Nearly 200 years ago the gypsies travelling across East Anglia were accompanied by small red drop-eared terriers, poachers' dogs, but known throughout that part of England as the hardest terriers anyone could wish for.
In the 1870's a Master of Foxhounds at Ballybrick, near Wicklow, was losing too many foxes to ground in his newly drained country, and started to breed a line of small drop-eared terriers from his Irish, small enough to put to ground in a drain pipe if necessary. Somewhere between the two lies the origins of the Norfolk Terrier.
Norfolk Terriers came into being as a separate drop-eared breed in 1964 when the Kennel Club granted a new register and separated the prick-eared Norwich and the drop-eared Norwich into two breeds. Until that time the two types had developed together as separate breeds and had shared a common and confused history dating from the late nineteenth century when the small red terriers of East Anglia and the "mites" from Ballybrick had by coincidence come together first in Cambridge in the 1880's.
Ear carriage was considered of less importance than temperament and gameness, and in the early dogs, ears were cropped. It was only when cropping became illegal that ear carriage became more important and individual dogs were described as having erect or drop ears, were reared for the most part in stables among horses and horsemen and owned by sporting men. Early pedigrees give a clue as to the nature of the dog -- Mustard, Gyp, Hot Stuff, Pepper, and Nap.
It is disputed whether Mr. Nicholls, an inn keeper of Wymondham, was the first person to work on the breed, but his grandson can remember how he as a boy followed the hunt on a cob carrying one of these terriers in a canvas bag on each shoulder. In Ireland the terriers of Ballybrick ran with hounds until their size decreased and they travelled two to a terrier bag.
By the end of the last century the small red terriers of East Anglia were well known outside their original territory and in the 1890's the Ballybrick estate in Wicklow was sold and some of the "firey mites" were brought from Ireland joining the terriers already in the Cambridge and Norfolk area.
Among the early breeders were Jodrell Hopkins, a sporting undergraduate who established a livery stable on Trumpington Street after he graduated; "Doggy" Lawrence, the Cambridge dog dealer, who with Jodrell Hopkins did a roaring trade selling dogs to undergraduates as Trumpington Terriers; Mr. Lewis Low, nicknamed "Podge", the son of a Norwich vet; Mr. Jack Cooke of Brooke Lodge near Norwich, Master of the Norwich Staghounds, "a determined man who spoke his mind and rules his field" who already had a red dog called Rags; Frank Jones, who had left Wicklow at 25 to fill the position of nagsman and whip to Mr. Cooke and was later responsible for giving the breed its first registered name of Norwich; Mr. R. J. Read of Hapton Hall, a keen hunting man and one of the first exporters of the breed and first president of the Norwich Terrier Club; Mr. W. E. West of East Farndon whose terriers were in later years registered under the prefix of Farndon and were to play their part in the early show days.
Jodrell Hopkins had acquired his first terrier from a reservist during the South African war, a smooth brindle which he bred to Jack, a smart but silky coated red dog belonging to Lawrence. he kept a bitch, Nell, from this litter and a dog puppy, also called Rags, was given to Mr. Cooke.
Rags was known as a harsh coated red dog, and excellent worker and dominant sire, all his puppies "being red like himself even to a white bitch." Nell was in due course mated to a small red dog with a Chippendale front and cropped ears and produced red and brindle puppies, all with harsh coats. She is reported as being "a sharp bitch and death to everything" including poultry, a trait which persuaded Hopkins to part with her.
"Podge" Low, keen on a good terrier, now came into the picture with a smooth prick-eared white bitch said to be out of a hunt terrier bitch by a Dandie Dinmont and was brought to the veterinary practice to be destroyed. She had a short, smooth white coat, long legs, large erect ears and an "old" expression which appealed greatly to Podge, who kept her and called her Ninety.
He bred her to Mr. Cooke's dog Rags and one bitch from this litter was sold to Mr. Read while several puppies were bought by Frank Jones.
When he left Mr. Cooke's employment and went as roughrider to a horse dealer in Market Harborough, he took his terriers with him and continued to breed the small red terriers which found appeal among hunting people in the area. He brought in puppies when necessary and sent them to America as "Jones Terriers" until one day in 1904 he was asked the name of his terriers and on the spur of the moment "having just come from Norwich, I answered "Norwich Terriers" and Norwich Terriers they became.
Mr. Stokes, "Roughrider" Jones' employer, owned some Trumpington Terriers and with Jones was to supply many of the early breeders with their foundation stock, both in this country and in America. American sportsmen looking at horses in Stokes' yard would notice the game little terriers and acquire one or two to ship home with the horse purchase. One was bought by the King of Spain and we are told they would sell at around 25 guineas apiece.
