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Terrier Breeds R - W

Rat Terrier

The Rat Terrier is an American breed. Early 19th century immigrants originated the breed from a mixture of crosses; Smooth Fox Terriers, Old English White Terriers. Bull Terriers, and Manchester Terriers. Later, Chihuahuas, Toy Fox Terriers and available Feist Breeds were added to the cross.

​During the 1910 and the 1920s, most farmers owned a Rat Terrier. Rabbits were plaguing crops in the Midwest so farmers began breeding Rat Terriers to Whippets and Italian Greyhounds for “speed”. Farmers in the Central and Southern regions bred their Rat Terriers to Beagles to bring out a stronger prey drive and gave the Rat Terrier breed the “nose”, as well as the good disposition they are known for today.

​Bred primarily for protection against vermin on the farm or ranch, and not as earth dogs, the Rat Terrier will follow most quarry to ground but are more suited to trailing, flushing, treeing game and hunting rabbits and vermin.

​The Rat Terrier is a hard-working farm hand, able to rid an infested barn of vermin with no problem.

Russell Terrier, Parson

The Parson Russell’s heritage goes back to the Rev. John Russell, who bred a predominantly white terrier, long in the leg, rangy and racy, with the stamina required to run with hounds in pursuit of fox. Descended from the fox-hunting terriers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and appreciated for its sound working ability, the breed was developed specifically by the reverend to bolt the fox from its earth or hold it at bay rather than kill it. Today, it is valued more for its lively companionship than its innate hunting ability.

The Parson Russell Terrier is bold and friendly, intelligent and feisty. Proper socialization is key for a well-behaved terrier.


If ever there was a time when small terriers did not abound in Scotland, it has not been recorded. They were true working dogs, whose job it was to rout such vermin as the fox, otter, and wild cat, and because of their efficiency and gameness the terriers were highly regarded as gamekeepers’ helpers.

​The first writers to describe these dogs under the broad name “Scotch Terriers” wrote that they were of two distinct types: one being rather high on leg with a short, smooth coat; the other short-legged with a rough coat. Colours ranged from white through wheaten to black. It is from the latter type that particular strains and later distinct breeds of terriers were developed. Each was bred for a specific purpose and thus acquired unique characteristics and conformation. Today we know them as the Cairn, the West Highland White and Scottish Terriers. But it took several years before the three were sorted out, agreement on breed names achieved, and uniformity of type established. The sorting out process began with the advent of the dog show in 1859. The following year at the Birmingham event in the north of England the Scotch terriers were first exhibited under a variety of names. These included the Roughhaired, Paisley, Highland, Aberdeen, and to add to the confusion, the Skye. The most persistent of these was Aberdeen because many of the early winners were exhibited by a breeder from Aberdeen. Eventually some order was brought to bear and in 1881 the name “Hard-Haired Scotch Terrier” was agreed to by breed supporters. The following year a specialty club was formed in Scotland and in 1883 the first breed standard was adopted. Later the breed name was revised to the present one.

​Evidently Canada was the first country on this side of the Atlantic to import the Scottish Terrier. The first Scotty to be registered in America was a Canadian-bred whelped in April 1881. The dog’s name was Prince Charlie and he was bred by D. O’Shea of London, Ontario.

​The first Canadian Kennel Club Stud Book ( 1888-1889) records that five Scottish Terriers were registered.


In the Mid Nineteenth century in Pembrokeshire, Wales, a sportsman by the name of Captain John Edwardes set out to develop his ideal of the perfect working terrier, one that performed equally well as a hunt terrier in company with Edwardes’ pack of Otterhounds and as a vermin router that was small enough to slip down a badger hole.

​Edwardes kept no records of the breeds he used to create the Sealyham-so named after his family’s Wales estate. Nor did he imagine that his terrier would become a recognized breed destined to achieve great honour in the show ring. His only concern was to develop an uncommonly game terrier and, to this end, young dogs had to survive harsh testing before Edwardes considered them acceptable.

Thus the breeds used to develop the courageous Sealyham remain a matter of guesswork. Those assumed to be included in the breed’s ancestry are the Welsh Corgi, Flanders Basset, Dandie Dinmont, Bull, West Highland White, Wire Fox, and Old English White Terriers.

