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English White Terrier

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English White Terrier
Alternative names
Old English Terrier
Old White English Terrier
Country of origin
Classification and breed standards
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The White English Terrier is an extinct breed of dog, one of many terrier breeds.


English White Terrier with Black and Tan Terrier English White Terrier with Black and Tan Terrier

The White English Terrier colour was an intensely brilliant white and its eyes very black and sparkling, with the oblique shape being preferred. Nearly all the 'purely' white animals were deaf and were only redeemed from the infirmity by the nose, or a few scattered and so invisible hairs.

The following is the description laid down by the White English Terrier Club:

  • HEAD–Narrow, long and level, almost flat skull, without cheek muscles, wedge-shaped, well filled up under the eyes, tapering to the nose, and not lippy.
  • EYES–Small and black, set fairly close together, and oblong in shape.
  • NOSE–Perfectly black.
  • EARS–Cropped and standing perfectly erect.
  • NECK AND SHOULDERS–The neck should be fairly long and tapering from the shoulders to the head, with sloping shoulders, the neck being free from throatiness, and slightly arched at the occiput.
  • CHEST–Narrow and deep. BODY–Short and curving upwards at the loins, sprung out behind the shoulders, back slightly arched at loins, and falling again at the joining of the tail to the same height as the shoulders.
  • LEGS–Perfectly straight and well under the body, moderate in bone, and of proportionate length.
  • FEET–Feet nicely arched, with toes set well together, and more inclined to be round than hare-footed.
  • TAIL–Moderate length, and set on where the arch of the back ends, thick where it joins the body, tapering to a point, and not carried higher than the back.
  • COAT–Close, hard, short, and glossy.
  • COLOUR–Pure white, coloured marking to disqualify.
  • CONDITION–Flesh and muscles to be hard and firm.
  • WEIGHT–From 12 lb. to 20 lb.


Alfred Benjamin, owned a male White English Terrier, named 'Silvio' (b. 1876). It was well-shown and considered a prime specimen of the breed. In 1877 Silvio won dog shows at Bath, Royal Agricultural Hall, Darlington, Alexandra Palace and in 1878 at Wolverhampton. Silvio weighed nineteen pounds with the following measurements:

Silvios' Measurements
Area Inches
Nose to stop 3
Stop to occiput 4.5
Length of back 15
Girth of muzzle 7
Girth of skull 12
Girth of brisket 19
Girth round shoulders 19.5
Girth of loin 16
Girth of forearm 3.75
Girth of pastern 3
Height at shoulders 18
Height at loin 18.5


Scale For Judging White English Terriers
Area Value
Head, including jaws, nose, ears and eyes 10
Legs 5
Feet 5
Body 5
Colour 10
General appearance 10
Action 5


Mr. White, of Clapham, first brought the breed into qualified prominence it once enjoyed, as he was a large winner in these classes at early dog shows. Outside the dog shows, the English White Terrier was used for hunting. It was a progenitor of the Fox Terrier and the Bull Terrier, among other breeds, and became extinct around the year 1900. It is similar to the Manchester Terrier.




This dog, one would think, ought, by the dignified title which he bears, to be considered a representative national terrier, forming a fourth in the distinctively British quartette whose other members are the Scottish, the Irish, and the Welsh Terriers. Possibly in the early days when Pearson and Roocroft bred him to perfection it was hoped and intended that he should become a breed typical of England. He is still the only terrier who owns the national name, but he has long ago yielded pride of place to the Fox-terrier, and it is the case that the best specimens of his race are bred north of the border, while, instead of being the most popular dog in the land, he is actually one of the most neglected and the most seldom seen. At the Kennel Club Show of 1909 there was not a single specimen of the breed on view, nor was one to be found at the recent shows at Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, or Islington, nor at the National Terrier Show at Westminster. It is a pity that so smart and beautiful a dog should be suffered to fall into such absolute neglect. One wonders what the reason of it can be. Possibly it is that the belief still prevails that he is of delicate constitution, and is not gifted with a great amount of intelligence or sagacity; there is no doubt, however, that a potent factor in hastening the decline is to be found in the edict against cropping. Neither the White Terrier nor the Manchester Terrier has since been anything like so popular as they both were before April, 1898, when the Kennel Club passed the law that dogs’ ears must not be cropped.

Writers on canine history, and Mr. Rawdon Lee among the number, tell us that the English White Terrier is a comparatively new breed, and that there is no evidence to show where he originally sprang from, who produced him, or for what reason he was introduced. His existence as a distinct breed is dated back no longer than forty years. This is about the accepted age of most of our named English terriers. Half a century ago, before the institution of properly organised dog shows drew particular attention to the differentiation of breeds, the generic term “terrier” without distinction was applied to all “earth dogs,” and the consideration of colour and size was the only common rule observed in breeding. But it would not be difficult to prove that a white terrier resembling the one now under notice existed in England as a separate variety many generations anterior to the period usually assigned to its recognition.

In the National Portrait Gallery there is a portrait of Mary of Modena, Queen Consort of James II., painted in 1670 by William Wissing, who has introduced at the Queen’s side a terrier that is undoubtedly of this type. The dog has slight brown or brindle markings on the back, as many English White Terriers have, and it is to be presumed that it is of the breed from which this variety is descended.

Apart from colour there is not a great difference between the White English Terrier and the Manchester Black and Tan. But although they are of similar shape and partake much of the same general character, yet there is the distinction that in the black and tan the conservation of type is stronger and more noticeable than in the white, in which the correct shape and action are difficult to obtain. It ought naturally to be easier to breed a pure white dog from white parents than to breed correctly marked and well tanned puppies from perfect black and tans; but the efforts of many breeders do not seem to support such a theory in connection with the English Terrier, whose litters frequently show the blemish of a spot of brindle or russet. These spots usually appear behind the ears or on the neck, and are of course a disfigurement on a dog whose coat to be perfect should be of an intense and brilliant white. It appears to be equally difficult to breed one which, while having the desired purity of colour, is also perfect in shape and terrier character. It is to be noted, too, that many otherwise good specimens are deaf–a fault which seriously militates against the dog’s possibilities as a companion or as a watch.

Birmingham and Manchester were the localities in which the English Terrier was most popular forty years ago, but it was Mr. Frederick White, of Clapham, who bred all the best of the white variety and who made it popular in the neighbourhood of London. His terriers were of a strain founded by a dog named King Dick, and in 1863 he exhibited a notable team in Laddie, Fly, Teddie, and Nettle. Mr. S. E. Shirley, M. P., was attracted to the breed, and possessed many good examples, as also did the Rev. J. W. Mellor and Mr. J. H. Murchison. Mr. Alfred Benjamin’s Silvio was a prominent dog in 1877.

Silvio was bred by Mr. James Roocroft, of Bolton, who owned a large kennel of this variety of terrier, and who joined with his townsman, Joe Walker, and with Bill Pearson in raising the breed to popularity in Lancashire. Bill Pearson was the breeder of Tim, who was considered the best terrier of his time, a dog of 14 lb., with a brilliant white coat, the darkest of eyes, and a perfect black nose.

It is apparent that the Whippet was largely used as a cross with the English Terrier, which may account to a great extent for the decline of terrier character in the breed. Wiser breeders had recourse to the more closely allied Bull-terrier; Mr. Shirley’s prize winning Purity was by Tim out of a Bull-terrier bitch, and there is no doubt that whatever stamina remains in the breed has been supported by this cross.

Further reading

  • Shaw, V. (1879). The Classic Encyclopedia of the Dog, Chapter XIV. Cassell.

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