There is perhaps no breed of dog that in so short a time has been improved so much as the Airedale. He is now a very beautiful animal, whereas but a few years back, although maybe there were a few fairly nice specimens, by far the greater number were certainly the reverse of this.

In place of the shaggy, soft-coated, ugly-coloured brute with large hound ears and big full eyes, we have now a very handsome creature, possessing all the points that go to make a really first-class terrier of taking colour, symmetrical build, full of character and “go,” amply justifying—in looks, at any rate—its existence as a terrier.

Whether it is common sense to call a dog weighing 40 lb. to 50 lb. a terrier is a question that one often hears discussed. The fact remains the dog is a terrier—a sort of glorified edition of what we understand by the word, it is true, but in points, looks, and character, a terrier nevertheless, and it is impossible otherwise to classify him.

People will ask: “How can he be a terrier? Why he is an outrage on the very word, which can only mean a dog to go to ground; and to what animal in the country of his birth can an Airedale go to ground?” Above ground and in water, however, an Airedale can, and does, perform in a very excellent manner everything that any other terrier can do. As a water dog he is, of course, in his element; for work on land requiring a hard, strong, fast and resolute terrier he is, needless to say, of great value; and he is said to be also, when trained—as can easily be imagined when one considers his power of scent, his strength, sagacity, and speed—a most excellent gun-dog. He is, in fact, a general utility dog, for add to the above-mentioned qualities those of probably an incomparable guard and a most excellent companion, faithful and true, and ask yourself what do you want more, and what breed of dog, taken all round, can beat him?

The Airedale is not of ancient origin. He was probably first heard of about the year 1850. He is undoubtedly the product of the Otterhound and the old Black and Tan wire-haired terrier referred to in the chapters on the wire-hair Fox and the Welsh Terriers. When one considers the magnificent nobleness, the great sagacity, courage, and stateliness of the Otterhound, the great gameness, cheek, and pertinacity of the old Black and Tan wire-hair, such a cross must surely produce an animal of excellent type and character.

Yorkshire, more especially that part of it round and about the town of Otley, is responsible for the birth of the Airedale. The inhabitants of the country of broad acres are, and always have been, exceedingly fond of any kind of sport—as, indeed, may also be said of their brothers of the Red Rose—but if in connection with that sport a dog has to be introduced, then indeed are they doubly blessed, for they have no compeers at the game.

Otter-hunting was formerly much indulged in by the people living in the dales of the Aire and the Wharfe, and not only were packs of Otterhounds kept, but many sportsmen maintained on their own account a few hounds for their personal delectation. These hounds were no doubt in some instances a nondescript lot, as, indeed, are several of the packs hunting the otter to-day, but there was unquestionably a good deal of Otterhound blood in them, and some pure bred hounds were also to be found. Yorkshire also has always been the great home of the terrier. Fox-terriers, as we now know them, had at this time hardly been seen. The terrier in existence then was the Black and Tan wire-hair, a hardy game terrier, a great workman on land or in water.

Whether by design or accident is not known, but the fact remains that in or about the year mentioned a cross took place between these same hounds and terriers. It was found that a handier dog was produced for the business for which he was required, and it did not take many years to populate the district with these terrier-hounds, which soon came to be recognised as a distinct breed. The Waterside Terrier was the name first vouchsafed to the new variety. After this they went by the name of Bingley Terriers, and eventually they came to be known under their present appellation.

The specimens of the Airedale which were first produced were not of very handsome appearance, being what would now be called bad in colour, very shaggy coated, and naturally big and ugly in ear. It, of course, took some time to breed the hound out at all satisfactorily; some authorities tell us that for this purpose the common fighting pit Bull-terrier and also the Irish Terrier were used, the latter to a considerable extent; and whether this is correct or not there is no doubt that there would also be many crosses back again into the small Black and Tan Terrier, primarily responsible for his existence.

In about twenty years' time, the breed seems to have settled down and become thoroughly recognised as a variety of the terrier. It was not, however, for some ten years after this that classes were given for the breed at any representative show. In 1883 the committee of the National Show at Birmingham included three classes for Airedales in their schedule, which were fairly well supported; and three years after this recognition was given to the breed in the stud-book of the ruling authority.

From this time on the breed prospered pretty well; several very good terriers were bred, the hound gradually almost disappeared, as also did to a great extent the bad-coloured ones. The best example amongst the early shown dogs was undoubtedly Newbold Test, who had a long and very successful career. This dog excelled in terrier character, and he was sound all over; his advent was opportune—he was just the dog that was wanted, and there is no doubt he did the breed a great amount of good.

A dog called Colne Crack, who was a beautiful little terrier was another of the early shown ones by whom the breed has lost nothing, and two other terriers whose names are much revered by lovers of the breed are Cholmondeley Briar and Briar Test.