After Edwardes’ death in 1891 others took up the cause of the Sealyham. Most significant was the work done by Fred Lewis, who is regarded as the father of the breed. It was Lewis who founded the Sealyham Club in Britain in 1908, an organization which was successful in gaining official breed recognition from The Kennel Club (England) in 1911. In that same year the Sealyham was also accorded breed status by the American Kennel Club. The first registration of a Sealyham Terrier in Canada is recorded in The Canadian Kennel Club Stud Book for the years 1916 – 1917 when one individual was registered.

Although still not seen in great numbers at championship shows on this continent, the quality of the entry remains high.


As early as the Sixteenth century a dog fitting the Skye Terrier’s description was written of by Dr. Caius, master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. But, despite the fact that the Skye is one of the oldest breeds in existence, little factual information as to its origin is available. Suffice it to say that for several hundreds of years the sturdy, short-legged dog with the long, lank hair has been known in the Western Islands of Scotland as an efficient, fearless vermin catcher. How the breed got to these islands in the first place remains in doubt.

Most writers agree that the Skye is a member of that family of dogs once known as the “Terriers of Scotland.” Being protected from crossbreeding because of its remote island habitat, this member of the family evolved into a distinct breed ideally suited to its environment. Known originally as the Terrier of the Western Islands, its name was later changed to the Skye Terrier.

​In addition to being a true working terrier, the Skye was much favoured as a house pet by the Scottish lairds. It has been called, the Heavenly breed” and appears in numerous paintings of Landseer, the renowned animal artist.

​From 1842 onwards the breed became a favourite of Queen Victoria and greater public acceptance followed. By 1877 the breed had arrived on this continent, but the first registration, of a dog named Romach, was not until 1887. There were seven Skyes registered in Canada in 1889 and most notable among the earliest exhibitors was a Mr. Caverhill of Montreal. Up until 1890 the majority of Skyes were of the drop-eared type, but after this time, the erect ear came into vogue. Although both types of ear are correct according to the breed standard preference for the erect ear has continued. The most notable Canadian breeder of Skyes was the late Mrs. Percy Adams who owned her first Skye, Oban Jock, in 1904. Five years later she imported a breeding pair from Scotland who were to found the famous “Talisker” line which remained dominant in the breed in Canada and the U.S. for over fifty years.

Soft-Coated Wheaton

You could call the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier the breed that was almost forgotten. Not that it wasn’t well known, and had been for more than 200 years. Wheatens abounded on farms throughout Ireland because at one time only the aristocracy was permitted by law to own hunting dogs. So the cotters had to settle for native terriers who earned their keep as the poor man’s hunting dog, vermin killer, herder, watchdog, and family pet. But the farmers had no interest in such things as seeking official breed status or competing with their shaggy, wheaten-coloured terriers at dog shows.

​Puppies were whelped and reared on the “survival of the fit” principle which meant little human care. And thus a robust, healthy breed evolved. There was certainly no shortage of willing wheaten mates for the sole survivor of a shipwreck, a large blue dog who found a home in County Kerry. This cross was the start of the Irish terrier breed called the Kerry Blue which gained fame and popularity long before anyone noticed one of its progenitors-the wheaten. It is claimed that occasionally a light-coloured puppy would appear in a litter of dark-coated Kerries, attesting to its wheaten ancestry. The last such incident was reported in 1945.

​The wheaten was not to remain unnoticed forever. In 1932 at a terrier match the breed attracted a group of fanciers who decided to do something for the shaggy dogs. A club was formed and the dog given the name of the Irish Wheaten Terrier. This was too similar to Irish Terrier, a breed already recognized, so it was changed to the present name. In 1937 the breed first appeared on exhibition in Ireland at a championship show and later that year the Soft-Coated Wheaten was placed on the list of native Irish breeds. In 1938 wheatens were permitted to compete at championship events as a distinct breed. At first the breed was shown in a completely natural state. Then, after several years of arguing the point, fanciers agreed to show wheatens in the now familiar scissored trim.

