The Tenterfield Terrier is a small, lightweight terrier similar to Miniature Fox Terriers, and Rat Terriers. The Tenterfield Terrier has English origins but, like dog breeds such as the Miniature Fox Terrier, the Australian Terrier, the Silky Terrier, and the Australian Cattle Dog, was developed uniquely in Australia.
The Tenterfield Terrier is a balanced, square terrier with a short, fine coat. The coat is predominantly white with markings in black, tan, liver or brindle. The preference is for a docked tail, but naturally short tails or bobtails are known to occur.
As is so often the case, the origins of the breed are somewhat obscure. It is generally believed that smaller puppies from the litters of Fox Terriers were crossed with the progeny of other small breeds. Certainly, by the late 1800s a dog type known as the Little or Miniature Fox Terrier (known colloquially as ‘Mini Foxies’) was well established in rural Australia. By the 1920s the dog was a fixture in urban households as well.
The name ‘Tenterfield’ is sometimes incorrectly stated to denote the terrier’s place of origin as Tenterfield, New South Wales. Rather, Tenterfield is one of many Australian towns and villages in which small dogs of this type were known to exist. The town of Tenterfield is significant in Australian history, and the best-known owner of its saddlery was a man named George Woolnough, who was immortalized by his grandson, entertainer Peter Allen, as the ‘Tenterfield Saddler’. Mr. Woolnough owned a number of small terrier-type dogs; however, photographs of these dogs are not readily available. The name Tenterfield Terrier was suggested in the 1990s by Don Burke, a television personality of the era, and was adopted during the renaming of one of the then-Miniature Fox Terrier clubs.
In 1991 a group of enthusiasts from the state of South Australia formed the autonomous Miniature Fox Terrier Club of South Australia, separate to the Miniature Fox Terrier Club of Australia, which had been operating in New South Wales for some time. In 1992 they met with owners from other states to discuss the future of the Clubs. At that time, it became evident that there were some differences as to the preferred type of dog that would represent the Miniature Fox Terrier breed. Further, challenges to the name ‘Miniature Fox Terrier’ were being mounted, and threatened to preclude recognition by an All-Breed club, which was a priority among some breeders. In 1993 fanciers from South Australia and other states formed the Tenterfield Terrier Club of Australia. The breed standard of the Tenterfield Terrier differs in substance from that of the Miniature Fox Terrier, and although they are sometimes confused, the two dogs have been developing along divergent lines for over twenty years and are now separate breeds.
The tireless efforts of Tenterfield Terrier owners were rewarded in 2002 when the Tenterfield Terrier was recognized by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) and placed in Group 2, Terriers.
The Tenterfield Terrier Today
As of 2004, the Tenterfield Terrier is a breed under development. There is still variation in the types of dog seen in the show ring from state to state. These differences are small and of little interest to the average dog owner. For breeders and fanciers, however, foot shape, ear shape, colour, and other conformation points have the capacity to change the future look of a breed, and are of the utmost importance. Like the breeders of all other dogs, Tenterfield Terrier breeders work to improve their breeding lines and to assure standardization of type.