Fox Terriers have a lot of history behind them. They've been companions to kings,
entertained the masses in circuses and film, and won more Best-in-Show awards at
the Westminster Kennel Club show than any other breed
When fox hunting became popular in England in the late 18th century, hunters quickly
discovered that they needed a dog that could "go to ground" (enter foxes' dens)
and "bolt" the foxes to drive them out of their hiding places. And so the Smooth
Fox Terrier was developed.
While breeders didn't keep many records about the development of the breed, it's
likely that the original Smooth Fox Terriers were a blend of black and tan terriers
with smooth coats, Bull Terriers, Greyhounds, and Beagles. In 1790, a Colonel Thornton
had a portrait painted of his dog Pitch, a Smooth Fox Terrier, which gives us an
idea of what the early dogs looked like. They've changed little since then. Well-known
Smooths of the 19th century who contributed to the breed's development were Old
Jock, born in 1859 at Grove Kennel in England, and Belgrave Joe. By the late 19th
century, uniform type had been established.
For many years, Smooths and Wires were considered one breed of two varieties. Their
main difference is coat type and, to some extent, head shape. Despite their similarities
in size, shape and temperament, they likely had different ancestry. Wires are thought
to have descended from rough-coated black and tan terriers from Wales, Derbyshire,
and Durham. Early breeders liberally crossed Wire Fox Terriers with Smooths to give
the Wires more white pigmentation, a cleaner-cut head, and a more classical outline.
This interbreeding no longer continues, however, and has not for many years.
Smooth Fox Terriers entered the show ring about 15 to 20 years before Wire Fox Terriers,
and at first they were classified with sporting dogs. England's Fox Terrier Club
was founded in 1876. The members drew up a breed standard that remained unchanged
for decades, with the exception of reducing the weight of a male dog in show condition
from 20 pounds to 18 pounds.
Caesar, a Wire Fox Terrier, was beloved of England's King Edward VII. He wore a
collar with the inscription "I am Caesar. I belong to the King." When Edward died
in 1910, a grieving Caesar marched behind his casket in the funeral procession.
The first records of Smooth Fox Terriers being imported to the U.S. date to 1879,
with Wire Fox Terriers being imported a few years later. The American Fox Terrier
Club, the parent club of the breed in this country, was founded in 1885 and has
the distinction of being the first specialty club to become a member of the American
Kennel Club. The first Fox Terrier to be registered by the AKC was Cricket, in 1885.
The AFTC adopted the English breed standard when it was formed, and it wasn't until
a century later that separate standards for the two breeds went into effect. They
are still quite similar in their descriptions.
In the 1920s, the Smooth Fox Terrier became one of the most recognized of purebred
dogs when RCA used in its logo a picture of a Smooth Fox Terrier named Nipper, head
cocked, listening to a record machine. Wire Fox Terriers became popular as family
pets in the 1930s, when a film series called The Thin Man was created. A Wire Fox
Terrier named Asta was a regular in the show, and the popularity of the breed soared.
In 1985, the AKC formally recognized the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier
as separate breeds, but the standards for both are still maintained by the American
Fox Terrier Club. Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers are uncommon breeds, ranking 78th
and 102nd among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the AKC. While they might
not be seen frequently in homes, they are stars in the show ring, with Wire Fox
Terriers carrying off 13 Best-in-Show awards at Westminster and Smooths four, making
them together the winningest breeds there.