Norwich Terriers originated in the late 1800s in East Anglia, an area of England that juts into the North Sea. The flat, marshy region is fertile farmland and produces much of the country’s grains and other crops. Throughout the 1800’s, the small terrier type dogs from which the Norwich Terrier would later descend, were widely used by farmers for hunting rabbits, otters, fox, rats and other vermin, as well as for companionship.
The name terrier is from the Latin word terra meaning earth. These dogs did the dirty work, pulling their prey out from underground when necessary. In The Sportsman’s Repository by John Scott, written in 1845, the author highlights the value of these dogs to the farmer and the economy of England:
“The domestic use of the Terrier is well known to be that of a guard…especially in the Country, against more destructive vermin---rats, weazles, polecats, stoats, and all their kind. The quantity of bread and other corn, devoured by rats, few have yet perhaps dared even to conceive. Some years since, when wheat was at its highest war price, it was stated by a very experienced person… that upon a considerable farm…the property of a respectable landholder… the rats were sufficiently numerous to consume annually…the amount…of the rent and tithe together…the useful pack upon a farm consists of…rough Terriers, Vermin Curs…”
Even though these little dogs were often referred to as curs or mongrels, many had great affection for them and appreciated their value. Sir Albert Munning (1878-1959), lifelong resident of East Anglia and an artist who specialized in painting horses, wrote in his autobiography, ‘An Artist’s Life’, a tribute to his terrier, Joe, whom he refers to earlier in the chapter as a cur: “…I did not like sleeping in the room at the end of that ancient farmhouse without Joe, because I am sure it was haunted.… through many and many a long winter evening he was my sole companion, each of us occupying an armchair on either side of the hearth.” The label of ‘cur’ was not unfounded; over the course of developing the Norwich Terrier, they were crossed with different terrier types to achieve the breed. Among the varieties of terriers that may have gone into creating the Norwich were the Irish, Yorkshire, Border, Cairn, and Bedlington Terriers.
These early terriers were favored by local horse fanciers and sports people. When hunting on horseback, sportsmen could carry the small dogs under their arms or in their saddlebags. When foxes bolted into their dens, the little dogs were released to squeeze into the hole and root them out.
In the 1880s Cambridge University students were so enamored of the little dogs, they became the unofficial school mascot. Students began purchasing the red or black and tan terriers both for companionship and to catch rats, which were abundant near the university, located by the River Cam and The Fens, as the marshes were called. Many students lived on Trumpington Street, so the dogs were informally known as Trumpington Terriers or Cantabs.
Charles “Doggy” Lawrence, also of Trumpingtion, sold terriers to many of the students. His red terrier named Jack was bred to a brindle terrier owned by Mr. Jodrell Hopkins. Hopkins, a Cambridge graduate who owned a livery stable, acquired his brindle Aberdeen-type terrier from a Reservist in the British Army called up to fight in the Boer War. The mating resulted in a male and female. The female, Nell, had drop ears and more closely resembled the Norfolk Terrier of today. (Norwich Terriers included both prick or drop ears until the 1960s, at which time they were recognized as two separate breeds). The male, Rags, was given to Mr. Jack Cooke, Master of the Norwich Staghounds. Rags had a red shaggy, harsh coat and prick ears.
Jodrell Hopkins bought another little red terrier and continued breeding the reds with Rags, until the offsprings’ coat colors came out true to type, with the exception of brindle and grizzle. ‘Ninety’, a white, smooth haired, prick eared terrier, was bred several times with Rags, producing all red puppies. Her owner was Mr. Lewis (Podge) Low, son of local veterinarian surgeon Fredrick Low. Possessing the desired look and temperament, Rags was a sought after stud dog. For twenty years Rags and his descendents were bred extensively, laying claim to a significant impact on the breed’s development.
In 1909 Mr. Jack Read, who later became the breed club’s first president, bought one of Rags’ and Ninety’s puppies. He bred her with a Bedlington Terrier and to a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (from a strain owned by Countess of Kimberly). Then Read bred her back to Mr. Cooke’s strain (a Trumpington Terrier). By 1929 Read had produced a stud dog, ‘Horsted Mick’. Many of champion show dogs are descendents of Horsted Mick.
Mr. Frank Jones, First Whip of the Norwich Staghounds, worked with Jack Cooke. Jones, an Irishman who came to England in 1901, bought some of Cooke’s red terriers when he saw the high demand for the dogs among sportsmen and horse people. He bred them and sold the puppies, all rough coated red terriers. Jones was notable for selling the dogs far and wide, including to people from the United States. Even after he went to work as a roughrider for Mr. Stokes of Market Harborough, Leicestershire (where he became known as Roughrider Jones), he continued to breed and sell the pups. Roughrider Jones crossed his dogs with other terriers he liked, one of which was a male named Mr. Horace Cole, belonging to Jack Cooke. Cole was mated several times to a small wire haired terrier whose father was one of Cooke’s Trumpington Terriers, most likely one of Rag’s descendents.
