The “Dragon’s Teeth of Discord” 

You never want to mess with dragon teeth, and you certainly never want to plant them. Both the Phoenician prince, Cadmus, and Jason (as in Jason and the Argonauts) planted dragon teeth which sprouted and grew into fully armed warriors. Big mistake.

Dragon’s teeth aren’t real, of course, because for that, you need dragons, but the metaphorical point is taken that “stuff happens” when you fiddle with dragon teeth. The legends associated with them even gave rise to the phrase, “to sow dragon’s teeth,” an expression that refers to doing something that has the effect of stirring up trouble.

The Earl of Suffolk, Henry Charles Howard, surely knew this when he wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Sport” in 1897 that terriers “are the very dragon’s teeth of discord.”  The writers of terrier breed standards acknowledged this about their dogs, and in our view, their wording reflects this characteristic with affection, if not humor:

To wit:

“There is a heedless, reckless pluck about the Irish Terrier which is characteristic, and which, coupled with the headlong dash, blind to all consequences, with which he rushes at his adversary, has earned for the breed the proud epithet of “Daredevil.”

“Aroused, the dog is particularly alert and full of immense energy and courage.” – the Bedlington Terrier

The Wire Fox Terrier – “quick of movement, keen of expression, on the tip-toe of expectation at the slightest provocation;”

“The American Staffordshire Terrier [is] keenly alive to his surroundings.”

The Norwich Terrier is “spirited;”

“The Russell Terrier is full of life, and moves with confidence;”

“He is alert and ready to go,” – the Lakeland Terrier;

The Scottish Terrier is “bold, confident, dignified;

The Australian Terrier manner [is] spirited;

The Miniature Bull Terrier…” should be full of fire, having a courageous, even temperament and be amenable to discipline;”

The Bull Terrier: “full of fire but of sweet disposition;”

“Athletic and clever… tenacious, courageous, and single minded – the Parson Russell Terrier;

Many of today’s terriers can trace their roots back to the British Isles, and they come in an startling array of forms. Some have long legs, some have short ones. Smooth, rough, silky, wavy and even mixed coats appear among them. To the person who wonders why so many different types of terriers were needed to kill a rat or fox, the answer is that the British Isles has a wide variety of terrains, and early breeders developed dogs that could adapt to the local terrain and conditions.

Temperaments, too, vary among them which is why we didn’t mention every one of them above, but by and large, the AKC sums it up nicely: “Feisty and energetic are two of the primary traits that come to mind for those who have experience with Terriers. In fact, many describe their distinct personalities as “eager for a spirited argument.”  Another site puts it this way: Terriers prefer to be part of the action and have a real zest for life.

Sadly, another thing that many of the British terriers have in common is their status as a vulnerable breed in the land of their origin. Last year in 2019,  35,347 Labrador Retrievers were registered. By contrast, there were 59 Skye Terriers registered. Fifty-nine. The breed isn’t as “high octane” as some other terriers making it a lovely option for the right owner.

As we write, we are in the throes of the Corona Virus, but as optimists, we believe that we will get past this, and that the day come will soon when some of us are considering our next canine companion. We hope that after you do your research, one of these vulnerable terrier breeds will fit your lifestyle.


2 thoughts on “The “Dragon’s Teeth of Discord” ”

  1. Let’s not forget the dachshund, the only non terrier allowed to compete in terrier events. The first line of their temperment description is “”clever, lively, and courageous to the point of rashness…”

  2. Great article- dragon’s teeth indeed. I love the spirit of terriers and the look of sight hounds, which is why the Manchester is a perfect fit for me.

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