiry coat and odd coloring.
A good Airedale is about as big as a pointer; somewhere in the neighborhood of forty-five pounds, a little more for a dog and a little less for a bitch. His head should be long; the skull flat and broad; the cheeks smooth; the muzzle strong with tight lips over big, white, even teeth. His eyes should be small, dark, and full of fire and his ears little, carried high, and shaped like a V, for nothing can so detract from the correct terrier expression as large, light eyes and houndy ears. His front legs ought to be a pair of gun barrels, straight and strong and about the same thickness all the way down. His shoulders are like those of a race horse, long and sloping; while his pads should be firm and hard, not those loose, sprawly feet sometimes seen.
The only kind of a back for him to have is short, and his ribs must be well sprung. A long backed dog lacks staying qualities, and a slab-sided one has not the room for lungs. His chest should be deep, but narrow, and he should be slightly cut up in the loin—not the wasp-like waist of a greyhound,—but no better is a body like a stovepipe. His hindquarters should be strong, with the hocks quite near the ground. The Airedale that does not carry a gay tail is a delight to no eye.
Last, but not least, comes the coat. In color this should be a deep, rich tan on the head, face, chest, legs, and under parts, while over the back is a saddle of black or iron-grey. Personally, I like the black more than the grizzle, for it makes a prettier contrast with the tan, but “a good horse cannot be a bad color.” The Airedale’s coat is (or rather should be) double. The overcoat is of hair like wire, stiff and hard, about an inch long all over the dog, except on the skull where it is shorter. Under this jacket of wire, there ought to be a vest of soft, woolly hair.
If you can collect in your mind’s eye all the above details of description you should see a big, strong, compact, businesslike dog, full of the proverbial up-and-ever-coming spirit that inspires all terriers. His every movement shows strength, yet he always moves in that effort-economizing way which is the very personification of grace. When running he sweeps along with the free open stride of a galloping thoroughbred, with his head often carried low, but his tail always high.
Very often the man wanting a dog for hunting, for a guard, for a pal turns up his nose at all the finely enumerated details in which the standard describes the fanciers’ ideal of Airedale perfection. He is wrong, for, as the advertisements say, “There’s a reason.” Take the double coat for example. The Airedale was originally bred to be a water dog. The wiry coat sheds water like a duck’s back, and the undercoat keeps him warm in all weather. With the kind of a jacket for which the standard calls an Airedale can swim the river, scramble out, shake himself, roll over, and be dry. Moreover, such a coat is a perfect armor against all kinds of thorns, claws, and teeth. The long, clean head with its strong muzzle means a jaw with plenty of room for big, strong teeth and muscles to shut those teeth as quickly and as surely as a spring trap.
Of course, not one Airedale in a thousand comes within seventy-five per cent. of being all that the standard describes. The average, however, is high in America; much higher here than anywhere else in the world, except England, and our best can even hold their own with the champions from the land of the breed’s creation. Americans who have been interested in the dog have been blessed with enough of this world’s goods to buy what they want, and almost without exception, they have been inspired with the best fancier ideal, that of breeding their own winners.
This has given us a breeding stock second only in numbers to that of Great Britain in the hands of men who could and would use the material to the best advantage. Accordingly, the American-bred Airedale is noted the world over as a show dog, and in no other country has the breed’s sporting possibilities been so fully tested as here in the United States.
By birth and breeding the Airedale is a sporting terrier. A dog bred originally to do the work of a vermin destroyer, he has taken naturally to all kinds of game. In the Rockies, he is used on bear, and he has won a name as a dog of exceptional brains, unfailing courage, and remarkable stamina at work from which no fool, coward, or weakling comes home to supper. On the farms of New England, he is cherished as an exterminator of wood-chucks, moles, rats, and vermin of this class. He hunts all the way down the scale from the giant “silver tip” to the mouse in the pantry—mountain lions, wolves, panthers, lynx, wild cats, foxes, coons, skunks, rabbits, mink, what not, each and all he hunts with equal gusto and success. Is it any wonder that though the Airedale is only a little over half a century old his fame has spread from pole to pole?
The Airedale is a dog that no one can know well without becoming his friend, but all his friends do not know him well. For this reason, and because so much depends upon one’s first dog, it seems particularly necessary to give some advice to intending Airedale purchasers, whom we may divide into dog owners and kennel owners. By a dog owner I mean one who wants an Airedale or two as a companion, guard, and all-round dog. Kennel owners are those who intend keeping, breeding, and showing or hunting several dogs.
