What Were Airedale Terriers Bred For? Discover Their Historical Purpose

The breeding of Airedale Terriers can be traced back to the early 19th century, where they were created by crossing the Otterhound with various terrier breeds, such as the Old English Black and Tan Terrier and the Bull Terrier. This combination aimed to produce a versatile and hardworking dog that could excel in different tasks.

Influence of Different Terrier Breeds

The infusion of different terrier breeds contributed to the Airedale Terrier’s physical and mental attributes. For example, the Otterhound cross brought in the Airedale’s keen sense of smell and love for water, making them adept at both tracking and retrieving.

The Characteristics of Airedale Terriers

Physical Appearance

Airedale Terriers are known for their medium to large size, with a sturdy and muscular build. They have a distinct wiry coat that is often described as “unfailing” and a combination of black and tan markings. Their expressive eyes and alert ears give them a bold and intelligent appearance.

Temperament and Personality Traits

Airedale Terriers are known for their spirited and confident nature. They are highly intelligent, making them trainable and quick learners. Their loyalty and protective instincts make them excellent guardians, while their playful and energetic demeanor makes them great companions for active individuals or families.

Working Abilities and Skills

Hunting and Vermin Control

Originally bred as hunting dogs, Airedales were primarily used for hunting small game, including rats, otters, and other vermin. Their terrier instincts and tenacity made them skilled at tracking and capturing elusive prey. This ability to control vermin was highly valued in rural areas where these pests posed a threat to crops and livestock.

Water Retrieval and Swimming

The influence of the Otterhound in their breeding also gave Airedale Terriers a love for water and excellent swimming abilities. They were often utilized for retrieving game from bodies of water, such as ducks and waterfowl. Their waterproof coat and webbed feet made them well-suited for these tasks.

The Airedale Terrier and the Military

World War I: Airedales in the Trenches

During World War I, Airedale Terriers played a significant role in the military. They were employed as messenger dogs, carrying important messages across the treacherous and dangerous trenches. Their bravery and intelligence made them invaluable in delivering vital information.

World War II: Contributions and Roles

In World War II, Airedales continued to serve in the military, albeit in different capacities. They were used as guard dogs, patrolling and protecting military installations from potential threats. Their keen senses and loyalty made them reliable and trusted companions to soldiers.

Airedale Terriers in Sport and Show

Airedales as Competitive Hunting Dogs

Beyond their working abilities, Airedale Terriers have found success in various dog sports, particularly in hunting trials. Their strong prey drive and natural instincts make them formidable competitors in events such as field trials, where they demonstrate their skills in scenting and tracking game.

Success in Dog Shows and Competitions

Airedale Terriers have also made a name for themselves in dog shows and competitions. Their striking appearance, combined with their confident and alert demeanor, have earned them recognition in the show ring. They have achieved prestigious titles and accolades for their conformation and overall breed excellence.

Airedales as Family Companions

Compatibility with Children

Despite their history as working dogs, Airedale Terriers have also shown their adaptability as family companions. They are known to be tolerant and gentle with children, making them suitable pets for households with kids. However, proper socialization and training are essential to ensure a harmonious relationship between the dog and the children.

Training and Socialization for a Well-Behaved Pet

As intelligent and independent dogs, Airedale Terriers require consistent training and early socialization to develop into well-behaved pets. Positive reinforcement methods and firm, yet gentle, guidance are key to shaping their behavior. With the right approach, Airedales can become loyal and obedient companions.

Modern Roles and Adaptations

Airedales in Search and Rescue

Airedale Terriers have showcased their versatility by excelling in modern roles such as search and rescue. Their strong scenting abilities and agility make them valuable assets in locating missing individuals in various terrains. Their determination and endurance make them well-suited for these demanding tasks.

Airedales as Therapy Dogs

The friendly and sociable nature of Airedale Terriers has also led them to be utilized as therapy dogs. Their presence brings comfort and joy to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings. Airedales have a natural ability to connect with people and provide emotional support.


Throughout their history, Airedale Terriers have proven themselves to be versatile and capable dogs. From their humble beginnings as working dogs in hunting and vermin control to their roles in military service, dog sports, and companionship, Airedales have left an indelible mark. Their unique blend of physical and mental attributes continues to make them cherished pets and valuable contributors in various fields.

ThePetFaq Team