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Wire Fox Terrier


The Wire Fox Terrier, also known at times as the Wire-haired Fox Terrier, the Broken-haired Fox Terrier and most affectionately as "the gentleman of the terrier world," is an old English breed that has been shown in the United States for more than a century. It shares its ancestry with that of the Smooth Fox Terrier and really differs only in coat. The Fox Terrier developed in the 17th century as a hunting and sporting dog that specialized in flushing fox and other vermin from their dens. Its keen senses of sight and smell, together with its small size and great stamina, made it especially well-suited to that task. The Fox Terrier is "all terrier." He is plucky, active, intelligent and intensely focused on whatever job he is given to do. The Fox Terrier is used less to hunt fox and rodents now than in times past, and today he is more commonly used as a show and companion animal. Potential owners should remember that this lively terrier has an almost insatiable instinct to dig and can be quite vocal.
The Wire Fox Terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a breed distinct from the Smooth Fox Terrier in 1984; this change went into effect in 1985. The combined breed was first admitted into the AKC's Terrier Group, with a smooth and a wire variety, in 1885. The Wire Fox Terrier rose dramatically in popularity in the 1930s, due largely to the Thin Man thriller series, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. Their lively pet, a male Wire Fox Terrier named Asta, played a prominent role in those six highly successful detective films.
The mature male Wire Fox Terrier should not exceed 15½ inches at the withers and should not be more than 12 inches from withers to the root of the tail in length, with the female being slightly smaller but in the same proportion. The adult male in show condition usually weighs about 18 pounds, with a bitch being about 16 pounds in the same condition. The breed's dense, wiry coat appears broken, and its hair has a tendency to twist but should never have any trace of curl. The stiff outercoat covers a shorter growth of softer undercoat. White should predominate, with black, black-and-tan or tan markings. Brindle, red, liver or slate blue markings are objectionable under the American standard. The Wire Fox Terrier's tail typically is docked to about ¾ of its original length and is set high and held upright.

History & Health


The Fox Terrier has been shown in the United States as one breed with two varieties, the smooth and the wire, since it was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. In 1984, the AKC approved separate standards for the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier, and the breeds were recognized as fully distinct effective June 1, 1985. Experts believe that the two coat-type varieties of fox terriers developed very differently. The Wire Fox Terrier is thought to have descended from the old rough-coated black-and-tan working terriers of Wales, Durham and Derbyshire. The Smooth Fox Terrier is thought to have descended from the smooth-coated black-and-tan terrier, the Bull Terrier, the Beagle and the Greyhound. Both the Smooth and the Wire Fox Terriers were bred for their excellence as ratters and to aid British farmers in eradicating vermin. Traditionally, the fox terriers would go to ground to bolt foxes, whereafter the hunters and their pack of foxhounds would carry on the chase. With rats and other small rodents, the fox terriers worked independently and needed no assistance from others to complete the task.
The Wire Fox Terrier entered the show ring after its smooth-coated cousin. The first class devoted to the Fox Terrier was at a London dog show in 1862. In 1863, at the Birmingham show, three Fox Terriers - who later became known as the founding fathers of the breed - were shown. The appearance of Old Jock, Old Tartar and Old Trap in the ring boosted the Fox Terrier's reputation as a competitive show dog apart from its working talents. The two then-varieties (smooth and wire) were crossed many times, particularly to give more of a white coat color to the Wire Fox and a cleaner silhouette. That practice was discontinued many years ago. However, the mostly white coat has remained in both breeds, originally desired because dark-coated terriers could be mistaken by the hunting hounds for prey when they emerged from bolting the fox from its lair.
By the late 1800s, the Fox Terrier had skyrocketed in popularity and was one of the most popular terrier breeds in all of Great Britain. In 1873, more than 275 were entered in a single Fox Terrier class at an English dog show. The Fox Terrier Club of England was created in 1876. So well drafted was its breed standard that it remained virtually unchanged for decades. The American Fox Terrier Club was formed in 1885 and adopted the British standard for the breed. The Fox Terrier was accepted into the American Kennel Club's Terrier Group, with a Smooth and a Wire variety, that same year. By the early 1900s, the smooth Fox Terrier had become the most popular dog breed in England. By the 1920s, the wire-haired variety gave it a run for its money. Eventually, both varieties declined in Britain as other terrier breeds became more fashionable.
Today's Wire Fox Terrier is the more popular of the two Fox Terrier breeds. However, like its close smooth-coated cousin, it retains its hunting instincts and traits, making it arguably less commonly seen as purely a house pet than many other terrier breeds. It excels at flyball, agility and other activities that let it satisfy its natural desires to run, chase and explore. The Wire Fox Terrier can be stubborn, scrappy, aloof and snappy. Its fanciers, however, understand and value these attributes and adore this fiery little terrier.


