If ever a checkered past was lived down, the Airedale has done so. Developed from obscure
antecedents for the purpose of rat fighting and poaching, the Airedale is now widely regarded
as "The King of Terriers."
The Airedale enjoyed widespread popularity in America at the start of the 20th century. In addition to its hunting abilities, the breed’s reputation was also built on its fame as a police and army-sentry dog in WWII and its exploits as a big game hunter in the American West. Over time, demographics and society changed, and the Airedale's popularity shifted to a much smaller fan base who maintained the breed mainly as companions and home protectors.
Over the past 33 years, a movement among Airedale fanciers has actively restored attention to the breed’s original purpose as a versatile hunting dog, and has proven that the Airedale maintains the breed’s original hunting instincts and abilities. Through the efforts of members of Hunting Working Airedales, Inc. and the Airedale Terrier Club of America, Airedales now compete in AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests and UKC-based Hunting Retriever Club [HRC] Hunt Tests, as well as Airedale-only hunt tests.
Airedale Terrier fanciers are now proudly exemplifying that the breed is largely unchanged through its development, and the public’s appreciation and understanding has expanded
To the owners who choose Airedales as their hunting companions, the Airedale Terrier is indeed “the King of all Sporting Dogs.”
After decades of effort, Airedales are being recognized in AKC, HRC tests, as well as breed club tests.
The Airedale came to America shortly after its development in England. In the first part of the 20th century, Americans' appreciation of the Airedale's hunting heritage was summarized in 1916 by Warren H. Miller (longtime editor of Field and Stream) in his classic book The American Hunting Dog. "On the borderline between the bird dog and the fur dog stands the Airedale", Miller wrote, "...the dog that can hunt both ... and the one who can and is being successfully trained to hunt everything alive that can be hunted."
Sandi Cooley's "Tulla" - Strongbow Tullamore Dew, SH (AKC), CGC - earned her
AKC Senior Hunter title
on October 21, 2012
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The Airedale Terrier was developed in the 1860's to be "the do-it-all hunter" for the farmers in the Valley of Aire – in Yorkshire, England. The region's hearty people needed one dog with a keen hunting instinct and a weather-resistant coat; the character to tenaciously stick to any job; the courage and ability to kill all manner of game; the capability and desire to guard his family and home; and the gentleness and sensitivity to live as part of the family household.
The early Airedale owner was a working man whose Saturday afternoon sport was a match arranged for the hunting of river rats, a competitive event calling for a dog of exceptional abilities. Poaching was another diversion that contributed to the working ability of the Airedale. The intriguing and illegal pastime of outwitting the gamekeepers on huge estates that were "off limits" to the average citizen called for a clever hunting companion. The Yorkshire countryman was doubly blessed when he found his vermin-killing dog could also efficiently and surreptitiously find and retrieve birds.
To create this perfect dog, the Yorkshireman combined the nose and swimming ability of the Otterhound with the spirit and grit of the Broken-Coated Terrier. In the manner of the day, other breeds may or may not have been put in the mix, but the end product first become known as the Waterside Terrier, then the Bingley Terrier, and finally, by 1879, the breed was named the Airedale Terrier.