Rat Terriers – Information, Pictures, Characteristics & History

Rat Terriers can be said to have started their history in Great Britain. Yet, the true motherland of the breed is America. The Rat Terrier is one of America’s native breeds due the efforts of breeders who tried to improve the quality of dogs brought by settlers to the New World.

Rat Terrier

Interesting enough, Britain has produced the majority of terrier breeds due to a centuries long tradition, hunting. This favorite sport and consequently a great demand for good hunting dogs allowed breeders to experiment in producing dogs for various purposes. Long-legged terriers were good in hunting game around a farm or an estate. They kept up with horses and were suited for hunting the otter.

Short-legged terriers were virtually indispensable in foxhunting. These courageous dogs followed a fox and cornered it in its den allowing no room for escape. These earth dogs are considered the ancestors of the modern Rat Terrier. Emigrants from Great Britain, basically miners and farmers, could not help but bring small terriers with them. They valued the dogs highly for their skill to destroy rodents. If not for terriers, their fields could be severely harmed and the level of diseases transformed by rodents could increase greatly.

Improving the Breed

American farmers bred Rat Terriers using blood of the Manchester Terrier, the Fox Terrier, the Beagle, and the Italian Greyhound. Each breed contributed to terrier qualities influencing the dog’s color pattern, body build, and improving hunting abilities. The new breed was named the Rat Terrier for its outstanding skills to get rid of rats. The record of killing 2501 rats in seven hours belongs to a Rat Terrier.

Theodore Roosevelt was known to be the owner of a few Rat Terries. According to some people, his dogs helped to get rid of rats filling the White House. Later the President appeared on the cover of “Life Magazine” with his Rat Terriers, which provided for greater breed success.

Rat Terriers – Ups and Downs

By the beginning of the 20th century, the breed had become one of the most frequently seen dogs on farms. The fact that the breed adapted easily to various climates and was a low-maintenance dog, explains its popularity. However, the 1950s brought about some changes in the ways of controlling vermin population. New techniques were introduced to replace natural ratters, thus diminishing Rat Terrier demand.

The next few decades influenced the Rat Terrier in a peculiar way. Their breeding lines started to be linked closely with the lines of Toy Fox Terriers. Since not all dogs met the official Toy Fox Terrier standard, breeders began to introduce their dogs into Rat Terrier breeding programs. The appearance of Rat Terrier hybrids was encouraged by the UKC (now the UKCI) through registration of mixes. It interfered with the Rat Terrier breed and caused a great diversity in color and size.

Official Standard

In 1994, the first Rat Terrier standard emerged. It was coined by the Rat Terrier Club of America on the basis of extensive research held prior to setting the ideal picture of the breed. The club disapproves of UKC practices to register Rat Terrier hybrids and aims at AKC breed recognition. Breeding dogs according to the sole standard has had fruitful effects. Rat Terriers are now growing in popularity and are of the most favorable breeds.

Rat Terriers – Breed Promotion

Rat Terriers

Rat Terriers are promoted by the means of public education and active participation in various activities. Among the most suited activities for the Rat Terrier agility is one of the most exciting ones. Rat Terriers do well as tunnel dogs and are often used for their original functions, hunting and tracking.

Health Improvement

One more means of Rat Terrier promotion is taking care of the breed’s good health. Overall, the Rat Terrier is a robust dog that does not have many genetically transformed diseases. It is true that irresponsible breeding with no respect to personality traits and physical health of the parent dogs can cause health disorders. However, breed clubs see to it that unplanned breedings do not occur with registered dogs.

Moreover, special health research and databases help to keep track of diseased dogs and reveal the determinatives of some disorders’ occurrence. Thus, the American Hairless Rat Terrier Club has launched a special database and registry that gives breeders a chance to get a clear-cut idea of the breed’s health condition and to plan their breedings sensibly.

Evidently, one of the vital matters when breeding Rat Terriers is evaluating their personality traits. The Rat Terrier should be well balanced, neither aggressive, nor shy. It should get much training to obey its owner and be friendly with other pets and children.

Rat Terrier owners who are affiliated with the Rat Terrier Club of America should test their dog’s personality characteristics. It is good if a Rat Terrier has successfully passed the Canine Good Citizen Test. Some dogs are also evaluated by the American Temperament Test Society. It is estimated that about 80% of all the Rat Terriers that have ever been tested, have stable personalities, which allows them to be used in breeding programs.


