Toy Fox Terrier Information
Developmental History of the Toy Fox Terrier
Toy Fox Terrier History
Barbara (BJ) Andrews, SAAB, AKC Hall Of Fame Breeder
The brains of a Chihuahua, sturdy health and body of the Smooth Fox Terrier make the Toy Fox Terrier the All American dog, perfect family pet, watch dog and lap dog.
An American Original created by purpose and by the finest craftsmen! It was the hunters, woodsmen, and farmers of America who adopted the “runty” English Fox Terriers for a multitude of practical purposes.
August Belmont, one of the first Fox Terrier breeders, said the breed has “a natural inclination to hunt and destroy vermin of any kind, pursuing it to its refuge wherever it be within the Terrier’s power to reach it.” He nails it with “...accompanied by a sprightly and tense nature, keen sense of hearing, quick vision, a most unerring nose, and an indomitable gameness.” That quote could well fit the Toy Fox Terrier Standard.
The landed gentry in America took England's Smooth Fox Terrier to heart in the late 1800’s. They began to select the smaller dogs to carry along to rout out old Mr. Fox. Many a time, the littlest Fox Terrier saved the day and the hunt. When the hounds ran the fox to ground, the little dogs were set loose because there was no burrow too small, no fox hole too deep or too tight for the runty Fox Terriers. The smaller ones fit perfectly into the Huntsman or Groom’s jacket pocket, or simply slung over the saddle in a sack.
By the early 1900's, the Smooth Fox Terrier was such a popular pet in America that the RCA Victor Co. chose one for its logo. Runts were kept (and cross bred) because they were so scrappy. Sorry, but they had to be in order to survive amongst their larger littermates. Those who lacked “grit” and failed to hold their own simply didn’t survive to reproduce. So the littlest Fox Terriers became a prize and survived to become the Toy Fox Terrier.
Squirrel and Fox hunting wasn’t a sport for the American farmer. It took him about a slippery second to figure out that the world champion farm dog might be that runty little fox terrier the wealthy folks were so proud of. The smooth coated, easy-keeper little terrier worked all day ridding the place of rodents and then protected the hen house at night. Well yes, some were kept inside because the Missus liked them, but they could hear a problem in the chicken yard even when sacked in with the children!
Long before the Great Depression, people of the Appalachians hunted not for sport but to put food on the table. Too often it was no more than a squirrel to season the soup pot but they could depend on the “fiest dog” to spot that squirrel and by George, it could “tree” a squirrel or coon!
During those times of no television (!) entertainment was the occasional barn dance, church socials, and the “Dog and Pony Show.” The Toy Fox Terrier was an ideal choice for the traveling entertainer. He was easy to carry along and feed, great on the ponies, agile and smart enough to perform any trick, and a feisty, brave little watchdog in lonely roadside camps. He is a dog of many titles - the “trick dog”, “circus dog” and Ameri-Toy, but to many admirers, he remains the "little feist dog."
In 1912 the United Kennel Club began to register Smooth Fox Terriers, including the "Toy" size. TFT Fanciers asked for their own classification in the mid-20’s but it was 1936 before the UKC granted official registration for the Toy Fox Terrier.
Rural families were justifiably proud of their little dogs and not much concerned with the struggles show people were experiencing. Frankly, the breedings that occurred in rural America insured a strength and hardiness seldom seen in such small dogs. Most Toy breeds had been sheltered and pampered for decades if not for centuries whereas the little feist dog whelped, nursed, and raised her pups under the porch or in a bale of hay.
The lustiest pups came toddling out in a few weeks. The others did not. Some learned to avoid the swift kick of the family milk cow. Some didn’t. Some proved tough and quick and had that unusual instinct to “look up” for squirrel. They were death on varmints and could hear anyone coming up the lane well before they arrived. Those stayed. Others did not. The best of them lived a long healthy productive life.
And therein lies the unique hardiness of the Toy Fox Terrier
It was (and is) a challenge to keep them small enough to fit in a groom’s jacket - or down a rat hole! An article in the 1959 issue of UKC Bloodlines stated it was easy to go “…towards the Standard Size Fox Terrier because … to go to the small size takes years…” The UKC supported efforts to keep them small but hardy as demonstrated in the photo of Gr. Ch. PR Gorden's Madam Butterfly.
UKC "recognized" and began to register the "toy" Fox Terriers in 1936 and listed them under terriers. But as Eliza Hopkins and other early breeders acknowledge, some show breeders took shortcuts that haunt today’s breeders. There were various outcrosses to Toy Manchesters and Chihuahuas in lazy efforts to reduce size. Finally, in August of 1960, the United Kennel Club closed the stud book and that was that.
Well, pretty much. We still see signs of the apple head as on the dog (right), the smaller eye and expression of the Manchester, or the overly large or protruding eye of the Chihuahua.
But by and large, the Toy Fox Terrier breeds true today, thanks to a meeting that occurred in 1949 in Ohio. Then and there was born the National Toy Fox Terrier Association and strong commitment to responsible breeding, meaning preservation of both type and the function in the Toy Fox Terrier. And they meant to keep him a terrier, which is still his UKC classification.
The AKC, with no understanding for "just another breed" it was determined to own, control, and profit from, classified the Toy Fox Terrier as a Toy Breed in 2003.
The low tail set of rogue breedings to Chihuahuas plagues today’s breeders but Ch. Winston, an early winner from O'BJ displays the has good balance, topline, and a naturally "up there” tail set that speaks to great terrier temperament.
The American Toy Fox Terrier Club was formed in 1994 and AKC approved the club’s Constitution and Bylaws in 1999. The first Toy Fox Terrier National Specialty “A” Match was in Pleasanton, CA October 20, 2001. With credit to AKC judge Rick Beauchamp, Susan McCoy, Denise Monette, Barbara (BJ) Andrews and other staunch breeder-supporters, the Toy Fox Terrier was AKC recognized in 2003.)
Judges are curious, breeders are looking, especially those in other Toy breeds. The public doesn’t care. Like American families since the 1900’s, they just laugh at the antics of their little fiest dog. They go hiking, rabbit and squirrel hunting with them, they depend on them to “keep the place clean” and warn them of anything out of the ordinary at night. photo courtesy Nathan Herman
The children of America hold them tightly, whisper secrets into big ears that understand every childhood dream. And let’s admit it, somewhere right now, a Toy Fox Terrier mom is curled up in an unused stall or under the house, nursing her babies. Self-sufficient but absolutely and totally bonded to people.
"Terrier tough" but gentle and a full time lap dog. Suspicious of any unknown sound or scent yet so trusting that they are limp as a rag when picked up by their owner. Dan Greenwald (Sethfield Terriers) once said to me about the Fox Terrier “they sleep with one eye open.” And so does the Toy Fox Terrier.
When this was written in 2008 we were still standing at the doorway of tomorrow with a little dog that had lasted since the 18th Century because he is physically and mentally sound, incredibly intelligent, happy in lap or field, useful, practical, handy, and hardy.
What will the Toy Fox Terrier be in ten years? Or fifty? It depends on you, the TFT breeder and judge. What you choose in the ring or to breed from over the next decade will determine whether or not the Toy Fox Terrier retains his heritage and his place in the hearts of the farmer, the family, and the dog fancy.
As American as apple pie, The Toy Fox Terrier is an original breed "Made In The USA"
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