Rat Terrier

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: September 17, 2012
Rat Terrier

First gaining popularity in the United States as a hunting dog and loyal companion to President Theodore Roosevelt, the Rat Terrier is an American dog breed created when European immigrants crossed terriers they brought over. This dog breed is known for its intelligence and loving personality and makes a great family pet.

Physical Characteristics

A small dog breed, the Rat Terrier weighs around 12 to 35 pounds at a height of 14 to 23 inches and is very muscular for its size. Ears can be erect or button and tails can be at an upward curve or a natural bob. The short, dense coat may be solid white, bi-colored or tri-colored in black, tan, chocolate, apricot, blue, or lemon.

Personality and Temperament

The Rat Terrier is an ideal dog breed for a family looking for an energetic pet. This breed does well with children and is very loyal to its family. Similar to other terrier breeds, the Rat Terrier is a curious and intelligent dog that is very playful and loving.


The Rat Terrier requires a good amount of daily outdoor exercise such as a long walk or jog. It will do fine as an apartment dog so long as it is provided with an adequate amount of exercise. The Rat Terrier sheds lightly and requires occasional brushing.


This breed is mainly healthy, living an average life span of 15 to 18 years. Some health problems that may occur with a Rat Terrier are hip and elbow dysplasia, and patellar luxation.

History and Background

The Rat Terrier is an American breed created in the late 1800s from a mix of terriers brought to the U.S. by European miners. It is believed the Rat Terrier is a cross of the Smooth Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier and a few other small dog breeds such as the Beagle and Whippet.

This dog breed was most popular for its known speed, aiding in hunting small game such as squirrels and hare. However, the Rat Terrier gained its name by being a tough dog in the rat pit, during which people would bet on the dog’s ability to hunt down and kill rats.

The Rat Terrier became popular in the early 20th century in the United States as a farm and hunting dog. Although this dog breed saw a decline in numbers starting in 1950, dog breeders were able to maintain and revive the Rat Terrier, which is still a popular American breed today.

Featured Image: iStock.com/sjallenphotography

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