Fox Terrier (Smooth and Wire)

Fox Terriers c 1860Fox Terriers c 1860Prior to 1800 the generic name 'Fox Terrier' was given to any Terrier that was used to bolt foxes out of their dens. This was particularly associated with the sport of Fox Hunting. But from 1863 name Fox Terrier was given to one of the first show dogs both in England and Australia. In England 1913 Fox Terriers were split into two separate pure-breeds separated by coat type - the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and the Fox Terrier (Wire).

Fox Terriers become a Pure-Breed

Fox Terriers c 1890Fox Terriers c 1890

Classes for Fox Terriers of the old fashioned type like those of the Reverend Parson John (Jack) Russell were held at Shows from 1863 and their pedigrees recorded in the First English Stud Book published in 1874. At that time dogs' names were based on show entries. The Reverend Jack (John) Russell was on the first board of the Kennel Club (UK) and one of the first Kennel Club judges despite his own dogs being specialized Fox Hunters rather than show dogs. At this time coats on both the show Fox Terriers and Jack Russell's Terriers ranged from smooth through to the rough we see on Jack Russell to this day.

Fox Terriers as Show Dogs

Fox Terriers (Smooth) c 1910Fox Terriers (Smooth) c 1910

In England, by 1900 Fox Terriers had become pure show dogs, and bred quite separately from the Reverend Jack Russell's working terriers. As a show dog, a winning Fox Terrier could be worth more than a hunting man or farmer could earn in a whole year. As Fox Terriers became show dogs, they were protected from the possibility of disfigurement that working terriers were exposed to. Then in 1913 the Wire Fox Terrier Club of England was formed and Fox Terrier gene pool was split  into the two separately recorded registries we know today, the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and the Fox Terrier (Wire).

History of the Fox Terrier (Smooth and Wire) in Australia

Fox Terrier (Smooth) 1975Fox Terrier (Smooth) 1975

In Australia Messers Bancroft exhibited Fox Terriers at Melbourne's first dog show in 1864[2]. When a Fox Terrier (Smooth) bitch named 'Careless' was brought to Sydney by Leonard Fosbery in 1868[3], a flood of imported Fox Terriers began. By 1883 the Australian Fox Terrier Club was formed, the first pure breed Club in Australia[1]. By 1910 an amazing 88 Fox Terriers had been imported into Melbourne and Sydney. In Melbourne, 13 of these went to Chas Lynott, 40 went to Walter Beilby, and another 11 went to NSW of which 7 went to Harry Moses[1]. This supplied a sound beginning from which 135 were recorded in Australia's first stud book.

Smooth Fox Terriers bred here have since held their own against stiff the competition created by many of our most famous breeders and judges. As a result, Smooth Fox Terriers have consistently been awarded Best Exhibit in Show all breeds throughout the country including at Australia's largest dog show, the Royal Melbourne Show. For example in 1975 the dog pictured, Ch Farleton Don Pedro won this Show from an entry of 5,680 individual dogs.

Fox Terrier (Wire) 1969Fox Terrier (Wire) 1969

In Australia, unlike England the earliest Wires were already split into a separate variety with the earliest importations recorded as coming from the Rev 'Jack' Russell's kennels with another 15 following and 48 separately listed in the Stud Book prior to 1912[1].

Fox Terrier Smooth and Wire Today

Today, a relic of the Fox Terrier's history is written into its breed standard where it is described like the horse called a hunter with which it used to work. The General Appearance says they should

" stand like a well made, short backed hunter, covering a lot of ground"

Fox Terrier (Wire)Fox Terrier (Wire)

Opinions vary as to whether the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and the Fox Terrier (Wire) are two varieties of the same breed or are two separate breeds. But having been show dogs for a century and a half, breeders and judges alike have selected for exaggeration whilst still maintaining the basic construction of the long legged terriers. The modern Fox Terrier has an extremely short back compared to his ancestors and his head and neck have also become much longer.

Fox Terrier (Smooth)Fox Terrier (Smooth)

Whilst in both breeds an elongated head is sought, a flat skull topped off with button ears set high on the skull, combined with the long strong foreface make the Fox Terrier head very distinctive. They should move at a trot with balanced reach and drive. Both mention a weight of 18 pounds, but only the Wire mentions a height of not exceeding 35 cm (15 and a half inches).

The major difference between these two is the coat. Whilst the Smooth is smooth coated, the Wire has a broken coat which makes his outline outwardly appear similar to the Welsh and Lakeland Terriers (see the table below). Permissible colours are similar, the Fox Terrier being a white dog with tan, black or tri-colour markings. But differences in conformation between the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and Fox Terrier (Wire) can be observed by diligent students and enthusiasts.

Comparison between Fox, Welsh and Lakeland Terriers

These 3 Terriers are directly compared here because although they appear alike, they differ not only in origin but also in several physical aspects. So it is important to compare these differences.

Terrier Fox Terrier (Wire) Welsh Terrier Lakeland Terrier

Fox Terrier (Wire)Fox Terrier (Wire)

Welsh TerrierWelsh Terrier

Lakeland TerrierLakeland Terrier

Background Old English White Terrier (rough coated) Old English Black and Tan Terrier (rough coated) Terrier of the Border Region
Head Proportions Little difference in length between skull and foreface Medium length from stop to end of nose. Jaws rather deep. Length of head from stop to tip of nose not exceeding that from occiput to stop
Ears Top line of folded ears well above level of skull (Button Ears) Set in fairly high and carried forward close to cheek Set neither too high or too low on head
Chest Deep not broad Good depth and moderate width Chest reasonably narrow
Body Proportions Back short Back short Back moderately short
Height and Weight Dogs not exceeding 15.5 inches at shoulder, bitches slightly less. Ideally 18 lbs. Not exceeding 15.5 inches at shoulder. 20 - 21 lbs. Not exceeding 14.5 inches at shoulder. Dogs 17 lbs, bitches 15 lbs.
Colour White predominates with black, black and tan or tan markings Black and tan or black grizzle and tan Black and tan, blue and tan, red, wheaten, red grizzle, liver blue or black

References and Further Reading

[1] 'Tyzack's Annual' Compiled by T. W.Tyzack and C.S.Turner  Published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club 1912 by Bellamine Bros. Printers, 66-70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Pages 93-96 (Importations) and 60-71 (Stud Book) Book of Chronicles Page 129.

[2] Catalogue of the First Exhibition of Sporting & Other Dogs, Thursday & Friday April 7 & 8, 1864 promoted by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society, printed in Melbourne by Mason & Firth, Printers, Flinders Lane West

[3] W.R.(Bill) Polley 'The Fox Terrier' self-published NSW circa 1980

[8] Australia's National Dog Annual 1977 Page 82

Also published in 2012- Jane Harvey, "Fox Terrier and Jack Russells" in Lets Talk Terriers (Tracy Murphy, Dean Park NSW) Vol 8 No 2 2011 Pages 16 -18


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