History

A dog that does not know the word “fear”. He is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, and ideal chum and guard.There is nothing he is afraid to tackle. There is almost nothing he cannot be taught if his trainer has the slightest gift for teaching. To his master he is an adoring pal. To marauders he is a destructive lightening bolt.
from The Airedale Terrier by Albert Payson Terhune, 1925

Origins

BriarwoodBriarwood ca. 1896

Airedale, a valley (dale) in the West Riding of Yorkshire, between the Aire and the Wharfe Rivers, was the birthplace of the breed.

In the mid-19th Century, working class people created the Airedale Terrier by crossing the old English rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier (now known as the Welsh Terrier) with the Otterhound.

In 1864 they were exhibited for the first time at a championship dog show sponsored by the Airedale Agricultural Society. They were classified under different names, including Rough Coated, Bingley and Waterside Terrier.

In 1879 breed fanciers decided to call the breed the Airedale Terrier, and in 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognized the Airedale Terrier breed.

old terrier hunting printold print of an Airedale and Bedlington with badger

Terriers were often the sporting dog of choice for the common man. During the middle of the nineteenth century, regular sporting events took place along the Aire River in which terriers pursued the large river rats that inhabited the area.

A terrier was judged on its ability to locate a "live" hole in the riverbank and then, after the rat was driven from its hole by a ferret brought along for that purpose, the terrier would pursue the rat through water until it could make a kill.

As these events became more popular, demand arose for a terrier that could excel in this activity. The Airedale terrier with his very high degree of courage and pluck, excellent scenting ability and aptitude for water work was an ideal competitor.

Airedales soon gained popularity elsewhere. Their temperament combined the sweet disposition of hounds with the stance and prowess of terriers.

Stories of their bravery spread, Airedales were reported to have followed panthers into caves while the pack of hounds assisting in the hunt waited prudently outside. Airedales single-handedly rushed 500-pound bears or in groups hamstrung lions. They hunted big game in Africa, India, and North America.

Dogs in war

Airedales carrying packs, wearing a gas maskAiredales in war - one wearing a gas mask, the other carrying saddlebags

Airedale Terriers were used throughout World War I as messengers, sentries, carriers of food and ammunition, scouts, ambulance dogs, ratters, Red Cross casualty dogs, sled dogs, and guard dogs.

There are numerous tales of Airedales delivering their messages despite terrible injury.

One Airedale, named Jack, purportedly saved a battalion from destruction by carrying a message through one-half mile of swamp. The artillery barrage that surrounded him broke his jaw and shattered his foreleg. But he persevered, delivered his message to headquarters and then fell dead. The battalion was relieved, and Jack was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for "Gallantry in the Field."

The war brought stories of the Airedale Terrier's bravery and loyalty and sparked popularity in the breed.

US Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge and Hollywood star John Wayne were among the many famous people who owned and popularised the breed.

Sourced from Wikipedia's article on Airedale Terriers; Style, Brains and Clownish Wit; and Airedale Terrier -  The Early Days.