Working airedale

Working airedale DEFAULT

413 Airedale-english griffon

by   David Hancock

 "The Airedale terrier cannot claim much in the way of ancient origin, as it was not until about 1853 that Wilfred Holmes crossed the local terriers...withthe otterhounds, in order to produce a larger and gamer type..."  So wrote Frank Townend Barton, in his The Kennel Encyclopaedia of 1930. This cross-breeding has long been the perceived wisdom on the origin of this distinguished breed, but I am not convinced. Barton, who did not conduct his own research but relied on other writers' work, was repeating the words of Leighton and others from the early twentieth century. I suspect that Yorkshire sportsmen blended the blood of the old broken-coated black and tan working terrier with that of the northern breed of black and tan wire-haired hound, sometimes called the Lancashire Otterhound. The Otterhound, as we know it, did not emerge as a breed until after 1880. The classic Otterhound coat colours did not appear in the emergent breed of Airedale, and its coat texture does not feature in the breed, although early specimens were often goat-haired.

 For me, it is an enormous pity that this breed of Airedale ever became dubbed a terrier. That word should be reserved for earth-dogs, dogs that go to ground. In France the Airedale would have been called a griffon, a rough-coated hunting dog, a hound if anything. This breed should not be regarded as a terrier and should not be judged by those more familiar with the breeds developed to go to ground. But above all, it should be regarded as a sporting dog, with the anatomy to allow it to function in the field. It is of course a remarkably versatile breed, able to undertake manifold tasks. My interest in them came from Colonel Richardson's use of them as service-dogs nearly one hundred years ago. This interest was increased when, as a young teenager working for my local vet, I went with him to visit Molly Harbut's world-famous 'Bengal' kennel of superlative Airedales, at Bathampton, near Bath.

 Airedales were used extensively in the Great War as sentry-dogs, messengers and ambulance-dogs, emerging as the best all-round war dog breed. The Paris police elected to use them too. Colonel Richardson, who was Commandant of the British War Dog School then, recorded: "I have owned and trained at one time or other, nearly every kind of dog suitable for guarding work...but, as a result of all my work of years, it is my considered judgement, that for all-round watching and guarding work, the most reliable dog in size and character is the Airedale Terrier." In 1920, the Airedale was the most popular breed in the USA. Over 5,000 were registered here in each of the years 1924/25/26. Nowadays only a fifth of that number is registered each year, against 14,000 GSDs and 5,000 Rottweilers. In 1949, John Watson MacInnes FZS wrote a book entitled 'Guard Dogs', referred to Richardson's work, but made no mention at all of the Airedale, mainly recommending German breeds. That doesn't sound very honest to me.

 More honestly, in 'Hounds and Dogs' of 1932, a volume of the Lonsdale Library, Capt. Banes Condy wrote: "No book dealing with Sporting Dogs would be complete without mention of the Airedale Terrier..." going on to state he had exported them to India to hunt jackal in pack "where his good nose, hardihood, lasting capabilities and strength make him invaluable." Banes Condy emphasized one point: "People, both breeders and novices, have somehow or another got it into their heads that an Airedale must be a rich black and tan in colour. This is erroneous..." In the world of kennel clubs all over the world today black and tan is the favoured breed colour; in the United States some breeders favour all-black and all-red Airedales, no doubt shocking the breed-purists.

 As a sporting dog, the Airedale has long been valued, mainly overseas. In his 'Hunting Dogs' of 1909, the American sportsman-writer, Oliver Hartley recorded: "I have found out that the pure Airedale Terrier and the hound make the very best dogs for coon, lynx, mink, etc. Get a good Airedale and a good hound and you will have a pair of hounds hard to beat..." He went on to state that Airedales were 'great water dogs and very hard workers and easily trained to hunt any kind of game. They are full of grit and fear nothing...'  He further sang the breed's praises 'in hunting and dispatching coyotes, coons, badger and bay-lynx (ie reddish-brown lynx), any one of which is capable of putting up a good fight. Also he is a hunter, retriever, trailer of coon, 'possum, bear, wildcat, mink, coyote, deer, lynx, fox or small game.' That is some tribute from a highly-experienced hunter, operating in difficult terrain.

 In his 'The Coon Hunter's Handbook' of 1952, another American sportsman, Leon Whitney recommended the Airedale-hound cross, especially if a 'still-trailer' or silent tracker was required. A third American sporting dog expert, Carl P Wood, notes the value of the Airedale-hound cross, in his 'The Gun Digest Book of Sporting Dogs', in hunting the black bear, a dangerous occupation for any dog. For Airedale blood to be so highly rated by three such experienced hunters is noteworthy. In 1986, the Airedale Club of America staged the first of its annual hunting and working workshops. Using the Killdeer Plains wildlife arae in Ohio, a three day working trial was held for North American dogs. Day 1 was for upland bird hunting, Day 2 was for trailing and tracking fur and Day 3 was for retrieving. When are our comparable breed clubs going to perpetuate their breed's sporting instincts here? All over Britain there are under-exercised, unemployed but willing dogs wasting away.