The average life span of the Wire Fox Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include cataracts, congenital deafness, distichiasis, pulmonic stenosis, insulinoma, glaucoma, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, shoulder luxation, mast cell tumors, cerebellar malformation, epilepsy, corneal ulceration, lens luxation, progressive retinal atrophy, ectopic ureters, congenital idiopathic megaesophagus and skin allergies.

Temperament & Personality


Fox Terriers are spunky, fearless, loyal dogs who adore the outdoors as much as they enjoy people. They were developed to work as part of fox hunting parties, bolting foxes from their dens out into the open where Foxhounds and hunters then took over. Their small size allowed them to get into the foxes dens, and t heir long legs helped them keep up with the hounds. Today, Fox Terriers still enjoy running and digging, and are happy to do so alongside kids of all ages. They are active dogs who require a family who is committed to exercise, but for experienced owners, these terriers make a great family pet.

Activity Requirements

Fox Terriers are small, but they have energy to spare and need a lot of exercise to maintain health and happiness. Even when indoors they are always "on the go," constantly moving about the house. You should walk your Fox Terrier several times a day, but jogging is even better. Fox Terriers prefer running to walking, so joggers have a true blue companion in this breed. They chase balls to the point that some owners believe they are obsessed with the activity, and can use up all of their energy playing fetch, as long as your arm doesn't tire out in the process. Their size makes Fox Terriers fine apartment dogs, but a commitment must be made to keeping up with a regular exercise program.


Fox Terriers can be a handful to train. They are independent thinkers who will make you prove that you are a worthy leader. Training sessions should begin early and conducted with a firm but gentle hand. Consistency is important, as Fox Terriers will test boundaries and the minute a rule is bent will attempt to run roughshod over the house. Praise is a good motivator, but food works the best. Once a Fox Terrier learns that there is something in training that benefits him (treats), he will come around quickly.
Once leadership has been established and basic obedience has been mastered, Fox Terriers should move on to advanced obedience, trick training or agility activities. They need to work their brains as much as their bodies, and keeping them focused on learning new activities can prevent your Fox Terrier from making mischief in the house, especially when left alone.

Behavioral Traits

Fox Terriers are very aggressive toward other dogs, picking fights and refusing to back down when he is picked upon. Unfortunately, the Fox Terrier can't defend himself very well and is bound to lose most fights he picks. It is very important, no matter how well-behaved you believe your Fox Terrier to be, that you keep him on a leash or in a securely fenced area at all times. This keeps him safe from fights, but also keeps him from running after small animals, which this breed is also very prone to do. A Fox Terrier will not obey commands to return home if he takes off after a cat, rabbit or squirrel. It is also best if your Fox Terrier is the only pet in the house. He'll pick fights with dogs, terrorize cats and stalk small caged animals.
Fox Terriers are prone to excessive barking. This trait is classic Terrier and can be difficult to train out of the dog. This makes Fox Terriers excellent watchdogs, but lousy housemates and neighbors, especially if you live in close proximity to other people. Teaching your Fox Terrier to obey commands to cease barking can save the sanity of the neighborhood.

