Fox Terriers are two different breeds of the terrier dog type: the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier.
The two varieties of fox terrier are structurally similar but differ in coat texture and in ancestry.
Both of these breeds originated in the 19th century from a handful of dogs who are descended from earlier varieties of British terriers, and are related to other modern white terrier breeds. In addition, a number of breeds have diverged from these two main types of fox terrier and have been recognised separately, including the Jack Russell Terrier, Miniature Fox Terrier and Rat Terrier.
Both varieties are sturdily built, lively looking dogs with tapered muzzles and folded, V-shaped ears. They stand about 38 cm (15 inches), weigh 7 to 8 kg (16 to 18 pounds).
The main differences between the two varieties in the coat and markings. They have been successful in conformation shows, more prominently in America than their homeland.
English physician John Caius described the English terrier type in his 1577 work English Dogges.
By the 18th century, it was recorded that all terriers were wire haired, and black and tan in colour.
The earliest record of any white terrier was a dog named Pitch, who was owned by Colonel Thomas Thornton in 1790. The dog was the subject of a painting by Sawrey Gilpin, who created a portrait of it while it was still alive. An engraving of this painting, made prior to 1810, was accompanied by the text, “It would be necessary to notice Colonel Thorton’s terriers if they were only on account of his justly celebrated Pitch, from whom are descended most of the white terriers in the kingdom.”
From 1870 onwards, a complete pedigree for Fox Terriers exists. Three dogs, known as Old Jock, Trap and Tartar, are the ancestors of most modern strains of white terrier. Old Jock was bred from a black and tan terrier, while Trap was from the strain out of Reverend John “Jack” Russell’s dogs. Russell would later have the Jack Russell Terrier series of breeds named after him. Although definitive history on Tartar is not known, he is also thought to have come from black and tan terrier stock. Of the female dogs from this period, Grove Nettle was the best known. In addition to those dogs, another named Old Tip is thought to be the forefather of the modern Wire Fox Terrier.
Both the Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers are consistently successful show dogs, with more than a dozen Westminster Kennel Club “Best in Show” awards. Matford Vic, a Wire purchased from a farmer for only 10
dollars, won Westminster in both 1915 and 1916. Known as the “gentleman of the terrier world,” a Smooth Fox Terrier took Westminster’s “Best in Show” three times in a row from 1907 to 1909.
Dog writers of the early 20th century suggested that Pitch was a terrier-greyhound cross, which was how the colour was introduced into the breed.
The breed became especially popular in the 1930s and 1940s thanks to Asta, co-star of William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man movies. The breed’s looks, features, and natural skill to perform have made these dogs a familiar presence in both movies and television.
Fox hunting is now banned in England, but it was a passion of the British gentry for generations and consisted of a full-dress fox hunt marked by pageantry and ritual—with eager terriers ridding in saddlebags. These dogs were specifically bred to “go to ground”—that is, chase small game from their dens. It’s believed that the Wire Fox Terrier is a descendant from the Rough Coated Terrier and Tan Terrier, while the Smooth Fox Terrier has historically been considered to be a cross between Old English Terriers, smooth-coated Black and Tan Terriers, Bull Terriers, Greyhounds, and Beagles.
Among the many well-known Fox Terriers of history was Caesar, the favorite dog of King Edward VII, and Herbert Hoover had two Fox Terriers known as Big Ben and Sonnie.
There are several descendant breeds which have been developed in a variety of countries. For example, the American Toy Fox Terrier was developed from the Smooth Fox Terrier, Italian Greyhound, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Pinscher and Chihuahua breeds.
Across North America, the Smooth Fox Terrier puppies cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 for a puppy. The Wire Fox Terrier puppies typically cost between $1,500 and $3,000.