Airedale Terrier

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier is the 'King of the Terriers' with a character and personality all of his own. As part of my family's life for 48 years, their whimsical ways helped keep my sanity while I raised my human family. Today, the Airedale's medium size and adaptability make him the ideal family pet that fits into the many demands of today's modern society.

History of the Airedale Terrier

Airedales with Sportsman 1889Airedales with Sportsman 1889

The Airedale Terrier was developed two centuries ago by North Country Sportsmen in Yorkshire, from a mixture of Terriers of the Border Region, and Otterhounds. He was known by various names, such as the Bingley Terrier, the Waterside Terrier, and the rough Coated Black and Tan Terrier (large variety). Resources confirm this type of dog was a common sight in the 1860's, often attracting entries of 200 at Shows like Bingley. They sparked a good deal of correspondence in the 'Live Stock Journal'.[3].

Mr Reginald Knight's 'Thunder'Mr Reginald Knight's 'Thunder'

It was generally acknowledged that the first breed description of the Airedale Terrier was written by Mr Reginald Knight was agreed to 'by most of the leading admirers and judges of the breed'. It was based on actual measurements of 'Thunder' Mr. Reginald Knight's dog, who he considered to be 'a first-rate specimen of the breed'. The weight of dogs was 40 - 55 lbs, and bitches 30 - 55 lbs. This became first Airedale breed standard published in 1879.

Airedale 1870Airedale 1870

But Mr C.H.Mason who supposedly imported the first Airedale into USA, caustically wrote that this description 'probably fitted Mr Knight's own dog 'Thunder', but was radically wrong in many respects'[3]. Not just his weight but also his height, 'Thunder's' being quoted at 21¼ inches at the shoulder and 21¾ inches at the rump[4]!

However, it was not disputed that it was the Airedale's reputation as an all-rounder that excited so much interest in him in those early formative years. It was claimed that:

Airedale Pre -1900Airedale Pre -1900

"They can be broken to the gun, broken to ferrets; they will not touch a rat [caught] in the net, they will drive sheep and cattle like a Sheep-dog, fetch and carry like a Retriever, hunt like a Spaniel, and are as fond of water as a duck and as game as obedient."[4] 

The Airedale Terrier becomes a Pure Breed

Airedale - 'Fracture' 1883Airedale - 'Fracture' 1883

By 1883 the Airedale Terrier had appeared for the first time by that name in the catalogue of the National Dog Show held at Birmingham and was recognized by the Kennel Club (UK) two years later. At that time, the bitch named 'Fracture' of whose engraving appears here, was considered 'An extremely well-made Airedale, her head, body and feet being very good but her coat is somewhat too soft in texture'[5].

Airedale Painting c 1930Airedale Painting c 1930

It should be noted that the when the first Standard was published, the following was added :

"That, as it is the unanimous opinion of the ATC [Airedale Terrier Club] the size of the Airedale given in the standard is one of, if not the most important characteristics of the breed, all judges who shall henceforth adjudicate on the merits of the Airedale Terrier shall consider undersized specimens of the breed severely handicapped when competing with dogs of the standard weight. Any of the Club's judges who, in the opinion of the Committee, shall give prizes to or otherwise push to the front dogs of a small type shall be at once struck from the list of specialist judges".[4] 

The History of Airedales in Australia

Yeardon Ring Yeardon Ring

Airedales were introduced into Victoria just 7 years after they were first shown under the name 'Airedale' in England. In 1890, Mr Addy imported the dog, YEADON RING and the bitch YEADON ROSEBUD.  In 1893, this pair produced MENTONE RINGMASTER, the first successful Australian bred Airedale.

Mentone RingmasterMentone Ringmaster

Many imports followed. Remarkably, Airedales have been popular here continuously for more than a century. So Australia has uninterrupted lines back to those original imports.

There have been so many Australian Airedale enthusiasts who have devoted lifetimes to this wonderful breed, it is not possible to document the Airedale's colourful history here. However, this link will lead you to an entire section on this website devoted to this subject: History of Airedales in Australia.

The Airedale Terrier Today

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier is the largest breed in the Terrier Group, standing 22"-24" (56-61 cms) tall. His saddle is always black or dark grizzle and his shoulders, legs, and head are always tan. Often called 'The King of Terriers', his size and character should dominate the terrier ring.

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

He has an elongated head, flat skull with side placement ears set slightly above the level of the skull. He has a particularly strong foreface without fullness in the cheeks, and a normal scissors bite. His neck is of sufficient length to balance the dog but set so it flows into the shoulders, allowing his head to be carried proudly.

Airedale BitchAiredale Bitch

With the construction of the long legged terriers his body is short or compact, with a Terrier front[2],and a chest with well sprung ribs that just reaches the elbows. His character is epitomized by high set tail which acts as a thermometer of his mood.

Airedale BitchAiredale Bitch

His body coat is always black or dark grizzle with his other parts being tan. He has a hard dense broken coat which must be groomed correctly[1]. In order to keep both the skin and the coat healthy, there are definite advantages of hand stripping.

Incorrect "Sheep Coats"

Sheep Coated AiredaleSheep Coated Airedale

As the show scene developed, occasionally, we saw Airedales with thicker and longer coats. Because of their 'fluff', sheep coated puppies can be very appealing! But on maturity, this fluff rarely becomes hard in texture, especially on the legs. This type of coat is not only foreign for an Airedale, it is almost impossible to obtain a correct jacket, let alone maintain it!

Sheep coated Airedales are easy to detect as apart from their fluffy legs, they never lose the black on their ears like the mature dog pictured here. This is not to be confused with the black on the ears and face of a very young puppy.

References and Further Reading

[1] Jane Harvey, DVD "How to Groom an Airedale" (Rangeaire Vision 1984, 2004) ISBN 978-0-9804296-0-2,

[2] Jane Harvey, "Airedale and other Fronts" in National Dog Newspaper (Windsor NSW) October 1976

[3] Holland Buckley "The Airedale Terrier" Eighth Revised Edition (Our Dogs Publishing Company Ltd Manchester, England) Approx 1906 Chapter 1 'Origin and History' Page 18

[4] Vero Shaw B.A "The Airedale Terrier" by Reginald Knight, in the Illustrated Book of the Dog (Published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co, London, Paris & New York) 1881 Chapter XX 'The Airedale Terrier' Page 152 - 153

[5] J.H.Walsh, under the name 'Stonehenge', 'The Dogs of the British Islands' (Fifth Edition) Published by 'The Field' Office, 346 Strand, W.C.London 1886. Book lll, 'Terriers (Other than Fox and Toy)', Chapter l, Special Breeds of Rough Terriers. The Airedale Page 251

See also List of Published Works: Articles on Airedale Terriers


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