Airedale Terriers are a relatively young breed, created in the 19th century by the working class rather than by aristocrats in the industrial Aire River Valley region of northern England. Their exact origin is not well-documented, but the Otterhound (for its sensitive nose), the Irish and Bull Terriers (for their tenacity) and the now-extinct Old English Rough Coated Black-and-Tan or Rat-Catcher Terrier (for its rough coat) are considered to be prominent in their development. Other contributors include assorted setters and retrievers, sheepdogs such as the Yorkshire Collie, and Bedlington Terriers. What we know today as the Airedale Terrier first emerged around 1840 and was bred to hunt otter, duck, weasel, badger, fox, water rat and other small game. The breed’s intelligence, agility and strength, combined with almost boundless energy, made them equally valued as guard dogs and personal companions. These unique terriers have been used as rat-killers, duck-catchers, deer-trackers, working dogs, war dogs, hunting dogs, guard and police dogs, gun dogs, army-messenger dogs and all-around sporting dogs. They were used in both World Wars to locate the wounded and to carry messages and medical supplies. They have also been used to hunt large game.
The Airedale was first shown competitively in 1876 at Shipley, in the Aire River Valley, and became officially recognized in England shortly thereafter. The breed came to North America in the early 1880s, where it rapidly became known as a three-in-one gun dog – perfectly suited to hunt game birds on land, waterfowl on water and four-footed mammals wherever they might appear. Airedales grew steadily in popularity in the United States during the first part of the 20th century, especially among western farmers and ranchers. According to a publication of the American Kennel Club: “They became first-choice farm and ranch dogs because of their versatility and grit. Their do-it-all skills included guarding the farm or ranch against two- and four-legged predators; babysitting toddlers; herding sheep and cattle; and being a gundog when there was time for upland bird, waterfowl, or fur hunts.”
The American Kennel Club recognized the Airedale as a member of its Terrier Group in 1888. The Airedale Terrier Club of America was formed in 1900 and is still the breed’s parent club in this country. As a testament to its versatility, in addition to their supreme hunting talents, Airedales have been awarded Best in Show at the most prestigious dog shows in both England and the United States. Today, they are still used by countless devotees to hunt all manner of game. They also perform police and search-and-rescue work, as well as for therapy and assistance dog work, herding, sledding, carting and backpacking. Airedales excel in obedience, agility, flyball and other performance disciplines, and they are extraordinarily devoted and affectionate family companions.
The Airedale Terrier has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years. Generally speaking, this is a healthy, hardy breed. Breed health concerns may include:
- Cancer (Various forms): Defined as any malignant, cellular tumor
- Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
- Hypothyroidism: a clinical syndrome caused by inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
- Skin Problems: Conditions that affect the dog's fur and skin. Causes are often related to allergies, bacteria, fungus or parasites.
- Urologic Disorders