The Terrier/Otter Connection

It may have been the first time in the modern era that a book mentioned the historical use of terriers on a hunt. In his publication, “Hounds And Hunting Through The Ages,” author, Joseph B. Thomas referred to the first pack of hounds kept by anyone exclusively for fox hunting (it was Louis XIII of France).  Fifty years after Louis’ death, the pack was still in existence, but the interesting reference isn’t that the pack followed Louis XIII in all his travels, but that terriers and digging tools went along, as well.

For anyone who knows their terrier history, a hunting terrier isn’t a surprise. Terriers near South Yorkshire’s River Aire were bred with Otterhounds to enhance their scenting ability and hunting skills around water. The resulting dogs were known as Waterside or Bingley Terriers, later to be accepted as the Airedale Terrier, and they were used to hunt what were considered to be nuisance predators at the time: Polecats, Martens, Foxes, Badgers, and Otters.

Airedales weren’t the only otter-hunting terrier breed.

In 1921, photographs of Jocelyn Lucas’ Sealyham Terriers appeared in newspapers along with the comment that Lucas was probably the first person to hunt otters with a pack of terriers, but the Airedale’s history proves this to have been wrong. Furthermore, in 1904, Alys Serrell wrote, “With Hound and Terrier in the Field, ” in which she shared her experience of otter hunting with a pack of Smooth Fox Terriers. It’s not an easy read by today’s sensitivities, particularly if one likes otters, as we do. But we also believe that one must judge people (and dogs) by the times in they lived. Knowing a breed’s history goes a long way to understanding their breed traits.

Image: Airedales by Maude Earl (1864 – 1943)

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