A short history of the Norfolk Terrier

The present day Norfolk Terrier began life as a show breed in 1932 when, as the drop-eared Norwich Terrier, it was accepted on the Kennel Club breed register, but it is interesting to look at its possible evolution.

East Anglia, that part of south-east England which bulges out into the North Sea extending from The Wash to the Thames Estuary, is particularly flat and low (many inland places still at only sea-level), and contained, at one time, in the northern Norfolk and Cambridgeshire parts of this area, large marshes known as The Fens. These fens were largely drained in the sixteenth century by Dutch engineers. As a result, the area is covered by a network of canals, known locally as drains. The land is fertile and is now an important arable farming region, producing most of the country cereal crops. Historically, small terrier-type dogs were popular amongst the farming and sporting community to use on rats and other vermin. It is possible that some of these terriers were the forerunners of the early Norwich Terrier.

During the nineteenth century some of the Undergraduates at Cambridge University bought small terrier dogs from a dog dealer named Charles (Doggy) Lawrence. These small terriers, which were often red or a black and tan colour, were used mainly for catching rats around the colleges. They became known as Trumpington Terriers, taking the name from the street in Cambridge where many students lived. Their origin is not really known but there is a suggestion that a small Irish Terrier and a bigger type of Yorkshire Terrier had been used in their breeding.

At that time Mr. Jodrell Hopkins, of Trumpington Street, Cambridge, bought a small brindle, Aberdeen-type, terrier bitch, and mated her to a game little red dog, which had a long silky coat, belonging to Doggy Lawrence. A puppy from that union, Rags, was given to a Mr. Jack Cooke, Master of the Norwich Staghounds. Rags was a small red terrier with a shaggy, harsh, red coat and prick ears (although in those days many terriers had their ears cropped). He was a wonderful worker and an excellent sire.

Mr. Lewis (Podge) Low, the son of a local veterinary surgeon, was keen on a good terrier, and owned a smooth-haired, white, prick-eared bitch called Ninety. He had several litters from her sired by Rags.

All the puppies were red, and some were bought by Mr. Frank Jones, First Whip to the Norwich Staghounds. He found them to be in great demand amongst the local sporting fraternity, and so he began to breed them himself. Later, when he went to work as a roughrider to a Mr. Stokes of Market Harborough, he became known as “Roughrider Jones”. He sold his terrier pups far and wide, some being exported to America, where they became known as “Jones Terriers”.

One of Jones’ sources of supply was the stud groom to Mr. Jack Cooke, Mr. Horace Cole by name, who had bred several litters out of a small, wirehaired terrier bitch, and sired by one of Cooke’s Trumpington Terriers. Interestingly, Mr. Cole’s daughter, Mrs. Rosie Panks, started to breed Norwich Terriers herself in 1935.

In trying to establish the type he wanted, Jones crossed his stock with other terriers he fancied. Mr. R.J. Read (later to become the Breed Club’s first President) bought a puppy in 1909 from a litter by Rags out of Ninety, and he also went on to experiment in breeding to get the sort of terrier he wanted. He used a Bedlington Terrier to obtain more drive, and later, a brown  Staffordshire Bull Terrier bitch from a strain which he admired belonging to the Countess of Kimberley to correct the Bedlington coat. From this he crossed to a small Irish Terrier and then bred back to Mr. Jack Cookes strain, eventually producing, in 1929, “Horsted Mick”. At about the same time Mr. W.E. West began his Farndon line with a bitch from Roughrider Jones and, in 1912, Mrs. Fagan also began with a bitch called Brownie whose dam, Flossie, red with a black back, was very game. Many famous names can be traced back to Brownie.

So, the foundations of the show Norwich were being established. There appeared to be no actual planning of a new breed, breeders simply mating their bitches to Rags’ line because they liked the type and colour of the offspring. They continued with their efforts to breed true to that type.

Following Kennel Club recognition in 1932, the breed was scheduled first at Richmond Championship Show, where fourteen dogs were entered and Best of Breed going to Mrs. Fagan’s Smudge, a dark grizzle and tan prick-ear (also described as black-backed by Mrs. Fagan), a grandson of Brownie, and the sire later of the first drop ear champion, Mrs. Normandy Rodwell’s Champion Airman’s Brown Smudge, a male bred in 1932. Smudge, incidentally, also sired the first prick -eared bitch champion, Ch. Miss Manette, also bred and owned by Mrs. Fagan.

The first actual champion in the breed, Ch. Biffin of Beaufin, was owned by Mrs. E. Mainwaring, who liked her terriers to have their ears dropped, and, as Biffin wanted to prick his ears it is said she weighted them to keep them down. Biffin has had an influence on the breed as a whole, both ear types being able to trace back lines to him.

Another early drop-ear breeder was Mrs. Guy Blewitt of the Boxed prefix. She owned a famous dog called Tobit, a wonderful ratter. She also had the distinction of breeding the second drop-eared champion, Tinker Bell, whelped in 1933.

With the advent of shows following Kennel Club recognition, ears became all important, many breeders preferring the prick-ears and, indeed, some members of the Breed Club Committee did try to insist that only prick-ears should be recognised. Interbreeding between the two types of ear carriage did continue for a time but, eventually, breeders kept to one or other of the ear types. Even in the thirties the breed had begun to divide, and by the end of the 1940s there were very few Norwich with mixed ear-carriage breeding in the first two or three generations.

Miss Marion Sheila Scott Macfie, breeder of the Colonsay Dalmatians, joined the Norwich Terrier Club in 1935. She preferred the drop-ears and founded her Colonsay Norwich on Mrs. Mainwaring’s Tiny Tim of Biffin, and the Hon. Mrs. Brooke’s Kinmount Pip. Miss Macfie bred and showed extensively and successfully, and it is largely due to her efforts that the drop-ears were kept going in such strength throughout the years of World War II.

When championship shows started up again after the War, the Norwich, going into the ring untrimmed (and often ungroomed as well) did not look like show dogs, and it was the prick-ears who were winning most Challenge Certificates and beginning to make the most progress.

Although there were a few outstanding drop-ears in the late 1950-60s, with a winning pair owned by Miss Macfie, Ch. Colonsay Orderley Dog with 19 C.C.s and Ch. Colonsay Banston Belinda with 12 C.C.s, (a record at that time for a bitch), and which remained unbroken until recent times, drop-ear entries went down until, in 1964, they were only about a quarter of those of the prick-ears.

Miss Macfie had already begun a campaign to give each type a separate register within the one breed, but it took seven years before the two types actually achieved separate recognition in 1964. Although the Club had wanted separate registers within the one breed, the Kennel Club had insisted on two separate breeds being formed, with different names. The more dominant prick-ears kept the name “Norwich Terrier”, and, after some debate, it was agreed that the drop-ears should become the “Norfolk Terrier”.

Quality amongst the drop-ears at that time was poor, and there was little in the way of any breed type. However, new and enthusiastic breeders and exhibitors began to join the established kennels, and all worked hard through the years to achieve their common goals to produce the typy, sound, showy Norfolk Terriers we see today, and which can hold their own in all-breed championship show competition.

This article was written by Eileen Needham.


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