​The breed was rather slow in gaining recognition outside its country of origin. In 1973 the American Kennel Club accepted the Soft-Coated wheaten and added its name to the official roster followed in 1975 by The Kennel Club in England and in 1978 by The Canadian Kennel Club.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

A British breed dating back some 200 years, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier may have descended from the mastiff of ancient times of which there were two types. From the smaller of the two mastiffs came the Old English Bulldog, which was crossed with one or more terriers to produce the breed known as the Bull and Terrier. With the Bulldog’s tenacity and the fire of the terrier, the Bull and Terrier was bred as a pit fighter, a job at which it excelled for more than a century. Then, the laws of the land put an end to such blood sports. The Bull and Terrier might have disappeared if not for a group of fanciers led by Joseph Dunn, who appreciated the dogs for their own sakes and persuaded The Kennel Club (England) to recognize the breed as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the name of the English county where the breed was most popular.

From its past, the Staffie draws his character of indomitable courage, intelligence and tenacity. This, coupled with his affection for friends and children in particular, makes him a wonderful family pet. Some may retain an antipathy toward other dogs, but generally speaking, the Staffie is an all-purpose dog.


Originating in Wales, this sturdy member of the Terrier Group was bred to hunt badger, fox, and otter. Historians generally agree that the Welsh Terrier is descended from the Old English Black and Tan Terrier. Some of England’s earliest sporting prints portray couples of roughcoated black and tan terriers, similar to the modern Welsh Terrier. It is reported that as far back as 1737 considerable in-breeding took place in order to preserve the purity of the breed-a practice which, no doubt, established the strong Welsh character of today.

​The first show at which separate classes were held for Welsh Terriers was held at Caernarfon, Wales in 1885. Then, as the popularity of the breed grew, classes were put on throughout the British Isles. In 1886 The Kennel Club (England) sanctioned the Welsh Terrier breed standard and, basically, this same standard is in use today. In Britain a slightly larger dog is preferred. This is one of the characteristics that distinguishes this breed from the Lakeland Terrier, whom the Welsh Terrier closely resembles. Another is his coat which is always black (or black grizzle) and tan. Because of this colouration the Welsh Terrier is popularly compared to a “miniature Airedale.” But the Welshman is very much his own breed. Spunky, loyal, and an excellent watchdog, the breed still retains much of its hunting instinct. It is said that with very little training he could be used as a gun dog.

​The first two specimens of the breed came to America in 1885. Both were imported and shown by Mr. Prescott Lawrence. The Welsh were first shown in separate classes in 1888 and in 1903 the first Welsh Terrier champion was recorded in the American Kennel Club Stud Book.

​In Canada the breed was first shown at a Toronto dog show held in conjunction with Canada’s Industrial Exhibition. These were British-bred Welsh Terriers imported from Glansevin Kennels by Miss Beardmore of Torrington Farm, Toronto.

West Highland White

All of the little vermin catchers that were once collectively known as the "Terriers of Scotland" are related to one another. But the closest kin to the West Highland White Terrier is said to be the Cairn. In fact it is reported that frequently white puppies appeared in litters of Cairns, and when they did they were promptly put to sleep because the white puppies were not considered fit to survive. But, in various regions of Scotland, some breeders thought differently. They considered that white terriers had an advantage because when on the hunt for vermin they were easily distinguishable from the foxes and badgers. Not being earth-coloured, they were readily visible as they worked among the rocks.

Thus the little white dogs came to be known by various regional names such as the Poltalloch and the Roseneath Terrier. Then around the turn of the century, after the commencement of dog shows at the time when the "Terriers of Scotland" were being classified separately prior to gaining official breed recognition, all the regional names of the white terriers were merged to become the West Highland White Terrier. Colonel E.D. Malcolm of Poltalloch, whose family had been breeding the white terriers for two generations before him, is credited with developing the modern Westie. In 1900 Malcolm introduced the breed to dog shows under the name Poltalloch Terrier. In 1905 the first specialty club was organized, a breed standard was adopted and in 1907 the West Highland White Terrier was granted official breed status by The Kennel Club (England).

It did not take long for the Westie to find supporters on this side of the Atlantic and in 1909 a national breed club was organized in the United States, followed by a similar organization in Canada in 1911. While the Westie retains the instincts of the working terrier and is still being used to keep down the vermin population on farms, the breed is best known today because of its outstanding record as a show dog, having captured top wins at the world's major dog events.

First registrations of the West Highland White Terrier in Canada are recorded in The Canadian Kennel Club Stud Book for the years 1908-1909.

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