Also known as the Watershed Terrier, the Airedale Terrier is a Terrier-type dog breed that originated in the Aire River Valley in West Riding of Yorkshire in England.
These dogs were traditionally called ‘King of Terriers’ for being the largest of all Terrier dogs.
Airedale Terriers originated from the Terrier and the Old English Black Terriers. However, later on, many other breeds have been used to strengthen the qualities of the dog breed. Such as the Olde English Bull Terrier.
What were Airedales bred to do?
These dogs were originally bred as working dogs for flushing out vermin. The traditional dog owners also used these dogs as hunting companions.
In Britain, this breed was also used as police dogs, guide dogs, and war dogs.
In the United States, these dogs are also used for hunting upland birds, big games, and waterfowls.
Airedale Terriers are squarely built muscular dogs that stand somewhere about 23 inches in height at the shoulders.
The weight of these dogs is somewhere between 50 to 70 pounds. These dogs are the largest of all the Terrier breeds generate from the British Isles.
The Airedale Terrier has a tan and black coat of hair that comes with a grey undercoat. Their ears are triangular, and the head has a rectangular outline. The unique characteristics of the dogs make them unmistakable and unforgettable.
Even though these Terriers are not as old as the other Terrier dogs, these dogs have a strong fan following and fanciers.
Where did the Airedale Terriers come from?
Airedale Terriers originated from Aire River Valley in West Riding of Yorkshire in England.
The Airedale dogs were first bred during the 1800s in Yorkshire, England. The main reason this breed was created was to control the rat and otters population in the valley of the Aire River.
These dogs then fulfilled multipurpose roles as the common Yorkshiremen could not afford separate dog breeds to fulfil different purposes.
This year, the Yorkshiremen tried to breed a black and tan Terrier with an Otterhound to breed a well-rounded working dog that can hunt down the rats and otters living in the Aire River valley.
First attempts of cross-breeding created a dog that showed both the keenness of the terriers and the scenting and swimming abilities of an otterhound.
The dogs produced in the first cross-breeding were known as the Bingley or Waterside Terriers. Within a decade of this first cross-breeding, these dogs became widely popular working and sporting Terriers across England.
This year, a dog show was held in the Aire valley for the first time. The Airedale Agricultural Society sponsored this competition.
However, the Airedale Terriers took part in this competition under different names.
In this competition, the Airedale Terriers took part under the Broken Haired Terriers and watershed Terriers class.
The famous author Hugh Dalziel was a judge in the competition. Once the contest was over, he commented that those dogs are exceedingly good and are at par excellence.
This comment brought the maximum attention to these dogs. However, it also created an uproar among the fans of this dog breed. They protested that Hugh has mistakenly assumed that the origin of these dogs was Bingley.
At that time, a group of Airedale Terriers lovers and breeders joined this protest and suggested that the name of this breed should be Airedale Terriers.
The canine experts believe that Dr Gordon Stables first suggested the name of these dogs. He judged a dog show a year before Dalziel and gave the title during that time. However, there is no full-proof evidence to that.
This year, Dalziel judged another dog show where the Airedale Terriers also took part. During this time, he referred to these dogs as the Airedale Terriers in his reports.
However, the name Airedale Terriers were not commonly accepted at first, creating even more confusion.
That is why most dog shows of this time created classes under all three of the names.
This confusion lasted till the year 1886.
This year, the Kennel Club of England first accepted the name Airedale Terrier for the dog breed, solving all the problems and making the name official.
The well-to-do hunters of this time generally took several Terriers and hounds to the hunting expeditions. The hounds help the hunters find the game while the terriers go inside the quarry burrow and kill.
Compared to them, the ordinary folk of the Yorkshire region did not have the means to use such dogs in their hunting games. The Airedale Terriers were one of the most popular hunting partners of ordinary people.
These dogs had the perfect size for tracking down the game. However, these dogs were also able to follow the game in their underground burrows if necessary.
Airedale Terrier dogs were courageous and can face the enemy in the underground burrow without any help.
The American Kennel Club first recognised this breed in 1888.
The Airedale Terrier dogs were first imported to Germany in the 1890s. During this time, the country was experimenting with the abilities of the dogs to become police dogs.
The importedAiredale Terriers fitted all the requirements perfectly. The excellent tracking ability, moderate size, and protective weather coat helped the dogs become one of the top police dogs.
The fact that these dogs can be protective and courageous when necessary helped them even further.
During the Boxer Rebellion of 1899, the Airedale Terriers were extensively used for carrying ammunition and messages.
This year the Airedale Terrier Club of America was established.
This year, the Airedale Club of America made the Airedale Bowl one of the perpetual trophies. This Trophy is continuing its journey even today.
The Trophy is now being mounted on a wooden base. An engraved metal plate is attached that bears the names of hundreds of dogs that have won the Best of Breed awards in various national specialities.
Airedale dogs were associated with the sinking of the RMS Titanic as well. An Airedale dog named Kitty belonged to the real estate mogul, Capt. John Astor IV.
Another Airedale Terrier that boarded the RMS Titanic ship belonged to William E. Carter.
During this period, the Airedale Terriers were extensively used for fulfilling various purposes. These dogs acted as messenger, sentry, explosive detectors, and search dogs for finding wounded soldiers in the war.
It is World War I that has gained these dogs immense popularity across the world.
Even though these dogs were a native breed of England, the country did not appreciate its value as a working dog during the first world war.
As the war continued, the British started to understand the versatile abilities of the dogs that were right under their noses the whole time.
Apart from the fighting sides, Airedale Terriers were also used by the Red Cross Society to find the wounded soldiers.
Several stories show how courageous these dogs were while delivering important messages during the war despite suffering from terrible injuries.
An Airedale Terrier named Jack went straight through a war zone for half a mile, ignoring the enemy fire to deliver a message to the headquarters. He arrived at the destination with fractured legs and a broken jaw. Right after delivering the message, Jack dropped dead in front of the recipient.
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Richardson was responsible for developing the guard and messenger dogs in the British army. With the help of his wife, he created the British War Dog school in Essex, England.
In 1916, Colonel Richardson offered the job to two Airedale Terriers, Prince and wolf, as message carriers.
After these dogs proved their abilities on the battlefield, Airedale dogs were given more responsibilities during the war.
Before the German Shepherds became the popular choice for search and rescue and law enforcement works, Airedale Terriers were often used to fulfil these roles.
After the first world war was over, the popularity of Airedale Terriers soared, thanks to their bravery on the battlefield.
Presidents Warren Harding, Theodore Roosevelt, and Calvin Coolidge were also responsible for the popularity of these dog breeds.
President Harding’s Airedale Terrier called Laddie Boy was the first celebrity White House pet.
Even though the popularity of the Airedale dogs soared in 1920, these dogs became the most popular breed in the USA in 1949.
This year, these dogs ranked 20th out of 110 dog breeds that American Kennel Club recognised at that time.
Even though the popularity of the dogs has not reached the same height ever since, this courageous dog breed has a strong fan following even today.
These dogs’ clownish and happy nature makes them one of the most fantastic choices for families with children.
They can be great companions for your teenagers and can gladly follow the command of your toddler to the tee.
About the Author
Teresa has studied canine behaviour and canine nutrition. She loves sharing her knowledge and educating through her articles. Teresa has some pets that she adores two dogs, two cats, and one hamster.