Tenacious little terriers

Last updated 08:00 12/07/2012

The first dog that I got to know was a Fox Terrier named Bonnie. She was the long-serving pet of my partner's family and was the first dog that I, at that time a lifelong cat person, ever took for a walk, gave treats, helped bathe, and grew comfortable with.

She'd run stiff-legged circles around our car when we parked in "her" yard, taking the risk of belting into a car door as it opened. She distrusted water but loved walks, so the time we walked her at a beach caused a crisis of indecision for Bonnie, who compromised by mincing only on the driest sand and keeping clear of the tide. Rabbits frightened her.

Bonnie died a few years ago but she's embedded in my memory. She turned me into a liker, later a lover and eventually an owner of dogs.

  Oscar the Fox Terrier spent most of his life jumping, says owner Nathan.
I always think of her whenever I see a Fox Terrier or its shorter-legged cousin, the Jack Russell Terrier. And I see a lot of them.

Foxies and Jack Russells don't feature among the NZ Kennel Club's list of the top few breeds by number, yet I feel as though I can't go far without seeing one, pattering along beside its owner. Maybe they're especially popular with city people; Jack Russells are the No 3 breed among Aucklanders.

Why do people like them so much? Well, they're brave, playful and intelligent, and loyal. I've always thought of both breeds as "men's dogs" because I've seen so many men, often elderly, walking out thoughtfully with a Foxy or a Jack Russell next to them. But they're both irresistible breeds.

And they're separate breeds, though I'm pairing them to write about. Foxies originated in the British Isles in the 1600s as hybrids of Dachshunds, English Hounds, Fox Hounds and Beagles. Farmers kept them to help keep foxes and rats away.

  Mac the Jack Russell loves car rides and water, says owner Nance.
A breed description says: "The Fox Terrier would find the animal in the ground relentlessly, digging, barking, growling and lunging until it harassed the animal out of its den where the hunter could then kill it." These days Foxies can be smooth-coated or wire-haired - sharing ancestors but recognised as separate breeds.

Jack Russells were first bred by a clergyman of the same name in England, for hunting foxes. They're known for being tenacious, loyal and high-spirited. "They are intelligent, and if you let them take an inch, they can become willful and determined to take a mile," a breed description says. Uggie, the little dog that stole scenes in last year's Oscar-winning movie The Artist, is a Jack Russell.

Owners talk about how cheeky and energetic both breeds are, and their destructive powers if unsupervised. And given their breeding history, it's not surprising that both terriers love a chase.

But they've also got a unique beauty in their faces: pretty when puppies, incisive when grown, dignified when elderly.

Let's meet some.

Toby's 13 years old but still has a keen eye. He once survived five days lost in the bush near Upper Hutt, just days after a drop of possum bait in the area - he could star in I Shouldn't Be Alive, But It's Cool That I Am.


Archie's a survivor too. In a previous, pre-adoption life he suffered wounds on his legs that weren't stitched, leaving him with big scars. He also turned out to be epileptic, but his adoptive family have continued giving him a medication that's been working well. He's full of beans, loves to play with balls, and (apparently like a lot of his breed) snores.


Another Fox Terrier face: 11-year-old Nicky.


Nicky's housemate is Benji, turning his destrucive attention to a Playstation control.


Flossy likes to sunbathe. Ouch, is that sunburn?


The shy-looking Foxy is Molly. On the right, five-month-old Jack Russell puppy Tiki Tiny shows a sweet but mischievous expression.


Tiki Tiny

The wisdom of years: Hadlee.


Piper is slowed only a bit by a paw injury. Lucy has her long Foxy legs crossed.



Here's a common adoption story: potential adopter visits a litter of puppies to choose one, comes home with two. So brothers Finn and Archie have each other for company, ball games and swimming. They're the rough-coated variety of Jack Russell - Finn is pure white, and Archie has a spot on his tail. Thanks for the photos, Olivia.


Archie and Finn

A Jack Russell who saw a lot of life: this is Moss. He lived to 13, which is not unusual for his breed.


