In this week’s post, as a continuation of covering the various breeds that I have photographed over the years, I’d like to focus on the Airedale Terrier. This is a breed that used to be very popular during the first half of the 20th century, and is a great working dog. In agility competitions, I have not seen a lot of Airedales, even though they are very successful when participating.
The Airedale Terrier (often shortened to “Airedale”), also called Bingley Terrier and Waterside Terrier, is a dog breed of the terrier type that originated in the valley (dale) of the River Aire, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is traditionally called the “King of Terriers” because it is the largest of the terrier breeds. In Britain this breed has also been used as a war dog, guide dog and police dog.
The breed started by crossing the English rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier with the Otterhound
Airedale, a valley (dale) in the West Riding of Yorkshire, named for the River Aire that runs through it, 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 (now known as the Welsh Terrier) with the Otterhound. In 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognized 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 maneuvering 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 River Aire 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 dogs 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 its hound heritage it was well equipped to pick up the scent of game and due to its size, 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 colorful, 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 first imports of Airedale Terriers to North America were in the 1880s. The first Airedale to come to American shores was named Bruce. After his 1881 arrival, Bruce won the terrier class in a New York dog show.
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.
The first Canadian registrations are recorded in the Stud book of 1888–1889.
In 1910, the ATCA (Airedale Terrier Club of America) offered the Airedale Bowl as a perpetual trophy, which continues to this day. It is now mounted on a hardwood pedestal base, holding engraved plates with the names of the hundreds of dogs that have been awarded Best of Breed at the National Specialties.
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.
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson was responsible for the development of messenger and guard dogs in the British Army. He, along with his wife, established the British War Dog 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 this role.
In 1906, Richardson tried to interest the British Police in using dogs to accompany officers, for protection on patrol at night. Mr. Geddes, Chief Goods Manager for Hull Docks in Yorkshire, was convinced after he went and saw the impressive work of police dogs in Belgium. Geddes convinced Superintendent Dobie of the North Eastern Railway Police, to arrange a plan for policing the docks. Airedale Terriers were selected for duty as police dogs because of their intelligence, good scenting abilities and their hard, wiry coats that were easy to maintain and clean. They were trained in Hull to attack people not in uniform which could cause problems for their handlers when off duty. The first four dogs began patrols in Hull Docks in 1908, and the scheme was later extended to other docks policed by the North Eastern Railway Police.
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 to 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 RMS Titanic. The Airedale “Kitty” belonged to Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the real-estate mogul. 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. He also trained in Red Cross work, and served the American Expeditionary Force at the front in France.
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. To help promote the King Oorang, as well as his kennels, Lingo created the Oorang Indians football team headed up by Jim Thorpe. The team played in National Football League from 1922–1923. 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 Oorang Airedales.
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, Laddie Boy, was the “first celebrity White House pet”. President Harding had a special chair hand carved for him to sit on at very important Cabinet meetings. In the 1920s, the Airedale became the most popular breed in the USA
This image was captured with a Canon EOS 1D Mk II using an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens with 1.4x Extender. Exposure settings were at 1/1000 second at f/6.3 and 320 ISO.