Terriers that Sailed the World

Small Terrier with rat c 1845Small Terrier with rat c 1845

Terriers were named and documented in Britain in the early history of terriers as far back as the 1570[1]. All British ratting Terriers breeds can trace their origin back to the now extinct Old English White Terrier and the Old English Black and Tan Terriers of England. Today, they have become pure breeds quite independently from one another in various the countries with which English people historically occupied or traded.

Small Terriers on Sailing ships

Early Australian Settlement c 1800Early Australian Settlement c 1800

Early sailing ships carried terriers on board that would kill small vermin. These ships often spent months at sea. Before refrigeration was invented, the sailors' food consisted of salted meats and grains made into a type of biscuit. In the days before insecticides, rats that carried disease for both dog and man was a huge health threat to both country and city communities. Hygiene relied on small ratting terriers killing any rats and mice. Because long or rough coats attracted dirt, smooth coated Terriers were preferred. These Terriers had to be small, quick, and agile, so they could kill the rats and mice before they themselves got bitten. Once the ships docked many of these little Terriers endeared themselves to the new settlers.

Terriers arrive In Australia

'Mini Foxie' with Australian explorers WA 1906'Mini Foxie' with Australian explorers WA 1906

The first British arrived in Australia in 1788 with the 'First Fleet', consisting of 11 ships landed in Botany Bay. The Fleet's List of Livestock and Provisions lists 'puppies'[2]. Because the everything on this list had a purpose, presumably the 'puppies' referred to were small ratting terriers.

After the 'First Fleet', other ships continued to arrive. When the ships docked, many terriers were left behind surviving by killing not only rats and mice that had escaped from the ships, but also some of our small indigenous animals[3].

The "Mini Foxie"

Victoria's First Dog Show 1864Victoria's First Dog Show 1864

Time would see small ratting terriers develop within Australia both as vermin killers and popular companions. Because the First Fleet left from Portsmouth in the South of England,[2] these small smooth coated ratting terriers became affectionately known as "Mini Foxies". Many early lithographs, drawings and photographs depict a small predominately either white or black and tan smooth coated terrier.

By the 1860's, enough different breeds had been introduced into Australia for dog shows to commence. At that time, each different Australian State had their own separate governments. The dog 'fancy' followed suite. So, without any formal breed identifications, in 1862, Tasmania held the first Australian dog Show with Victoria following in 1864.

'Mini Foxies' in the early 1900's

A 'Rabbiter's Pack' c 1900A 'Rabbiter's Pack' c 1900

Originally arriving in Botany Bay with our early settlers, by the early 1900's the 'Mini Foxie' had become entrenched in Australian society. As the colony grew, dogs that lived in these early settlements were used for more specialised jobs. The 'Rabbiter's Pack' from Sydney pictured was typical. Here you have a mixed pack consisting of 'Kangaroo Dogs' which were large Greyhounds that were used for hunting. We also have 'Mini Foxies' which assisted in eliminating any vermin that might be infesting the farm, as well as becoming household pets.

'Ricketts Blue' Advertisement c 1950'Ricketts Blue' Advertisement c 1950

By the 1950's 'Mini Foxies' had endeared themselves into Australians everyday life, including mine! By this time, they had become quite iconic and featuring in several advertisements like the accompanying one. But without any formal breed recognition, cross breeding with other small breeds that were introduced here, had become a threat.

References and Further Reading

[1]   2009 - Jane Harvey, "History of the Tenterfield Terrier" in National Dog, the Ringleader Way (Published by Sahjobe Pty Ltd, Menangle Park NSW ABN 86 075 412 761) Vol 12 No 11 November 2009 Page 12

[2] https://firstfleetfellowship.org.au/library/first-fleetlist-livestock-provisions-plants-seeds/

[3] 1999 - Jane Harvey, "The Latest Australian" Ringleader - the Dog Paper (Sahjobe Pty Ltd, Lower Portland NSW) Vol 2 No 7 July 1999 Pages 34-36