Fox Terrier

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In modern speech, the name Fox Terrier (abbreviated Foxie or Foxy) refers primarily to two different breeds of dog, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier, that were independently bred in England in the mid-19th century from various small hunting dogs. Despite having developed separately, the two terrier breeds are very similar; the only major difference in appearance is the texture of the coats. The Smooth Fox Terrier has a smooth, flat, but harsh and dense coat, whereas the Wire Fox Terrier coat should appear “broken”; that is, coarse with a dense, wiry texture. [1] [2]

In conformation show circles, the terms fox terrier and foxy are only used for these two breeds, but in other communities around the world, particularly rural and farming areas, these words are used for these breeds and also to refer to mixed-breed dogs of fox terrier type, or to descendent breeds such as the Toy Fox Terrier and Miniature Fox Terrier, which are similar to each other.


By the Medieval Era, British hunting enthusiasts were selectively breeding dogs. Terriers were already being classified according to the types of quarry they were expected to hunt successfully, thus, the Fox Terrier was established to assist in fox hunting.[3]

Foxhounds would locate the position where the fox ‘went to ground’ (reached and entered its lair) marking the end of a hunt. The introduction of Fox Terriers into the hunting party solved the problem since a terrier would willingly continue the chase into a fox hole. According to the Fox Terrier Club (UK), their function was to "pinpoint" the exact location of the fox by barking,[4] allowing a hunt to continue by following into the den. A Fox Terrier therefore had to be a functionally-built and particularly tenacious dog: It had to be small enough and to follow a fox down its lair, with stamina and endurance for keeping up with the Foxhounds and the courage to face up to an angry, frightened, cornered fox.

The term Fox Terrier was generic until the latter part of the 19th Century. It referred to a group of dogs of varying type which were bred for the hunt. These dogs were often called ‘foxies’ regardless of type or size. The pictorial record shows this, and the work of British animaliers portrays the range of types all considered “Fox Terriers”. Various ear sets and carriages, ranges of stop and variations in skull type were all included in the group. Dogs accompanying sailors and sojourners ended up all over the globe, and helps to explain the wide range of fox terrier-based breeds that exist today.

The first formally-recognised Fox Terrier, a dog called ‘Foiler’ or ‘Old Foiler’, was registered by the Kennel Club (UK) circa 1875-6, and the breed began the process of standardization [5]. The Fox Terrier Club, UK, commenced in 1876. [6] Early enthusiasts included breeders Frances Redmond and Jack Russell, “The Sporting Parson”. Russell, interestingly, was involved in the codifying of the Fox Terrier, but did not show his own dogs, (also called “Fox Terriers”), likening the difference between show dogs and hunting dogs to that between cultivated and wild flowers.

Refinement of breed types led to the assignment of new breed names to the ensuing breeds. A differentiation was made between the Fox Terrier varieties, although the two breeds were shown under the same breed standard until well into the 20th century. The process of selective breeding was duplicated in other countries as emigrants took their dogs to other parts of the world. Fox Terriers were to make a strong mark in Australia and the Americas.

Development of the Fox Terrier around the world

In the United States of America, fanciers of the Jack Russell Terrier were adamant that their dog, of a type similar to that created by Jack Russell, was as much of a fox terrier as the smooth or wirehaired varieties. They referred to those breeds as the Modern Fox Terriers. Some Jack Russell owners preferred that their breed clubs remain unaffiliated, to preserve the working qualities of their fox terrier.

The Toy Fox Terrier was developed by selected breeding from smaller Fox Terriers. The breed was recognised by the United Kennel Club in 1936 and generated little controversy, although some Fox Terrier owners objected to the name “Fox Terrier” being used for the new breed. The American Kennel Club recognised the Toy Fox Terrier in 2000.

In Australia, a distinct type of Australian Fox Terrier was becoming recognisable during the same period in which the fox terrier breed was being standardised. The miniature version of this new dog became extremely popular. Smooth and Wirehair Fox Terriers are often referred to as Standard Fox Terriers in Australia in an attempt to minimize confusion. Australians often use the word “Foxie” to describe the Miniature Fox Terrier, and although such usage is, strictly speaking incorrect, and that breed should be referred to as the “Mini Foxie”, Australians are notorious for language shortcuts and such usage has stuck, to the continual annoyance of standard Fox Terrier owners.

Today, there are many and varied breeds that are descended from or related to earlier fox terrier types. These include the

A "Chilean Terrier" is identified on some sites; not much information is given and these may be descended from American Rat Terriers.

With the decline and now banning of fox hunting, these breeds are now seldom used for hunting (except trialling with non-living or protected quarry) and are more often pets. Some, such as Miniature Fox Terriers are still part of rural communities as working vermin routers.


  1. The development of the Fox Terrier breeds is explored in an article by Norma Bennet Woolf: The Fox Terriers, which can be found at: [1].
  2. The Fox Terriers, an AKC Featured Breed article, also traces the development of Fox Terriers. Refer to the archives of the American Kennel Club.
  3. Demonstrated in a hunting book, The Boke of St Albans, by Dame Juliana Berners, published in 1496, and in the first known English language book on dogs, Of Englishe Dogges, by Dr John Caius, published in 1570. See more at terrier
  4. Breed Information: Smooth Fox Terrier
    "Smooth Fox Terriers were originally used for locating the position of foxes in their tunnels and in killing vermin."
  5. Research by Dr. Sally Reed, Mrs. Eliza Hopkins, Dr. Myles Notaro and Ms.Carolyn Cook (of U.K.C.) was published in Bloodlines Magazine in 1992, an article by Dr Reed titled ‘’Ain’t Jus Any Ole Dawgs’’; quoted in an article by Dianne E. McConnell, Another Look At The Toy Fox Terrier History, available online at:
  6. According to the official website, the breed standard was drawn up and club commenced in 1876.