THE AIREDALE TERRIER
The breed is naturally affectionate and will never be happier than when
with its owner. As the largest of the terriers they enjoy an active life
but provided they are sufficiently exercised are equally suited to a rural
or an urban setting. Their waterproof coat benefits immensely from a daily
groom and will require stripping or clippering two or three times a year,
this is normally a job for a professional groomer but I feel that the
owner benefits greatly from learning how to do this at home.
The Airedale suits many types of people, he prefers company so is best
with someone who has plenty of time for him and also with a good sense of
humour who has the patience to train him properly. They can be very good
family pets, great with children as long as the children have also been
trained how to treat him. They can be ‘sparky’ with dogs they don’t know
but not usually with dogs they have been brought up with from being a
They are extremely intelligent and quickly learn how to gain the owner’s
praise. They can however try to see how far they can push their owners and
know how to ‘act the fool’ if they think they are in trouble. As they get
older some lose the boisterousness of puppy hood, but many stay very young
at heart. Dogs mature more slowly than bitches.
The best home environment would be a house with a secure garden (minimum
5ft fencing), the gate should have a good fastener and it is always best
if visitors do not use the gate from which a dog could escape. The
Airedale is a large terrier and does have a loud bark, he will use it
whenever he thinks someone is approaching his home. He should not be left
home alone for long stretches as he will become bored and either bark or
find something to amuse him which will not amuse his owners on their
Some Airedales are destructive, particularly if they are bored or needing
exercise, some are so laid back they never do damage.
Life expectancy is approximately 12 - 13 years but I have one who is 14!.
A male should be 23 - 24” and a bitch 22” – 23” to the shoulder.
If you look on the ‘links page’ you will be able to contact a breed club
in your area, most of these organise events, picnic, beach parties, walks
etc as well as shows and seminars. The biggest of the walks is organised
by David Ball for the Yorkshire & Eastern Counties ATC – this walk (as you
would expect) is by the banks of the River Aire and has even managed to be
shown on BBC TV! The National Airedale Terrier Association publish an
annual yearbook, give a trimming demonstration, hold an Open Show in
September and a Championship Show in April.
I really can’t give a typical character for an Airedale, they are all very
different and this is often due to the way they are brought up. Having
said that no two of mine (and they are all related), have the same
There is an element of HD in Airedales, as there is in most breeds of this
size. Reputable breeders have their breeding stock X-rayed under the BVA/KC
scheme. This is something potential owners should ask about when buying a
Maintenance grooming (brushing and combing) should be done as often as you
can, ideally daily. He must be groomed at least once a week to stop the
build up of knots and debris in his coat. The Airedales coat is harsh and
dirt brushes out, I never bath my dogs as I find everything can be removed
by a good brushing session.
Airedale, a valley (dale) in the West Riding of Yorkshire, between the
Aire and the Wharfe Rivers, was the birthplace of the breed. In the
mid-19th Century, working class people created the Airedale Terrier by
crossing the old English rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier with the
Otterhound. In 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognised the
Airedale Terrier breed.
In 1864 they were exhibited for the first time at a championship dog show
sponsored by the Airedale Agricultural Society. They were classified under
different names, including Rough Coated, Bingley and Waterside Terrier. In
1879 breed fanciers decided to call the breed the Airedale Terrier, a name
accepted by the Kennel Club (England) in 1886.
Well-to-do hunters of the era were typically accompanied by a pack of
hounds and several terriers, often running them both together. The hounds
would scent and pursue the quarry and the terriers would "go to ground" or
enter into the quarry's burrow and make the kill. Terriers were often the
sporting dog of choice for the common man. Early sporting terriers needed
to be big enough to tackle the quarry, but not so big as to prevent them
from manoeuvring through the quarry's underground lair. As a result, these
terriers had to have a very high degree of courage and pluck to face the
foe in a tight, dark underground den without the help of human handlers.
