Spartan Dogs - Border Terrier 

Category: Dogs, Working Dogs, Terriers, Scotland, England, Europe, Guard Dog

Border Terrier / Border Terrier
Names Border Terrier
Origins Scotland, England
Tasks Hunting Dog, Ratter
Height 25.4-38.1 cm
Weight 5.90-9.07 kg / 5.21-8.16 kg
Lifespan 13-14 years
Group Terriers

The Border Terrier is a small, rough-coated terrier that was developed in England and Scotland.

The Border Terrier History

The breed was developed for hunting vermin in the area around the border of Scotland and England. Although some claim an ancient history for the Border Terrier, the rule of thumb is: "no breed of terrier is very old" and the Border Terrier is no exception to this rule. The first appearance of the "Border Terrier" was around 1860, although being so undifferentiated from other rough-coated terriers that they were not admitted to the UK Kennel Club until 1920 -- after first being rejected in 1914.

The true history of the Border Terrier is exceedingly short and simple despite all the efforts to muddy the water with talk of Walter Scott, Bedlingtons, Gypsies, and dark dogs seen in the muddy corners of obscure oil paintings.

The Border Terrier was a kennel type of rough-coated terrier of the Fell type bred by the Robson family. John Robson founded the Border Hunt in Northumberland in 1857 along with John Dodd of Catcleugh who hunted his hounds near the Carter Fell. It was the grandsons of these two gentlemen -- Jacob Robson and John Dodd -- who tried to get the Border Hunt's little terrier-type popularized by the Kennel Club.

The first Kennel Club Border Terrier ever registered was "The Moss Trooper", a dog sired by Jacob Robinson's Chip in 1912 and registered in the Kennel Club's " Any Other Variety" listing in 1913. The Border Terrier was rejected for formal Kennel Club recognition in 1914, but won its slot in 1920, with the first standard being written by Jacob Robinson and John Dodd. Jasper Dodd was made first President of the Club.

For a terrier "bred to follow the horses" the Border Terrier does not appear to have been overly-popular among the mounted hunts. The Border Terrier Club of Great Britain lists only 190 working certificates for all borders from 1920 to 2004 -- a period of 84 years. Considering that there were over 250 mounted hunts/year operating in the UK during most of this period (there are about 185 mounted hunts/year today), this is an astoundingly small number of certificates for a period that can be thought of as being over 15,000 hunt-years long. Even if one concedes that borders were worked outside of the mounted hunts, and not all borders got certificates that were recorded by the Border Terrier Club of Great Britain, the base number is so low that adding a generous multiplier does not change the broad thrust of the conclusion, which is that Border Terriers never really had a "hay day" for work.

The relative lack of popularity of the Border Terrier as a working terrier is born out by a careful review of Jocelyn Lucas' book Hunt and Working Terriers (1931). In Appendix I Lucas provides a table listing 119 UK hunts operating in the 1929-1930 season, along with the types of earths found (sandy, rocky, etc.) and the type of terrier used.

Only 16 hunts said they used Borders or Border crosses, while about 80 hunts said they preferred Jack Russells, white terriers or some type of fox terrier. Lakelands and Sealyhams, or crosses thereof, were mentioned by some, with quite a few noting "no preference" (hunts are double-counted if they mention two kinds of terriers or crosses of two types).

The Border Terrier does not appear to be faring any better today, with even fewer workers found in the field than in Lucas' times. In fact, we found not a single Border Terrier breed book that shows a border terrier with its fox -- an astounding thing considering the age of the breed and the ubiquitous nature of the camera from the 1890s forward.

To say that the Border is not popular in the field does not mean that it has fallen out of favor in the show ring or in the pet trade, however! As we all know, it often means the exact opposite! Border terriers are among the top 10 breeds in the UK Kennel Club, and nearly 1,000 border terriers were registered with the American Kennel Club last year -- up about 100 dogs from the previous year.

Border Terrier Appearance

Body: Border Terriers have a deep, narrow and fairly long body. The ribs lie well in the back, but are not too round. The tail is moderately short, thick at it's base and tapering. It's incited high and is carried lively, but not upwards nor in a curl over the back. The legs are straight, without having too heavy bones. The feet are small (cat feet).

Head: the Border Terrier has a otter-shaped head. It is moderately broad in the skull and has a short powerful front muzzle. The small and V-shaped ears hang forward towards the cheeks. The eyes have a penetrating expression. Border Terriers preferably has a scissors bite, but level bite is permitted.

