Airedale Terrier

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: May 27, 2009
Airedale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier is the largest and toughest of the terrier family. Its coat is dense and wiry, with a softer undercoat, and comes in both tan and black and tan and grizzle. This breed was one of the first used for police duty and has also been popular among U.S. Presidents (e.g., Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding).

Physical Characteristics

The long-legged Airedale Terrier has strong round bones that effectively combine power and agility. This enables the breed to hunt difficult game. The wiry, hard, and thick coat lies close and straight with the body, while a few hairs remain crinkled.

Personality and Temperament

This protective and lively companion is one of the most versatile terriers. The playful, adventurous, and bold Airedale is intelligent, and yet headstrong and stubborn at times. Though some dogs are dominating, most of them are responsive to the wishes of the owner and are reliable.

As long as the Airedale is provided with daily physical and mental exercise, it is a well-behaved house dog. It likes to be a leader and dislikes being challenged by other dogs. Smaller dogs and terriers, however, get along well.


Being an active breed, the Airedale Terrier requires vigorous exercise on a daily basis. Long walks, energetic games, and romping and hunting in safe areas, can meet the dog’s requirements. The wiry coat has to be combed three times a week, in addition to shaping and trimming once or twice a month. Clipping is useful in layering the color and texture of the coat. The ears of puppies need to be "glued" so that they are properly shaped when they become adults. The Airedale can live comfortably outside in cool climates, but should be allowed to sleep indoors.


The Airedale Terrier, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years, sometimes suffers from colonic disease. Other serious health issues this breed is prone to include canine hip dysplasia (CHD), gastric torsion, and hypothyroidism. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run thyroid and hip exams on the dog.

History and Background

The Airedale or "King of Terriers" is the tallest of the terriers. Thought to have originated from the Black and Tan Terrier or English Terrier, the medium-sized Airedale was bred by hunters in Yorkshire to hunt small game such as fox and water rat. The dogs were also good at retrieving and finding birds.

In the mid-19th century, some terriers near South Yorkshire’s River Aire were interbred with Otterhounds to enhance their scenting ability and hunting skills around water. This attempt resulted in bred known as the Waterside Terrier or Bingley, which was an expert in otter hunting. It was, however, only in 1878 that the breed was accepted as the Airedale Terrier.

After becoming a show dog, it was crossed with Bull and Irish Terriers, to remove the traits of the Otterhound cross that was not very popular.

By the 20th century, Champion Master Briar, the breed’s patriarch, popularized the dog and his child achieved the same outcome in the U.S. The hunting ability and the size of the Airedale helped the dog earn huge renown as a big game hunter. The dog managed to become a good family pet and a police dog for its manner and smart looks. The period after World War I saw a decline in the dog’s popularity, but today many dog fanciers are fond of the Airedale Terrier.

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