Mr. W.E. West bred a female from Roughrider Jones to begin his Fardon (the name of his kennel) line of terriers, around the same time Mr. Read began his breeding program. In 1912 Mrs. Phyllis Fagan bred Brownie, a female, who was the ancestor of many famous Norwich Terrier champions. Mrs. Fagan named all her dogs after characters in Charles Dickens’ stories. West’s Farndon strain can be traced back to Fagan’s Brownie.
In the 1930s an American, Mrs. A. T. McLean, purchased puppies sired by Ch. Farndon Red Dog from Mr. West. Red Dog and his grandson Pax of the Briars sired many Norwich Terriers in England and the United States, making quite an impact on the breed. Mr. Robert Honeyman, from Philadelphia, bought Pax and bred him. Pax found his first litter of puppies and killed them, which infuriated Honeyman so much he gave Pax away to Mr. Bill Thomas, Whip of the Radnor Hounds. Thomas kept and bred Pax over the course of many years. When Thomas no longer hunted, he trained race horses, taking Pax with him to the racetrack, where the old dog was well-liked.
The Norwich Terrier was recognized by the Kennel Club of the U.K. in 1932. Jack Read wrote the breed standard in July of the same year, in which he included two controversial stipulations. One was that only red colored coats were allowed; the other was that both drop and prick ears were acceptable. The standard was revised in January 1933, in 1934, and again in 1935. In the latter revision, black and tan coat colors were admitted, which incensed Read so much that he resigned from the club.
Ear-carriage, that is whether a Norwich Terrier had drop or prick ears, was not a big concern of the early breeders, but once the Kennel Club recognized the Norwich Terrier, participation in dog shows increased. Ear-carriage mattered to judges, so breeders increasingly mated only dogs of the same ear type. By the 1940s breeders had succeeded in creating strains where the litters were all of one ear type. Miss Marion Sheila Scott McFie, who joined the breed club in 1935, preferred the drop eared dogs. She both bred and showed them with great success prior to World War II. McFie is credited with keeping the drop eared variety in existence throughout the war years.
Dog shows were suspended during wartime; when they did resume, following World War II, the prick eared Norwich Terriers carried away the vast majority of the awards. Because of this, friction erupted between breeders of the two different ear types. According to Marjorie Bunting, breeders on each side of the ear kerfuffle “had wordy battles in the canine press as to which was the original type”. She reported that they also debated whether one ear type was sounder than the other; which type was smarter looking, whether judges were unfair in their overwhelming preference for the prick eared variety--and anything else they could conjure up to argue about.
In the 1940s Mrs. Marjorie Bunting established the Ragus Kennel where she bred both Norwich and Norfolk Terriers for sixty years, until her death in 2001. She named her kennel Ragus in part because of the influential Norwich stud dog Rags, but also because her sister June called small animals “little sugars”; Ragus is sugar spelled backwards. Her kennel produced at least eighty champions. She was well known in both the United States and the U.K. for her fine dogs, her forthright manner, and her sense of humor. Her book The Norwich Terrier, published in 1983, is on the recommended reading list of the Norwich Terrier Club Of America (NTCA) website. She was a dog show judge and a columnist for Dog World magazine in Britain.
In 1957 the breed club voted ninety-two to eleven to separate the drop and prick eared Norwich Terriers into two different breeds; at the same meeting they also voted eleven to six to name the drop eared variety Norfolk Terriers and the prick ears Norwich Terriers. They applied to the Kennel Club to make these changes, but were turned down. In 1958 at the General Meeting held at Cruft’s, Miss MacFie lobbied for not changing the name of either, but differentiating the breeds as Norwich Terriers (prick eared) and Norwich Terriers (drop eared). The members agreed.
Over the next seven years, the breed club petitioned the Kennel Club a number of times, attempting to resolve the ear-carriage issue. The breed club asked to be allowed to form a drop ear association; the Kennel Club said no. In 1961 they revised the breed standard, adding a clause discouraging cross breeding of the two ear types. The Kennel Club removed the clause. The breed club solicited the Kennel Club to add P.E. (prick ears) and D.E. (drop ears) to Norwich Terrier registrations, but again, they were told no. The breed club asked the Kennel Club to present their request for separate breeds to the General Committee of the Kennel Club, but they refused. Following that incident, the Kennel Club announced in the Kennel Gazette that the Norwich Terrier Club sought to divide the breed. Marjorie Bunting refuted the announcement saying, “We were not, however, ‘seeking a division’. The division was already an established fact. What we were seeking was Kennel Clubs recognition of this fact.”
In 1964 the Norwich Terrier Club decided to write separate breed standards for drop eared and prick eared; they also voted to call the drop eared variety Norfolk Terriers and the prick eared Norwich Terriers. On September 22nd, the Kennel Club relented and recognized the Norfolk Terrier and the Norwich Terrier as two separate breeds. Wasting no time, on October 4th, 1964, the Norwich Terrier Club of the U.K. formed the Norfolk Terrier Breed Club, with the approval of the Kennel Club.
The first Norwich Terrier to win in the Terrier Group was Withalder Locksley, J.W., who won at Crufts in 1970. This dog was owned and bred by Major Norman Bradshaw. The first Norwich Terrier to win Best In Show as an All Breeds Winner in Britain, was Ragus Gypsy Love, who won at the Windsor Show on June 30, 1979. Ragus was bred by Mrs. Freda Bell and owned by Mrs. Lesley Crawley and Mrs. Marjorie Bunting.
