The Old English Terrier: Everything You Need to Know

The Old English Terrier, also known as the White English Terrier, is a now-extinct breed that was once used as a small working terrier type of dog. 

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the history, physical traits, temperament, and health of the Old English Terrier breed.

A Brief History of the Old English Terrier

The Old English Terrier has an unusual story that starts sometime in the 19th century. The breed was commonly known by many names, including White English Terrier, Old English White Terrier, and Old White Terrier.

Origins and Ancestors

It is believed that the Old English Terrier was developed by crossing Fox Terriers with either Italian Greyhounds or Whippets. The breed came to the scene and gained a lot of popularity in the 19th century. 

People also believe that the English White Terriers came into existence by crossing the Fox Terriers with Whippets or Italian Greyhounds. As the breed started gaining a lot of popularity in the 19th century, The Kennel Club officially recognized it in 1874.

Evolution of the Breed 

The Old English Terrier was developed as a hunting dog, but it never developed proper skills for the task and people started using it for vermin control – catching cats and rodents. 

Sadly, this job was not fit either and eventually, breeders focused on creating Old English Terriers for show purposes. Breed members were often seen competing in show rings. 

Recognition and Decline

The Old English Terrier was recognized by The Kennel Club of England in 1874. However, only 30 years later, the breed went extinct due to serious genetic health problems, a result of poor breeding practices. 

Before becoming a rare and then extinct breed, the Old English Terrier was crossed with the Old English Bulldog. Their mix eventually gave birth to a new breed – the now-popular and still existing Bull Terrier. 

Physical Characteristics of the Old English Terrier

Size and Weight

The Old English Terrier was a small to medium-sized dog, typically weighing between 8 and 35 pounds and around 10 to 15 inches tall at the shoulders. The breed was muscular, sturdy, and agile despite its small size. 

Coat and Colors

The Old English Terrier had a short, dense coat that was all white. Colored markings were possible in some breed members but were considered a fault and a reason for disqualification. 

Distinctive Features

The Old English Terrier had powerful jaws, small, high-set & erect ears, and a square-shaped head. The dog’s body was muscular and well-developed, with slender but potent legs and a long, tapering tail. 

Temperament and Personality Traits

Intelligence and Trainability

The Old English Terrier was an intelligent breed but also stubborn at times. With the right training approach, it could be trained to do a variety of tasks, including agility and obedience training. However, the breed was easily bored by long sessions. 

Socialization and Compatibility with Other Animals

The Old English Terrier had a friendly and sociable personality, making a great companion for families with children or other pets. However, like all dogs, proper socialization was necessary to ensure that the Old English Terrier got along well with others.

Health and Lifespan of the Old English Terrier

Common Health Issues

The Old English Terrier was riddled with genetic health issues due to inbreeding practices. The most common problem was congenital deafness – a condition when the dog is born deaf in both ears. 

Life Expectancy

The Old English Terrier had a relatively short lifespan due to its sensitivity and proneness to various genetic conditions. 


The Old English Terrier was a fascinating breed that skillfully found its way from the hunting fields to the show rings before going extinct. 

Today, the Old English Terrier no longer exists but lives through its legacy – primarily the Bull Terrier which was created with the breed’s genes. 

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