During the middle of the nineteenth century, regular sporting events took
place along the Aire River in which terriers pursued the large river rats
that inhabited the area. A terrier was judged on its ability to locate a
"live" hole in the riverbank and then, after the rat was driven from its
hole by a ferret brought along for that purpose, the terrier would pursue
the rat through water until it could make a kill. As these events became
more popular, demand arose for a terrier that could excel in this
activity. One such terrier was developed through judicious crossings of
the Black-and-Tan Terrier and Bull-and-Terrier dog popular at the time
with the Otter Hound. The result was a long-legged fellow that would soon
develop into the dog we recognize today as the Airedale Terrier. This
character was too big to "go to ground" in the manner of the smaller
working terriers; however, it was good at everything else expected of a
sporting terrier, and it was particularly adept at water work. This big
terrier had other
talents in addition to its skill as a ratter. Because of an infusion of
hound blood it was blessed with the ability to scent game and the size to
be able to tackle larger animals. It became more of a multipurpose terrier
that could pursue game by powerful scenting ability, be broken to gun, and
taught to retrieve. Its size and temperament made it an able guardian of
farm and home. One of the colourful, but less-than legal, uses of the
early Airedale Terrier was to assist its master in poaching game on the
large estates that were off-limits to commoners. Rabbits, hare, and fowl
were plentiful, and the Airedale could be taught to retrieve game killed
by its master, or to pursue, kill, and bring it back itself.
The patriarch of the breed is considered to be CH Master Briar
(1897-1906). Two of his sons, Crompton Marvel and Monarch, also made
important contributions to the breed.
Before the adoption of the German Shepherd as the dog of choice for law
enforcement and search and rescue work, the Airedale terrier often filled
In 1906, a dog trainer named "Lt. Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson"
tried to interest the British Police in using dogs to accompany officers,
for protection on patrol at night. When Mr.Geddes, Chief Goods Manager for
Hull Docks in Yorkshire, was convinced after he went saw the impressive
work of police dogs in Belgium. Geddes convince Superintendent Dobie, of
the North Eastern Railway Police, arrange a plan for policing the docks.
Airedale Terriers were selected for duty as police dogs because of
intelligence, good scenting abilities and their hard, wiry coats that were
easy to maintain from mud and grime.
The Airedale was extensively used in World War I to carry messages to
soldiers behind enemy lines and transport mail. They were also used by the
Red Cross to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield. There are numerous
tales of Airedales delivering their messages despite terrible injury. An
Airedale named 'Jack' ran through half a mile of enemy fire, with a
message attached within his collar. He arrived at headquarters with his
jaw broken and one leg badly splintered, and right after he delivered the
message, he dropped dead in front of its recipient.
Lt.-Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson was responsible for the
development of messenger and guard dogs in the British Army. He, along
with his wife, established a War Dog Training School at Shoeburyness in
Essex, England. In 1916, they provided two Airedales ( Wolf & Prince )for
use as message carriers. After both dogs proved themselves in battle,
Airedales were given more duties, such as locating injured soldiers on the
battlefield, an idea taken from the Red Cross.
Before the adoption of the German Shepherd as the dog of choice for law
enforcement and search and rescue work, the Airedale terrier often filled
There are some books written by Ltnt.Col Richardson which give the full
details of this work, unfortunately they are now difficult to obtain, if
however, you ever have the opportunity to buy or borrow one of them you
will be fascinated by the work the Airedale carried out.
At the beginning of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, the Russian embassy in
London contacted Lt. Colonel Richardson for help acquiring dogs for the
Russian Army, trained to take the wounded away from the battlefields. He
sent terriers, mostly Airedale Terriers, for communication and sanitary
services. Although these original imports perished, Airedale Terriers were
reintroduced in Russia in the early 1920s for use by the Red Army. Special
service dog units were created in 1923, and Airedale Terriers were used as
demolition dogs, guard dogs, police tracking dogs and casualty dogs.
Two Airedales were among the dogs lost with the sinking of the Titanic.
The Airedale, Kitty, belonged to Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the
The second Airedale belonged to William E. Carter of Bryn Mawr,
Pennsylvania. Mr. Carter was the owner of the Renault automobile in which
Jack and Rose trysted in the movie "Titanic". Carter, his wife and two
children survived the sinking.
During the 1930s, when airedales were farmed like livestock, American
breeders developed the Oorang airedale.
Capt. Walter Lingo, of LaRue, Ohio, developed the Oorang Airedale strain.
