Fox Terrier Club

of Maryland

Origin of Fox Terriers

The Fox Terrier is an old English breed.  For almost 100 Years it was registered and shown in the United States as one breed with 2 varieties, Smooth Fox Terrier and Wire Fox Terrier. In 1984 the American Kennel Club approved separate standards for the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier.  The ruling became effective on June 1, 1985. One of the first records of the breed was made in 1790, when Colonel Thornton's "Pitch", a smooth coated white Fox Terrier was immortalized in paintings.

The name Fox Terrier now refers to two different breeds of dog, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier, that were independently bred in England in the mid-19th century. Fox Terriers probably originated from very different sources.  The ancestor of the Wire is thought to be the old rough-coated, black and tan working terrier of Wales, Derbyshire and Durham. The Important ancestors of the Smooth are believed to include the smooth-coated black and tan Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the Grewhound and the Beagle. The two terrier breeds are very similar, with the only major difference being the coats. The Smooth Fox Terrier has a smooth, flat, but hard and dense coat, whereas the Wire Fox Terrier coat should appear broken with a dense, wiry texture.

In show circles, the terms Fox Terrier is only used for these two breeds, but in other communities around the world, particularly rural and farming ares, these words are used for these breeds and also to refer to mixed-breed dogs of fox terrier type, or to descendent breeds such as the Toy Fox Terrier and Miniature Fox Terrier, which are similar to each other.

The breeds were established to assist in fox hunting. Before there were Fox Terriers, a hunt would be ruined as soon as the fox reached its hole. The introduction of Fox Terriers into the fox hunting party solved the problem. If the fox "went to ground" (reached and entered its hole), the Fox Terrier would be sent in after it.  This is why size, weight, ears and tail are important aspects of the standard.  A Fox Terrier that is too tall or too heavy can not fit into the small fox holes  It should weight about 16 to 18 lbs and should less than 15 1/2 inches tall at the shoulders.  The ears must be folded over to protect the ears of the Fox Terrier from dirt.  And lastly is the tail.  The tail of the Fox Terrier is the important handle to help retrieve your dog from the hole.
This identified the major requirements for a Fox Terrier.
  1. The Fox Terrier had to have the stamina to run with the Foxhounds.
  2. The Fox Terrier had to be small enough to follow a fox down its lair.
  3. The Fox Terrier had to be tough, as a cornered predator such as a fox would viscously fight off an intruder, so a fox terrier had to be able to stand up to the potential battle in the foxes hole.

The first Fox Terrier, a dog called "Foiler" or "Old Foiler", was registered by the Kennel Club circa 1875-6, and the breed began the process of standardization.

Refinement of the Fox Terrier led to the assignment of new breed names to the ensuing breeds. A differentiation was made between the Fox Terrier varieties, although the two breeds were shown under the same breed standard until well into the 20th century. The process of selective breeding was duplicated in other countries as emigrants took their dogs to other parts of the world.