CHAPTER XXXIII. THE WIRE-HAIR FOX-TERRIER

The wire-hair Fox-terrier is, with the exception of its coat, identical with the smooth Fox-terrier—full brother in fact to him. The two varieties are much interbred, and several litters in consequence include representatives of both; and not only this, but it is quite a frequent occurrence to get a smooth puppy from wire-hair parents, although for some generations neither of the parents may have had any smooth cross in their pedigrees.

The North of England and South Wales (to a lesser extent) have ever been the home of the wire-hair, and nearly all the best specimens have come originally from one or the other of those districts. There is no doubt that there was excellent stock in both places, and there is also no doubt that though at times this was used to the best advantage, there was a good deal of carelessness in mating, and a certain amount in recording the parentage of some of the terriers. With regard to this latter point it is said that one gentleman who had quite a large kennel and several stud dogs, but who kept no books, used never to bother about remembering which particular dog he had put to a certain bitch, but generally satisfied himself as to the sire of a puppy when it came in from “walk” by just examining it and saying “Oh, that pup must be by owd Jock or Jim,” as the case might be, “'cos he's so loike 'im,” and down he would go on the entry form accordingly. However this may be, there is no doubt that the sire would be a wire-hair Fox-terrier, and, although the pedigree therefore may not have been quite right, the terrier was invariably pure bred.

In the early days the smooth was not crossed with the wire to anything like the extent that it was later, and this fact is probably the cause of the salvation of the variety. The wire-hair has had more harm done to him by his being injudiciously crossed with the smooth than probably by anything else.

The greatest care must be exercised in the matter of coat before any such cross is effected. The smooth that is crossed with the wire must have a really hard, and not too full coat, and, as there are very, very few smooths now being shown with anything like a proper coat for a terrier to possess, the very greatest caution is necessary. Some few years back, almost incalculable harm was done to the variety by a considerable amount of crossing into a strain of smooths with terribly soft flannelly coats. Good-looking terriers were produced, and therein lay the danger, but their coats were as bad as bad could be; and, though people were at first too prone to look over this very serious fault, they now seem to have recovered their senses, and thus, although much harm was done, any serious damage has been averted. If a person has a full-coated wire-hair bitch he is too apt to put her to a smooth simply because it is a smooth, whom he thinks will neutralise the length of his bitch's jacket, but this is absolute heresy, and must not be done unless the smooth has the very hardest of hair on him. If it is done, the result is too horrible for words: you get an elongated, smooth, full coat as soft as cotton wool, and sometimes as silkily wavy as a lady's hair. This is not a coat for any terrier to possess, and it is not a wire-hair terrier's coat, which ought to be a hard, crinkly, peculiar-looking broken coat on top, with a dense undercoat underneath, and must never be mistakable for an elongated smooth terrier's coat, which can never at any time be a protection from wind, water, or dirt, and is, in reality, the reverse.

The wire-hair has had a great advertisement, for better or worse, in the extraordinarily prominent way he has been mentioned in connection with “faking” and trimming. Columns have been written on this subject, speeches of inordinate length have been delivered, motions and resolutions have been carried, rules have been promulgated, etc., etc., and the one dog mentioned throughout in connection with all of them has been our poor old, much maligned wire-hair. He has been the scapegoat, the subject of all this brilliancy and eloquence, and were he capable of understanding the language of the human, we may feel sure much amusement would be his.

There are several breeds that are more trimmed than the wire-hair, and that might well be quoted before him in this connection. There is a vast difference between legitimate trimming, and what is called “faking.” All dogs with long or wire-hair or rough coats naturally require more attention, and more grooming than those with short smooth coats. For the purposes of health and cleanliness it is absolutely necessary that such animals should be frequently well groomed. There is no necessity, given a wire-hair with a good and proper coat, to use anything but an ordinary close-toothed comb, a good hard brush, and an occasional removal of long old hairs on the head, ears, neck, legs, and belly, with the finger and thumb. The Kennel Club regulations for the preparation of dogs for exhibition are perfectly clear on this subject, and are worded most properly. They say that a dog “shall be disqualified if any part of his coat or hair has been cut, clipped, singed, or rasped down by any substance, or if any of the new or fast coat has been removed by pulling or plucking in any manner,” and that “no comb shall be used which has a cutting or rasping edge.” There is no law, therefore, against the removal of old coat by finger and thumb, and anyone who keeps long-haired dogs knows that it is essential to the dog's health that there should be none.