Jones was a hard nut and demanded the same standards of his terriers. He had few requirements but these he adhered to strictly: "small stature, not much bigger than a Yorkshire Terrier, game to tackle a fox and have no white hairs, stamina to follow a horse across country all day long."
Jodrell Hopkins had by now moved to Newmarket where he was concentrating on breeding reds and was evolving a line which with few exceptions was breeding true to type. Mr. Cooke's stud groom Mr. Horace Cole (father of Mrs. Rosie Panks of the Foxybrook Norwich prefix) bred his wirehaired bitch to Mr. Cooke's Rags and the puppies were sold back to Jones.
Mr. R. J. Read of Hampton Hall became interested in the breed around 1908 and like his friend, Jack Cooke, was a keen sportsman and rider to hounds. He set out to develop his early strain in red terriers with some expertise, buying a daughter of Rags from Podge Low in 1909 and introducing a Bedlington (which he soon found spoilt the weather coat to a degree that could not be compensated for by the amount of drive gained). He corrected this error with an infusion of Staffordshire Bull Terrier; a bitch from this mating was put back to a small Irish, then back to a terrier of Jack Cooke.
By 1929 he had bred Horstead Mick, a dog that appears in many of today's pedigrees. He was a stocky little dog who fulfilled his breeder's ambition to produce "a small red terrier -- 10 lbs. fully grown -- with harsh red coat, dark eye, short legs, stock and game." Mick was used extensively at stud and was the grand sire of one of the breed's first champions, the drop-eared Ch. Tinker Bell.
Mr. Frank Belvile, who lived at market Harborough, bought a dark red bitch called Flossie from Jones and from her bred Brownie, a "red bitch with a black back" which he gave to Mrs. Phyllis Fagan. From Brownie Mrs. Fagan built up a strain which dominated the ring and from which descend all the present day Norwich and many of the Norfolks too. Mrs. Fagan preserved the sporting instincts of the original terriers: all were good earth dogs and many were trained to the ground as well. She is the only early breeder who continued to breed and show her dogs up to recent times.
Colonel and the Hon. Mrs. Richard Hoarse, breeders of the first champion Biffin of Beaufin (by Kim out of Gyp) came into the breed at about this time, buying their original stock from Podge Low.
Following the example of Mr. Read, the terrier men introduced several outcrosses over a period of 25 years, experimenting with Cairn, Border and again Yorkshire. By 1930 the terriers were generally known as Norwich Terriers, larger than they are today, some prick-eared, some drop, but the majority of the early breeders seeming to breed for a prick ear.
The breed was registered at the Kennel Club in 1932 and from that year classes were scheduled at championship shows throughout the country. Until this time prick and drop-eared terriers had been interbred, breeders being solely interested in breeding a small, hardy and game terrier; but with Kennel Club recognition ear carriage suddenly became a prime importance.
Mr. Read favoured a prick ear and recommended a Standard insisting on this to the fury of Mrs. Dorothy Normandy-Rodwell and the drop-ear adherents, who finally had their way and the first Standard reads: "Ears if erect slightly larger than a Cairn's, if dropped very neat and small and correctly dropped." The breed had started to divide.
A few breeders continued to breed across for the first few years, but ear carriage became erratic and untypical in both types and the breeders themselves effected separation in breeding. By 1939 there were few terriers with mixed ear carriage in the first three generations of their pedigrees. From the post war years the two types developed alongside each other as one breed, each having its own supporters, until in September 1964 the KC allowed separation: the prick-eared remaining Norwich Terriers and the drop-eared Norwich becoming Norfolk Terriers.
At Crufts 1965 the first CC's were on offer to the new breed and the first Norfolk champion qualified, Mrs. R. L. Richardson's Wymbur Mandy Lou, her first two CC's having been won as a Norwich. The dog CC and BOB went to Nanfan Heckle, a young dog who had also started his show career as a Norwich. Pulled out in the terrier group, Heckle proved that the breed was now able to take on tough competition in the show ring but still maintained the working tradition of the early terrier men.
Few people knew that Heckle had gone to ground the day before, had been dug out at 5:30 AM and had been cleaned up on the way to Crufts in the facilities of a garage at Maidnehead Thicket! Heckle goes back to the breed's first champion, Biffin of Beaufin, bred from Podge Low's stock through his son Tiny Tim of Biffin, down through Colonsay Birdseed, Colonsay Golden Arrow to Ch. Red Wraith. The terrier men had established their requirements to last!
Reprinted from a Joy Taylor article in Dog World, 9/24/82
ANTIC, Summer 1984
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