We wrap up our survey of hunting dogs with a look at working terriers. Terriers developed to fill a need where humans needed to get to game in a situation where we were ill-equipped to do so. Just like sight hounds were developed to be faster than us to catch running game, retrievers were developed to swim better than us to get game out of the water, and scenting dogs were developed with better noses than us to find otherwise-camouflaged game… terriers were developed to be able to locate and access game below ground in tunnels and dens.
Hunt terriers were valuable members of a hunting party because they could get the fox or rabbit out of a hole. The foxhounds and hunters relied on the terrier whenever the game “went to ground” so that the hunt could continue on with the chase and pursuit.
In order to pursue game underground, the terrier needs to have a small circumference, a huge amount of courage, and the tenacity to keep after the badger or fox to prevent it from digging deeper. This may involve nipping at the animal to keep its attention, or maneuvering around the animal in order to push it toward the burrow’s entrance. Either way, the terrier is adept at working in small, confined spaces with hostile game in its own den.
Terriers also proved their worth as effective vermin control, especially with rats and other rodents around the farm. This eventually gave way to the blood sport known as rat pitting, where terriers were placed in a pit with a number of rats and bets were placed on how quickly they could kill all of the rats. This was a popular entertainment event in pubs and, while not exactly hunting, is evidence of the terrier’s hunting origins and sheer tenacity.
We talk about a couple of popular working terrier breeds: the Jack Russell, the Fell Terrier, and the Jagdterrier, which was Germany’s versatile answer to the British terrier breeds. All of these dogs continue to enjoy strong working lines today.
In wrapping up the survey of hunting dogs, we wrap up season one of the Hunting Dog Confidential Podcast. In season two, we will host some guest interviews and invite listener questions and input. Would you like to have your question featured on an upcoming episode? Record a voice memo of your question, include your name and location, and email it to us at HDC@northwoodscollective.com . We look forward to hearing the voices of our listeners, answering your questions, and hearing your stories!
We thank you for listening and look forward to launching season two shortly.
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