The Airedale Terrier, like many others, is named after the geographical area where it originates from; the valley (dale) of the River Aire, in Yorkshire, England.
Originally bred by factory hands and mill workers during the Industrial Revolution, the Airedale – a mixture of Otterhounds and other local Terriers – was used for vermin hunting and general farm work. It was formally recognised as a breed by the UK Kennel Club in 1886. The American Kennel Club followed suit two years later.
Since then, the Airedale has distinguished itself, famously being used as messenger dogs during World War One, and subsequently working with the police and the Red Cross. They’ve won Best in Show at Westminster four times, most recently in 1933, and at Crufts twice, most recently in 1986. Three of them have lived in the White House, and two of them sadly sank with the Titanic.
Also known as the King of Terriers, this is the largest member of the Group, standing at 22 – 24 in (56 – 61 cm) tall on average. They have hard, dense, wiry coats, which are generally tan with black or grizzle accents; powerful muscular thighs; straight forelegs with small compact feet; V-shaped ears; and alert eyes.
The UK Kennel Club describes their temperament as “Outgoing and confident, friendly, courageous and intelligent. Alert at all times, not aggressive but fearless.” Anecdotally, they are tough, hardy, delinquent, and faithful.
Unfortunately, the Airedale is not as popular as it once was. This is probably because large-ish, independent dogs are not best suited to our modern lifestyles. The Airedale requires plenty of mental stimulation and up to an hour of exercise every day.
In America, the breed currently ranks 60th out of 193; it was extremely popular there in the 1920s, but this represented its peak.
In the UK, it registered an average of just 617 puppies per year over the past ten years. The bad news is that this number is relatively low; the good news is, it’s consistent. Hopefully the Airedale will be delighting people for many years to come.