Some years ago, when the breed was in the stage referred to above, a club was formed to look after its interests, and there is no doubt that though perhaps phenomenal success did not attend its efforts, it did its best, and forms a valuable link in the chain of popularity of the Airedale. It was at best apparently a sleepy sort of concern, and never seems to have attracted new fanciers. Some dozen or so years ago, however, a club, destined not only to make a great name for itself, but also to do a thousandfold more good to the breed it espouses than ever the old club did, was formed under the name of the South of England Airedale Terrier Club, and a marvellously successful and popular life it has so far lived. The younger club was in no way an antagonist of the older one, and it has ever been careful that it should not be looked upon in any way as such. The old club has, however, been quite overshadowed by the younger, which, whether it wishes it or not, is now looked upon as the leading society in connection with the breed.

At a meeting of the first club—which went by the name of the Airedale Terrier Club—held in Manchester some eighteen or twenty years ago, the following standard of perfection and scale of points was drawn up and adopted:—

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HEAD—Long, with flat skull, but not too broad between the ears, narrowing slightly to the eyes, free from wrinkle; stop hardly visible, and cheeks free from fullness; jaw deep and powerful, well filled up before the eyes; lips light; ears V-shaped with a side carriage, small but not out of proportion to the size of the dog; the nose black; the eyes small and dark in colour, not prominent, and full of terrier expression; the teeth strong and level. The neck should be of moderate length and thickness, gradually widening towards the shoulders and free from throatiness. SHOULDERS AND CHEST—Shoulders long and sloping well into the back, shoulder-blades flat, chest deep, but not broad. BODY—Back short, strong and straight; ribs well sprung. HIND-QUARTERS—Strong and muscular, with no drop; hocks well let down; the tail set on high and carried gaily, but not curled over the back. LEGS AND FEET—Legs perfectly straight, with plenty of bone; feet small and round with good depth of pad. COAT—Hard and wiry, and not so long as to appear ragged; it should also be straight and close, covering the dog well over the body and legs. COLOUR—The head and ears, with the exception of dark markings on each side of the skull, should be tan, the ears being a darker shade than the rest, the legs up to the thigh and elbows being also tan, the body black or dark grizzle. WEIGHT—Dogs 40 lb. to 45 lb., bitches slightly less.

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At the time of the formation of the Southern club the state of the Airedale was critical; possessed of perhaps unequalled natural advantages, lovely dog as he is, he had not made that progress that he should have done. He had not been boomed in any way, and had been crawling when he should have galloped. From the moment the new club was formed, however, the Airedale had a new lease of life. Mr. Holland Buckley and other keen enthusiasts seem to have recognised to a nicety exactly what was required to give a necessary fillip to the breed; they appear also to have founded their club at the right moment, and to have offered such an attractive bill of fare, that not only did everyone in the south who had anything to do with Airedales join at once, but very shortly a host of new fanciers was enrolled, and crowds of people began to take the breed up who had had nothing to do with it, or, indeed, any other sort of dog previously.

Some few years after the foundation of this club, a junior branch of it was started, and this, ably looked after by Mr. R. Lauder McLaren, is almost as big a success in its way as is the parent institution. Other clubs have been started in the north and elsewhere, and altogether the Airedale is very well catered for in this respect, and, if things go on as they are now going, is bound to prosper and become even more extensively owned than he is at present. To Mr. Holland Buckley, Mr. G. H. Elder, Mr. Royston Mills, and Mr. Marshall Lee, the Airedale of the present day owes much.

The Airedales that have struck the writer as the best he has come across are Master Briar, Clonmel Monarch, Clonmel Marvel, Dumbarton Lass, Tone Masterpiece, Mistress Royal, Master Royal, Tone Chief, Huckleberry Lass, Fielden Fashion, York Sceptre and Clonmel Floriform. Nearly everyone of these is now, either in the flesh or spirit, in the United States or Canada.

In all probability, the person who knows more about this terrier than anyone living is Mr. Holland Buckley. He has written a most entertaining book on the Airedale; he has founded the principal club in connection with the breed; he has produced several very excellent specimens, and it goes without saying that he is—when he can be induced to “take the ring”—a first-rate judge. Mr. Buckley has frequently told the writer that in his opinion one of the best terriers he has seen was the aforesaid Clonmel Floriform, but, as this dog was sold for a big price very early in his career, the writer never saw him.

Most of the articles that have been written on the Airedale have come from the pen of Mr. Buckley, and therefore but modest reference is made to the man who has worked so whole-heartedly, so well, and so successfully in the interests of the breed he loves. It would be ungenerous and unfair in any article on the Airedale, written by anyone but Mr. Buckley, if conspicuous reference were not made to the great power this gentleman has been, and to the great good that he has done.

The Airedale is such a beautiful specimen of the canine race, and is, in reality, in such healthy state, that every one of his admirers—and they are legion—is naturally jealous for his welfare, and is wishful that all shall go well with him. It is gratifying to state that he has never been the tool of faction, though at one time he was doubtless near the brink; but this was some time ago, and it would be a grievous pity if he ever again became in jeopardy of feeling the baneful influence of any such curse.

There is one serious matter in connection with him, however, and that is the laxity displayed by some judges of the breed in giving prizes to dogs shown in a condition, with regard to their coats, which ought to disentitle them to take a prize in any company. Shockingly badly-trimmed shoulders are becoming quite a common thing to see in Airedales. There is no necessity for this sort of thing; it is very foolish, and it is impossible to imagine anything more likely to do harm to a breed than that the idea should get abroad that this is the general practice in connection with it.