There was a time when the Wire Fox Terrier was the epitome of sophistication, the English gent’s sidekick in adventure and social circles. And even though the dog is less popular these days than in the past, the Wire Fox still retains that air of an upper-class daredevil.
In looks, the Wire Fox Terrier may be confused with the Parson Russell Terrier, but the Fox Terrier is more heavily coated (especially on the legs) and has a much longer head and slightly deeper chest. The Wire Fox may also be confused with the Welsh or Lakeland Terriers, but the Wire Fox is always white with patches of color.
Fox Terriers were bred in England to run with foxhound packs and bolt the fox when it took cover. Hunters preferred mostly white dogs so they wouldn’t confuse them with the fox.
The tail was usually docked to the width of a man’s hand, so a hunter could grasp the strongest part of the tail and pull the dog from a fox den by it.
Queen Victoria owned one, but it was her son, King Edward VII, who brought more attention to the breed with his Fox Terrier, Caesar.
The Wire Fox Terrier was the fifth most popular AKC breed in the 1920s. This is the only decade the breed was among the top 10 most popular breeds in America.
Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers were at one time interbred, although there is disagreement as to whether they came from the same ancestry to start with. The two coat types were officially split into two breeds by the AKC in 1985.
Wire Fox Terriers are the most successful AKC show dogs of any breed. They have won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show 14 times — more than any other breed. Two different Wires won back-to-back Westminster Bests in Show.
A Wire Fox Terrier named Sky was the top AKC show dog of any breed in 2013. She won Best in Show at the 2012 National Dog Show. She retired with Best in Show at Westminster.
Show dogs have their coats stripped, in which dead hair is plucked out by hand. But this is hard to do, so most pet dogs have their coats clipped. Stripping leaves the coat hard and shiny and weatherproof, whereas clipping leaves it soft, duller colored and more prone to hold dirt and water.
The best known Wire Fox Terrier was Asta (played by a Wire Fox Terrier named Skippy), the dog in The Thin Man movies. Skippy also played the role of George in Bringing up Baby and appeared in several other movies.
Wire Foxes were also featured in the TV series The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and the novel Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog). The dog was named Montmorency.
Owners include King Edward VII, Charles Darwin, Herbert Hoover, Agatha Christie, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Paul Newman and Cheryl Tiegs.
Despite being one of those breeds that everybody knows, the Wire Fox is not very popular. It is currently the 96th most popular AKC breed, down from 70th most popular a decade ago.
Do you own a Wire Fox Terrier? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!
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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.