Large Terrier Breeds

Written by Lex Basu
Updated: June 4, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Terriers are hunting dogs that were bred to chase down small animals and enter burrows and holes.
  • They are usually thought of as small scruffy dogs with lot of energy, however there are terrier breeds that grow quite tall.
  • These dogs thrive in single pet homes with large backyards and open gardens as they require lot of exercise and play time.

The two words that largely define the terrier breed are energetic and spirited. They are a hunter’s companion as its a well known fact that terriers were bred to enter burrows or holes to chase after rats and badgers. Terriers are well suited to be pets where no other animals is present and don’t do well in social situations involving other dogs. They also don’t like cuddles, being picked up and held or coddled. They are also prone to barking and need more exercise than just the daily walk. They thrive in open environment and homes with gardens and backyards to run around in.

When people think of terriers, they often think of doughty, rather scruffy little dogs. But there are a surprising number of terriers that are big dogs, at least for terriers, which this article defines as a dog that stands at least 16 inches at the shoulder. Here are nine members of the large terrier breeds.

#9: German Pinscher

The German Pinscher is often confused with the Doberman Pinscher.

©Dora Zett/

This dog looks very much like the Doberman pinscher and can have the same black and tan coloration, but it is considerably smaller and less robust, standing 16 to 19 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 25 and 35 pounds. It was developed in Germany in the 1800s to hunt rats. Since it is a big dog, the German Pinscher is often used around the farm for various jobs.

The body of the German Pinscher is all clean lines, with a long back, strong forelegs, a muscular neck, and a deep chest. It is usually peaceable and intelligent and is a good guard dog. It barks loudly when strangers come to the house and doesn’t back down with other dogs. It does well in an apartment but needs exercise and walks like other dogs. It shouldn’t be let off the leash, as its ratter’s instincts might cause it to chase a smaller animal. The German pinscher’s coat is smooth and close-fitting and needs to be brushed only now and then. This terrier lives between 12 and 14 years.

#8: American Staffordshire Terrier


American Staffordshire terrier

was developed in the United States to bait bulls.

©Aneta Jungerova/

This terrier resembles the American pit bull terrier, but the two dogs are not the same. The American Staffordshire terrier is smaller overall than the pit bull and was developed in the United States to bait bulls. Despite that, it appears to be a bit more biddable than the pit bull. It also lives longer and can have a lifespan of up to 15 years.

The American Staffordshire terrier stands 17 to 19 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 57 and 67 pounds. It is an intelligent dog, and its temperament is described as loving, happy, and somewhat comical. Like a well-socialized pit bull terrier, it’s good with children and lives to please and protect its humans. The dog takes well to apartment life as long as it gets plenty of exercise and daily walks, and its short, smooth coat makes it an ideal pet for warmer climates.

#7: Irish Terrier

The Irish terrier has a surprisingly easy coat to maintain.


Another rather scruffy-looking dog, the Irish terrier makes up for its homely looks through its devotion to its family, intelligence, and curiosity. A hardy dog that’s not subject to the sorts of ailments larger dogs suffer from, the Irish terrier stands 18 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 25 and 27 pounds. Despite its size, this terrier can thrive in an apartment if it’s given lots of exercise and walkies. However, it shouldn’t be allowed to be at liberty since it will chase after any moving body and loves to dig.

Despite its disorderly look, the terrier’s coat is easy to take care of and hardly sheds, especially if the coat is plucked now and then. It’s a great dog for people who are allergic to dog dander.

One of the oldest terriers, the Irish terrier was developed in Ireland in the 18th century to hunt vermin. It lives between 12 and 15 years.

#6: Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are one of the oldest terrier breeds.


Like the Irish terrier, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds and comes from Ireland, where it was trained to catch rats, otters and badgers, and herd cattle. It gets its name because its coat must be as close to the color of ripe wheat as possible.

The terrier’s coat is soft compared to other terrier’s and is either wavy or loosely curled and doesn’t shed. A beard and mustache hide the dog’s powerful jaws, and its eyes are hidden behind a fall of hair. Standing between 18 to 19 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 30 and 45 pounds, the wheaten terrier is powerfully built, with strong legs and feet, a strong neck, and a deep chest. Yet its temperament is playful and genial. It loves children and can live comfortably with other dogs, though cats may be a problem because of the dog’s instinct to chase.

Despite its size, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier makes a good apartment dog but doesn’t do well in hot climates. This terrier can live for around 12 to 15 years.

#5: Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry Blue terrier, which was originally bred to hunt rats, has a beard that conceals its strong jaw.


This dog, developed in Ireland in the 19th century to hunt rats, gets its name because its coat is an unusual slate blue. It has small ears and small eyes and a long head with mustaches and a beard that conceal the dog’s powerful jaws. It has a long neck, straight forelegs, and small feet with black nails. The coat, which doesn’t shed, is wonderfully curly on the body and the legs, has a silken feel, and doesn’t shed. However, because the coat is so curly it needs a lot of grooming. It’s important to make sure that hair is gently stripped out of the dog’s ear to guard against infections and that the beard is kept clean.