The name came from a line of bench champions, headed by King Oorang 11, a
dog which was said to have been the finest utility dog. King could
retrieve waterfowl and upland game, tree raccoons, drive cattle and sheep,
and bay mountain lions, bears, and wolves. King even fought one of the
best fighting bull terriers, and killed his opponent. He also trained in
Red Cross work, and served the American Expeditionary Force at the front
Lingo simply wasn't satisfied with the average strain of Airedale, and
after an incredible series of breedings, for which he brought in great
Airedales from all over the world, he created the "King Oorang." At the
time, Field and Stream magazine called it, "the greatest utility dog in
the history of the world." The Oorang Kennel Company continued until
Walter Lingo’s death in 1969. Jerry Siebert, an Airedale breeder in
Buckeye Lake, Ohio, followed in Lingo's footsteps, and bred "Jerang
Airedales." There is a kennel in Tennessee that claims to have original
Dogs of close to 100 pounds and upwards, carry the medical and behavioral
problems associated with the 1930's airedale.
After the First World War, the Airedales' popularity rapidly increased
thanks to stories of their bravery on the battlefield and also because
Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding owned
Airedales. President Harding's Airedale was named Laddie Boy.
President Roosevelt claimed that "An Airedale can do anything any other
dog can do and then lick the other dog, if he has to."
1949 marked the peak of the Airedales' popularity in the USA, ranked 20th
out of 110 breeds by the American Kennel Club. The breed has since slipped
to 50th out of 146.
Marion Robert Morrison, otherwise known as John Wayne, grew up in
Glendale, California. His neighbors called him "Big Duke," because he
never went anywhere without his Airedale Terrier, "Little Duke". He
preferred "Duke" to "Marion," and the name stuck for the rest of his life.
The Airedale Terrier, because of its joyful disposition and energy, was
one of the first breeds, along with the Giant Schnauzer and the Rottweiler,
used to create the Black Russian Terrier
The Airedale can be used as a working dog and also as a hunter. Airedales
exhibit some herding characteristics as well, and have a propensity to
chase animals. They have no problem working with cattle and livestock.
However, an Airedale that is not well trained will agitate and annoy the
animals. Strong-willed, with the tenacity commonly seen in terriers, the
Airedale is a formidable opponent.
The Airedale Terrier, like most Terriers, has been bred to hunt
independently. As a result, the dog is very intelligent, independent,
strong-minded, stoic, and can be stubborn. The Airedale is a dog with a
great sense of humour. For those who can laugh along with their Airedale,
the dog can provide a unique and entertaining company. For those who don't
appreciate being outsmarted by their dog, owning an Airedale can be a
trying experience. Patience and consistency in training will be rewarded
as the Airedales have been known to reach great heights in competitive
obedience, dog agility, and Schutzhund.
Airedales can often be difficult to train. Being smart, Airedales pick up
what is wanted from them very quickly; being smart, they do not want to
keep repeating what they learned and can try to terminate a training
session at the point when they "got it". Changing the routine at this
point or taking a play-break is much more productive than trying to force
the Airedale to continue as they are a stubborn bunch.
Airedales require constant reinforcement, or they may decide to start
ignoring commands. When training is resumed, they can quickly recover
their acceptance of the command. Airedales are a stoic and intrepid breed
and as a result, young Airedales exhibit a general lack of common sense
and require training. For the same reasons, they need socializing with
other dogs early.
Albert Payson Terhune wrote of the Airedale: Among the mine-pits of the
Aire, the various groups of miners each sought to develop a dog which
could outfight and outhunt and outthink the other miner's dogs. Tests of
the first-named virtues were made in inter-mine dog fights. Bit by bit,
thus, an active, strong, heroic, compactly graceful and clever dog was
evolved the earliest true form of the Airedale."
He is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, an ideal chum and guard.
....To his master he is an adoring pal. To marauders he is a destructive
They are also very loving, always in the middle of the family activities.
Airedales are also known for expressing exactly what they are thinking,
unlike more aloof breeds. The Airedale is also a reliable and protective
family pet. Airedales are exceedingly loyal and strong dogs; there is one
story of an Airedale taking down a bear to protect its master. They are
very energetic, and need plenty of exercise.
The Airedale is also a stoic, able to withstand pain and injury, the
Airedale's hurts and illnesses often go unnoticed until they become severe
and require veterinary attention.