AMERICAN HAIRLESS TERRIER
The American Hairless Terrier is a variety of Rat Terrier. The Rat Terrier is thought to have descended from several different breeds, beginning in England in the 1820s when a Smooth Fox Terrier was bred to a Manchester Terrier. This produced a remarkable dog that was both strong-willed and relentless in his hunt for rats and other vermin. They were feisty little dogs, which is why the English originally called them “feists.”
These dogs were considered beyond compare as “ratters,” dogs that were used to catch and kill the rats that plagued nineteenth century England and America. To have a dog that could help keep the rat population of the home or business down was certainly appreciated, and these little dogs grew in popularity. In fact, a sport grew from men’s pride at having the best ratter in the area. Bets were placed and rats were poured into a pit with a “ratter” to see how many it would kill. The betting wasn’t limited only to “rat baiting” that went on in a pit; it also followed out to farmers’ homes and barns. The record is held by a Rat Terrier that took seven hours to kill 2,501 rats in an infested barn.
In the 1890s, miners went to the United States to make a living and carve out a better way of life, and these working class people took their dogs with them across the Atlantic to their new homes. It was during this period that the “feist” was bred again to the Smooth Fox Terrier. When canines are bred for change, it’s usually because breeders have decided that a slight shift in personality, body type, or senses will make a certain task easier for the dog to accomplish. In this case, these early frontiersmen hoped to develop a stronger hunting dog. Even though this cross didn’t add anything significant to the hunting abilities of the dog, it did succeed in stabilizing the existing qualities and characteristics.
It was during his presidency (1901–1909) that President Theodore Roosevelt called his Feist a Rat Terrier, and the name stuck. He’s said to have loved the dogs and was fond of taking them with him on big game hunts. He owned at least three, with Skip being the most popular.
The Rat Terrier was eventually bred with the Whippet and the Greyhound in order to improve the dog’s speed. The Beagle was also introduced for its hunting abilities, scenting prowess, and trailing skills, as well as its larger size
and sturdiness. The Greyhound and the Whippet are thought to be the source of the brindle and blue-colored dogs, and the red color was probably a gift from the Beagle. Spitz-type dogs were introduced for their bear-hunting abilities, and to this day some pups will be born with thicker coats as a result. Today, Rat Terriers are still used for hunting rats in some parts of the world, but they are also used by their American owners for hunting raccoons, wild boar, squirrels, and deer.
In 1972, a hairless puppy was born to a litter of Rat Terriers belonging to Willie and Edwin Scott from Louisiana. Josephine, as she was named, became the foundation of the Hairless variety of the Rat Terrier and the American Hairless Terrier breed, established officially as a breed in 2004.
The Rat Terrier and the American Hairless Terrier are the only known breeds that carry a form of recessive hairlessness. Unlike dominant hairlessness found in Chinese Cresteds and Peruvian Inca Orchids, this form of hairlessness is not a lethal gene, and it is not associated with any known deleterious health or structural defects. Because it is inherited in a recessive form, the puppy must have two copies of the gene (one from each parent), which is not a problem since it is safe to breed two hairless parents—also unlike genetically dominant hairlessness. Hairless puppies are actually born coated, but due to a faulty code for the coat gene, the hair eventually falls out within a few months.
BREED GROUP: Group 6: Terrier Breeds
The ideal muzzle-to-skull axis may run parallel or be slightly convergent.
Body and Tail
Forequarters and Hindquarters
Side View: The forelimbs appear straight with strong pasterns.
Rear View: When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to one another.
Side View: Good angulation will allow the rear toes to align with the point of the rump, or within one to two paw-lengths behind the point of the rump, with the rear pasterns remaining perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another.
Coated variety: The coat is short, smooth, and close to the body throughout. The texture is soft, glossy, with or without undercoat, and with or without a slight wave along the back. If undercoat is present, coat will be slightly longer on neck, forming a light ruff, and on the tail. No fringe or feather permissible.
Hairless variety: Adult hairless dogs may be completely hairless, or may have a few short, fine-guard hairs on the muzzle, brows, or other parts of the body.