The Breed History
First breed records date to the 1700s in Britain. The extinct wire-haired Black and Tan Terrier may have been the wirehaired breed progenitor. Originally, the smooth and wire fox terriers were considered a single breed with AKC recognition in 1885. In 1984, they were split in the AKC registry. Normal Rockwell depicted this breed in some of his paintings.
Breeding for Function
As their name implies these were originally bred for fox hunting and excelled at going to ground (following their quarry into the burrow). They were also successfully used as small game hunters, and to clear vermin.
Height at Withers: Less than 15.5" (39.5 cm)
Weight: male 18 lb (8 kg), female 16 lb (7 kg)
Coat: The dense, tough wiry non-curly hairs produce the effect of a broken coat, and overlay a dense soft undercoat. Outer coat hairs are sometimes a bit wavy. The overcoat length and texture varies over the surface of the dog, being between 0.5-1.5" long, and softer in texture on the sides and underside. The coat is mostly white with well-demarcated color patches. Brindle and red-liver are not favored as the second color. Markings on white are usually black and tan. A pure white dog is also acceptable. Ginger and white dogs can produce both tri-color and ginger colored offspring, whereas tri-color dogs bred together will only produce tri-color puppies.
Longevity: 13-14 years.
Points of Conformation: An alert expression, high head and tail carriage, and sturdy square athletic build characterize this breed. The back is short, the gait is a springy ground-covering stride, and the head has a measured standard length of 7-7.25". Small round darkly colored eyes are fairly close and deep set, with an intense expression. The top of the folded ear should be above skull level; ears are medium leathered, triangular and hang forward. The skull is of defined width between the eyes and shows minimal stop, the nose is black, neck moderately long and fine and not throaty. The topline is level. The thorax is deep and oval in cross section, and the caudal ribs are deep. The tail (if docked) is 3/4 of the natural length. It is high set and thick. Limbs are straight, metatarsals and metacarpals heavy and short, feet small and compact and pads tough. The toes are moderately arched. In body type in all respects they are the same as the Smooth Fox Terrier.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Traits attributed to this breed include: These are diggers, can be snappy, may not tend to get along with other dogs, and are especially likely to have inter-male aggression. Though loyal, these dogs are not demonstrative; instead, rather reserved. Like lots of attention and mentally stimulating activities, good alarm barkers, high trainability but early obedience training is recommended. Have high energy and high exercise needs, good with children, and have moderate grooming needs. The breed has a low shedding tendency.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia and Legg-Calve Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited traits causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. OFA reports 4.6% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Wire Fox Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Wire Fox Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Primary Lens Luxation (PLL): An autosomal recessive gene causes primary lens luxation. Homozygous affected dogs usually develop lens luxation between 4-8 years of age. Rarely, heterozygous carriers can develop lens luxation, but at a later age. Lens luxation can lead to secondary glaucoma and blindness. A genetic mutation has been identified, and a genetic test is available.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 33.96% of Wire Fox Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Posterior subcapsular progressive cataracts predominate in the breed. Unknown mode of inheritance. Identified in 7.55% of Wire Fox Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.CERF does not recommend breeding any Wire Fox Terrier with a cataract.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.2% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Primary (Narrow Angle) Glaucoma: Ocular condition causing increased pressure within the eyeball, and secondary blindness due to damage to the retina. Diagnose with tonometry and gonioscopy. Can also predispose to lens luxation. Dorn reports a 5.47x odds ratio versus other breeds. Diagnosed in 2.28% of Wire Fox Terriers presented to veterinary teaching hospitals.
Pulmonic Stenosis: Suspected polygenic mode of inheritance. The breed is reported with a higher than expected frequency of the disorder. Affected dogs present with exercise intolerance, stunting, dyspnea, syncope and ascites, due to a malformed pulmonic valve, stricture of the right ventricular outflow tract or stricture of the pulmonary artery.
Demodicosis: Overgrowth of demodex mites in hair follicles due to an underlying immunodeficiency. Causes hair loss and inflammation. Also associated with sebaceous gland hyperplasia in this breed.
Cystinuria/Cystine Bladder Calculi: Wire Fox Terriers have an increased risk for developing cystine bladder stones due to a defect in cystine metabolism. Treat with surgical removal and life-long medical therapy. Unknown mode of inheritance in this breed.
Megaesophagus: Wire Fox Terriers are overrepresented in diagnoses of primary megaesophagus. Onset can be at weaning, or in adulthood. Clinical signs include regurgitation, excess salivation, and aspiration pneumonia.
Allergic Inhalant Dermatitis, Brachygnathism, Cerebellar Hypoplasia, Deafness, Epilepsy, Lissencephaly, Mitral Valve Disease, Oligodontia, Prognathism, Retinal Pigmented Epithelium Dystrophy, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Ectopic Ureter: Urinary incontinence was associated with an ectopic ureter in a 5-month-old, male Wire Fox Terrier. The dog regained urinary continence after transplantation of the ureter from the urethra into the urinary bladder.
Multiple Cardiac Anomalies: A 7-week-old Wire Fox Terrier was admitted with pulmonary atresia, with intact ventricular septum. The right ventricle and tricuspid valve were hypoplastic, and venous return to the right atrium reached the left side through an atrial septal defect. Oxygenation was via hyperplastic bronchial arteries. There was no evidence of ductus arteriosus.
Aortic Body Tumor: An aortic body tumor in a 7-year-old wire-haired fox terrier with hind limb ataxia is described. A metastatic lesion in the dorsal arch of the eighth thoracic vertebra caused compression of the spinal cord.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for PLL is available from OFA and the Animal Health Trust.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes cardiac and patella evaluations.
Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies.
- Breed name synonyms: Wire-haired Fox Terrier, Fox Terrier, Wire Fox
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 90 (708 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: American Fox Terrier Club: www.aftc.org
Wire Fox Terrier Association (UK): www.wirefoxterrierassociation.co.uk
The Fox Terrier Club (UK): www.thefoxterrierclub.co.uk
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