Tenacious little terriers

20:00, Jul 11 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.

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.

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...

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.

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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