Airedale Terrier

Breed At A Glance


Energetic and protective, eager to please

Life Expectancy
10-13 years

Average Height
22-24 inches

Average Weight
45-70 lbs

Coat Color
Black and Tan

Coat Length/Texture
Stiff and wiry outer coat, with softer undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Excessive if not properly groomed

Also known as Waterside Terrier, Bingley Terrier, Airedale

General Temperament

The Airedale Terrier is an energetic and loving breed who craves attention and respect from their families. With their intelligence and natural sense of humor, they can be entertaining and fulfilling family pets. They get along well with children, although they can sometimes be a little too rough with smaller children. Airedales can sometimes try to dominate other dogs, although they will usually get along with other household pets they have been raised with (such as cats).

The Airedale Terrier was bred to independently hunt small game, and that instinct is still strong within this breed, even in lines bred for companionship. Even the most experienced handler will be hard pressed to pull them away from a sighted chipmunk or rabbit. Airedales can be stubborn and difficult to train, and can get bored easily once they’ve figured out what’s required of them. But variety and patience from the owner are well worth it: this breed can excel in obedience and agility trials. They also display herding characteristics and can work well with cattle and livestock.

The importance of the owner establishing dominance over the Airedale from the beginning cannot be overstated, as this breed will take control over any family members that it sees as submissive. Be sure to keep the upper hand with this breed without becoming harsh. Airedales are active dogs who need plenty of exercise, and are not recommended for apartment life.

Breed History

The Airedale Terrier originated in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, around the mid-19th century. Sporting events took place in the local rivers, wherein terriers would chase large river rats that inhabited the area. The terrier would find a rat’s hole by the river bank, and once the rat was driven from the hole by a ferret brought in for that purpose, the terrier would pursue it through the water, eventually capturing and killing it. As the sport became more popular, the Airedale Terrier evolved as a cross between the Black and Tan Terrier and the Otterhound. This combination made for an excellent ratter with the ability to swim with dexterity and endurance. The inclusion of the hound blood also made it excellent for scenting game and taking down larger prey, and are now used on great game in Africa, India, Canada and the U.S.

The Airedale was introduced into the United States in 1881.

Body Structure and Composition

Known as “The King of the Terriers,” the Airedale is a large terrier with a long flat head and a deep chest. The ears are v-shaped and are carried folded over. The moderately long neck leads down to a level topline and long, straight forelegs. The tail is customarily docked during puppyhood. The original purpose of tail docking in working dogs was to help prevent injury, but in companion pets is largely done for cosmetic purposes (tail docking has been banned in many countries). Airedales have characteristic whiskers at the end of the muzzle and chin.

Medical Information

Although they are generally a healthy and hardy breed, the Airedale is prone to a couple of hereditary medical conditions. Like many larger breeds, the Airedale Terrier can sometimes experience Hip Dysplasia, a condition where the head of the thigh bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the hip socket. This causes lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Responsible breeders will have their breeding stock evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to help prevent spreading this disease.

Airedales can also suffer from various forms of dermatitis. Allergies, dietary imbalances or over/under-productive thyroid glands can cause dryness, itchiness or “hot spots” in this breed. Often these issues can go unnoticed because of the dog’s harsh wiry coat, but most skin conditions can be controlled by medication or properly controlled diet.

Airedale Terriers require regular grooming and stripping to maintain their coat, although they will shed little when properly groomed. The whiskers around the face need to be cleaned daily.

Anecdotal Information

The Airedale Terrier has an extensive history as a war dog in both World War I and World War II. They were also the breed of choice for law enforcement prior to the introduction of the German Shepherd.

As a teenager, John Wayne owned an Airedale named “Little Duke” who accompanied Wayne everywhere he went. This lead to Wayne earning the nickname “Big Duke.” The name stuck with him for the rest of his life.

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