Fox Terriers are small, but they can escape a fence in the blink of an eye. Fences should be high, and also sunk low beneath the ground and yard time should always be supervised. They can jump higher than you think, and are expert diggers who can tunnel quickly under a fence in search of new adventure.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Terrier should be alert, quick of movement, keen of expression, on the tip-toe of expectation at the slightest provocation. Character is imparted by the expression of the eyes and by the carriage of ears and tail.
Bone and strength in a small compass are essential, but this must not be taken to mean that a Terrier should be "cloddy," or in any way coarse--speed and endurance being requisite as well as power. The Terrier must on no account be leggy, nor must he be too short on the leg. He should stand like a cleverly made, short-backed hunter, covering a lot of ground.
N.B. Old scars or injuries, the result of work or accident, should not be allowed to prejudice a Terrier's chance in the show ring, unless they interfere with its movement or with its utility for work or stud.

Size, Proportion, Substance
According to present-day requirements, a full-sized, well balanced dog should not exceed 15½ inches at the withers--the bitch being proportionately lower--nor should the length of back from withers to root of tail exceed 12 inches, while to maintain the relative proportions, the head-as mentioned below-should not exceed 7¼ inches or be less than 7 inches. A dog with these measurements should scale 18 pounds in show condition--a bitch weighing some two pounds less--with a margin of one pound either way.
The dog should be balanced and this may be defined as the correct proportions of a certain point or points, when considered in relation to a certain other point or points. It is the keystone of the Terrier's anatomy. The chief points for consideration are the relative proportions of skull and foreface; head and back; height at withers; and length of body from shoulder point to buttock--the ideal of proportion being reached when the last two measurements are the same. It should be added that, although the head measurements can be taken with absolute accuracy, the height at withers and length of back are approximate, and are inserted for the information of breeders and exhibitors rather than as a hard-and-fast rule.

The length of the head of a full-grown well developed dog of correct size--measured with calipers--from the back of the occipital bone to the nostrils-should be from 7 to 7¼ inches, the bitch's head being proportionately shorter. Any measurement in excess of this usually indicates an oversized or long-backed specimen, although occasionally--so rarely as to partake of the nature of a freak--a Terrier of correct size may boast a head 7½ inches in length. In a well balanced head there should be little apparent difference in length between skull and foreface. If, however, the foreface is noticeably shorter, it amounts to a fault, the head looking weak and "unfinished." On the other hand, when the eyes are set too high up in the skull and too near the ears, it also amounts to a fault, the head being said to have a "foreign appearance."
Keen of expression. Eyes should be dark in color, moderately small, rather deep-set, not prominent, and full of fire, life, and intelligence; as nearly as possible circular in shape, and not too far apart. Anything approaching a yellow eye is most objectionable. Ears should be small and V-shaped and of moderate thickness, the flaps neatly folded over and dropping forward close to the cheeks. The topline of the folded ear should be well above the level of the skull. A pendulous ear, hanging dead by the side of the head like a Hound's, is uncharacteristic of the Terrier, while an ear which is semierect is still more undesirable. Disqualifications--Ears prick, tulip or rose.

The topline of the skull should be almost flat, sloping slightly and gradually decreasing in width toward the eyes, and should not exceed 3½ inches in diameter at the widest part--measuring with the calipers--in the full-grown dog of correct size, the bitch's skull being proportionately narrower. If this measurement is exceeded, the skull is termed "coarse," while a full-grown dog with a much narrower skull is termed "bitchy" in head.
Although the foreface should gradually taper from eye to muzzle and should dip slightly at its juncture with the forehead, it should not "dish" or fall away quickly below the eyes, where it should be full and well made up, but relieved from "wedginess" by a little delicate chiseling. While well developed jaw bones, armed with a set of strong, white teeth, impart that appearance of strength to the foreface which is so desirable, an excessive bony or muscular development of the jaws is both unnecessary and unsightly, as it is partly responsible for the full and rounded contour of the cheeks to which the term "cheeky" is applied.

