“Are Welsh Terriers Small Airedales?”

Airedale Terriers and Welsh Terriers are similar in appearance, which brings about many misconceptions about these breeds, and their relation to each other. Common assumptions are that Welsh terriers were bred from Airedales, that Welsh terriers are a newer breed, and/or that Welsh terriers are a smaller version of an Airedale. Many people like the look of these dogs, most have met Airedales, and think that a Welsh terrier will be a more “manageable” version of an Airedale. The truth is almost opposite to all of these assumptions. Welsh terriers and Airedales have looks and some classic terrier traits in common, but are distinctively different types of dogs.
 
Welsh Terrier History
Welsh terriers come from a very old type of dog, the rough-coated Black and Tan terrier, long known as Daeargi to the Welsh. Their job, prior to written records until recently, has been to hunt (and kill)— specifically foxes, badgers, and rodents. There are references to the dogs we now know as Welsh terriers as early as the 10th century. Welsh terriers were given a their “official” title in 1887 by the British, around the time many breeds were being created. During that time, as dog shows were becoming popular, Welsh terriers were mostly working dogs, and their inclusion in the ring was more of a novelty than anything. This is most likely because people could not brag about creating the breed, as they already existed.
 
Airedale History
Airedales, on the other hand, are a breed that was created in the mid 19th Century (less than 200 years ago) by combining existing terrier stock with Otterhounds. At the time there was a demand for a type of dog that would hunt water game with the passion of a terrier, but also posses some of the helpful attributes of a hound. Like many other breeds, their breed title was made official by the British in the late 1870’s. They were initially used for hunting water game, but were soon popular as working dogs in the public sector. This marks a main difference between Airedales and Welsh terriers, aside from the inclusion of hound genetics to the terrier gene pool. Airedales have long been used by law enforcement and the military, and have always worked closely with humans. Airedales were bred, again, to utilize key terrier hunting strengths, but to also bring versatility and sociability to an otherwise dedicated and fiercely independent hunter.
 
Different Breeds, Different Dogs
Airedales deserve their place alongside other terriers. Being the largest terrier, they live up to their title of the “King of terriers.” But physical size alone does not dictate the intensity of terrier personality a breed will have. Rather, look to the historical function of the dogs. If you are to judge by personality and historical use alone, Welsh terriers are meant to have a much more concentrated terrier personality. Being smaller actually made Welsh terriers more of hunting dogs than Airedales, for they were able to fit into small spaces and kill tough-to-catch creatures. Airedales are a bit hindered by their size for certain hunting pursuits, and therefore, were not just used to hunt, but also as service dogs for humans. For the longest time, people could not afford to keep dogs as pets, so they were bred for specific purposes.
Breed history may initially seem rather unimportant to prospective pet owners, but looking at history is paramount to selecting the right companion. As pets, Airedales and Welsh terriers have different needs and personalities. Living with and training a Welsh terrier is different than living with and training an Airedale. Both are wonderful examples of everything that is loved about terriers: their intelligence, drive, energy, and hilariously creative ways of thinking. But a quick look at the differing histories of the breeds can give one a good idea of just how unique each breed is. 

Article © 2012 Miles & Emma.
* Specific Airedale info from The Airedale Terrier Today, by Janet Huxley
* Interesting details on how Welsh terriers emerged from Black & Tans here.

19 comments on “Are Welsh Terriers Small Airedales?”

  • Pam

    Hi, I love your blog! It is so creative and interesting. I also have a Welsh from Sharon and Keith, Tommy is her daddy! So your Miles is her uncle! Her name is Daisy, and she is so much fun and I gets tons of attention when we go out on walks, to the mall and running errands. It is truly is amazing how much attention she gets! I look forward to your updates! And if you ever want more Welshie stories let me know. I have many!!! Pam and Daisy, Palo Alto, CA

  • Rhonda

    Great post!
    So true about the Welshies… don't let their size fool you (just like Lakelands)!
    I don't know anyone with an Airedale, although you see lots of them around. It would be interesting to see how the different types of terriers interact…

    • Sandy Lenz

      I have one of both. In fact, my little Welshie, Bentley, ‘chose’ his own Airedale puppy. We let him run free with the pups we were choosing from and our beautiful Scarlett was quickly his choice. They are uniquely different, but perfect buds.