The dog owner does not as a rule think it worth while to post himself on the history and points of the breed. He has heard the praises sung of “the biggest and best terrier,” and has decided that he is the dog he wants. If that is all he wants let him get some friend to give him an Airedale puppy or let him buy one as cheaply as he can, but he is going to lose half the pleasure of owning a good dog of a good breed. Merrinac, the best known maitre d’armes in France, once said to a party of American fencers that it was the romance of the sword that made fencing so fascinating to its devotees, and there is romance in the history of the Airedale that weaves its charm round an Airedale owner. Whatever we know well is interesting and wonderful, and a knowledge of the Airedale’s past and his points, which is an absolute necessity to the kennel owner, adds one hundred per cent. to the dog owner’s pleasure.
The wise dog owner then will learn all he can about his breed. “Book larnin'” is good, but better still are talks with all sorts and conditions of Airedale owners and a visit to an Airedale kennel or the ringside at a dog show when the breed is being judged. No men ride their hobbies harder than dog fanciers, and all will talk and from all can something be learned.
When one has learned something about Airedales let him then buy his dog. It is best to buy a dog about six months old—old enough to be over puppy ills and not too old to learn new tricks. A puppy of that age, over distemper and house broken, is as satisfactory as it is possible for a pup to be. Bringing up a terrier puppy is hard on one’s shoes, the ladies’ hats, and everyone’s disposition, but it is much more satisfactory to train him yourself in the ways you would have him go.
In picking out a puppy select the bright little chap to whom you are naturally attracted—I am advising the “dog owner” who knows the breed well enough not to be interested in any litter not of orthodox breeding. Only in case of doubt need you pay attention to show points. If it comes to a question of that pick the dark eye, small ear, long head, short back, straight legs. Do not worry about size or color or coat, nor must a novice expect to be able to “pick the winner” of a litter. Go to a reputable breeder and pay as much as you can afford. You can take his advice, for all dog breeders are not crooks and grafters, but like any other kind of a business transaction knowledge is very valuable to the purchaser.
May I plead the case of the bitch as a companion? Nine out of ten want a dog, but a bitch has many advantages. She is usually more clever, a great deal more affectionate and faithful, much less given to roaming from home, and should one ever want to raise some puppies she may prove a valuable investment.
The kennel owner, turning now to him, will, I take it for granted, read all he can lay his hands on that treats of the Airedale, go to shows, visit kennels, and talk, think, and dream Airedale. If he is to have a small kennel I advise his buying one or two good young bitches. Puppies are a chance and old bitches, however famous, are poor breeding stock. Buy young winning bitches, proved mothers and of desirable blood lines and you will have the best possible start along the road of kennel success. It is as rocky a thoroughfare as the proverbial one to Dublin, full of all sorts of disappointments and maybe even losses, but its pleasures and its gains are sure to come to the man who follows it in the right spirit.
The large kennel owner is either going into it for pleasure, where he will have a check book to help him, or for a business. In the former case he will probably leave much on the shoulders of his kennel manager, and I am writing on Airedales not the servant problem. If he is going to make a business of raising Airedales that is his business, not the author’s.
To all Airedale buyers let me again say that it pays to know all you can about the breed and to buy the best you can afford. The “biggest and best terrier” has been tried by so many different people in all parts of the world and has won such unanimous praise that his admirers can recommend him to anyone, anywhere, for anything.
THE AIREDALE’S HISTORY
The Airedale is a product of the middle of the nineteenth century and was manufactured in Yorkshire. The streams that tumble down the deep vales of that Midland county are the homes of hundreds of crafty, hardbitten otters; there are thieving foxes and very game, but very rascally badgers in snug dens in the hills; many a swift English hare lives in the broad game preserves. The hardy Yorkshireman of 1850—his sons and grandsons to-day are real “chips of the old block”—loved nothing so much as a hunt after the vermin, with possibly a rat killing contest with “a couple o’ bob” at stake of a Saturday night, and sometimes, on moonless nights, when game keepers were asleep, a little trip after the filling for a rabbit pie. Now, you cannot do these things without a dog that is brainy, game, obedient, and as much at home in water as on dry land; so they just naturally set to work to make themselves such a dog.
