The Fox Terrier has been shown in the United States as one breed with two varieties, the smooth and the wire, since it was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. In 1984, the AKC approved separate standards for the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier, and breeds were recognized as fully distinct effective June 1, 1995. Experts believe that the two fox terriers developed very differently. The Wire Fox Terrier is thought to have descended from the old rough-coated black-and-tan working terriers of Wales, Durham and Derbyshire. The Smooth Fox Terrier apparently descended from the smooth-coated black-and-tan terrier, the Bull Terrier, the Beagle and the Greyhound. Both the Smooth and the Wire Fox Terrier were bred for their excellence as ratters and as aides to British farmers in eradicating vermin. Traditionally, the fox terriers would go to ground to bolt foxes, where the hunters and their pack of foxhounds would carry on the chase.
The Smooth Fox Terrier was in the show ring 10 to 20 years before its wire-haired cousin. The first class devoted to the Fox Terrier was at a dog show in London in 1862. In 1863, at the Birmingham show, three Fox Terriers known as the founding fathers of the breed were shown. The appearance of Old Jock, Old Tartar and Old Trap in the ring boosted the Fox Terriers’ career as competitive show dogs in addition to their working talents. The two then-varieties were crossed many times, particularly to give more of a white coat color to the Wire Fox and a cleaner silhouette. That practice has been discontinued for many years. However, the mostly white coat has remained, originally desired because dark-coated fox terriers were sometimes mistaken for prey by the hunting hounds when they emerged from bolting the fox from its borough.
By the late 1800s, the Fox Terrier had skyrocketed in popularity to become one of the most popular terrier breeds in all of Britain. In 1873, more than 275 entries were in a single Fox Terrier class at an English show. The Fox Terrier Club of England was created in 1876. So well drafted was its breed standard that it remained virtually unchanged for decades. The American Fox Terrier Club was formed in 1885 and adopted the British standard for the breed. The Fox Terrier was accepted into the American Kennel Club’s Terrier Group, with a Smooth and a Wire variety, that same year. By the early 1900s, the smooth Fox Terrier had become the most popular dog breed in England. By the 1920s, the wire-haired variety gave it a run for its money, and later, both varieties declined in Britain as other terrier breeds became more fashionable for dog fanciers.
Today’s Smooth Fox Terrier retains its hunting instincts and traits, making it arguably less commonly seen as purely a house pet than many other terrier breeds. It excels at flyball, agility and other activities that let it satisfy its natural desires to run, chase and explore. The Smooth Fox Terrier can be stubborn, scrappy, aloof and snappy. Its fanciers, however, understand and value these attributes and adore this fiery little terrier.
The average life span of the Smooth Fox Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include cataracts, congenital heart disease (pulmonic stenosis), insulinoma, shoulder luxation, congenital vestibular disease, congenital deafness, distichiasis, glaucoma, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, primary lens luxation, refractory corneal ulceration, ectopic ureters and skin allergies.