The Top 10 Types of Terrier Dogs

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: September 29, 2023
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Key Points

  • Terriers were originally bred to hunt vermin, and that is why they love to dig so much.
  • The Airedale terrier is the largest type of terrier dog, standing at 24″ tall.
  • The Jack Russell terrier is the most common type of terrier dog.

When considering a type of dog breed classified as a terrier, it helps to look at the origin of the word. Terrier is French for “burrow,” and these are dogs of hardy build and doughty temperament who’ve been bred to go to the ground in search of vermin such as rats, foxes, and badgers. A few even jump into the water to hunt otters. Bigger terriers were used in such unsavory past-times as dogfighting and bullbaiting. But whether they’re tiny or big, these loyal and astonishingly brave beasts are among the most popular dogs to have as companions. Here is a list of the 10 best types of terrier dogs.

#1. Pit Bull Terrier

Types of terriers
Beautiful American Pit Bull Terrier outside. Pit Bull Terriers are one of the most affectionate and least aggressive dogs.

©Ivanova N/

Don’t fear the pit bull. Descendants of bulldogs and types of terriers dogs, including Staffordshire bull terriers, these canines were first used for dog fighting in the United States. In some places, they still are, though the practice is illegal. This has given them a sketchy reputation that is largely unearned, for a well-cared-for and well-trained pit bull terrier makes a loyal pet and the best guardian of home and family.

Their look is unmistakable, for the dog seems to be all muscle, even though its size isn’t all that gargantuan. Standing 18 to 22 inches high at the shoulder, the pit bull weighs between 50 and 80 pounds. It has that huge head with a thick-boned skull, round black eyes, and those notoriously muscular jaws. The ears are often small and cropped, the chest wide and deep, the hindquarters powerful, the coat short but hard.

Read this for more information about this breed.

#2. Bedlington Terrier

Types of terriers
Originally bred to hunt, the Bedlington Terrier has since been used in dog racing and numerous dog sports, as well as in conformation shows and as a companion dog.


This terrier is famous for looking rather like a lamb with rabbit-like feet, though there’s nothing lamblike about its temperament or tenacity. It was developed in Great Britain in the 1800s to hunt badgers, one of the meanest fossorial animals on earth. It has a convex head that matches its roached back. It has a topknot of silky curls, and it’s the fashion to leave a pompom at the ends of its ears. The rest of its wiry coat does seem fleecy and needs a good deal of grooming to stay tidy. The Bedlington terrier stands 15 to 17 inches high at the shoulder and weighs a lithe 17 to 23 pounds.

Go here for more information on the Bedlington terrier.

#3. Airedale Terrier

Types of terriers
Airedales are very intelligent, which means they can learn tasks and tricks very quickly.

©Grisha Bruev/

This dignified-looking dog is the largest type of terrier dog. Though it’s not as heavy as the pit bull terrier since it usually weighs between 44 and 50 pounds, it stands higher at the shoulder at between 22 and 24 inches. It has a long skull, mustaches, and a magisterial beard. Like the Bedlington, it was developed in Great Britain in the 1800s and was meant to hunt badgers. It was also bred to hunt otters and so has a dense, wiry, waterproof coat. The dog’s fur is always tan with an attractive black saddle that stretches from the back of the neck to the tail. The Airedale sheds heavily twice a year, and that’s when its coat needs to be stripped.

Go here for more information about the Airedale terrier.

#4. Boston Terrier

Types of terriers
Boston Terrier on the lawn outside. Boston Terriers were the first dog breed developed in America.


This little terrier doesn’t have a lot of size, but he makes up for that with a lot of energy. Though it only stands 15 to 17 inches at the shoulder and weighs 10 to 25 pounds, the Boston terrier was bred to hunt rats and bait bulls. This lineage can be told from the face with its squashed-in muzzle and wide head that recalls the bulldog. Indeed, like the bulldog, Boston terrier puppies often have to be born via Caesarean section. Now, this popular dog, one of a handful developed in the United States, has a sweet and biddable temperament. There are three weight classes of Boston terrier: one under 15 pounds, one at least 15 pounds but under 20 pounds, and one at least 20 pounds but no more than 25 pounds.

To learn more about the Boston terrier, go here.

#5. Cairn Terrier

Types of terriers
Cairn terriers were fearless in their digging around the cairns to get at the rodents under them.


This little dog’s origins date back to 16th century Britain when it was bred to hunt foxes and rats, even though it was called the short-haired Skye terrier until 1909. You know what this dog looks like because Toto in The Wizard of Oz was a Cairn terrier. For those who don’t, this dog stands 10 to 12 inches high at the shoulder and weighs 13 to 16 pounds. Because it was bred to work outdoors and even to enter the water, it has a double coat that is water-resistant, dense, and a bit messy. Though its skull isn’t as long as other types of terrier dogs, the Cairn has a surprisingly robust bite. Miss Gulch wasn’t kidding when she said she was almost lame from the bite on her leg.

