Tenterfield Terrier

Tenterfield TerrierTenterfield Terrier

Australian in development, the forebears of the Tenterfield Terrier accompanied Australia's first white settlers who sailed from Portsmouth in England's South[1]. These small basically white dogs were vermin killers, surviving this harsh country without pampering.  Today they are strong, hardy, active and agile, their smooth short coat making them 'easy care' family companions. Their unique naturally occurring short or bob tail can come in any length.

The Tenterfield Terrier Today

Tenterfield TerrierTenterfield Terrier

The Tenterfield is a smooth coated small Terrier with a square or compact body, measuring the same from withers to ground as withers to hindquarters. He is an versatile dog with no feature of his construction being in any way exaggerated. His most unusual feature is his naturally occurring bob tail which can be any length.

Tenterfield Terrier (Tri-Coloured)Tenterfield Terrier (Tri-Coloured)

The Tenterfield's head is almost flat with just a hint of roundness or taper towards the ears. When viewed from the front or the side the head is wedge shaped and not elongated like the head of a Fox Terrier. Instead it should be equal in length from occiput to stop and stop to the end of his nose. Together with his almost flat skull, this gives his head parallel head planes. The muzzle is well filled up under the eyes and houses a normal scissors bite. The dark eyes should have fully pigmented rims rims and be slightly oval rather than large, protruding or round. The nose should be black but a brown nose on a liver or a liver tri-coloured dog is acceptable. The Tenterfield Terrier can have either pricked or erect ears or alternatively semi-erect ears.

Tenterfield doing Flyball Tenterfield doing Flyball

When considering the neck and body of the Tenterfield Terrier it is important to consider the 'pleasing proportions' described in the Breed Standard. Like the head, the neck should balance the body and not appear too long or too short. On the move, the neck should be carried proudly in a an upright position like the other long legged terriers, and should not be carried forwards in line with the back.

Tenterfield Terrier (Tan & White)Tenterfield Terrier (Tan & White)

The body should be in proportion to the whole dog. It should not be longer than height at withers like the Australian Terrier or the Jack Russell, nor should it be proportionately short like the Fox Terrier. But because of the carriage of the neck and high set tail and the level topline, the body should appear to be short and compact. The shoulders should not be so heavily muscled  that they look as if they are 'tacked on' to the body like a Bulldog, making the chest appear too wide. Instead when looking over the top of the dog from behind, the shoulder muscles should not appear to be outside the general line of the ribcage.  The sternum of the moderately sprung rib cage should just reach to the elbow but not below because this small terrier has a terrier front to enable him to dig.

Tenterfield TerriersTenterfield Terriers

The legs have strong round bone in proportion to the size of the dog, and round feet. He has moderate angulation fore and aft. The hindquarters are well muscled and have a well turned stifle allowing for his amazing agility. This should be obvious when he moves at a trot with his balanced reach and drive.

Tenterfield TerrierTenterfield Terrier

His tail is quite unique in Terriers. It comes in any length from a full tail to no tail at all. Although any tail length is technically correct, a well set half tail balances the dog. A full tail can spoil the overall look of the dog, especially if it curls over the back to such an extent that the end of the tail breaks the top line of the dog when viewed in profile. But where the tail leaves the back or the tail set is extremely important as this can indicate the dog's temperament.

The Tenterfield is predominantly white with black, tan or liver markings. Tri-colours, that is white with black markings and tan and on the cheeks, above the eyes and/or tan breeches is also common. Tenterfields can also come as a liver tri-colour which is predominately white with liver and/or tan markings on the cheeks, above the eyes and/or breeches. Brindle markings acceptable but not preferred. Full colour coats are not acceptable. The skin should always be pigmented, especially if the dog is almost all white.

As a newly developed breed the standard allows a large size variation between 10 - 12 inches (25.5 - 30.5 cms). However because the Tenterfield was formerly called the 'Mini Foxie', the ideal height of 11 inches 11 inches (28 cms) should be closely adhered to in order to retain the correct breed type.

