History of the Border Terrier

The Border Terrier originated from the rugged country along the border between Northumberland and Scotland. They are undoubtedly related to the other terriers which originated from this same region -- Bedlington Terriers and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. All three breeds are descended from terriers bred by the rough folk who eked out a bare living from the harsh terrain.

Anne Roslin-Williams quotes Stonehenge from The Dogs of The British Isles (1872):

"in these times [at the end of the last century -- i.e. around 1790] another race of terriers, analogous to the real pepper-and-mustard was common on the Border. It is not yet extinct. It was nearly like a Dandy on long legs, but with a shorter body, and in general, a less head: it was exactly of the same colour -- coat, body, head and legs being exactly is in the real pepper-and-mustard."

These terriers worked with the Border Foxhounds. They were bred to go long distances, after the horses, and to bolt the hill foxes. Being bred to control the foxes, they were necessarily strong and stout.

Roslin-Williams also quotes a Mr. Jacob Robson, writing about 1896:

"These terriers have been kept in the Borders for a very long time now, but the name 'Border Terrier' is of quite recent date, being given to them because they were bred and kept mostly in the English and Scottish Border districts. They have always been bred for their working qualities, and are used with the Border Foxhounds and North Tyne Foxhounds chiefly. My father, when he lived at East Keilder, had some very high class representatives of the breed -- about the years 1859-1860.

"My father and the late Mr. Dodd, Catcleugh, preferred this breed of terrier to any other for bolting foxes, their keenness and gameness making them very suitable for this purpose. They vary in weight a great deal, although 15 to 18 lbs. is the best size, as, when bigger, they cannot follow their fox underground so well, and a little terrier that is thoroughly game is always best. Flint, a mustard dog we had here nearly thirty years ago, was small but the best bolter of foxes I ever saw. He was slow in entering to fox but when he did begin was so thoroughly game and keen that he never failed to oust his fox. The favourite color is red or mustard, although there are plenty of the variety pepper-coloured and a few black and tan. Their coat or hair should be hard, wiry and close so as to enable them to withstand wet and cold. They should stand straight on their legs and have a short back, not made like the Dandie Dinmont, long backed and crooked. A strong jaw is a good point; not nearly so long in the nose as a Dandie or Scottish Terrier. They may be either red or black nosed, but the red nosed ones are often the keenest scented."

Border Terriers were first shown in the 1870s and 1880s, most notably at the Bellinham show. Records for these and other shows for the next two decades are apparently quite spare in detail.

The first Border Terrier was registered with the British Kennel Club in 1913. The details appeared in the Kennel Gazette under the category -- "Any Breed or Variety of British, Colonial, or Foreign Dog -- Not Classified." According to Roslin-Williams, a total of 41 Border registrations were made in the same section between 1912 and 1919. Application for a separate breed register was made in 1914, and rejected. The breed gained official recognition in 1920.

On June 24, 1920 enthusiasts met at Hawick to form the Border Terrier Club. Arguments for and against the club were made. Mr. John Dodd of Riccarton argued against, believing the the breed would be ruined, its working characteristics lost, if became a 'show' dog. Dodd ultimately withdrew his objection and in the tradition of vociferous critics everywhere soon joined John and Jacob Robson in drawing up a Standard. The initial draft met with some objection at its Bellingham show reading on the grounds that the size clause (between 14 and 17 lbs. for dogs and less than 15 lbs. for bitches) allowed for too much heft -- the Border was a Terrier, after all, not a Whippet. The Standard was altered to hold dogs from 13 to 15.5 lbs and bitches for 11.5 to 14 lbs.

Application for a separate breed register went to the Kennel Club on September 1, 1920 along with a application to register the name 'The Border Terrier Club.' At his time there were 121 members of the Club.

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Maintained by Sam C. Carrier, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH 44074.
Send information, suggestions, and queries to Sam.Carrier@oberlin.edu.
Last updated: 12 January 1999