Tenterfield Terrier

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Tenterfield Terrier
Tenterfield Terrier 01.jpg
Two champion Tenterfield Terriers: a tan and white; and a tri-colour.
Country of origin Australia
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

Australian in development, the forebears of the Tenterfield Terrier accompanied British settlers en route to Australia by ship. The forebears of these small dogs had been bred by hunters in Britain, typically for ratting. This type of dog suited shipboard life, where rats and mice were both a health hazard and a threat to food supplies. Today they are a strong, active, hardy and agile dog, their smooth short coat making them 'easy care' family companions.


This is a photo of Rosie the Australian Champion Tenterfield Terrier. She can jump very high.

Tenterfield terriers are often predominantly white though the brown and black markings also present can be either restricted or extensive. Having a square or compact body, the features of a Tenterfield's construction are unexaggerated. For instance, Tenterfields usually do not have an elongated head like a Fox Terrier. Rather, the head is wedge shaped with equal length from occiput to stop and stop to the end of the nose. This gives the head parallel head planes, making the head unique in this Group. The Tenterfield Terrier can also have pricked or erect ears or semi-erect ears. Tenterfield Terriers stand around 28 cm (11 inches) high and can come in tan and white, black and white, liver/tan/white tri-coloured or black/tan/white tri-coloured.[1] Their unique feature is their naturally occurring bob tail which can come in any length.[2]


The forebears of the Tenterfield Terrier accompanied Australia's first European settlers who sailed from Portsmouth in England's South. These dogs were vermin killers, and so the smallest of them were selected to play that role on ships, which is how they arrived in Australia.[3] Large dogs may would not have fared as well in the cramped shipboard environment, where vermin find nooks and crannies. Thus small terriers had an advantage. Miniature individuals of the Fox Terrier breed suited the role, as their original breeding matched the new task closely.

By the late 19th century a dog type known as the Miniature Fox Terrier (known colloquially as "Mini Foxies") was well established in rural Australia as a vermin killer and family companion. By the 1920s the dog was a fixture in urban households.[4]

The name "Tenterfield" does not denote the terrier’s place of origin as Tenterfield, New South Wales. Rather, the name derives from there. The dog was bred extensively in and around northern New South Wales.[5] Tenterfield is one of many localities in Australia in which small terriers of this type were kept. The town of Tenterfield is significant in Australian history for the Tenterfield Oration on independence from Britain. Additionally, the owner of the town's saddlery a man named George Woolnough, was immortalized by his grandson entertainer Peter Allen as the "Tenterfield Saddler". Tenterfield residents attest that Mr. Woolnough owned and loved a number of these terriers,[6] though unfortunately no photographs of his dogs are known.

Accordingly the name Tenterfield Terrier was suggested in the 1990s by television gardening personality Don Burke,.[7]

Breed development[edit]

In 1991 a group of enthusiasts from the state of South Australia formed the autonomous Miniature Fox Terrier Club of South Australia, separate to the Miniature Fox Terrier Club of Australia, which had been operating for some time. In 1992 they met with owners from other states to discuss the future of the Clubs. At that time, it became evident that there were differences as to the preferred type of dog that would represent the Miniature Fox Terrier breed. Further, challenges to the name “Miniature Fox Terrier” were being mounted, and threatened to preclude recognition by the ANKC which was a priority among some breeders. The establishment of the Tenterfield Terrier Club of Australia Inc took place in January 1993, by approximately 85% of votes returned to the ANKC by fanciers across NSW WA and SA.[5] In 2002, the Tenterfield Terrier was recognized by the ANKC and placed in Group 2, Terriers.

The Tenterfield Terrier breed standard[1] differs from that of the Miniature Fox Terrier, and although they are sometimes confused, the two dogs have been developing along divergent lines for some time and are now separate breeds.

Health and temperament[edit]

Despite its small stature, the dog is friendly with an outgoing, adaptable nature, bold in the way of terriers and is intelligent. The coat is low maintenance for grooming purposes. Although they can live to 20 years in good health, the average lifespan is from 12 to 14 years.[7]

See also[edit]