  • Laura

    This is a really interesting blog post, Emma! I found out stuff I never knew about Sam and his breed!

  • Baby Rocket Dog and Hootie

    Loved this post! We have both an Airedale & a Welch Terrier, and their personalities are very different from one another. I'm going to share this article on FB.

    Mama to BRD & Hootie,
    Cassie Phillips

  • Faya

    I have both. And I agree, they look similar but they are si different in characters !!!! Greetings from Switzerland !

  • angie

    Interesting reading, we have a welshie, he is 14 months now and full of character, not been the easiest of puppies but we love him dearly and he makes us smile every day….Angie Martin

  • Emma (author)

    Thanks Angie — sounds like your boy is 100% Welsh! Keep commenting (and/or shoot me an email sometime), I and others would love to hear more about your puppy over time.

  • Mike

    We have a Welsh Terrier as well as an Airedale. This is our first Welsh but our fourth Airedale. Keep in mind this is a very limited sample, but some things are clear. The Welsh is more prey driven and intense. We found our Welsh to be very territorial. She is very independent and instinct driven. She is probably the smartest dog we have ever had. My guess is the Airedales get their intelligence from their Welsh. The Airedales are high energy but much less prey driven and more interested in people. Our Airedales are always happy to see you and seem to be more interested in the people world. The Welsh has more of the old terrier saying, it is a terrier’s world and you are just living in it. They are both great dogs, but to me the Airedale is more laid back, if there is such a thing amoung terriers. The hound genes take some of the edge of the terrier driven personality. But make no mistake they are still terriers. Both breads are fearless and tough.
    TheWelsh and Airedale make an interesting pair and are fun to watch play. There is never a dull moment!

  • Sandy

    I, too, have an Airedale and Welshie. Yes, the Welsh is way more high strung and very prey driven. The Airedale is eager to please, always happy and you can definitely see the hound dog in her. They play together beautifully. The Airedale “tells on” the Welshie when he is doing something wrong. The Airedale is by far the smartest of all the terriers we’ve had (Fox terrier, Wheatens and the Welshie). They make quite a pair walking down the street. Would have both breeds together again in a heartbeat. Both are wonderful dogs!

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Sandy, thank you for your insightful comment!! I’d love to stay in touch — I am thinking of doing a post gathering such important observations from experts, such as yourself, who have owned both breeds. Please email me here. Thanks again Sandy! P.S. I’d love to see a picture of the two of them strutting down the street.. I bet they are beyond cute.

    • KJ

      Emma- I liked reading your comments. I love the Welsh, Airedale, and Wire Fox. I am trying to decide which of these would be the best dog for our home. I love the look of the wire fox, but feel like they can be the biggest handful. Any advice you could give me.
      Thank you very much.
      KJ

      • Emma (author)

        Hi KJ! Thank you for getting in touch. Every dog is different, but generally speaking, the breeds you list go as such: Welsh (hardest), Wire Fox (still wild wiry terrier!), Airedale (wild wiry terrier hybrid). None of said breeds are easy to train, but the Airedale is the best beginner-terrier-enthusiast dog of the three. I wish you all of the best in your dog planning! If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to email me.
        – Emma

  • Mary Ann Banks

    I had an Airedale and Wire Fox Terrier. Our Airedale was the calmer of the two. They looked lovely walking down the road always got comments.
    Loved them dearly.