Height at Withers: of 25.4 up to 38.1 centimetres (no definite answer in breed standard).

Weight: dogs weigh 5.90 up to 9.07 kilos and bitches 5.21 up to 8.16 kilos.

Coat: the Border Terrier has a double coat consisting of a harsh wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat. For most border terriers it will take about 8 weeks for the soft undercoat to change into the rough top coat. This coat has to be hand stripped twice a year. The coat type of a Border varies across individual dogs; some develop longish, shaggy hair, while others never go on to develop a full coat and remain relatively smooth in coat.

Colors: colours include grizzle and tan (aka salt and pepper), blue and tan (sometimes visually almost black), red grizzle, and less commonly; wheaten.

Border Terrier Temperament

Character: Border Terriers are friendly, smart, energetic and playful.

Social Build: They can make good family pets as they are generally good with children. Border Terriers are generally unsuitable for homes where there are rabbits, they may, however, accept small animals they grow up with. Border Terriers have dominant personalities and often occupy a high position in the 'pack', subordinate to the owner. If a large adult dog comes into the family, the Border Terrier will "test" his new companion, maintaining his leadership.

Border Terrier Socially

Care: Border Terriers are generally hardy and long-lived dogs with few health problems. However, they have a very high resistance to pain and will very often appear healthy even when injured or sick. Consequently, any sign of illness should be taken seriously. Due to their low percentage of body fat, Border Terriers are very sensitive to anesthetics. Therefore, Border Terrier owners should select a veterinarian that is aware of this and is cautious in administering anesthesia.

Border Terriers are strong chewers and tend to destroy all but the most durable toys (e.g. solid, tough rubber toys such as rubber rings are suitable). It is of importance to teach a Border from an early age what he or she is and isn't allowed to chew. Due to their instinct to kill and consume smaller animals, Border Terriers often destroy, and sometimes eat, toys that are insufficiently robust. Indigestion resulting from eating a toy can cause the appearance of illness. Typical symptoms include lethargy, unwillingness to play, a generally 'unhappy' appearance, lack of reaction to affection, and inability or unwillingness to sleep. These symptoms are generally very noticeable, however, they are also present just prior to Border Terrier bitches being on heat. Food-grade liquid paraffin is often an effective solution to digestive problems caused by the consumption of dog toys. This problem can be avoided by giving the Border Terrier only durable toys.

Education: Border Terriers generally get on well with other dogs, and often develop strong friendships with dogs they meet frequently. However, if they dislike another dog, they do not hesitate to start a fight and, as with most terriers, it can be difficult to stop them. Border Terriers must be trained carefully from the beginning to learn proper social behaviour with other dogs, especially larger dogs.

Activity: In terms of activity, Border Terriers love extensive exercise but will settle to the activity levels of their owners. Borders are highly social, and while they are happy to sit quietly for hours, they are not a breed to be constantly ignored. Two or three good walks a day, and a few vigorous playtimes, indoors or out, provides a good regimen for keeping a Border Terrier. Being bred to work cooperatively with people, Borders do well in task-oriented activities. They are intelligent and eager to please, but they retain the capacity for independent thinking and initiative that were once bred into them for working rats and fox underground. As with all terriers, that same independence, coupled with an instinct to chase small animals, creates high risks when they are let off-leash, particularly near traffic. They take training for tasks very well. The breed has excelled in agility training.

Usability: Earthdog tests / trials. More Border Terriers have earned American Kennel Club (AKC) Earthdog titles than any other terrier. An AKC earthdog test is not true hunting, but an artificial, non-competitive, exercise in which terriers enter 9" x 9" smooth wooden tunnels, buried under-ground, with one or more turns in order to bark or scratch at caged rats that are safely housed behind wooden bars. The tests are conducted to determine that instinctive traits are preserved and developed, as the breed originators intended for the dogs to do their work. While earthdog tests are not a close approximation of hunting, they are popular in the U.S. and in some European countries because even over-large Kennel Club breeds can negotiate the tunnels with ease, dogs can come to no harm while working, and no digging is required. Since Border Terriers should be "essentially working terriers", many Border Terrier owners consider it important to test and develop their dogs instinct. These tests also provide great satisfaction for the dogs. The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) does conduct "trials"; where the dogs instincts are tested, and then judged to determine a "Best of Breed" Earthdog. These trials are also run similar as described above.

Border Terrier Quotes / Trivia

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