All this we know positively, but when it comes to saying anything definite about how they made that dog, which we now call the Airedale, you begin to deal in traditions as conflicting as theories on the Martian canals and speculations as vague as old wives’ tales. Taking all the yarns and guesses and boiling them down to an average, we find that the Airedale, so most people think, was originally a cross between a tan-grizzle terrier, now extinct or absorbed in other breeds, but once common in the Midlands, and the otterhound, a big, wire-coated water dog of the bloodhound type, that comes in all colors of Joseph’s famous coat, but mainly white with black and tannish markings. To this cross were added dashes of bull terrier, which breed was, at that time, just coming to the fore with its deserved reputation for grit, and Bedlington terrier, a light-weight, top-knotted dog from the North of England.
Probably there were sprinkles of the blood of the collie and of all terriers found at the time between the Midlands and the Scottish Borderland. All these (fox, Manchester, Welsh, Old English, and Dandy Dinmont) were then more or less indefinite as to type and uncertain as to breeding, which helps materially in making confusion worse confounded. Just how and why this strange, indefinite mixture should have resulted in the Airedale no one can say. The otterhound donated the size and the love of the water, and all the terrier blood made him a terrier in spite of his size. From the very beginning the breed had the advantage of having an object. The Yorkshireman wanted a big, strong, dead game, water-loving terrier. That furnished a standard to breed to, and they got what they wanted.
When the fame of this dog first spread from the valleys of his birthplace, he was pretty well established as to type, and once taken up by the dog showing fancy and a standard drawn up the type was soon firmly fixed. Since his first introduction to the world he has changed, becoming somewhat larger. The seers and wise men of English dogdom raised a great hullaballoo when this giant among terriers appeared, saying that no dog over twenty pounds could be a terrier because a terrier must go to earth. The dog, however, was mainly terrier in blood and so very certainly terrier in characteristics that he was classed with the family. Maybe it is out of respect to the authorities of the early days of the dog fancy that we have gradually dropped the terrier in his name, and though it is a part of his official title, still the dog is universally spoken of as the Airedale.
This, however, was not his original name, for in early days he was called the “waterside terrier,” and his official début at the English dog shows was in classes for “broken-haired working terriers.” Both titles were felt to be too indefinite, and “Stonehenge,” the sporting authority, suggested “Bingley terrier,” from the town in the heart of the district where the breed originated. Local jealousies prevented any one town giving its name to the breed, and there was quite a war waged till some unrecorded genius suggested that, as the birthplace of the breed had been in the valleys of the Aire River and its little tributaries, Airedale was the best name. So Airedale he became, having an official christening at the Otley show in the late seventies.
Besides adding some ten pounds to his weight and getting a distinctive and pleasing name, the Airedale has changed in other ways since he took his light from under the bushel basket. His head has lengthened, following the tendency of all terrier breeds. His shoulders, legs, and feet are worlds better now than they were years ago, but coats have suffered. The wire jacket has improved, but the woolly undervest has been sacrificed, though now more and more attention is being paid to this by breeders and judges.
The honor of having brought the first Airedale to America is generally ascribed to Mr. C. H. Mason, who is better known to this generation of fanciers as a cocker spaniel owner and editor of Man’s Best Friend. He was originally a Yorkshire man, who had known and loved the breed since his youth. He imported Bruce, a fairish dog, blind in one eye, but useful in stud, where he sired Ch. Brush. Bruce is merely a sentiment with Americans, for all he has left is a reputation for bad temper and a yarn about having been sold for a few dollars at a horse auction in New York in 1885.
The breed first “took on” in New York, but Philadelphia has long been its stronghold. The Quaker City, boasting such fanciers as Clement Newbold, William Barclay, Russel H. Johnson, W. H. Whittem, Daniel Buckley, and Dr. Henry Jarrett, has away and beyond passed other cities in the number and quality of its Airedales. In early days the New York fancy was represented by Mr. J. L. Lorillard, the purchaser of Clonmel Marvel, whose importation boomed the breed’s stock in this country; Messrs. De Witt Cochrane, Foxhall Keene, and C. O’Donnel, all of whom have not been so active lately. Later Theodore Offerman, James H. Brookfield, James Watson, and John Gough entered the game, and they figure to-day as owners of winners.
This is a short sketch of how the breed originated and how they came to America, but real “history is men, not events,” or rather dogs, not events. It is interesting, but more important is a knowledge of the dogs of the past. In limited space, one can only say a word or two about the most famous of the breed’s celebrities, so I must be pardoned if some reader is disappointed in not finding mention of some dog in which he is particularly interested. Almost each year has seen its good dogs, but we can only touch those which time has declared to be truly great.
The sigh for “the good old days” is common in all things, and we often hear it from dog fanciers. It is good food fo