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King’s Herald Winter 2003

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H u n t i n g f o r R e c o g n i t i o n A T C A H u n t i n g N a t i o n a l s P r o v e A i r e d a l e A b i l i t y A r t i c l e a n d P h o t o g r a p h s b y C h r i s H a l v o r s o n i n a l l y p u b l i s h e d i n J u s t T e r r i e r s w w w . j u s t t e r r i e r s . c o m S u m m e r , 2 0 0 2


CH. M..J.'s the Right Stuff, JHV, SHFur is owned by ATCA President Steve Gilbert and Bonnie Gilbert of Lima, OH Isaac repre- sents the Gilberts' dedi- cation to the dual-titled, versatile Airedale.

as the ultimate “three-in-one” gundog.

“On the border between the bird dog and fur dogs,” wrote Field and Stream editor Warren H. Miller in The American Hunting Dog (1926), “stands the Airedale, the one dog who can hunt both….Tackling bear or cougar, routing out woodchucks, jumping rabbits, tree marking squirrels, pointing grouse and quail, running pheasants, and retrieving any and all of them — the Airedale properly trained has done all these things in hun- dreds and hundreds of individual instances.” The breed’s courage, made even more legendary by its war dog service in World War I, helped make the Airedale the most popular breed in the United States in the 1920s.

But over-popularity took its toll. The nation’s population moved from the country to cities, and hunting became recre- ational instead of a necessity. Specialized sporting breeds replaced the Airedale in popularity in home and field.

Long before the American Kennel Club invented their Hunt Tests, Airedale Terriers were practical and competitive hunters. The Airedale Terrier Club of America (ATCA) is an AKC-mem- ber Parent Club which has played an active role in preserving and promoting Airedale hunting abilities through its 17-year development of a Parent Club Hunt Test program. The goal has always been to win wider recognition of the Airedale as a ver- satile hunting terrier, with a official record of such appearing in a dog’s AKC pedigree. For the past three years the ATCA’s Hunting/Working Committee has been in negotiations with the AKC for admission of Airedales to AKC Hunt Tests and/or the development of an alternative Hunt Test for all multipurpose dogs, including those terriers who don’t fit into the earth dog mold.

These have not been easy negotiations. Although the American Kennel Club stresses the importance of its Performance Events program, Airedalers have found them- selves stalemated just when progress was called for. And yet the dogs continue to hunt while the people talk — with much at stake for terriers in the future.

Earliest records in Airedale history suggest the breed was developed in the mid- to late 1800s from a blend of many breeds, but most tellingly, a cross between the old English Black and Tan Terrier and the Otterhound. This created a dog that could win the water rat hunting competitions enjoyed by the Yorkshire farmers who lived along the River Aire. The farmers also found these same dogs useful on barnyard vermin and for poaching birds from wealthy landholdings. And so the original function of the Airedale Terrier was to hunt everything that needed to be hunted.

By the early 1900’s, dog writers characterized the Airedale

There has always been, however, a group of Airedale fanciers who appreciated their breed’s hunting nature. That group coalesced in 1985 with the formation of the ATCA’s Hunting/Working Committee. The Committee’s petition to the AKC for admission of Airedales to AKC Hunt Tests in 1985 was refused, but hope for future admission was suggested if the ATCA would first develop a Parent Club Hunt Test program.

Steve Gilbert, now serving as ATCA President, was instru- mental in starting the first “Hunting Working Weekend” in 1986 and seeing that annual event develop to the current “Nationals” and regional offshoots. From the very start, the H/W Committee was careful to follow every suggestion proposed by the AKC. They brought in sporting dog experts to conduct their work- shops. They invited AKC observers. By 1994, they offered an official ATCA Hunt Test program under guidelines approved by the AKC. The three-prong program consists of an Upland Game (flushing) Test, a Retriever Test, and a Fur Test. Each test is offered on the Junior, Senior, and Master level. In addi- tion, a dog that qualifies in all three segments receives the Versatile title, also offered on Junior, Senior and Master level. By 1996, the effort expanded with regional Hunt Tests offered in Michigan, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

And so the groundwork was well-established for the 17th Annual Hunting/Working Nationals weekend, which took place on March 22nd through 24th, 2002, at Buckeye Game Club near Columbus, Ohio. The 60 Airedales entered represented a cross-section of the breed: from champions to obedience and agility competitors, companions, former rescues, and farm dogs.

The importance of this gathering wasn’t lost on the own- ers, some driving in from as far as Nebraska, New York,

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