The Airedale Terrier (often shortened to "Airedale"), also called Bingley Terrier and Waterside Terrier, is a dog breed of the terrier type that originated in the valley (dale) of the River Aire, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is traditionally called the "King of Terriers" because it is the largest of the terrier breeds. The Airedale was bred from a Welsh Terrier and an Otterhound and probably some other Terrier breeds, originally to hunt otters. In Britain this breed has also been used as a war dog, guide dog and police dog. The working-class people of the Aire Valley needed a family pet that had good size for protection but not such that it would be a big eater. It needed the courage to stand the large guard breeds that were used to deter poachers. The Airedale was also used in their sport of hunting water rats (a gambling event) where two dogs were pitted against each other to nose a rat hole when a ferret was released to bolt the rat which escaped to the river. The dogs then chased getting points for sniffing it out and eventual kill.
The Airedale is the largest of the British Terriers. They weigh 20–30 kilograms (44–66 lb) in fit condition and have a height at the withers of 58–61 centimetres (23–24 in) for dogs, with females slightly smaller. The American Kennel Club
standard specifies a very slightly smaller dog. Larger Airedales, up to
55 kilograms (121 lb) can be found in North America. They are often
called "Oorangs." This was the name of a kennel in Ohio in the early 1900s.
The Airedale has a medium-length black and tan coat with a harsh topcoat and a soft undercoat. They are an alert and energetic breed, "not aggressive but fearless."
It has been claimed that the large "hunting" type or Oorang Airedales
are more game than the smaller "show" type Airedales. The large type are
usually used for big game hunting and as family guardians or as pets,
but usually do poorly in AKC conformation shows. This larger type is
also significantly more prone to Hip Dysplasia than the standard
Like many terriers, the breed has a 'broken' coat. The coat is hard
and wiry. The coat is meant to be kept not so long as to appear ragged,
and lies straight and close, covering body and legs. The outer coat is
hard, wiry and stiff. Airedales may have an undercoat which is softer.
The hardest coats are crinkling or just slightly waved. Curly soft coats
are highly undesirable.
Airedales bearing undercoats are generally groomed by hand stripping where a small serrated edged knife is used to pull out loose hair from the dog's coat. Most Airedales require frequent (2 to 3 times a year)clipping or stripping as they do not shed.
The AKC breed standard
states that the correct coat color is either a black saddle, with a tan
head, ears and legs; or a dark grizzle saddle (black mixed with gray
and white). Grizzle that is a mix of red hair in the black, often on the
area of back before the tail are often the best and harshest coats.
There are, however, examples of non-standard black-coated and "red"
(tan) coated Airedales, (the solid colored Airedales are NOT able to be
AKC registered, since they are deviations from breed standard and have
yet to be proven 'purebred' Airedale Terriers.) There are also the short
coated "Redline" type Airedales, they appear to be genetic throwbacks
in looks to the Airedale's early days when the breed's coats were much
shorter than today's Airedale. Even with their shorter coat they still
have the same hard wiry outer coat with a soft under coat and fall well
within the criteria of the breed standard and therefore can be AKC
registered and most are registered.
Traditionally the fluffy tail is long and erect. In most European
Countries, the UK, and Australia it is illegal to dock dogs' tails
unless it is for the dog's benefit (e.g., if the tail is broken). This
has resulted in the emergence of a spitz tail in some dogs. Selective
breeding should see this change over time and the required slightly
curled tail set high on the back again become common.
In other parts of the world the Airedale's tail is commonly docked (surgically shortened) within five days of birth, but this is not considered a breed standard custom. To show an Airedale in the United States, the official AKC
standard states "The root of the tail should be set well up on the
back. It should be carried gaily but not curled over the back. It should
be of good strength and substance and of fair length."
Airedales weigh approximately 50 - 70 pounds, being active and agile
enough to perform well, while not too small to function as a physical
deterrent, retriever or hunter. Some breeders have produced larger
Airedale Terriers, such as the 'Oorang Airedale', developed in the
Ex-Army captain and Airdale breeder Walter Lingo's
monthly magazine "Oorang Comments" (#25, page 81), stated that "When
full grown your Airedale dog will weigh from forty to fifty-five pounds
and if a female will weigh slightly less. This is the standard weight,
but when required, we can furnish over-sized Airedales whose weight will
be from sixty to one hundred pounds."
Because Lingo tried to fill orders for everyone, the Oorang strain
size was never standardized. Airedales weighing from 40 to 100 pounds
were produced, but for the most part they were approximately 50 pounds
and 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder.
The Airedale can be used as a working dog and also as a hunting dog.
Airedales exhibit some herding characteristics as well, and have a
propensity to chase animals. They have no problem working with cattle and livestock. However, an Airedale that is not well trained will agitate and annoy the animals.
