Monday, October 6, 2014


In the beginning, Airedale Terriers were called Waterside or Bingley Terriers.  They looked really different from the Airedale Terriers we see today.  The name "Airedale" came from a valley in Yorkshire, England.  The English call valleys "dales," which is an old Viking word that stuck around, even after the Vikings went away.  And also, the British like to use words that are confusing to us Americans.  So anyway, there is a river called the Aire, and it cuts a valley (dale) through some mountains in northern England, and this area is called Airedale.

The red blob is the West Riding section of Yorkshire
where Airedale is located.
Wikipedia; Attributed to Hogweard

The people who lived in Airedale a couple hundred years ago noticed that there was lots of small game and also some annoying vermin in their valley, and they wanted a dog that could help hunt these animals down.  So they used a black-and-tan type of terrier that doesn't exist nowadays -- either that, or it is what came to be the Welsh Terrier -- and they bred it with the Otterhound to make a terrier who was a better swimmer.  Then they may have also added in some Manchester Terrier.

The River Aire at Bingley
Photo:  Graeme Mitchell

In 1879, the breeders of this new terrier decided to give it the official name of Airedale Terrier.  The Kennel Club of England formally recognized the breed in 1886.  Airedales were imported to the U.S. starting in the 1880s.  The first Airedale in America was named Bruce, and soon after he arrived in 1881, he won the terrier class in a New York dog show.

The original use of Airedale Terriers was for hunting otters and other small animals.  The wealthy hunters used a pack of hounds and terriers together.  The hounds scented and pursued the quarry, and the terriers would dig down into the animal's burrow (which was called "going to ground") and make the kill.

Thunder, a Bingley Terrier, one of the founders of the Airedale Terrier breed,
from The Illustrated Book of the Dog, London/New York, 1881

Airedales were also used in a gambling sport that involved hunting water rats.  In this event, two dogs competed.  They would first sniff out a rat hole, and then a ferret was sent in to make the rat come out.  After that, the dogs chased the rat through the river until one of them caught and killed it.

During World War I, lots of Airedales helped carry messages and mail to soldiers behind enemy lines.  The Red Cross used the dogs to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield.  After the war, Airedales became really popular because people had heard stories about their bravery.  Also, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding all had Airedales.  President Harding's Airedale, Laddie Boy, was the first White House pet to gain a kind of celebrity status.  By the 1920s, the ADT had become the most popular breed in the U.S.

Laddie Boy, President Harding's dog

Some people still use Airedales for hunting, including for big game in India, Africa, and Canada.  They can also be used to herd livestock.  However, if the terriers are not well trained, they may just chase the animals around instead of herding them, and that's not good.  Here are some other things that Airedales do:  guarding, rodent control, tracking, military work, police work, and competitive obedience.

Nowadays, Airedales are most often used as companion dogs.  They generally do well with children and make good family members.  They are intelligent, brave, loyal, and fairly friendly with strangers.  But they can also be independent, strong-minded, and stubborn at times.  Because they are high-energy dogs, Airedales need quite a bit of exercise.  They are not good choices to live in apartments.

Wikimedia, Photo by amonja

Airedales are the biggest of the terriers.  Males are 22" to 24" tall and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds.  Females are somewhat smaller.  They have an outer coat that is hard and wiry, and an undercoat that is much softer.  Officially accepted colors are tan-and-black or tan-and-grizzle.  Dogs who are being shown have their outer coats stripped by hand several times a year.  Companion dogs only need to have this done every six months or so.  A coat that is stripped will not shed, but if it is not stripped, it will produce lots of fluff, even if you trim and brush it.  The beard needs to be washed often because food sticks in it.

The average litter size for an Airedale is 9 puppies!

In most European countries, the U.K., and Australia, it is illegal to dock dogs' tails, so Airedales have natural, fluffy tails that are long and slightly curled over the back.  In other countries, such as the U.S., tails are docked within five days after a puppy is born.

Airedales are usually pretty healthy, but the issues they might have are hip dysplasia, eye problems, skin infections, and bloat.  The life expectancy of an Airedale is about 10 to 12 years.  A survey that the U.K. Kennel Club did in 2004 showed that the most common causes of death were cancer (39.5%), old age (14%), urologic (9%), and cardiac (7%).


I think Airedales are cute, but we don't really need one at our house because an Airedale would probably chase our cats, and we have had enough trouble with that kind of thing already.  My Aunt Cheryl, in Austin, does Airedale rescue, so we have seen pictures of some dogs that her group has rescued.  Sometimes these dogs have been living in very sad conditions, but Aunt Cheryl's group gets them all fixed them up and finds them nice homes where they can live happily ever after.  And what more could any dog want?

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