Birth Of The Rat Terrier
Darla J. at KnD Kennels

I looked around at many web sites trying to find a history of Rat Terriers and well, I must say many left me feeling as if the story was only half told.

What I did find in many of these sites was, that the consensus is, the Rat Terrier did get itís start in England back in the 1700's. That they did in fact put them in pits and make bets on how many rats a Rat Terrier could kill and how fast they could kill them.

Many of these sites mention that the Rat Terrier has Manchester Terrier and the Smooth Fox Terrier in there background , but some failed to mention that they also have the now extinct English White Terrier, Bull and Terrier, Black and Tan Terrier, Italian Greyhound, Whippet and Beagle. Many of these breeds were introduced into the Rat Terrier after they were brought here, The United States, by miners coming from England making them an American Breed. The "local" area made a difference to exactly what was bred into the Rat Terrier. Different breeds for different hunting needs. Truth is we probably do not really know all the breeds in the Rat Terriers background, but, all the above mentioned breeds and other available Feist breeds seem to be the foundation Rat Terriers came from as per most Rat Terrier History sites. During my research I have noticed that some sites and registries mention Chihuahua as part of the Rat Terriers foundation. This is not true. Chihuahua's have been crossbred in only in later years starting in the 1980's. The offspring from these crossbreeding re now called Tiny Tot or Toy Rat Terriers and they are NOT purebred they are Hybrids. They have been crosbred in to make smaller and smaller dogs. Only sites that breed Tiny Tot or Toy Rat Terriers or registries that register those breedings claim Chihuahua as part of the Rat Terriers history. Now, they are also introducing the merle Chihuahua to bring in the very attractive (to some) but dangerous coat pattern. AGAIN, these are not purebred they are HYBRIDS. The Chihuahua and the merle coat pattern is not part of the Rat Terrier's family tree. It's party of the money tree the merle coat pattern severs NO PURPOSE except to make sales of a NEW RARE breed. These people have put money and sales above the health of our breed. NOPE, Rat Terriers didn't just fall from the sky in 1970, but, the introduction of Chihuahua's and merle did happen on the seen as early as 1989-2000.

Please note, merle is not in any of the foundation breeds. Therefore, merle is NOT a common or natural pattern for the Rat Terrier. Merle is unhealthy, dangerous and not a natural pattern for Rat Terriers. All the foundation breeds for Rat Terriers were working breeds. In the past it was important that this little hunters were a working breed. It had to keep vermon away and help put food on the table. The Chihuahuaand is not a working breed. So, size must be the ONLY reason that some breeders have tried to introduce this breed into the wonderful Rat Terriers. Look at web page carefully note the main points made are tiny adult sizes and an array of colors. Any mention of health, temperament and testing is the least mentioned attributes on these sits. Read more about merle HERE

Todayís Rat Terrier is a stand alone breed. We no longer need to introduce MORE breeds into the Rat Terrier. The true breeder, NOT A PUPPY MILL, has a goal in mind and that goal for many, is to continue to improve what we already have. Many true breeders, AGAIN NOT PUPPY MILLS, feel it is time to breed type to type and eliminate health issues while trying to preserve the temperament, prey drive and intelligence of the breed. Not only are many true breeders loyal to our breed, we appall the fact that puppy mills still want to add Chihuahuaís and Papillons (to name a few) to our breed trying to make that small and easy to sell puppy.

The Rat Terrier used to be referred to as an American Fiest or Farm Fiest. They are still in fact a Fiest, but this term includes many breeds, the Treeing Fiest, Mountain Fiest, Squirrel Fiest, American Fiest and the Bench Legged Fiest.

The Rat Terrier was used to kill vermon, mainly rats, around the home and farm. He also became an important part of the family by helping hunt squirrel, putting food on the table. The Rat Terrier is still used today by many hunters to hunt squirrel and other small game.

With so many breeds in their background, it shouldnít be a surprise that the Rat Terrier is a rainbow of colors, blue, blue fawn, black and tan, chocolate, apricot, pearl, the traditional tri and it isnít at all unusual that a pure white (not albino) to happen along. Proving again that throwbacks can and do occur. This growing occurance of the pure white Rat Terrier, is believed to trace back to the now extinct English White Terrier that play a big part in their background. Many people have negative assumptions when faced with a white Rat Terrier. While it is true that albinoís can present serious problems from blindness to deafness, it must be remembered that a dog can be white and NOT albino. While it is a good thing for people to be aware of health concerns, they must be sure to clearly define the dog they are looking at.

All these colors come in varying shades and might be referenced to as many other names, depending on the breeder and the area. They also have a variety of coat patterns. Some of these are tuxedo, pie bald, bi (only 2 colors) one color must be white, blanket back, saddle back and thanks to the Greyhounds and the Bull Terriers to name a few there was brindle. Although the brindle is (now) considered a fault by the AKC and the UKC Rat Terrier Breed Standards there is a brindle pattern on some of the foundation breeds. Like white, brindle also has some negative publicity. Some feel that it can harm our breed while others feel just as strongly that brindle is trouble free and should be allowed. The feeling amongst serious breeders is, that the jury is still out on brindle issues. Time will tell. Pleae note, brindle has no health issues like the merle coat pattern has.

The Whippets and Greyhounds brought speed and agility to the Rat Terrier but it appears that we also have them to thank for rose ears, also considered a fault in the Rat Terrier Breed Standards. The other types of ears are, button, tipped and erect.

Rat Terriers can have long tail, natural bob tail and docked tail. Docking is a practice that many breeders do. The docked tail history, I believe started out in England where laws stated that dogs that worked for a living were tax exempt and these working dogs were distinguished by the docked tail. The hunter still wants that docked tail for, their reasoning, safety. A Rat Terriers tail can wag non stop and while hunting this could create a issue for accidents. They can become torn and broken from running through trees, shrubs and briars. Running at a high rate of speed and agility. These difficult to treat and very painful injuryís were eliminated by docking the tail. Rat Terries can and will hunt under ground so, the tail is docked at a length that a Rat Terrier can be retrieved from a hole by itís tail. Many breeders see this is a personal preference and some, myself and my husband included, still dock tailís but many choose not to.

If you have never owned a Rat Terrier but plan to get one, all I can say is you are in for a treat and I bet you canít just own one. They will win you over. They are not so feisty that they are uncontrollable. The Rat Terrier is up for whatever your wanting to do. If you want to hunt, walk, nap or watch TV they will do their very best to help you with it.

This is only an introduction in to the Rat Terrier. They have branched off into some other strains and breeds, such as the American Hairless Terrier a new breed, Teddy Roosevelt Terrier a new breed and the Decker Terrier a Rat Terrier starin or line. The Decker takes bit of expination. All reputable regitries call them a Rat Terrier nothing more. Other registries call them Decker Terriers and some breeders register them with ACK and UKC as a Rat Terrier, in NRTA (National Rat Terrier Association) and some other registries they are called Decker Terriers. You can do a search on the different varieties to find more details on each. Here are a couple of sites that I to get you started.
and this site

As I bring this to a conclusion, Iíd like to remind you to look for a responsible breeder and we ask you for the preservation of our breed, to please not by from a puppy mill, a puppy broker or a pet store.

I hope that this has brought a little light on the history of the Rat Terrier. I am not, nor will I ever be an author and I will not ever be published. What we (my husband and I) are is nothing more than true loverís of the breed!

As we learn more about the Rat Terriers history we will update this site.
Thank you for having a look,
Darla J. at KnD