When Moss passed on, his owners stuck witth the Jack Russell breed for their next dog: Otto. Here he is as a youngster...

Otto young

And here is the grown Otto, out in the frost. I'm told he's an effective hunter of pests around the small vineyard where he lives.

Otto frost

Finally, here's the rough-coated Baxter, a mover and a shaker.


Thanks to everyone who contributed photos and stories!

PS: Here's a Kiwi classic courtesy of Oliver the Fox Terrier:


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Post a comment
mchaggis   #1   08:29 am Jul 12 2012

Some delightful specimens of the terrier breeds today. Thanks Nick and contributors. They always come across as very cheeky dogs, albeit quite intelligent as well.

Although a doggie lover, I have never had a terrier, but my heart melts every time I see the rough coated variety. So cute in their "scragginess" :-)

carol   #2   08:56 am Jul 12 2012

I love them all....I have to say,however,that I also love the rough-coated terriers just that little bit more. My favourites today would have to be Finn and Archie-if I had been faced with a whole litter, I would've come home with the lot.HA....Not sure how I would've explained it to my husband though.

viffer   #3   08:59 am Jul 12 2012

Lovely photos!

My wife's family had a fox terrier, which lived to a very old age. The day before he disappeared, he trotted up to the house several times, as if to say goodbye. We suspect he wandered off into the neighbouring bush to go to sleep.

Out first / last dog was a fox terrier/Cavalier King Charles cross, and an absolutely delightful dog, very good-natured and friendly. He was black, tan and white, with a very soft coat, and loved swimming and chasing ducks. He was such a sweetie that kids could pull his ears or tail and he wouldn't even think of snapping.

Sadly, he was hit by a car outside our house one night (the driver didn't stop) when he was about 7, and it upset me so much (it was mostly my fault) that it wasn't until 13 years later that we got another dog. I still miss him.

Joyce   #4   09:07 am Jul 12 2012

Had foxies when I was growing up. They were both bright and intelligent. Easily trained. Parents had foxies herding in the free range chooks at night into the coop. I didn't realise how much I missed the cheeky little "fellas" until I read this blog.

angelface   #5   09:37 am Jul 12 2012

As super cute and as intelligent as they are i would NEVER have a terrier - if you ever see a dog owner walking around the park calling out for their dog it is ALWAYS a terrier. they get on a scent and are off!

cupcake_di   #6   09:42 am Jul 12 2012

My folks have a fox terrier cross (possibly with a huntaway or similar they reckon!), he is so intelligent and has so much personality. He is great at football, you kick the ball far away, he dribbles it straight back to you. He fetches the paper by himself everyday at 1pm down a long driveway (on a lifestyle block), you could set a watch by him! He also herds up cows on command... funny seeing this little dog herding up big cows! He's adorable :)

Sarah   #7   09:58 am Jul 12 2012

Our mini foxy never wanders far from us, we took her for a walk along the beach last night and we confused her by walking one way then turning around while she was investigating some seaweed, and then all of a sudden she was bounding to the other end of the beach and headed to the car. She had lost site of us and thought we had gone. I called out to her and as soon as she heard my voice she sprinted down the beach straight to us,her owners. angelface she NEVER ventures far from our side.

Nathan   #8   09:58 am Jul 12 2012

Great to see oscar featured! So much energy in such tiny packages!! Foxies are the best.

Ruby's Mum   #9   10:20 am Jul 12 2012

We have an adorable mini foxie, almost three. She is the first dog I have ever had (always been a cat person), and I love her to bits. So much fun, she self entertains, and loves cuddles with her two big ginger cat brothers. She is also SO easy - really well behaved, and easy for a non-dog person to train the basics really quickly. We only went to 6 puppy pre-school classes, more for my benefit than hers! I walk her off lead, and know she will always obey my quiet commands. No matter how much she may want to run off to chase something, she will always come back the instant I demand. Would never have another type of Dog - foxies are the best :)

n   #10   10:25 am Jul 12 2012

My nana bred foxies for a few years and there are lots of photos of me as a tiny tot with wee fat foxie puppies wobbling around. My kindy was just across the road from her house - best thing ever!

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