The Norwich Terrier originates from the east-central part of England called East Anglia, just north of London. The town of Norwich is in the county of Norfolk. By the 1880s, owning a small ratting terrier was fashionable among students attending Cambridge University, and the Norwich Terrier became their unofficial school mascot. At the start of the 20th century, Frank “Roughrider” Jones, and Englishman who had Glen of Imaal Terriers and a dark red brindle Cairn-type bitch, bred his dogs to a working terrier from Norwich, named Rags. Rags was a proficient ratter and a dominant sire. Jones and others crossed his offspring with working terriers from Norwich, Cambridge and Market Harborough to develop a small, sturdy and fearless breed later recognized by The Kennel Club (England) in 1932 as the Norwich Terrier. Contributing breeds probably included the Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier and unnamed red terriers from Ireland. Rags remains the undisputed founding sire of the Norwich Terrier breed.
Early in the breed’s history, there was substantial variation and fancier controversy over appropriate breed size, color, coat, ear set and overall type. The original Norwich Terrier standard encompassed both the up-ear (prick) and the down-ear (drop) varieties. Mating a drop-eared dog with a prick-eared one produced an unattractive intermediate ear, which neither stood upright nor folded reliably. The drop-eared Norwich nearly disappeared during World War II and has always been less popular than its up-eared cousin. In 1957, Norwich breeders in England decided that the two varieties should be treated as separate breeds, so that they would not have to compete against each other at dog shows. The Kennel Club (England) thought this distinction too trivial and at first refused to make the change. Eventually, The Kennel Club relented. In 1964, it officially separated the Norfolk and the Norwich Terriers into two distinct breeds, with the prick-eared dog retaining the name Norwich Terrier and the drop-eared dog being renamed the Norfolk Terrier.
The Norwich was introduced to America in 1914, when a direct Rags’ descendant named Willum became the inseparable companion of Robert Strawbridge, a Philadelphia sportsman. Willum in turn became the founding sire of the Norwich Terrier in the United States. Because he was bred by Frank Jones, Willum and his offspring were commonly referred to as the Jones Terrier. In 1936, due largely to the efforts of Mr. Gordon Massey (who registered the first Norwich in the United States) and Mr. Henry Bixby (then the executive vice-president of the American Kennel Club), the Norwich Terrier was accepted by the American Kennel Club as a distinct breed – still encompassing both the up- and down-eared types – and the name “Jones Terrier” was dropped.
The Norwich Terrier Club of America was formed in 1938 and reorganized in 1940, when it was recognized by the AKC as the parent club for the Norwich breed. Over time, subtle differences developed in the conformation of the two Norwich types, and in 1977 the Canadian Kennel Club officially recognized them as separate breeds. The American Kennel Club followed suit in 1979, recognizing the drop-eared Norfolk Terrier and the prick-eared Norwich Terrier as distinct members of the Terrier Group. The Norwich Terrier Club of America was renamed the Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club of America at that time. In 2007, the club’s membership voted to have separate breed clubs for the Norwich and the Norfolk Terrier. Coming full circle, the parent club of this breed is once again called the Norwich Terrier Club of America.
The Norfolk and Norwich Terriers are remarkably similar in appearance. Simple tricks are used by dog fanciers to differentiate the breeds, such as: 1) the Norwich Cathedral has a tall spire that sticks up into the air, like the ears of the Norwich Terrier; and 2) the Nor-wich has ears that stick up like a witch’s hat. Norwich Terriers (and Norfolks) make fabulous house and traveling companions and are competitive in the show ring. They also can excel in obedience, agility, earth dog and racing competitions, despite their tenacious and sometimes stubborn nature.
The average life span of the Norwich Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include muscular cramping, collapsing trachea, elongated soft palate, Norwich upper airway syndrome, epilepsy, lens luxation, glaucoma and cataracts.