 An early fancier, a Mr. E Bairstow of Bradford, wrote around 1890: "In all my experience, I never came across any person who ever had an Airedale terrier over twelve months who would utter one word of disparagement against him...This breed owes its origin to the working or middle class inhabitants of Airedale and surrounding districts; take Bradford as the centre, and say about a 15 mile radius..." Do the good people who live in that catchment area now realise what their ancestors bequeathed to the sporting dog fraternity all over the world? Our precious sporting heritage slips away from us every year. Should not our Yorkshire-based breed devotees strive to celebrate such a local achievement? The towns of Rottweil and Leonberg would not miss such a chance!  

 In the United States, a number of our famous breeds of dog, long abandoned by sportsmen here, are still favoured in the hunting field. Bigger quarry is pursued using 90lb Airedales, twice the size of the showring breed here. The Southern/ROC kennel over there breeds the bigger specimens and, ignoring kennel club strictures, breeds blacks and reds too. This would horrify so many British Airedale breeders, who persist in a tightly closed gene pool whatever the outcome, a form of genetic madness.  The dogs from the Southern/ROC kennel have excelled on bear and cougar.

 In Britain what one Airedale breeder eighty years ago proudly dubbed as 'burglar-proof' and 'holy terrors that will face sticks and bricks, can smell tramps a mile off, down intruders but love, honour and obey their owner', has become a breed defying its own ancestry. If you are seeking an open-coated, fluffy-legged, narrow-skulled, dewy-eyed pet with upright shoulders, no drive behind and restricted movement, then there are Airedale breeders here able to meet your requirements. If you want one willing to face a cougar, a strapping canine athlete displaying a determined eye, then look over the pond. But don't be upset when its coat colour doesn't match the Kennel Club stipulations, words for pedants not sportsmen!

A dog that can drive livestock, kill vermin, guard the farmstead and at a pinch pick up in the shooting field, has enormous value to the cash-strapped farmer. Yet here the breed of Airedale is ornamental. It is heartening therefore to learn of The Airedale Club of America's work in promoting the breed's hunting ability. For ten years now they have been running tests to trial the breed's all-round hunting skills: finding and flushing game, water-retrieving and 'coon tracking ability. It would be so worthwhile if the breed here could rediscover its sporting past in such a way. The worry would be that if an Airedale reached a high standard in field trials of some kind and proved itself as a superlative working dog with an admirable construction and immense breeding potential, it would only have value if it were black and tan or grizzle and tan.  If some gifted breeder produced a solid red or black Airedale, with startling field capability, he would never be able to register such an asset to the breed. Colour prejudice is alive and kicking, sadly, kicking the pursuit of excellence and that is surely a severe handicap for any breed.




Airedale Terrier -  The Early Days

1850 - 1910


The Airedale Terrier was formally known as the Waterside or Bingley terrier. It's roots can be traced back to the valley of the river Aire in Yorkshire district of Great Britain. It's most important ancestor was the local rough coated working terrier. Mostly black & tan with a fearless temperament and strong hunting instinct. Being a medium sized dog in general appearance for a terrier the Airedale was big. This gave him later the name "king of terriers". The Airedale was always a breed which was known for its versatile working abilities.

The famous Thunder - Airedale from approx 1876 - an a unknown Airedale in a drawing from 1887 - three champions from the Tone kennel

Around 1850 Mr. Holmes carefully crossed otterhound with the local working terrier to get a stronger and bigger dog with the brain, the temperament and the coat of the terrier and the retrieving ability, the nose and the qualities in water work of the otterhound. To better the breed other breeds like collies and bullterrier have been crossed in. Like the most other breeds too, the Airedale and his ancestors have been workers in those days and their look has rapidly changed in the last 150 years mostly because the show breeders got a hold of them.

The early otterhound and his descendant of today - heavier and bigger with a lot more fur

An extreme is the the old working and the "new" show bullterrier. It is hard to believe that people really think they have bettered something and forgot all the health and temperament problems of the modern breed. This old English Bullterrier was a healthy breed - the sporting dog par excellence!

The white athlete at work and his descendant of today - no comment!

The third breed which was used to create the Airedale was the collie. Exactly it was the mostly black & tan working collie which was known for its working abilities and its intelligence. Even today the working collies and heelers are often used to breed outstanding lurchers. The collie blood is used as balance to make dogs with strong hunting drive and a lot grit a little easier to handle and more trainable.