Read here to learn more about the Cairn terrier.

#6. German Pinscher

Types of terriers
German pinscher dog running in a summer meadow. The German Pinscher is an excellent watchdog because of its alert and watchful nature. 

©Dora Zett/

This dog, developed in Germany in the 1800s, looks very much like its brother the Doberman Pinscher, but it’s considerably smaller at 16 to 19 inches high at the shoulder and has a weight of between 25 and 35 pounds. Still, the German Pinscher is large in size for a terrier. Its looks are simple, and the coat is one or two colors, either chocolate brown, black or black with brown highlights. Its back has a clean line, and it has a muscular neck, a long muzzle, and a deep chest. The toes are arched, and the ears are naturally folded over. Since it is a big terrier, it is kept for guarding stock as well as hunting vermin.

Read more about the German Pinscher here.

#7. Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Types of terriers
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is recognized as one of the rarest of dog breeds which is native to the British Isles.


This “sausage dog” of a terrier originated at the border of England and Scotland in the 1600s and was named after a character in Guy Mannering, a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Even though it has forelegs that are so tiny that its back slopes upward, that long, low-to-the-ground body was bred to hunt badgers and even otters. It also has drooping furry ears, a soft, messy topknot on its head, mustaches, and a rather broad black nose. Its coat has an interesting texture, for it is a mix of hard and soft fur that feels pleasingly crisp to the touch.

#8. Parson Jack Russell Terrier

Types of terriers
The Jack Russell Terrier is not only affectionate and charming but is very easy to manage and train.


This popular little terrier has a sprightly, playful disposition. Developed in Devon by the Reverend Jack Russell in the 1800s but not recognized by the United Kennel Club until 1991, it was bred to go to the ground and hunt rats. It is a muscular dog with a powerful neck and hind legs. The coat can be smooth, broken, or rough, and in most purebred dogs it is mostly white, with the dog having a brown or black head with a white blaze down the muzzle and around the nose. The Parson Jack Russell Terrier stands 14 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 16 and 18 pounds.

To learn more about the Parson Jack Russell Terrier, go here.

#9. Yorkshire Terrier

Types of terriers
Yorkshire Terriers are often big dogs trapped in little bodies, always on the lookout for adventure and maybe even a bit of trouble.

© Fodemesi

Though this tiny little dog might strike many people as being excessively fussed over, it wasn’t always the case. Like other little terriers, it makes up in robustness what it lacks in size, for the Yorkie was bred in the 1800s to hunt rats in the mines of Yorkshire’s West Riding. Now, it is known for its amazingly lush, long, and silky coat which is steely blue at the back and tan at the front. This coat, which can be long enough to hide the dog’s feet, takes a great deal of grooming. Because of this, most owners keep the fur cut to a manageable length. The dog also has erect, triangular ears, a muzzle of medium length, straight legs, and dark, soulful eyes that sparkle. Newborn Yorkies are black and develop their coat colors as they mature.

Learn more about Yorkshire terriers here.

#10. Cesky Terrier

Types of terriers
Cesky terriers are fairly small terriers that are sensitive and full of energy but are not quite as excitable as some other terrier breeds.

©Dora Zett/

Developed as late as the 1940s in Czechoslovakia and not recognized until 1963, this dog is certainly a new breed of terrier. Even though it’s a terrier, it was actually bred as a watchdog and is friendly and obedient. It has a silky coat, an abundant beard, bushy eyebrows, and a long and refined head. This new little terrier stands 10 to 14 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 12 and 18 pounds. Besides being the best watchdog, it is also a good dog to have in a family with young children.

Read this to learn more about the Cesky terrier.

What Other Types of Terriers Are There?

This article describes the Top Ten types of terriers in terms of popularity and reputation. However, there are more than 30 types of recognized terrier breeds. Each type has, of course, different characteristics, but as a whole, terriers are loyal, affectionate, energetic, and intelligent dogs that make good family pets.

If you want to explore terriers more, here is a list of others you might consider: American Staffordshire, American Hairless, Australian, Black Russian, Border, Bull, Fox, Glen of Imaal, Irish, Kerry Blue, Norwich, Rat, Scottish, Sealyham, Silky, Skye, Soft-coated Wheaton, Staffordshire Bull, Tibetan, Toy Fox, Welsh, West Highlands White, Wheaton, and Wire Fox.

Summary of the Top10 Types Of Terrier Dogs

RankTerrier Breed
10Cesky Terrier
9Yorkshire Terrier
8Parson Jack Russell Terrier
7Dandie Dinmont Terrier
6German Pinscher
5Cairn Terrier
4Boston Terrier
3Airedale Terrier
2Bedlington Terrier
1Pit Bull Terrier

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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