Border Terrier

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: June 2, 2009

Popular for their natural, "scruffy" face and persistent nature, Border Terriers are alert, active and agile. Originally a fox-hunting dog, the Border is a fine working animal and companion.

Physical Characteristics

The Border Terrier’s long legs are crafted for the endurance, agility, and speed needed to run behind a horse through every kind of terrain. Its gait exhibits good stride. The medium-boned Border Terrier is also tall in proportion to its length, while its narrow body help it pass through thin passages during a fox hunt.

The Border Terrier's unique "otter" head is a typical feature, a reflection of its alert expression and temperament. Its skin is loose-fitting and very thick, thus protecting it from an attacker's bite. The double coat comprises a straight, wiry, outer coat and thick, short undercoat.

Personality and Temperament

The obedient, amicable, busy, and inquisitive Border Terrier can be independent, and is not fond of hunting. It has been bred to run fast in packs, making it is among the few terriers with this quality. Of the terrier group, it is the most tractable and friendly. If given an opportunity, it will wander.

A perfect companion for all, the Border Terrier is also gentle with kids. The breed also tends to bark and dig, and is prone to escape attempts. Usually the dog behaves well with cats and other dogs, but is not good with rodents.


Even though it can live outside in cool climates, this terrier is better when it has access to the yard and the house. The harsh coat demands weekly brushing and dead hair should be stripped four times a year so that it looks tidy.

As the Border Terrier enjoys activity, it should be provided with an adequate exercise routine such as a vigorous game, an off-leash expedition in a secure place, or a daily on-leash walk.


The Border Terrier, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, is prone to canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and heart defects. The breed may also suffer from minor health issues such as patellar luxation. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may conduct hip and cardiac exams on this breed of dog.

History and Background

Touted as among the oldest British terriers, the Border Terrier developed near the Cheviot Hills between England and Scotland. Originally, the dog was bred to chase and kill foxes that caused trouble for farmers. The Border Terrier, which was the smallest among long-legged terriers, had to be very swift to match the horse’s pace and yet be of small size, to dig out or follow a fox into its burrow.

The first record of this breed dates back to the 18th century; its ancestors were said to be associated with the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. The name Border Terrier was chosen in 1870, although it was sometimes referred to as Coquetdale Terrier. By the early 20th century, the Border Terrier had surpassed many of its earlier functions, and was valued as much as the Fox Hound during the gentry’s hunting expeditions.

The Border Terrier, which was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930, still remains a favorite among hunters and has even become popular as a show dog and a loveable pet.

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