Nose should be black. Disqualifications--Nose white, cherry or spotted to a considerable extent with either of these colors. Mouth--Both upper and lower jaws should be strong and muscular, the teeth as nearly as possible level and capable of closing together like a vise the lower canines locking in front of the upper and the points of the upper incisors slightly overlapping the lower.
Disqualifications--Much undershot, or much overshot.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck should be clean, muscular, of fair length, free from throatiness and presenting a graceful curve when viewed from the side. The back should be short and level with no appearance of slackness--the loins muscular and very slightly arched. The term "slackness" is applied both to the portion of the back immediately behind the withers when it shows any tendency to dip, and also the flanks when there is too much space between the back ribs and hipbone. When there is little space between the ribs and hips, the dog is said to be "short in couplings," "short-coupled," or "well ribbed up." A Terrier can scarcely be too short in back, provided he has sufficient length of neck and liberty of movement. The bitch may be slightly longer in couplings than the dog. Chest deep and not broad, a too narrow chest being almost as undesirable as a very broad one. Excessive depth of chest and brisket is an impediment to a Terrier when going to ground. The brisket should be deep, the front ribs moderately arched, and the back ribs deep and well sprung. Tail should be set on rather high and carried gaily but not curled. It should be of good strength and substance and of fair length-a three-quarters dock is about right--since it affords the only safe grip when handling working Terriers. A very short tail is suitable neither for work nor show.

Shoulders when viewed from the front should slope steeply downwards from their juncture, with the neck towards the points, which should be fine. When viewed from the side they should be long, well laid back, and should slope obliquely backwards from points to withers, which should always be clean-cut. A shoulder well laid back gives the long forehand which, in combination with a short back, is so desirable in Terrier or Hunter. The elbows should hang perpendicular to the body, working free of the sides, carried straight through in traveling. Viewed from any direction the legs should be straight, the bone of the forelegs strong right down to the feet. Feet should be round, compact, and not large--the pads tough and well cushioned, and the toes moderately arched and turned neither in nor out. A Terrier with good-shaped forelegs and feet will wear his nails down short by contact with the road surface, the weight of the body being evenly distributed between the toe pads and the heels.

Should be strong and muscular, quite free from droop or crouch; the thighs long and powerful; the stifles well curved and turned neither in nor out; the hock joints well bent and near the ground; the hocks perfectly upright and parallel with each other when viewed from behind. The worst possible form of hindquarters consists of a short second thigh and a straight stifle, a combination which causes the hind legs to act as props rather than instruments of propulsion. The hind legs should be carried straight through in traveling. Feet as in front.

The best coats appear to be broken, the hairs having a tendency to twist, and are of dense, wiry texture--like coconut matting--the hairs growing so closely and strongly together that, when parted with the fingers, the skin cannot be seen. At the base of these stiff hairs is a shorter growth of finer and softer hair--termed the undercoat. The coat on the sides is never quite so hard as that on the back and quarters. Some of the hardest coats are "crinkly" or slightly waved, but a curly coat is very objectionable. The hair on the upper and lower jaws should be crisp and only sufficiently long to impart an appearance of strength to the foreface. The hair on the forelegs should also be dense and crisp. The coat should average in length from ¾ to one inch on shoulders and neck, lengthening to 1½ inches on withers, back, ribs, and quarters. These measurements are given rather as a guide to exhibitors than as an infallible rule, since the length of coat depends on the climate, seasons, and individual animal. The judge must form his own opinion as to what constitutes a "sufficient" coat on the day.

White should predominate; brindle, red, liver or slaty blue are objectionable. Otherwise, color is of little or no importance.

The movement or action is the crucial test of conformation. The Terrier's legs should be carried straight forward while traveling, the forelegs hanging perpendicular and swinging parallel to the sides, like the pendulum of a clock. The principal propulsive power is furnished by the hind legs, perfection of action being found in the Terrier possessing long thighs and muscular second thighs well bent at the stifles, which admit of a strong forward thrust or "snatch" of the hocks. When approaching, the forelegs should form a continuation of the straight of the front, the feet being the same distance apart as the elbows. When stationary it is often difficult to determine whether a dog is slightly out at shoulder but, directly he moves, the defect--if it exists--becomes more apparent, the forefeet having a tendency to cross, "weave," or "dish." When, on the contrary, the dog is tied at the shoulder, the tendency of the feet is to move wider apart, with a sort of paddling action. When the hocks are turned in-cow-hocks-the stifles and feet are turned outwards, resulting in a serious loss of propulsive power. When the hocks are turned outwards the tendency of the hind feet is to cross, resulting in an ungainly waddle.

Ears prick, tulip or rose.
Nose white, cherry or spotted to a considerable extent with either of these colors.
Mouth much undershot, or much overshot.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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