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Get to Know the Norwich Terrier: Naughty, Nice, and Not a Norfolk!

Full of life and a magnet for mischief, it's never boring when a Norwich is around!

Caroline Coile  |  Mar 21st 2016

The word terrier comes from the Middle French terre, derived from the Latin terra, meaning earth. Terriers were developed to follow prey into their earthen dens and hideouts to either kill them or draw them out.

Different terriers became specialized for larger or smaller prey, with some confronting fox and other large animals, others mice and rats, and some a wide assortment. Terriers were often responsible for saving a family’s store of grain to tide them and their livestock over through winter. They played an essential role in human survival, especially in Great Britain and Ireland, where they were developed into many subtypes and eventually, breeds. The Norwich exemplifies this family.


Norwich Terrier by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the Norwich Terrier

  • Because of their heritage, terriers are noted for being tough and plucky, very courageous, and loathe to back down from a challenge. They are also very independent, as befitting a dog who needed to think for himself to hunt and survive.
  • Short-legged ratting terriers were around in England for centuries. But in 1880s England, owning a little ratting terrier became a fad among Cambridge University students. These dogs were initially called CanTab Terriers, and later, Trumpington Terriers.
  • A prominent sire lived near Norwich, and people eventually referred to the dogs as Norwich Terriers.
  • The first Norwich to come to America was owned by a man named Jones, and the breed was called the Jones Terrier by many.
  • The AKC recognized the breed in 1936. It is a member of the AKC Terrier group.
  • The breed initially came in both prick- and drop-eared versions. In 1979, they were divided into two breeds, with the pricked-ear version the Norwich, and the drop-eared version the Norfolk.

Norwich Terrier by Shutterstock.

  • Can’t remember which is which? The Norwich has pricked ears like a witch’s hat… so remember “Nor-witch.”
  • The Norwich Terrier may be confused with the Norfolk Terrier, but the Norwich has erect ears and is more square proportioned. It may also be confused with the Cairn Terrier, but the Cairn is slightly larger, has a hairier, rounder head, smaller ears, a longer docked tail, and comes only in solid colors, including black. It may also be confused with the Australian Terrier, but the Australian Terrier is taller, longer-bodied, and less stocky.
  • Colors are all shades of red, wheaten, tan with black saddle, or grizzle. They weigh about 12 pounds.
  • The Norwich Terrier is the 94th most popular AKC breed, up slightly from 98th five years ago.
  • This little breed is actually a formidable dog show competitor. Two Norwich Terriers have won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show, most recently in 1998. In 1994, Best in Show was won by a male, Ch Chidley Willum The Conqueror, and four years laters it was won by his half-sister, Champion Fairewood Frolic.
  • Norwich Terriers also compete in Earthdog events.
  • A Norwich Terrier had the role of Winky in the movie “Best in Show.”
  • Owners include Oscar de la Renta, Lily Tomlin, E.B. White, Jonathan Adler, and Betty Lou Phillips.

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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