How did the white terrier become extinct
A dog with many names
The pedigree of the Bull Terrier goes back to the Bulldog and Terrier cross. Among them was a beautiful creature. The smart, elegant dog had several names, but for the purposes of this article it will be referred to as the English white terrier. If you want to wow other Bull Terrier enthusiasts with your knowledge of the history of the bullying breeds, tell them that this particular ancestor was also known as:
- Old English Terrier
- White English Terrier
- Old white terrier
- Old English white terrier
- British white terrier
As fascinating as this part of the Bull Terrier story is, the story is tragic. The English White Terrier had an invaluable genetic legacy that touched more breeds than just the Bull Terrier. It cost the "whites" themselves, an example of what happens when a breed comes into being too quickly and without consideration.
The cradle of the white terrier
Unfortunately, if you fully understand the origins of this terrier, you won't be able to impress other bullying lovers. Nobody holds this pearl. Terriers of all shapes and sizes have existed in the United Kingdom since the 18th century, possibly even earlier. Neither was a specific race as the term would define today. There were neither family trees nor a uniform form that existed between the parents and the offspring. The term "terrier" has been used to refer to any dog that goes to earth and hunts underground prey, including rabbits, foxes and badgers. Among this colorful crew were people in white coats and cheeky ears.
In the 1860s and 1870s, England experienced a ringcraft mania and enthusiasts began creating breeds from left to right. Many so-called races appeared, often with stories made up to give the appearance of a family tree. The White Terrier's journey began when a small group of people selected the white dogs and named them the English White Terrier. This was essentially the show name and not much else. From the beginning, the dog struggled to breed as a pure-bred must. The owners claimed that those born with erect ears, which was the look they wanted, were a different breed from those with floppy ears. In truth, they were the same and puppies with both ear types were often found in the same litter. During the dog's peak popularity, despite the claims and physical differences between dogs, large numbers were shown and prizes were won.
Even after the breeding became more controlled, no useful records were kept. If that were the case, there are no more useful examples today, which is a shame. Such records would have revealed which breeds highlighted the original white terriers. However, it's not difficult to see why the most popular competitors are the Whippet and Italian Greyhound. Some English White Terriers were stockier, but most had the gooseneck and chest of the greyhound. They had the same beautiful body and sharp eyesight of a greyhound. The earliest breeders in the 19th century did not introduce the dogs (if they were actually the ancestors of the whites). To their credit, white lovers didn't come up with a dazzling (and false) backstory for their breed. Some recognized the possible influence of the hunting dog group and had no idea who was holding the Prototype White and for what purpose.
The squat copy
The English white had a lot in common with today's bull terriers. It was compact, with a ready energy, possessed a pure white coat, and also shared the "cat's toes" and oval eyes. The white was among the earliest (some say the first) terriers bred for competitive performance. The only color that weighed between 12 and 20 pounds was the black nose and eyes. In contrast to today's show bullies, a white man with spots or colored fur was disqualified. The ears should hang gracefully and close to the head. Some puppies were born with naturally erect ears, but they fell over, the animal's ears usually being clipped off to achieve the same effect. The flat skull was wedge-shaped with thin cheeks and delicate lips. Despite their weakness, the dogs were muscular. They had a very sleek look that enhanced the elegance of their greyhound-like curves. The neck was long and slender, the body short and the chest narrow. The legs were perfectly straight and placed directly under the body. The tail was of average length, thick at the base and thinner towards the tip. In some dogs, the tail appeared to be almost straight and ideally should never be carried higher than the back. The dog's trademark was of course the clean white coat. The hair was short, hard and shiny.
The young breed was doomed to failure by three main factors: a desire for a porcelain coat, the use of faulty studs and broods, and a debilitating constitution. In the animal world, a white coat is fraught with a variety of serious genetic disorders. A tendency to deafness is common in white dogs and cats, and the English white was no exception. Nowadays ethical breeders try their best to avoid matches that could spawn such dogs. Unfortunately, English white specimens known to be deaf or partially deaf were bred anyway. This accelerated the rate at which the problem hit the breed. Soon so many dogs were showing some degree of deafness that the entire group was considered unusable for hunting. Nobody wanted a puppy with potential hearing problems. In the field, such an animal would not be able to perceive the movements of the prey. Since it was no longer a functioning terrier, the white man slowly slipped into physical frailty.
Most of the fans of the breed died from the physical deficiencies. But for a while the dogs delighted those who wanted a loving pet. They excelled as pets, exhibiting courageous intelligence and a loving nature. Although no longer used for hunting, the dogs were valued for their ability to keep the house free of rats. In the end, their amiable spirit and popularity in the show ring were not enough to save the breed. The majority of people didn't want a dog with so many genetic problems, health issues, and one that was of no practical use. Unfortunately, dogs used to be kept mainly as useful tools - for herding, hunting, and guarding, for example. The English white terrier wasn't one of those. Yes, it caught rats, but other dogs too. Hope of creating the perfect show dog sparked the English whites, but poor breed ethics led to the inevitable end. Barely a century old and after 30 years on the show racetrack, the last English White Terriers died out in the early 20th century. Every now and then stories will crop up that the dogs still exist, but such claims are either false, wishful thinking, or confusion with similar sounding breeds. The little white dog really is extinct.
A legacy that cannot be paid for
The English White Terrier wasn't a huge success in itself, but ironically became the cornerstone of some popular breeds. It is likely that many more are from the English whites, but not every case has been unequivocally proven. Even so, it is agreed that this single dog had an epic influence on the terrier group. Some of the breeds can be found in the list below.
- The bull terrier (standard and miniature)
- The Boston Terrier
- The Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- The fox terrier
- The Jack Russel Terrier
- The rare Sealyham Terrier
- The Parson Russel Terrier
- The rat terrier
- Possibly the American Pit Bull Terrier
Most of these breeds, particularly Bull Terriers, Staffordshire, Jack Russell, and Pit Bulls, are extremely popular these days. Owners and lovers who love them cannot imagine a world without their furry favorites. The very first breeders and the very last, who finally gave up the whites, had high demands on the dog, which never came true in their lives. However, in some ways, the end result surpassed any dream. The English White Terrier left an invaluable legacy in the world of dogs, and in particular, has provided the backdrop for notable terrier breeds that continue to this day.
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