  • Lisa Hartman

    I currently live with Dexter my energetic, loveable and high strung “rescue” welsh terrier. Our loveable and comical Airedale Ginger passed away 4 years ago. Now that the kids are young adults Dexter is the perfect pet as combined we have the energy to keep up with him as we live in the city and he depends on us for all of his very necessary exercise. He is very prey drive and on the two occasions we let him off lead to play with other dogs he was gone and would not come back when called. It could be how he ended up at the SPCA where we rescued him. We live near the water but can’t get too close as there are two many critters to chase. Trucks, skate boards and animals on TV make him want to give chase. Ginger, who was raised in the suburbs with her own fenced in yard loved a good chase but would always come when called. Both are equally loveable but Dex is a serial kisser who never likes to sleep alone, Both got along well with our friendly cat Smokey but Dex likes to play with him more than Ginger did. Both love their toys but Dex prefers stuffed animal(prey) and Ginger loved to chew. I would get another Terrier in a heartbeat and believe a Welsh is the perfect city show stopper. The Airedale www the perfect suburban family dog. Both like other dogs and love people. I think a Welshie could be a bit of a challenge as to a first time terrier owner.

    • Emma (author)

      Hello Lisa, thanks for commenting. I love hearing stories like the ones you have told about Ginger and now Dexter. Your observations really fit everything others who have owned both breeds have said. Sharing your experiences is invaluable for people who are trying to find out the difference between the breeds! You sound like an amazing owner of a Welsh, you really get it. Dexter is lucky to have “found” you! I agree, they are definitely more challenging than other breeds, including other terrier breeds… Our little wild wiry companions!

  • Chuck Gonzalez

    I owned a beautiful Airedale called “Prince.” Prince was the best specimen of an Airedale I have ever seen. He died of cancer two months before his tenth birthday. Prince was almost eighty pounds and very dog aggressive. We tried everything including professional training but the trainer could not break him of his agressiveness towards other dogs. Prince was very protective of our family, he was not a clingy dog just liked hanging out where we were. He loved long walks, loved children and was always accepting of people we allowed in our house. When he passed we were so sad to lose such a great friend. A year later I decided to get another dog and wanted a dog like our Prince but not as big. I decided on a Welsh Terrier. In the beginning, I thought I had made a mistake. My eight week old puppy was so agressive towards anything that moved! Potty training was not easy to say the least. I often thought “this dog is not getting anything we are teaching him” Fast forward to a year later and he was getting soooo much better. He like the Airedale is not a very affectionate dog just wants to be where we are. He to my surprise does not like walks but loves to fetch a ball for hours. Something else that surprised us is that our Welshie loves to swim. He will go swimming in our pool all by himself, he just loves the water. He is a great watch dog when he is not asleep, he is a deep sleeper and is lazy to awaken in the morning. He is very possessive of his toys and is “Bluff” food aggressive. (he would never bite anyone) He loves to play with children and other dogs. At almost three years old now our Welshie has become a great dog and has full run of the house. He never ever has any potty accidents and hangs out with different family members. This dog “Rocko” we call him is the best dog we have ever owned. After owning both an Airedale and a Welsh Terrier, I would definitely say that an Airdale is a better choice for first time dog owners or for people that are not willing to invest a lot of time in training. Would I get another Welshie? in a split second.

  • Judy Magerowski

    nedwe have owned separately three kerry blues and two airedales. at present we have our ten year old airedale. we enjoyed all of them – some easier to train, the buy we have now is very good getting arthritis. but since me and my husband are definitely seniors
    I often think of a welsh when our airedale goes to “dog heaven” only because he would
    have less weight/smaller and easier to lead and train – – – hopefully. although, reading
    some of the comments welsh seemed to be more difficult – – true? We managed very well
    in obedience training through the years

    • Emma (author)

      Hello Judy! Thank you for your thoughts. I think a lot of people feel the same way as you — they’ve owned true terriers before, and are looking for a more compact version of the dogs they love. I think Welsh have proved more difficult overall, by many’s standards! 🙂 Do stay in touch, and email me here if you feel like it. I’d love to hear from you.

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