A type of working collie as service dogs during the WWI - the job which made the Airedale famous.

But first of all even today the Airedale was and should be a typical terrier in build and temperament. Anyway there have been differences in build and size as it is usual in breeds which are mostly selected for their working abilities. But none of those early dogs looked like the show Airedales of today which rather need a hairstylist than a serious handler and a job.

This five pictures give us a impression of the varieties between the first Airedales - all pictures are from approx 1900.

The Airedale is from its roots a pure hunting dog as its ancestors the old rough coated working terrier was used for fox and badger hunting mostly. Through the time it became a terrier of the stronger type like Irish or Kerry Blue and was more used for otter hunting or as draw dogs when hunting fox or badger. The Airedale was a breed of the working class and as such it should be able to be handled with less afford and fit the needs of those days. That means a dog has to guard the owners property without being a over aggressive dog, tolerate the children on the streets and work for the pleasure of its master, be it rat catching or otter hunting. Coming from this background, it is no wonder that the Airedale was appreciated in America as ideal farm all around and hunting dog. A stable temperament, true grit and a lot of brain is what it needs to handle the big game like bear or mountain lion and survive the encounter.

In the middle there is a Airedale from Lionheart kennel and the next to the right is a picture with a pair of the Oorange Airedales and the coons they treed or caught.

During the WWI the Airedales become famous for its rock solid temperament and for its loyalty to its master. There are several reports of Airedales which have saved a lot of lives and got their job done even badly wounded. The Airedales did their job between fire and explosions next to them and searched wounded soldiers or brought messages from one group to another. When it is called a war dog nobody with knowledge is going to think about the Airedale as a man aggressive dog. What it should never be!

In 1893 the first Airedale was imported to Germany. Quickly the Airedale become recognized for his loyal temperament and its working qualities. We know that the Airedale was used as hunting dog in Germany on every game which was hunted at this time. Especially when hunting wild boars the Airedale performed as outstanding hunting partner because of the combination which let him work in the USA so well, too: brain & grit! But the Airedale became more and more a official working and service dog. The German club the Klub für rauhaarige Terrier (later the Klub für Terrier) forced this development and became a supporter of raising the size for the Airedale to 60cm / 23,62 inch. This was just logical because a bigger dog better fits the needs of the police work than a smaller dog. By selecting the Airedales for abilities which are needed in police and military work and knowing that around 1910 the beginning of protection sport started it seemed not surprising that nobody cares about the hunting qualities. The opposite was the case and the most breeder in Germany did not like to see any hunting instinct in their dogs. As a result of this today there are no lines left which are used for hunting in Germany.

Airedales of the Magdeburger Jäger Batallion approx 1904 and a few other German breed Dales.


And doesn't matter if you prefer the traditional farm, all around and hunting dog or a dog for sport or official duty:

There are even today Airedales which get the job done to make you proud!





I like to thank Mr. Henry S. Johnson for all he has done to me and to the Airedale as working breed.

Finally I have to thank Matt Thom for finding a little place on his website for my report and first and for most for sending his great Annie across the pond to proselytize us over here.



Martin Reinartz




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Airedale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier, aka “King of Terriers,” is the largest of all terriers and this may not really come as a surprise. The most interesting fact about the Airedale is its penchant for vigorous activity and personal attention, minus which he tends to keep himself occupied by simply going on a rampage.


Believed to be a native breed of the Aire Valley in England and a descendant of the erstwhile black-and-tan, old English terrier way back in the 1800s, the Airedale terrier is a physically tough and versatile breed that stands tall among the other terrier breeds. Originally bred as a hunting dog, Airedales were then cross-bred with Otterhounds to enhance their sense of smell to hunt in the waters, and later with other terrier breeds to improve their looks! Airedales, over time, have evolved from hunting companions to messenger, wartime and police dogs; but, their instincts, physique and rough looks still tag along.


The temperament of Airedales switches from being playful and friendly, yet occasionally shy and obedient to aggressive and stubborn, depending on the situation. They make good guard dogs and are quite vigilant, ready to plunge into action at the slightest excuse – though they can stay calm and poised when trained to do so. Known to be swift learners, there’s no task that they cannot learn to accomplish. Intelligent, strong, always in a commanding position, Airedales cannot be left unattended for long. Regular physical and mental challenges are their comfort zones.


The male Airedale is taller than its female counterpart – both weighing roughly the same (about 30 kg). Tough and agile, rounded limbs, strong jaws, a thick coat and high tail are certain characteristics of this breed. The hair, however, is not coarse and the undercoat is quite soft.

