by Richard Clapham
No matter how well earth-stopping is attended to, there is always comes a time when a fox gets into a drain, or some other retreat, out of which it is advisable to eject him. There are way and means of bolting a foxes that need not be entered into here; suffice it to say that the most sportsmanlike method is by the use of the terrier.
Roughly speaking, the wilder and more provincial the country, the greater need is there for a few good terriers connected with the hunt. Really good working terriers are not as a rule easy to come by, for their breeders are seldom willing to part with them. A good many people are annually “had” by buying terriers without a trial. Unless you know exactly who you are dealing with, it is never safe to hand over the money until you have seen the dog or dogs actually work. Peoples’ ideas differ, too, in regards the qualifications of a working terrier. If a dog sticks its head underground and barks, some owners think he is a “worker”, and i am afraid many such “workers” get palmed off on to the unsuspecting public. As a rule, though there are exceptions, it is useless, to buy show terriers, for the inherited instinct to work has been bred out of most of the show breeds, particularly the smooth and wire-haired variety. Many of them are far too big to work up to a fox in a crevice amongst the rocks, or up in a narrow drain.
The shape and make of a terrier destined for work, depends upon the character of the work, and the surrounds in which the greater part of it is done. Take length of leg as an example. On the fells of the Lake District a terrier has to follow the huntsman on foot, and unless the dog is sufficiently tall to easily get through heather or snow, he very soon tires, and in winter has to be carried. The huntsman to a fell pack generally has enough to do to carry himself, without humping terriers in his pockets, so he does not look with favor upon very short-legged specimens.
Concerning the surroundings in which the work is done, these vary considerably in different parts of the country. A dog may be asked to go to ground in big badger-earths, or amongst roots on a river band, or in narrow crevices amongst the rocks, such are common in the North and West country. A terrier which is able to work in one place may have great difficulty in doing so in another. Take the Sealyham terrier, for instance. He is short-legged, broad-chested, hobby type, capable of doing the best of work in a badger-earth, but ask him to follow a fell huntsman over the rough ground, heather, or soft snow, from daylight till dark, and go up to a fox in a narrow rock crevice, and he will find himself hopelessly out of a job.
In a badger-earth, or a fox-earth in soil or sand, a terrier usually stands or lies on the same plane as his quarry. In a cairn or rocky-earth, a fox nearly always holds the upper position on some ledge, and the terrier has to face him from below. In a narrow passage, therefore, a short-legged dog is fearfully handicapped, and has to endure severe punishment, little of which he can give in return. Amongst rocks, too, length of leg may mean safe return of a terrier, whereas otherwise his period of incarceration is likely to be a long one, if not for good. A dog can easily slide down ledges and rocks underground, but it does not always follow that they can climb back again. A broad-chested dog. while good enough in a roomy earth, in handicapped when he has to wedge himself though a narrow crevice, particularly if a fox is facing him, and making things “hot”.
It matters not what breed a terrier is so long as he is dead game, and so built that he can get where a fox leads. If i were asked for a specification of an all-round working terrier, it would read about as follows: Weight, 15lb. to 16lb. : coat, thick and wet resisting: chest, narrow, but deep through the heart: legs, sufficiently long to enable the dog to travel above ground over rough country with ease to himself: teeth level, and jaw powerful but not too long. The longer the jaw, the less leverage and less power to hold. Both otter and fox are short jawed animals, yet they can inflict severe punishment. Breed. preferably with a dash of Bedlington blood, but not too much of it. Courage and gameness, undeniable.
In the a aforementioned specification of a working terrier, i omitted to state that the ears should be small, and dropped close to the head, as they are then much less likely to be torn by foxes. Joe Bowman much prefers Bedlington cross, and for real dead game workers they are unbeatable. On the fells foxes run heavy, an 18 pounder being by no means unusual, and i have seen several 19lb foxes accounted for. Bowmans heaviest fox was one of 23lb, killed on Cross Fell. The length of the fox was 4ft 4in, and it had 4in of while on the end of its brush.
Fox terriers, some of which are capable workers, seldom, however, stand the cold and wet in drains, and for this reason the cross-breeds are preferable. Many a good terrier has lost his life on the fells through being unable to return after getting his fox deep down in some rocky “borran” or earth. The reason for having a narrow-chested dog is to enable him to get through rock crevices. When a terrier is working up to his fox in a tight place where the crevices is horizontal, the dog gets down on his side and works himself in with his legs. In a vertical crevice he also has a decided advantage over a broad-chested dog.