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History of the Airedale Terrier

Airedale Terrier circa 1915

W. E. Mason - Dogs of all Nations

The Airedale is believed to have come from the Valley of Aire in England. Seeking a larger multi-purpose hunting dog, sports-loving Yorkshires crossbred the Old English Terrier, a small wire-coated dog with typical terrier pluck and hunting instincts, with the Otterhound, a breed with a good nose, a water-repellent coat and an easy-going nature. This cross resulted in an all-around sporting dog ready to work on land or in the water.

In addition, historically their agility, intelligence, strength, fearlessness and determination made them a member of most hunting packs, including those for dangerous game like bear and mountain lion. Airedales were the first dog called upon for the Canine Corps in World War I and have been used for police work in Germany, Great Britain and Japan.

Yet the Airedale is sensitive and responsive to the human need, and easily develops a strong sense of responsibility for family and home. Its ability as a watchdog comes from devotion to family, not from viciousness. An Airedale at your side, whether on a solo night car ride or during an evening at home, gives comfort and security that is without measure.

The Airedale will return, many times over, the care, training and affection you invest, growing with you in wisdom and understanding. And there is no better recommendation for owning an Airedale than to paraphrase that well-known saying, "Ask someone who owns one." Many devotees believe once you have owned an Airedale, other breeds just don't measure up.

These early Airedales did not resemble today's show Airedales, weighing only 25 to 35 pounds with a smooth or wooly coat ranging from red through various grizzles to bluish-gray and black and tan. Even the latter was not the familiar brown or tan with a black saddle. As their appearance evolved so did their name: they were first called Waterside and then Bingley Terriers. It was not until 1879 that classes for Airedale Terriers were offered at dog shows.

Airedales were first brought to the United States in 1885. By 1900 there were enough fanciers to organize the Airedale Terrier Club of America. Their exploits as a determined messenger in World War I, combined with their personable temperament, contributed to a meteoric rise in popularity. By the early 1920s, the Airedale was the most popular breed in America. Breeders more interested in money than in breed characteristics and standards flooded the nation with dogs of diminishing quality, widely varying sizes and poor temperaments.

War Dog Training in Britain, circa 1940

Two Canadian soldiers strap a basket to the back of an Airedale dog during a training exercise, somewhere in Britain.

The basket contains carrier pigeons.

Despite adversity, reputable breeders have slowly but steadily improved breed quality over the years. Today Airedale Terriers have all the intelligence and ability originally sought, but with a more stylish, majestic look. Airedales today are more worthy than ever of the title, "King of the Terriers."