The Kerry Blue stands between 18 and 20 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 33 and 40 pounds. It is a friendly, rather rambunctious dog and devoted to its family. It can do well in an apartment despite its size as long as it gets its exercise and walks. Puppies are born black and grow into their adult colors by the time they’re about 18 months old. The Kerry Blue terrier lives between 12 and 15 years.

#4: American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull terriers have a bad reputation, but they make great family dogs.


This large terrier breed does have a fearsome reputation, and it’s indeed responsible for the majority of dog bites in America. However, this is largely due to the dog being provoked or not being properly trained and socialized.

This immensely powerful dog has a head like a bowling ball, the better to anchor its muscular jaws. It possesses a thick neck, broad chest, strong hindquarters, and a back that is long in proportion to its height. Though it is a terrier, it was developed in the 19th century United States for dogfighting and is still used for the purpose, though illegally.

The American Pit Bull terrier stands between 18 and 24 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 50 and 80 pounds. It has round eyes, which are a bit unusual for a dog, and a tail that comes to a point. It is simply fearless when coming to the defense of its family, has a notoriously high pain tolerance, and is a good dog for a family with children. It makes a good apartment dog and given its short, hard coat is best suited to warm climates. It lives about 12 years.

#3: Standard Bull Terrier

The Standard Bull terrier has an unusual head, robust body, thick neck, and powerful hindquarters.


This terrier with its funny convex profile and muscular body calls to mind the American Staffordshire terrier and the American pit bull terrier but is not like them in temperament. Developed in Great Britain in the 1800s to bait bulls, the Standard Bull terrier is now a gentle, funny, lively, and obedient pet. Besides the unusual head and robust body, this dog has a thick neck and powerful hindquarters as well as small, triangle-shaped eyes and ears that are thin but erect. It stands 20 to 24 inches high at the shoulder and can weigh from 45 to as much as 80 pounds, much of it muscle.

The Standard Bull terrier can be raised in an apartment as long as it gets its exercise, and exercise is especially important to this dog as it tends to become obese. It has a short, tight-fitting coat that’s easy to care for and lives from 10 to 12 years.

#2: Airedale

The Airedale was bred in Great Britain to hunt badgers and otters.


At 22 to 24 inches high at the shoulder and weighing between 40 and 65 pounds, the Airedale is one of the biggest of the large terrier breeds. Developed in Great Britain to hunt badgers and otters, it has the toughness associated with terriers. An intelligent and loyal dog, the Airedale is fairly good with older children but should not be kept in an apartment. Made to work, it needs at least a good-sized yard, lots of exercise, and long walks. This terrier will gladly join the rest of the family in the swimming pool and run happily beside a bicycle.

The Airedale’s double coat is hard, short, and a bit scruffy. It needs to be stripped every few months or so to prevent shedding, and the hair between the dog’s toes also needs to be kept tidy. The Airedale terrier lives between 10 and 12 years.

#1: Black Russian Terrier

The Black Russian Terrier is very loyal and a great dog for families with young children.


This dog is probably the largest of all large terrier breeds. It stands between 27 and 30 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 99 and 130 pounds. It is a very new breed of dog when you consider that some dogs have been around since the time of the Pharaohs. The Black Russian was developed only during World War II. Some breeders consider it more of a working dog than a terrier, even though it is descended from the Airedale among others.

The Black Russian has a double coat whose outer layer is especially hard and whose inner layer is softer. It has a beard and eyebrows that recall those of the Scottish terrier, and there’s a bit of a mane around its neck. As its name says, its preferred color is solid black, though strands of gray are allowed. Because it was bred to work, this dog needs to stay active, but it is fiercely loyal and a great dog for a family with young children. Despite its size, the Black Russian lives as long as 14 years.

Summary of Large Terrier Breeds

Here’s a recap of the large terrier breeds we took a look at:

RankBreedHeight at ShoulderWeightLifespan
1Black Russian Terrier27-30 inches99-130 lbsUp to 14 years
2Airedale22-24 inches40-65 lbs10-12 years
3Standard Bull Terrier20-24 inches45-80 lbs10-12 years
4American Pit Bull Terrier18-24 inches50-80 lbs12 years
5Kerry Blue Terrier18-20 inches33-40 lbs12-15 years
6Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier18-19 inches30-45 lbs12-15 years
7Irish Terrier18 inches25-27 lbs12-15 years
8American Staffordshire Terrier17-19 inches57-67 lbsUp to 15 years
9German Pinscher16-19 inches25-35 lbs12-14 years

The photo featured at the top of this post is © otsphoto/

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About the Author

Lex is a green-living, tree-hugging, animal-lover, who at one time was the mother to twenty one felines and one doggo. Now she helps pet owners around the globe be the best caretakers for their most trusting companions by sharing her experience and spreading love.

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