Health and Care

Regular trimming of the wild coat is a must at least once in a fortnight, and the mane demands combing a couple of times each week. Airedales can survive outdoors, but only in mild climates. Regular tests for hip dyslexia, colonic ailments are advisable as the breed is believed to be prone to such conditions.


Airedales love to be trained and respond well to all types and levels of training with ease. Training the Airedale to interact with other pets at home, however, can prove to be a challenge as they do not easily get along with cats, rabbits, rodents, or birds. Hunting instincts are expected to rule high and need tempering right from the early years to co-exist with other pets. They are known to get along amicably with smaller dogs that are in no way a threat to their dominance.

Training this breed may not be that demanding – for simply taking them on long walks or jogs, engaging them in high-energy sporting or gaming activities, or allowing them to play around in a secluded safe spot tend to satisfy their need to stay active. No repetitions please, for the Airedale can quickly lose interest and get bored.

Training Airedales seriously for hunting, tracking or policing may need a structure training plan to meet specific objectives. Airedales, when sensitised to humans and pets, can make excellent companions for singles, elders and families as well. They are quite friendly with visitors, respond to the trainer or master’s bidding, and obey orders unless bored.

The hairy, muscular, intelligent and alert Airedale can easily be trained and petted to don multiple roles, provided he has sufficient space to stay active.


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History of the Airedale Terrier

The Airedale terrier is the tallest terrier and, as such, is often referred to as the "king of terriers".

Medium-sized terriers were prized by Yorkshire hunters for hunting game such as water rats and foxes. In the mid-1800s, some terriers around the River Aire in South Yorkshire were crossed with otterhounds to enhance their hunting ability around water, as well as scenting ability.

The result of the crossbreeding was a dog adept at otter hunting, originally called the Bingley or Waterside terrier which was later recognized as the Airedale terrier in 1878.

Breeders from the show-dog circuit sought to breed away from some of the remnants of the otterhound cross that were considered less aesthetically pleasing and instead crossed the Irish and bull terriers which produced the modern Airedale terrier.

The patriarch of the breed, Champion Master Briar, gained notoriety around 1900, and his offspring set the standard for the Airedale breed in America.

The breed was used for wartime guard, messenger duty, rodent control, hunting birds and game.

The Airedale’s smart looks and manners made it well-suited as a police dog and family pet. However, after World War I, the Airedale’s popularity waned. Now, its reputation is greater than its numbers.

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Airedale working

Airedale Terriers: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videosDog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

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Now discussing:

All About Airedale Terriers


Airedale Terriers are a terrific breed. Unlike most large dogs, the Airedale only minimally sheds and is considered as hypo-allergenic as a dog could be (hypo means less not none).  They are incredibly smart, willing, eager to please, calmer than most other medium sized working/hunting breeds. DogwoodDales Airedales possess an instinctive "je ne sais quoi" this lineage will provide great benefits to you. Dogs from our lines have showed, worked and hunted with great success even spawning many Urban legends with their greatness.

The Airedale Terrier originated in the Aire Valley in England and their personality and fantastic ability sent them across the pond and clear into the White House for 3 US Presidents; from there they went into battle during the world wars to carry messages across lines.  US President Harding admired his Airedale Terrier "Laddie Boy" so much he had his own hand carved chair from which to oversee high level cabinet meetings. "Laddie Boy" was the first "Celebrity" dog and was memorialized in statue which is at the Smithsonian Museum.  (see Airedale Terrier History)

Today, the Airedale Terrier serves mainly on the good side of the law as police dogs in several counties around the globe. However, they haven’t always been used for good purpose. In the past they were used extensively in Africa, as big game hunters appreciated the fearlessness and courageous attitude, conjoined with the fact that are generally quiet dogs, especially on the hunt which proved helpful to the poachers who were skirting the law. 

The Airedale Terrier has been a classic choice for sole and family companionship, pointing, flushing, retrieving (both on land and in water where the Airedale is a fast nimble swimmer), hunting anything from small rodents to coyotes, bears and lions; home protection, and even herding and livestock protection. When the Airedale is at home with you as a companion they are some of the sweetest and devoted family dogs I have ever met – they form deep bonds with their owners and their clownish personalities are addictive as potato chips without leaving hair everywhere. The breed only minimally sheds and is considered as hypo-allergenic as a dog could be.

They are deep thinkers; when interacting with this breed, you can actually “see the wheels turning” as they process and plan their next move. Yes, I said “plan” an Airedale has a plan whether its how to get into your lap, how to sneak a piece of food, or when working independently out in the field. Due to the great cognitive ability they are invaluable on the field or on the job. Being the intellectuals they are Airedale Terriers are best trained with firm friendly words and great rewards - never harshly. 

For Average Size and the DogwoodDales Type -


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