The Airedale Terrier. Read about the King Of Terriers!

Airedale Terrier

The King Of Terriers.

The Airedale Terrier is brave but not aggressive. They are intelligent, independent dogs, and can be a little stubborn at times. Mischievous and comical companions, they will do their utmost to cheer you up and make you laugh.

In fact, it’s often said that your Airedale can make you laugh and can make you cry – sometimes at the same time!

Airedale Terrier – Temperament

An Airedale Terrier standing on a street, looking to the left, with green shrubs in the background
Airedale Terrier

Airedales have a strong prey drive, and some people believe that they shouldn’t share their home with cats, but we have come across many Airedale owners who also have cats in the house, and tell us they don’t have any problems! It depends on the individual dog, and how it has been brought up and exposed to other animals.

They are feisty and exuberant and, as the largest of all the terrier breeds, they can easily knock over small children without meaning to, so they may not be suited to families with very small children. Again, it depends on the individual dog.

They may be aggressive towards other dogs (like just about every other breed!), and 2 male Airedales may not get on well in the same house – although many do.

They are extremely mischievous and will act like a young puppy for the first couple of years of their lives. They love to dig and chew and will try to destroy their doggy bed and toys.

There is no such thing as an indestructible toy to this dog breed! Although chews like the ones above should occupy him for a while at least! Airedales have a great longing for affection and need to feel part of the family rather than banished outside to live alone in a kennel.

An Airedale Terrier lying down chewing a stick
Airedale Terrier Dog Breed

Airedale Terrier – Breed History

Originating from the Aire Valley in South Yorkshire, England, the Airedale terrier is the largest of all the terrier breeds, thus gaining itself the title of “King Of Terriers”.

They were originally bred from the uniting of the Black And Tan Terrier (extinct) with the Bull terrier. This was then crossed with the Otter-hound. Farmers needed a dog which was small enough to dig into the lair of pests but large enough to take on larger vermin such as foxes.

They hunted anything from otters, polecats, weasels, foxes, martens and rats. Airedale’s hunted around the River Aire and up until the late 19th century they were known as the Waterside Terrier for this very reason.

They were also used in hunting and would run alongside the hounds before reaching the lair and being told to “go to ground” i.e. enter the lair to carry out the kill. This required a certain degree of bravery from the terrier, to fight alone underground in the dark without an human help.

Airedale Terriers were at their most popular during the First World World when they were used by the Red Cross to find injured soldiers and as messenger dogs to transport messages from command Headquarters to the troops on the front line. They were incredibly loyal and resilient.

An Airedale Terrier Dog lying on gravel, looking up at the camera
Airedale Terrier Dog Breed

There is a story of one famous Airedale called Jack who had a message tied to his collar around his neck. He ran half an mile through enemy fire to the main Headquarters.

By the time he had arrived, he had suffered a broken jaw and one of his legs was badly splintered. He delivered his message then immediately dropped down dead. His dedication and loyalty to his mission saved an entire platoon from annihilation.

Before the introduction of German Shepherds, the Airedale Terrier was the dog of choice for policing and search/rescue missions. Their keen sense of smell, dedication and easy to maintain wiry coats made them an ideal choice. They have also been used as guide dogs for the blind.

The first Airedale to make it to America arrived in 1881 and was named Bruce. By the 1920s they were the most popular breed in the US. Their numbers peaked in 1949 when they were the 20th most popular breed out of 110 dog breeds recognized the the American Kennel Club.

An Airedale Terrier sitting down outdoors, looking up to the left
An Airedale Terrier sitting down outdoors, looking up to the left

Vital Statistics

  • Weight: 40 – 55 lb (18 – 25 kg)
  • Height: 22 – 24 in (56 – 61 cm)
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 years


  • Overall tan with a black back (saddle) and black top of neck and tail
  • Dark grizzle saddle (Black mixed with Grey and White)

Ease Of Training

Airedales are fairly easy to train as they are very intelligent. However, they are also stubborn and their idea of training may be different from yours!

They should be exercised regularly to try to limit their destructiveness. Four walks per day of twenty minutes each is recommended.

As you can see in this adorable video, being the owner of an Airedale can be very rewarding, even if they have you wanting to pull your hair out!

I love this video. It’s about a dog called Alba and what is like living with her and the funny things she gets up to. 


Airedale Terriers are great guard dogs. They are boisterous and brave and will gladly take on any aggressor. In the past they were used as police and security dogs.


The King Of Terriers has a short wiry coat which is waterproof and resistant to dirt. Their double coat does not shed so a helping hand is needed to remove the dead hair underneath. A daily brush and weekly hand stripping is recommended to keep them in tip top condition.Clipping is not recommended –

as it will leave the old dead hair shaft behind which makes the dog itchy and actually changes the consistency of the hair, turning it from coarse and wiry to soft, fluffy and bumpy which is not the desired effect.

Over-bathing strips Airedale’s of their natural oils, dries out their skin and changes their hair from wiry and mostly straight with a slight curl to very curly, soft and fluffy.

Airedale Terrier

An Airedale Terrier Dog close-up of head, looking straight at the camera, with its tongue hanging out
Airedale Terrier Dog Breed

Airedale Terriers are a very resilient and hardy bunch and suffer from very few ailments. They rarely show pain so a keen eye is needed to look out for any small signs.

The following are the most common conditions:

  • Hip displasia
  • Cancer
  • Skin Infections (dermatitis)
  • Eye Problems
  • Gastric torsion/bloating (you could try using an Anti Gulp Feeding Bowl) 

Famous Airedale Terriers

Laddie Boy (President Harding’s dog from 1920-1929)
Paddy The Wanderer (

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