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Rat Terrier

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Rat Terrier
Tricolor Rat Terrier; note pale black ticking on white coat
Tricolor Rat Terrier; note pale black ticking on white coat
Alternative names
American Rat Terrier
Giant Decker
Country of origin
United States
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
AKC: Terrier (FSS)
UKC: Terriers
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Rat Terrier is an American dog breed, one of many terrier varieties. It is a small, active terrier. Although the breed has been around in similar form since the early 1900s, it has remained more of a type than a breed.


The Rat Terrier comes in a variety of coat colors and patterns. It is often white with either black and tan, apricot, blue, or brown spots. The original snazzy most common color is the tricolor: black, tan, and white. Many have ticking on the white part of the coat; most have freckles on their bellies. Ear carriage can be upright, tipped, or button, and the tail is traditionally docked to about 1/3 of its original length.

The Rat Terrier ranges from about 5 to 40 pounds, although the larger sizes are sometimes called Deckers or Giant Deckers, after a breeder named Milton Decker who has been developing a larger version of the Rat Terrier. The Toy size (10 pounds and under) is becoming increasingly popular as a house pet & companion dog. Despite their diminutive size, many Toy Rat Terriers display the same prey drive & hunting instincts as their larger cousins.


Although often mistaken for a Jack Russell Terrier, the Rat Terrier has a very different temperament. It is less aggressive and comparatively calm (although still exhibiting terrier personality). They are normally cheerful dogs, but there are occasional dogs who are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment or to unexpected noises, people, or activity.


The Rat Terrier type originated in England; like all terriers of this type, it most likely developed from crosses among Manchester Terriers, Smooth Fox Terriers, and Whippets. After the 1890s, as the breed type became popular in America, other breeds were added to the mix. Beagles and Italian Greyhounds may have been used.

Breed recognition

Rat Terrier organizations rank among those in the dog world among which there is dispute over the best course of action to be taken for the promotion and preservation of the dog breed. Points of departure are, as usual, which dog type best represents the breed, and, as is common among working breeds, whether the dog's working qualities will be sacrificed to show conformation. Perhaps because the Rat Terrier has existed for decades with several different evident types being upheld by different clubs, disagreements can be highly charged.

The Rat Terrier has been recognized by the United Kennel Club. The Rat Terrier Club of America is actively working towards recognition by the AKC and the breed was accepted into the AKC's Foundation Stock Service in 2005.


A modern Nipper namesake demonstrating His Master's Voice pose A modern Nipper namesake demonstrating His Master's Voice pose

The RCA trademark dog, Nipper ("His Master's Voice") might have been a Rat Terrier.

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed this breed as hunting companions. The Rat Terrier was a common farm dog in the early 1900s.


  • Kane, Alice J. (2004). Rat Terrier: a Comprehensive Owner's Guide (Special Limited Edition). Kennel Club Books ISBN 1-59378-367-1.

See also

See also

Rat baiting

External links

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