A black and tan Airedale terrier standing in the woods.

Airedale terriers: All the feisty energy of a typical terrier, but in a body that’s three times the size. No wonder they’re often called the “King of Terriers”!

Unlike many breeds that originated in Victorian England, however, Airedales weren’t bred by nobles for hunting purposes. No, the noble Airedale was created in the mid-1800s by the working people of the Valley of Aire, near Yorkshire, to hunt down the large river rats polluting the local rivers. The rats were so pervasive that the town held contests designed to encourage hunting them. Competitive locals cross bred black-and-tan terriers with otter hounds for an ideal water-rat hunter, and the Airedale terrier was born.

This terrier-like instinct to hunt rats expanded to otters, ducks and other water-adjacent game, and the breed’s size, love of water and scenthound abilities made it a breath of fresh, er, air for hunters throughout the Valley Aire and beyond.

But the Airedale’s calm demeanor around people and intimidating size meant that they could be perfect guard dogs for the home and family, so their popularity just kept expanding, eventually crossing the ocean to North America. The first Airedale to hit American shores was named Bruce, in 1881, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1888.

Dogged War Heroes

Though they’d expanded globally by the time World War I began, the England-based breeds did what good dogs do and helped their Allies. Because they’re sturdy, all-terrain dogs, Airedales were perfect for delivering messages cross-country during the war. The Red Cross used them to deliver supplies all over the front. American soldiers also recognized the Airedale’s wartime qualities, using them as sentries.

Airedale Terriers Are Perfect Family Companions

Today, Airedales have found their place in the home. They remain the largest terrier breed, standing almost two feet at the shoulder and weighing up to 80 pounds. Their wiry coat is virtually shedless, so they appeal to families who aren’t keen on vacuuming constantly. But mostly, they’re so popular today because they’re smart, friendly and patient with children while their unique looks and size offer an inherent protectiveness.

Airedales have proven that they can be trained to almost anything, and they’ve been known to become police dogs, scenthounds and even actors. But Airedales do have that hound-dog streak, meaning that they can be stubborn and determined. Especially if they catch the scent of a river rat!


An interior graphic with three quick facts about Airedale terriers.


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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.