The Airedale Terrier, like most Terriers,
has been bred to hunt independently. As a result, the dog is very
intelligent, independent, strong-minded, stoic, and can sometimes be
stubborn. If children and Airedale are both trained correctly, Airedales
can be an excellent choice for a family dog. Airedales can do well with
cats and other small animals, especially when they are raised with
Albert Payson Terhune
wrote of the Airedale: "Among the mine-pits of the Aire, the various
groups of miners each sought to develop a dog which could outfight and
outhunt and outthink the other miner's dogs. Tests of the first-named
virtues were made in inter-mine dog fights. Bit by bit, thus, an active,
strong, heroic, compactly graceful and clever dog was evolved – the
earliest true form of the Airedale.
He is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, an ideal chum and
guard. ....To his master he is an adoring pal. To marauders he is a
destructive lightning bolt."
Airedale Terriers in UK, USA, and Canadian surveys had a median lifespan of about 11.5 years, which is similar to other breeds of their size.
In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were
cancer (39.5%), old age (14%), urologic (9%), and cardiac (7%).
In a 2000–2001 USA/Canada Health Survey, the most common causes of
death were cancer (38%), urologic (17%), old age (12%), and cardiac (6%) A very hardy breed, although some may suffer from eye problems, hip dysplasia and skin infections.
Airedales can be affected by hip dysplasia. Like most terriers, they have a propensity towards dermatitis. Skin disorders may go unnoticed in Airedales, because of their hard, dense, wiry coats. Itchy skin may be manifest as acral lick dermatitis (also known as lick granuloma; caused by licking one area excessively) or acute moist dermatitis or "hot spots" (an oppressively itchy, inflamed and oozing patch of skin, made worse by intense licking and chewing). Allergies, dietary imbalances, and under/over-productive thyroid glands are the main causes of skin conditions.
An Airedale's coat was originally designed to protect the dog from its predators—the
coat was designed to come out in the claws of the predator the dog was
designed to hunt, leaving the dog unharmed. Because of this, some forms
of skin dermatitis can respond to hand stripping the coat. Clipping the
coat cuts the dead hair, leaving dead roots within the hair follicles.
It is these dead roots which can cause skin irritations.
stripping removes these dead roots from the skin and stimulates new
growth. Hence this process can assist with some forms of skin irritations.
Gastric torsion, or bloat, affects Airedale Terriers. Bloat can turn and block the stomach, causing a buildup of gas. Bloat can be fatal, it can lead to cardiovascular
collapse. Signs of bloat are gastric distress (stomach pain), futile
attempts at vomiting, and increased salivation. Bloat usually occurs
when the dog is exercised too soon after eating. They will eat up to 4-6
cups of food at a time.
Airedale, a valley (dale) in the West Riding of Yorkshire, named for the River Aire that runs through it, was the birthplace of the breed. In the mid-19th Century, working class people created the Airedale Terrier by crossing the old English rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier (now known as the Welsh Terrier) with the Otterhound. In 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognized the Airedale Terrier breed.
In 1864 they were exhibited for the first time at a championship dog show
sponsored by the Airedale Agricultural Society. They were classified
under different names, including Rough Coated, Bingley and Waterside
Terrier. In 1879 breed fanciers decided to call the breed the Airedale
Terrier, a name accepted by the Kennel Club (England) in 1886.
Well-to-do hunters of the era were typically accompanied by a pack of hounds
and several terriers, often running them both together. The hounds
would scent and pursue the quarry and the terriers would "go to ground"
or enter into the quarry's burrow and make the kill. Terriers were often
the sporting dog
of choice for the common man. Early sporting terriers needed to be big
enough to tackle the quarry, but not so big as to prevent them from
maneuvering through the quarry's underground lair. As a result, these
terriers had to have a very high degree of courage and pluck to face the
foe in a tight, dark underground den without the help of human
During the middle of the nineteenth century, regular sporting events
took place along the River Aire in which terriers pursued the large
river rats that inhabited the area. A terrier was judged on its ability
to locate a "live" hole in the riverbank and then, after the rat was
driven from its hole by a ferret
brought along for that purpose, the terrier would pursue the rat
through water until it could make a kill. As these events became more
popular, demand arose for a terrier that could excel in this activity.