It may be that with the growing breed popularity the number of irresponsible breedings will increase. Breed lovers are very much concerned with the situation, and try to warn people about some difficulties connected with Rat Terrier ownership and encourage breeders to improve the breed. Hopefully, their efforts turn out to be fruitful and Rat Terriers will delight people for a long time to come.


Rat Terriers are a comparatively old breed that served man for many years. Whichever functions it performed, the Rat Terrier was always loved by many people and deserved much attention. However, not all canine registries accept the breed and Rat Terrier owners can be at sea with which club to register their dogs. Hence, there is some sense to trace the history of breed recognition by various organizations and have a glance at their politics.

The first all-breed registry to accept the Rat Terrier was the United Kennel Club. This club is still one of the largest registries for the Rat Terrier. What attracts breeders and owners in the UKC is perhaps the ease of registration and the possibility to register Rat Terrier hybrids. Hybrid registration is not allowed in the Rat Terrier Club of America. The National club does not approve of such breedings since their aim is preserving the breed close to its standard.

Why Seek AKC Acceptance?

Rat terriers playing

It is interesting to know that the RTCA (Rat Terrier Club of America) is eager to get the AKC recognition for the breed. In what way will the Rat Terrier breed profit by AKC registration? The AKC recognition will give the breed way into the AKC Stud Book. If the Rat Terrier is accepted into the Miscellaneous Class, it will be allowed to take part in AKC events, such as obedience, tracking, and agility. Dogs with titles will make the best foundation stock providing for further breed development. Successful development will lead to AKC recognition and give the Rat Terrier breed the opportunity to enter the Stud Book.

To be accepted by the AKC any breed should have a parent club that operates on a wide geographic area and has a considerable number of members. Work aimed at health perfection of the breed and organization of activities that promote the breed’s best qualities are a necessary condition for the breed to get recognition.

In fact, the RTCA does have a number of affiliated clubs all of which strive to promote responsible breeding and ownership. Activities that are organized by these clubs also help to acknowledge the best representatives of the breed and continue its further perfection.

Thus, the Rat Terrier has some way to go before being accepted by the AKC. There is a lot of work to be done by breed clubs and breed owners. Only responsible ownership and close partnership of clubs and associations can provide for AKC recognition for Rat Terriers.

Terrier Dog Breeds

Terrier Dog Breeds

Terriers belong to another group of dog breeds developed to assist hunters. However, this time their original prey was numerous kinds of rodents, and the bodies of these dog breeds are perfectly adapted for the mission. Some of the terrier dog breeds (Scottish Terriers) have short legs letting them follow small game like foxes, rabbits and rats into their burrows, while others (Irish Terriers) are rather long-legged and dig after the prey. Terriers’ thick facial skin covered by hair protects them from bites and strong limbs make digging easier. The wide variety of Terrier dog breeds come in a great number of sizes and three types of coating, too; there are wire-haired (Fox Terriers), soft-haired (Kerry Blue Terriers sometimes called Irish Blue) and smooth-haired (the Bull Terrier) dogs. Naturally, this characteristic influences grooming requirements, but on the whole Terriers are considered safe dog breeds for people with allergies as they are low-shedders.

Independent and energetic nature of the Terrier Dog Breeds makes them interesting companions, but these traits can also become a barrier during training.

 A popular terrier dog breed is Miniature Schnauzer. Minis are robust and inquisitive. They like a lot of walking and will probably try to help you around the house as this dog breed likes to be a full family member. There are not going to be many problems with training and grooming; the only thing: do not forget to clean the the dog’s beard and moustache every day.

 Scottish Terriers or Scotties are witty and playful. However, their strong personalities may show in stubbornness, that’s why it is advisable that you should start training and socializing your pet from an yearly age. Reward-based training will do best here.

 Bull Terriers have a notorious reputation of aggressive fighting dogs. However, the dog breed has been improved through years and is now much more peaceful. Yet you’d better keep it on-leash during walks as Bullies, especially males are pretty battlesome. A good piece of news: Bull Terriers are excellent watchdogs.

 White Fox Terriers come in two varieties, they can be Wire-haired and Smooth-haired. And this is where the difference stops. This cute dog breed is curious, witty, and really devoted to its owner.


Rat terriers playing:

Fun with Rat Terrier Dog.


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