The extinct black and tan Old English or Broken-haired Terrier is probably the progenitor of the Welsh, Irish, Wire Fox and Airedale Terriers. Sporting Yorkshiremen used Airedale Terriers and their crosses for fox, weasel, otter, badger, water rat and small game in the valleys of the rivers Colne, Calder, Warfe, and Aire. They ranged from 17-30 pounds and excelled in agility, eyesight, hearing and courage, but they lacked the nose and swimming ability of the Otterhound used in the same area. The crossing of the terrier and hound formed the stem of the Airedale, a large terrier that would also work in water.
By the 1860s, these crosses were standardized and called Working, Waterside or Bin-gley Terriers, Classes were first offered at agricultural shows in 1879. In fact, the Airedale agricultural show had an extremely large entry of Waterside Terriers and was responsible for giving the breed its current name.
The patriarch of the Airedale Terrier is Ch. Master Briar, 1897-1906. One of his sons was exported to Philadelphia to initiate the breed in the USA. The Airedale boasts many Best In Shows in the USA and England, but loyal fanciers exist throughout the world.
According to Hutchinson’s Dog Encyclopaedia, “the Airedale Terrier has long been held in high favour by the armies of European and Asiatic countries being easy to train and once trained, showing great determination of character and devotion to duty, and almost superhuman intelligence, chiefly in carrying despatches on the field of battle and finding the wounded. In fact, the dog’s intelligence was so high in the latter respect that they became a source of embarrassment to the Japanese victors during the Russo-Japanese War by always finding and directing to the Russians first and the Japanese soldiers last, for the Airedale’s power of scent is remarkable.”
The Airedale Terrier is used on large game in Africa, India and Canada, as well as the USA. The Airedale Terrier was chosen as one of the first to be used for police work in Germany and England. During World War I, the breed was enlisted by the British and Russian armies. During that time it aided the Red Cross, locating wounded and carrying messages. A few also served in the Second World War. When trained for defense, these dogs are usually unbeatable for their weight. It is said the Airedale “can do anything any other dog can do and then lick the other dog.”
Their sweet disposition comes from their hound background. Mature Airedale Terriers have a certain dignified aloofness, both to strangers and to their own land. Exceptional playmates for children who are old enough for high-spirited play, their disposition can be molded by their masters. The Airedale coat, which is not only hard and wiry, but sports a bit of a curl, requires consistent regular grooming. The ears have a half drop and the tail is docked.