Terriers comprise a wide and diverse range of dogs, originally selectively-bred for particular working or sporting purposes. Their sizes span from the smallest, at two pounds, to the largest, tipping-the-scales at 130+ pounds. In earlier days, these purpose-built breeds tended to stay fairly well-isolated geographically—that is, genetically distinct, not interbred with other regional terriers too much. The farmers, hunters and business owners who kept these dogs tended not to travel as far (with their dogs) as people do today. Before modern transport, people (and their dogs) tended to keep within tighter geographic circles. For this reason, in Scotland alone, we see many well-known varieties of terriers which were developed over the years: Scotties, West Highland Terriers, Cairn Terriers, Skye Terriers, Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Blue Paul Terriers (now extinct) and Border Terriers (which were developed along the "border" regions between Scotland and England).
But terriers do share a few similar traits affecting their approach to (and suitability for) certain types of work. Terriers universally are described as alert, quick and playful. They are wiry, tough (for their size) and fearless. This bravery and tenaciousness made them ideal as "ratters"—dogs which would help keep a home, farm or shop free of vermin. On the hunt, certain terriers were used to "flush" other animals from their burrows. In the "sporting" world, terriers were used to compete in ratting competitions. The dog would be placed into a pit with numerous rats. The terrier who killed all the rats the fastest was the winner. Tenacious terriers were cross-bred with muscular bulldogs, creating the Pit Bull Terrier. The "pit" in "Pit Bull" refers, sadly, to the pit where competing dogs were placed to kill each other for the pleasure of gambling audiences.
Today, terriers are more often found as beloved and enchanting family pets (even Pit Bull Terriers, whose devoted owners insist that their animals are sweet, loving and gentle). But terriers' dispositions—their character, energy and playful tenaciousness—continue to delight modern pet owners today.
The bookends, shown above, capture a terrier—steady, ready and true. They are nicely-sculpted and electrically-clad in bronze. They wear their original brown patina. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.
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We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
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