The Australian Terrier (or “Aussie”) – not to be confused with the Australian Shepherd, the Australian Cattle Dog, or the Australian Silky (known as the Silky Terrier in the United States) – was the first Australian-bred dog ever to be recognized and shown in Australia. Persistent efforts over the years produced an ideal terrier to suit Australian conditions and resulted in a rugged, hard-bitten, fearless dog that was equally at home, indoors or out.
Beginning in Tasmania, the earliest efforts at breeding a native rough-coated terrier soon spread to Victoria on the mainland, and then on to the other Australian states. When the Australians needed help controlling rodents on the waterfront, in the gold mines, and on the sheep stations – or to herd sheep and to serve as watchdogs, they began breeding these small terriers from the rough-coated, short-legged dogs from Britain that originally came with the first sailing ships to the Land Down Under.
The Australian Terrier, one of the smallest of the working Terriers, was bred to be both a helper and companion in rough times and terrain. A native dog (known as the “rough-coated terrier”) and a close relative of the old Scotch dog of Great Britain (not to be confused with the present-day Scottish Terrier) are believed to have been cross-bred with a number of other breeds of British stock to produce the fast, sturdy, weather-resistant and fearless little dog that the settlers needed as they expanded the frontiers of their country. The breeds chosen for cross-breeding were selected to promote specific desired traits.
The Australian Terrier is a small, sturdy, medium-boned working terrier Standing about 10-11 inches in height at the withers. The body is rather long in proportion to height, with a long slightly arched neckline. Its head should be long and strong, with pricked ears, and dark, black-rimmed eyes.
The coat is harsh and straight, about 2 inches in length all over its body, with a distinctive ruff and apron, and a soft, silky topknot. The tail is docked, leaving slightly less than one half, and should be held erect. Aussies come in three colors… Blue & Tan, Solid Sandy, and Solid Red.
As befits their heritage as versatile workers, Australian Terriers are sound and free-moving, with good reach and drive. Their expression should be keen and intelligent, their manner spirited and self-assured.
The Australian Terrier was developed as a companion and will be happiest when with “his” people. Aussies are not suited to living outside, or spending long hours in a run or fenced yard alone. They are happiest when in close contact with their families. Australian Terriers are born diggers, as “going to ground” is part of their heritage.
The Aussie has emerged as a spunky little terrier: game, high-spirited and courageous, yet possessing an enormous amount of sensitivity. Because he was developed in close association with man under often stressful conditions, he has a strong sense of devotion to his household. The Australian Terrier is a genuine charmer and, once hooked, few Aussie owners ever switch breeds. What’s more, many find they can’t own just one. However, not all Aussies are generous enough to be willing to share their owners, and two males generally will not be able to live together peacefully.
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