One such terrier was developed through judicious crossings of the
Black-and-Tan Terrier and Bull and Terrier dogs popular at the time with the Otter Hound. The result was a long-legged fellow that would soon develop into the dog we recognize today as the Airedale
Terrier. This character was too big to "go to ground" in the manner of
the smaller working terriers; however, it was good at everything else
expected of a sporting terrier, and it was particularly adept at water
work. This big terrier had other talents in addition to its skill as a
ratter. Because of its hound heritage it was well equipped to pick up
the scent of game and due to its size, able to tackle larger animals. It
became more of a multipurpose terrier that could pursue game by
powerful scenting ability, be broken to gun, and taught to retrieve. Its
size and temperament made it an able guardian of farm and home. One of
the colorful, but less-than legal, uses of the early Airedale
Terrier was to assist its master in poaching game on the large estates
that were off-limits to commoners. Rabbits, hare, and fowl were
plentiful, and the Airedale could be taught to retrieve game killed by
its master, or to pursue, kill, and bring it back itself.
The first imports of Airedale Terriers to North America were in the
1880s. The first Airedale to come to American shores was named Bruce.
After his 1881 arrival, Bruce won the terrier class in a New York dog
The patriarch of the breed is considered to be CH Master Briar
(1897–1906). Two of his sons, Crompton Marvel and Monarch, also made
important contributions to the breed.
The first Canadian registrations are recorded in the Stud book of 1888–1889.
In 1910, the ATCA (Airedale Terrier Club of America) offered the
Airedale Bowl as a perpetual trophy, which continues to this day. It is
now mounted on a hardwood pedestal base, holding engraved plates with
the names of the hundreds of dogs that have been awarded Best of Breed
at the National Specialties.
The Airedale was extensively used in World War I to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines and transport mail. They were also used by the Red Cross
to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield. There are numerous tales
of Airedales delivering their messages despite terrible injury. An
Airedale named 'Jack' ran through half a mile of enemy fire, with a
message attached within his collar. He arrived at headquarters with his
jaw broken and one leg badly splintered, and right after he delivered
the message, he dropped dead in front of its recipient.
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson was responsible for
the development of messenger and guard dogs in the British Army. He,
along with his wife, established the British War Dog School at Shoeburyness in Essex, England.
In 1916, they provided two Airedales (Wolf & Prince) for use as
message carriers. After both dogs proved themselves in battle, Airedales
were given more duties, such as locating injured soldiers on the
battlefield, an idea taken from the Red Cross.
Before the adoption of the German Shepherd as the dog of choice for law enforcement and search and rescue work, the Airedale terrier often filled this role.
In 1906, Richardson tried to interest the British Police in using
dogs to accompany officers, for protection on patrol at night. Mr.
Geddes, Chief Goods Manager for Hull Docks in Yorkshire, was convinced
after he went and saw the impressive work of police dogs in Belgium.
Geddes convinced Superintendent Dobie of the North Eastern Railway
Police, to arrange a plan for policing the docks. Airedale Terriers were
selected for duty as police dogs because of their intelligence, good
scenting abilities and their hard, wiry coats that were easy to maintain
At the beginning of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, the Russian embassy in London
contacted Lt. Colonel Richardson for help acquiring dogs for the
Russian Army, trained to take the wounded away from the battlefields. He
sent terriers, mostly Airedale Terriers, for communication and sanitary
services. Although these original imports perished, Airedale Terriers
were reintroduced to Russia in the early 1920s for use by the Red Army.
Special service dog units were created in 1923, and Airedale Terriers
were used as demolition dogs, guard dogs, police tracking dogs and
Two Airedales were among the dogs lost with the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The Airedale "Kitty" belonged to Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the real-estate mogul. The second Airedale belonged to William E. Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Mr. Carter was the owner of the Renault automobile in which Jack and Rose trysted in the movie "Titanic". Carter, his wife and two children survived the sinking.
During the 1930s, when airedales were farmed like livestock, American breeders developed the Oorang airedale.
Capt. Walter Lingo, of LaRue, Ohio,
developed the Oorang Airedale strain. The name came from a line of
bench champions, headed by King Oorang 11, a dog which was said to have
been the finest utility dog. King could retrieve waterfowl and upland game, tree raccoons, drive cattle and sheep, and bay mountain lions, bears, and wolves. King even fought one of the best fighting bull terriers, and killed his opponent. He also trained in Red Cross work, and served the American Expeditionary Force at the front in France.
Lingo simply wasn't satisfied with the average strain of Airedale,
and after an incredible series of breedings, for which he brought in
great Airedales from all over the world, he created the "King Oorang."
At the time, Field and Stream
magazine called it, "the greatest utility dog in the history of the
world." The Oorang Kennel Company continued until Walter Lingo's death
in 1969. To help promote the King Oorang, as well as his kennels, Lingo
created the Oorang Indians football team headed up by Jim Thorpe. The team played in National Football League from 1922–1923. Jerry Siebert, an Airedale breeder in Buckeye Lake, Ohio,
followed in Lingo's footsteps, and bred "Jerang Airedales." There is a
kennel in Tennessee that claims to have original Oorang Airedales.