Get to Know the Airedale Terrier: King of Terriers

Police dog, military dog, and consummate companion: There's a reason he's called the king!


He’s called the King of Terriers, and if you know an Airedale, you understand why. Not only does he stand heads above any other dog in the terrier group, but he has attitude with a capital A — and T-T-I-T-U-D-E!

He’s lived in the White House and ruled over many powerful homes. But this majestic terrier’s origins are far more humble.

In the 1800s, black-and-tan terriers in the River Aire region were crossed with Otterhounds to produce a dog adept at otter hunting. It was originally called the Bingley or Waterside Terrier, but became known as the Airedale in 1878.

Later crosses were made to the Irish Terrier and Bull Terrier.

The breed has been used to hunt big game.

It was one of the earliest breeds used as a police dog.

During World War I, Airedale Terriers were used by the British army to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines, to carry mail and to find wounded soldiers. A famous military Airedale named Jack ran through half a mile of enemy fire, arrived with his message intact, and died of his injuries immediately upon delivering it.

The Airedale was one of the first breeds used for search and rescue missions.

In the United States, the tail is traditionally docked to a medium-short length.

The coat is wiry and dense, wavy but not curly. Technically, the coat should be hand-stripped, which means the dead hair is plucked out with the fingers or pulled out with a stripping comb. If this is done every few weeks, the dog sheds very little. But because it’s also labor-intensive, usually only show dogs are hand-stripped. Pet dogs are usually trimmed with clippers, which makes the coat softer.

The color pattern is tan with either a black or grizzle (black mixed with gray or white) saddle. Some are born without a saddle.

The first White House celebrity dog was an Airedale named Laddie Boy owned by Warren G. Harding. The dog sat in on cabinet meetings and accompanied the president everywhere.

An Airedale named Paddy the Wanderer wandered the street of Wellington, New Zealand, for years, hitching rides on planes and ships until it was claimed he had even traveled to America. When he died, it’s said the city was brought to a standstill for his funeral.

Two Airedales sank with the Titanic.

In the early 1900s, an Airedale named Rolf was claimed to be able to do arithmetic and to communicate by tapping out codes for letters.

Owners include Warren G. Harding, Woodrow Wilson, John Wayne, Ty Cobb, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bo Derek, James Earl Jones, Renee Richards, Calvin Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt.

Four Airedale Terriers have won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show.

The Airedale is the 54th most popular AKC breed. In the early 1900s, it was one of the most popular breeds in America.

Do you own an Airedale? 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!

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.

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2 thoughts on “Get to Know the Airedale Terrier: King of Terriers”

  1. I have a Airedale. I will never live without one. I was in a car crash and broke both my wrists. Since I live alone I had to go to a nursing home for 3 weeks because I couldn't take care of myself. Both wrists were in casts. I had my friends watch my dogs for me.
    When I came home my Airedale [Thunder] wouldn't leave my side. My other 2 dogs would go outside to play but not Thunder.

  2. Pingback: Get to Know the Airedale Terrier: King of Terriers –

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