History of the Tenterfield Terrier

Tenterfield as Farm Dogs c 1890Tenterfield as Farm Dogs c 1890

Before Australia was discovered by the British, Terriers that descended from the Old English White Terrier. that were bred specifically for killing rates, came into existence. Rats carried disease for both dog and man and were a huge health threat to both country and city communities in the days before insecticides. Ratting terriers had to be quick and agile so they killed the rat before they were bitten. These dogs were usually athletic, small in stature and smooth coated. As the rats being hunted generally lived in filth that would have become caked in the coats of long or rough haired dogs, smooth coated terriers were preferred to work in the holds of sailing ships to kill rats and mice on board. These were the small ratting terriers that sailed to various countries.

Tenterfield with Stockmen c 1900Tenterfield with Stockmen c 1900

Once the ships docked, rats and other vermin escaped into the pristine countryside. Originally, many of these dogs would have been left behind specifically to kill this foreign vermin and usually bore the name of the country to which they were imported. Other examples of these became Brazilian Terriers, Japanese Terriers and no on.

Australia's First Introduced Dog

Tenterfield Hunting c 1920Tenterfield Hunting c 1920

As it was usual practice to carry small terriers on board the early ships to kill rats and mice[7] , I believe the 'puppies' referred to in the 'List of Livestock and Provisions' of the First Fleet[1] were the first introduced dogs to come to Australia from England. As these vermin killers were considered no better than the vermin they killed, these 'puppies' did not warrant the more detailed description of some of the other provisions. But it is logical that these 'puppies' were to become known in Australia as the 'Mini Foxie' because the First Fleet left from Portsmouth in the South of England[2] where these small smooth coated ratting terriers were common. On the other hand, the Australian Terrier which was rough coated, came to our shores some decades later from the North of England and the Border Region, accompanying early sheep farmers.

Tenterfield as CompanionTenterfield as Companion

As Australia became more populated, the smooth coated little terriers became established throughout the country not only as vermin killers and hunters of indigenous Australian animals, but also as popular family companions[3]. I remember during those war years of the 1940's, when they were called  'Mini Foxies'. As their wonderful temperament won the hearts of many small children such as myself, their popularity grew to firmly establish their place in the Australian family home.

Tenterfields with Hunting Party c 1930Tenterfields with Hunting Party c 1930

Around 1990, a group of interested owners held a meeting that resulted in a breed registry becoming established. By 1992 it became quite apparent that the name "mini foxie" was inappropriate as this implies miniaturization of the Smooth Fox Terrier[4].

Tenterfield as CompanionTenterfield as Companion

After consultation with those who had dogs registered on the Development Register[5] which was aiming to become recognized by the ANKC, a ballot of owners was taken resulting in 85% favoring the name "Tenterfield Terrier". This was in recognition of George Woolnough, otherwise known as the "Tenterfield Saddler" whose dogs were well known throughout the Tenterfield district in NSW. Additionally he is immortalized in the song, 'The Tenterfield Saddler' written by his famous grandson Peter Allen.

The Tenterfield Terrier now takes its place among Australia's other recognized pure breeds with their First National Championship Show held in Victoria in 2009 which I had the honour of judging.[6] 

References and Further Reading

See also Jane Harvey DVD "Terriers Then & Now" Published Rangeaire Vision 2002-2004 ISBN 978-0-9804296-4-0 and DVD 'the Tenterfield Terrier' published 2004

[1,2]   First Fleet Fellowship Inc "List of Provisions and Livestock"

[3] Jane Harvey, "History of the Tenterfield Terrier" in National Dog, the Ringleader Way (National Dog, Menangle Park NSW) Vol 12 No 11 November 2009 Page 12

[4] Jane Harvey, "The Latest Australian" Ringleader - the Dog Paper (Sahjobe Pty Ltd, Lower Portland NSW) Vol 2 No 7 July 1999 Pages 34-36

[5] Jane Harvey, "ANKC Development Register - Tenterfield Terrier" in The Canine Journal (Royal NSW Canine Council) February 2002 Vol 14 No 8  Page 2

[6] Jane Harvey, "A Word from the Judge (of the First Tenterfield Terrier National Show)" in National Dog, the Ringleader Way (National Dog, Menangle Park NSW) Vol 12 No 11 November 2009 Page 14

[7] Jane Harvey - "On Focus" - Tenterfield Terriers" in "Dogs Victoria Magazine" Victorian Canine Association Inc. Cranbourne Vic Vol. 80 Issue 2 February 2014 Pages 2, 3, 4.