by   David Hancock

We once had two English terriers, by name: the Old English Black and Tan Terrier and the English White Terrier, the latter, so casually lost to us but once so well known and bred so true to type that a restoration would be justified and a regrettable gap in the list of our national terrier breeds filled. But that applies too to another English terrier breed. We also lost the old English Black and Tan Terrier, a distinct and historic type of rough-haired working terrier, partly represented today by the Lakeland, but, some claim, 'misrepresented' by the Welsh Terrier of today, allegedly 'purloined' from the English by the envious Welsh! If you look at the extant terrier breeds, ranging from the Lakeland and the Border to the Norwich and the Norfolk, the lasting influence of our Old Black and Tan Terrier can be seen - and even in the German Hunt Terrier too, but especially, in the Welsh Terrier!  

Robert Leighton, writing early in the twentieth century had a wide knowledge of terriers. In his Dogs And All About Them of 1914, he gave an admirable summary of the emerging and non-emerging breeds: “A wire-haired black and tan terrier was once common in Suffolk and Norfolk, where it was much used for rabbiting, but it may now be extinct, or, if not extinct, probably identified with the Welsh Terrier, which it closely resembled in size and colouring. There was also in Shropshire a well-known breed of wire-haired terriers, black and tan, on very short legs, and weighing about 10lb. or 12lb., with long punishing heads and extraordinary working powers. So too, in Lancashire and Cheshire one used to meet with sandy-coloured terriers of no very well authenticated strain, but closely resembling the present breed of Irish Terrier; and Squire Thornton, at his place near Pickering in Yorkshire, had a breed of wire-hairs, tan in colour with a black stripe down the back…Possibly the Elterwater Terrier is no longer to be found…” But no club or lobbying group pressed the case for the old black and tan working terrier of England to be so named.

  Then, at the Bangor Show of 1885, a group of Welsh terrier fanciers decided to approach the Kennel Club with the understandable desire of having their dogs registered as just that by name. Equally understandably, some north of England breeders of similar dogs wished their rights to be acknowledged too. So, in November 1885, to satisfy both parties the KC agreed to enter in the Stud Book the classification 'Welsh Terrier or the Old English wire-haired Black and Tan Terrier - Class 53'. Later, the fanciers of the English dogs failed to form a club and in time any reference to English terriers was deleted in registration and show documents. At a meeting of the Welsh Terrier Club in February 1890, the motion ‘That no dog or bitch the sire or dam of which is a Fox, Irish, Airedale or Old English terrier shall be eligible to compete at any show…’ was only narrowly defeated. The words of this motion indicates the existence (and potential loss) of the old English terrier.


A few years back, I was judging a terrier class at a working terrier show on Bramham Moor, but before that studied the entry in a nearby ring for the broken-coated variety of an emergent terrier breed. One dog, a black and tan rough-coated male, with impressive movement, great 'attitude' and a sound working construction, really took my eye. His owner, terrier-man to a local hunt, told me later that he only ever used and owned terriers in this jacket because they can operate in all weather, always seem to have excellent temperaments and live long active lives. He was a highly experienced terrier-man and one worth listening to. In her excellent informative book With Hound and Terrier in the Field of 1904, Alys Serrell, famous for her mainly white Fox Terriers, makes some valuable comments on the old black and tan types of working terrier. She points out that Peter Beckford and the Duke of Beaufort favoured them and states that the foundation of the Rev John Russell's kennel was Trump and a black and tan dog. She had several black or grizzle and tans: Tim, Briton and Whankey, considering the latter the cleverest of all her terriers. Her much-admired dog Tim was a dark grizzle and tan terrier from the Badminton line. She never found a bad coat in black and tan dogs. Her words on terriers are worth heeding.

I sometimes see black and tan Fell Terriers and Patterdale Terriers that could pass muster as Old English Black and Tan Working Terriers and there might be merit in their fanciers getting together and resurrecting the old neglected breed. It might even restore the true terrier coat, hard, wiry, stiff and coconut-matting in texture; so many Welsh and Lakeland Terriers have developed woolly, fluffy pelage, neither weatherproof nor traditional. With the show terriers in rough-haired black and tan coats so open-coated, we could benefit from restoring the old English Black and Tan rough-haired Terrier to our list of terrier breeds. Any takers?