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Home > Dogs > 12 Surprising Facts About Airedale Terriers

12 Surprising Facts About Airedale Terriers

Three male airedale terrier lying in a meadow

Not too long ago, the Airedale Terrier was one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States of America, and it’s not hard to see why. With their intelligence, loyalty, and how quickly they take to training, they’re incredible dogs. While they may not be as popular as they once were, that doesn’t make them any less incredible.

The article below shows some of the reasons the Airedale is so spectacular. From their time in Hollywood to their time spent serving their country, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the Airedale Terrier.


The 12 Surprising Facts About Airedale Terriers

1. They’re the Largest Breed of Terrier

The Airedale Terrier is often referred to as “The King of The Terriers,” and one reason for the nickname is their size. Standing at an average height of 23 inches and weighing anywhere from 40 to 64 lbs., the Airedale is the largest Terrier breed in the world.

Credit: PROMA1, Shutterstock

2. The Airedale was Bred to Hunt Rats

Unlike many other breeds, the Airedale Terrier was bred to be more of an all-rounder than specialized for one task. Despite that, their most important job was usually hunting rats. They even competed in rat-hunting competitions.

Ferrets would be sent to flush the rats out of their holes, and the rats would then be chased into the river by the dogs. Onlookers would bet on which dog they thought would catch a rat first.

3. Their Name Comes from the Aire River Valley

Before the breed was given an official name, they were commonly referred to as “Working Terriers,” “Waterside Terriers,” or “Broken-Haired Terriers.” A notable breeder wished to name the breed the “Bingley Terrier,” but the name was rejected by those who didn’t want to give credit to the town of Bingley since the breed did not originate there. The dog originated in the Aire River Dale; thus, the breed was named the Airedale Terrier.

airedale terrier standing in the water
Image Credit: simone op den kamp, Shutterstock

4. Three Separate Presidents Owned Airedale Terriers

Apparently, the Airedale Terrier is quite the presidential dog, according to their history in the White House. Three American Presidents owned an Airedale Terrier. The first was Woodrow Wilson, who owned one named Davie. He was followed by Warren G. Harding, whose Airedale was named Laddie Boy.

The last president to own an Airedale Terrier was Calvin Coolidge, whose terrier was named Laddie Buck. Perhaps even more interestingly, they were owned by three successive presidents.

5. John Wayne Owned an Airedale Terrier

It’s not just presidents who are fond of the Airedale; they’ve belonged to Hollywood cowboys, too. When John Wayne was young, he owned an Airedale Terrier named Duke. As a child, he frequently visited the fire station, and when the men saw him, they’d say, “Here comes Big Duke and Little Duke.”

Big Duke refers to the Airedale, and John Wayne was called Little Duke. The name stuck, and John Wayne was also known as the Duke for the rest of his life.

Image Credit: PROMA1, Shutterstock

6. Airedale Terriers Served in the First World War

Many Airedale Terriers served as couriers during World War One. During the war, a courier’s job was to carry messages between officers and troops; a message would be attached to the Airedale, and they would run bravely through the chaotic environment. However, the courier was not the only job Airedales held during the war.

Airedales also worked as sentries and stood guard at night, looking over no man’s land. This would ensure that the enemy couldn’t attack while the troops slept. It wasn’t just the military who saw the usefulness of the Airedale Terrier; the Red Cross also used Airedales as rescue dogs during World War One.

7. An Airedale was Awarded the Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is the highest honor a soldier can be awarded in the United Kingdom, and one was awarded to an Airedale Terrier named Jack. Everything looked hopeless when his battalion was cut off and surrounded by enemy fire. No man could make their way out of the conditions to summon reinforcements, but Jack could.

Jack made his way out with a message tied around his neck and ran half a mile through enemy fire. He delivered his message but died shortly after from injuries sustained by enemy shrapnel. After his death, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Airedale Terrier
Image Credit: jarobike, Shutterstock

8. Airedale Terriers Were Used as Police Dogs

After their performance during wartime, Airedales began to be used as police dogs. Glasgow was one of the first cities to use Airedales in this role after Lieutenant Colonel Richardson recommended them, and in 1910, Glasgow’s police purchased four of these dogs from Richardson.

9. An Airedale Terrier Starred in the Live Action Version of One Hundred and One Dalmatians

In 1996, Disney made a live-action version of the beloved animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians and cast an Airedale Terrier as Colonel. In the original movie, Colonel is an Old English Sheepdog, but he was cast as an Airedale for the live-action adaptation because the Airedale is so easy to train.

airedale terrier dog standing in the snow
Image Credit: Judita Jurkenaite, Shutterstock

10. They’re Considered Hypoallergenic

It’s important to mention that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, but dogs like the Airedale are as close as you’re going to get. Due to the breed’s light shedding, they only shed a few times a year, unlike other breeds who shed constantly. Grooming them regularly reduces the loose hair and dander even further. So, if you’re a dog lover who’s sadly allergic to them, the Airedale Terrier might be for you.

11. They Were Used to Hunt More Than Just Rats

Despite their most famous hunts against rats, the Airedale Terrier’s intelligence and size made them well-equipped to hunt larger prey. Before they became companion animals, they commonly hunted badgers, otters, and foxes. Airedale Terriers were great companions for any hunter.

Airedale terrier walking in the middle of the forest
Image Credit: samalfr, Shutterstock

12. They Love the Water

As you probably guessed from their propensity for chasing rats into the river, Airedales love the water. The Otterhound was mixed with several other breeds to develop the Airedale Terrier. We have the Otterhound to thank for the Airedale shaggy coat, large size, and love for the water.



Airedale Terriers have a long history of serving humans, and they’re one of the few breeds to be awarded the Victoria Cross. They rose to fame for their hunting skills, but they soon became popular pets and trusted companions. Although their large frames and protective nature make them excellent guard dogs for livestock, their warm, affectionate temperament has endeared them to dog lovers around the world.

Featured Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

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