The Terrier comprises a wide range of dog breeds that were originally developed to hunt vermin. The name comes from the French word terrier, which means “burrow,” a necessary activity if Terriers are to successfully hunt and kill their vermin prey.
Terriers can range in weight from 2 to over 70 pounds. Popular small breeds include the Yorkshire Terrier, the English Toy Terrier, and other “toy” varieties. Medium-sized Terriers are often used as farming or hunting dogs and include the Jack Russell Terrier, the Rat Terrier, and the Dobermann.
Larger Terrier breeds include the Black Russian Terrier, the Airedale, and the Standard Bull Terrier. Today, we will explore these hefty Terrier breeds in-depth, while also exploring the largest Terrier ever.
The Largest Terrier Ever
The largest terrier ever was the “King Oorang Airedale” which could reach more than 100 pounds in size!
The Airedale is sometimes referred to as “King of the Terriers,” as they are generally recognized as the largest Terrier breed. In the 1920s, Walter Lingo was frustrated with the selection of Airedale dogs at the time and set out to breed a bigger, better vision. His result was the “King Oorang Airedale,” a breed that is thought to have been the largest Terrier ever. While exact numbers don’t exist for their weights, they could reach sizes of well over 100 pounds. The dogs made Walter Lingo a wealthy man.
To increase publicity for his new dog breed, Walter Lingo promoted a small NFL franchise. The Oorang Indians were an NFL football team in the 1920s, known for having the smallest hometown of any team in history (LaRue, Ohio). The team was named after the Oorang Airedale dogs that were being bred by Walter Lingo. The Oorang Indians are thought to have produced the first ever halftime shows, where they would parade Airedale dogs around the field in hopes of selling them.
Due to health issues from selective breeding, the King Oorang Airedale dogs no longer exist. The standard Airedale can still grow to immense sizes when properly cared for.
Large Terrier Breeds
Black Russian Terrier
The Black Russian Terrier is a large breed of dog with an average weight between 80 and 130 pounds. These Terriers were bred in Russia for use in the military and as working dogs. They feature a shiny black coat and a shoulder height around 30 inches. The breed is not considered a “true” Terrier, as it has heritage from over a dozen other breeds, including the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, the Schnauzer, and the Newfoundland.
Airedales have been featured in popular media, such as Dennis the Menace, 101 Dalmatians, and The Great Gatsby. The Airedale was developed to hunt on its own, but it can also make a great family dog if both the dog and children are trained well. The average Airedale weighs about 50 pounds and has a shoulder height around 24 inches.
Standard Bull Terrier
The Bull Terrier is a unique breed with a characteristic egg-shaped head that sets it apart from most other dogs. The average weight for Bull Terriers is between 50 and 70 pounds, while they usually have a shoulder height around 22 inches. Both Theodore Roosevelt and George S. Patton owned pet Bull Terriers named Pete and Willie, respectively.
In the Movies: Famous Terrier Dogs
Terriers have appeared across a number of iconic TV shows and media. Let’s take a look at a few of the most famous terriers across time.
Terry, the Cairn Terrier from Wizard of Oz
Terry was a Cairn Terrier that is one of the most recognizable dogs in popular media, having played Toto in the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.
Bullseye, the Target Mascot
Bullseye, a Bull Terrier, is the mascot for Target Corporation and frequently featured in commercials and other promotional media. The original Bullseye was “Smudgie,” an American Kennel Club Champion. Since then, other dogs have had to take over the role—Bullseye is currently portrayed by Nikki, a Bull Terrier trained and cared for by Worldwide Movie Animals.
Moose from Frasier
Moose was a long-lived Jack Russel Terrier who had a recurring role on the television sitcom Frasier. He had comedic chops and was often a source of comedy on the show, where he portrayed the main character’s dog, Eddie. Moose lived to be over 15 years old, dying of natural causes after a long, comfortable retirement in Los Angeles.
The Types of Terriers
Terriers are sometimes classified into different groups depending on their purpose or size. All Terriers are united by a feisty, energetic, and game personality.
The hunting-type Terriers were originally bred to track animals and assist on hunts—these breeds include the Jack Russell Terrier, the Dobermann, and the Rat Terrier.
The vermin-hunting Terriers are smaller but still have “the hunt” in their blood. The Scottish Terrier, Cairn Terrier, and the West Highland White Terrier were all originally bred for their ability to keep the home free of pesky vermin. The word cairn actually refers to a pile of rocks, from which these small hunters were able to find vermin prey.
Toy Terriers, also called Companion Terriers, are smaller and more suitable as a family pet, although they are still known to retain the energetic characteristics that all Terriers display. Toy Terrier breeds include the Japanese Terrier, the English Toy Terrier, and the Yorkshire Terrier.
Unfortunately, the history of some Terrier breeds is associated with dog-fighting, bull-baiting, and other bloodsports. Standard Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers were used for these cruel purposes and are appropriately referred to as Bull-type Terriers, although they also performed with vermin control. Through decades of positive breeding programs, these dogs that were historically aggressive are now safe and appropriate to keep as pets.
A Working Terrier is any dog that performs its work underground, digging into holes and burrows to flush out vermin. This can sometimes lead to underground battles between the dog and its prey, which has caused some people to label this type of work as animal cruelty. This has led to training programs for the Terriers that promote barking and alerting a master, rather than attacking and killing the prey themselves.
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