Robert Strawbridge of Philadelphia had the honor of introducing the first Norwich Terrier to the United States in 1914. While in England, Strawbridge visited Mr. Stokes of Market Harborough to look at horses; Strawbridge had reportedly consumed beer at this meeting and saw a Norwich Terrier for the first time. He was so impressed, or inebriated, he bought one of Jones’ Terriers. He even named the dog William Jones (nicknamed Willum) after the Roughrider himself. (For unknown reasons, Roughrider Jones was called William Jones in the United States and Frank Jones in Britain). Willum was bought for use in the Radnor Hunt and proved to be a fine dog.
He was bred by J. Watson Webb, M.F. H. Shelburn Foxhounds of Vermont for his strain. Willum was a sire of M.E.J. Hunt Terriers in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The Norwich Terriers became popular in Pennsylvania and Virginia among formal fox-hunters, where they were known as Jones Terriers, acquiring the nickname “Jonesies”, which some in that region still call them today.
Regardless of the circumstances under which Strawbridge bought Willum, his fondness for the dog remained, so much so that he commissioned the artist George Ford Morris to paint Willums’ portrait. The Norwich Terrier lived till fourteen years of age, when he met an unexpected end. The courageous twelve pound dog and his son were killed, defending their home against two Doberman Pinschers. Willum died just a few years before the breed was recognized in England.
About the same time that Strawbridge purchased Willum, Mr. Alan Case of Toronto bought some Norwich Terriers in England and brought them home with him to Canada. Other Americans who, when buying horses from Mr. Stokes, ended up purchasing Roughrider Jones’ terriers, were Mr. Eugene Reynal, Mr. Watson Webb, and Mr. Gordon Massey. All three bred Norwich Terriers in the United States.
In 1937 Mrs. A.C. Randolph, visiting London from the U.S., bought a terrier from Jones. She was so pleased with her dog that she ordered two more from England, this time getting them from W. E. West. Her Farndon Norwich Terriers were Victor and Rachael, who both became champions. The Norwich Terrier Club of America used Rachael’s picture as the ideal for the prick eared variety, for many years.
Norwich Terriers were accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1936. The Norwich Terrier Club of America (NTCA) was formed in 1938; Mrs. A.C. Randolph (who was Mrs. Robert Winthrop at the time) was one of the club’s first officers. In 1947 the club was reorganized and received official AKC recognition.
After the NTCA received AKC recognition, Mrs. Josephine Spencer, a breeder of the drop eared variety, became the first President of the club and her good friend, Mrs. Katherine Thayer, became the first Secretary. Mrs. Thayer held the position until her death in 1958; Thayer and her sister Miss Sylvia Warren also bred the drop eared Norwich Terriers. One of Mrs. Thayer’s dogs, Rivets, was used by the NTCA as the ideal for the drop eared variety. Thayer advocated for maintaining the working terrier traits in the breed; she believed they should be shown in their natural coats. Her efforts contributed to preserving the breed’s sporting traits to this day, in both the U.K. and the U.S.
In 1979 the AKC recognized the two separate breeds. When this occurred, the parent club changed its name to the Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club. It retained that name for thirty years. In 2007 a majority of the club members voted to have one club for each of the two breeds, so the NTCA was established January 1, 2009.
Norwich Terriers are not plentiful because they are difficult to breed. They cycle only every nine months and have to be artificially inseminated. Because they do not whelp naturally, puppies are delivered by Caesarian Section. Most litters are between one and three pups. In 2007, only 750 Norwich Terriers were born in the United States. In 2008 only 800 Norwich Terriers were registered in the AKC. Norwich Terriers were introduced in Sweden in 1965. From 1985 through 2005 only eight to one hundred registered Norwich Terrier puppies per year were born in Sweden. Currently in Britain there are only 120 to 140 registered breed puppies per year. The breed club assures potential owners it is not impossible to get puppies, just difficult. Because of the scarcity and expense of these dogs, fraud is increasing, particularly in the U.S. A potential buyer can and should insist on the inexpensive Mars Wisdom Panel test for puppies. This test can accurately determine if the dog is a purebred back three generations.
Most Norwich Terriers reside in the Eastern part of the U.S. and are mainly for breeding and showing, although some are still used for hunting. Many other terrier types no longer possess sporting instincts because these traits were lost when breeders focused more on show dog traits. But thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders, the Norwich Terrier retains its sporting abilities to this day, and still makes a great companion, as well as a fine show dog. As of 2010, AKC registration statistic show the Norwich Terrier ranking 100th, out of 167 recognized breeds in registratons that year.
Norwich Terriers are small, stocky dogs. They should be 10 inches in height or less. Originally bred to be working dogs, the breed is not subject to strict weight requirements. In general, they should weigh around 12 lbs. But more importantly, the weight should be in proportion to the overall body structure. The ratio of height to length is about 1:1, when height is measured from top of withers to ground, and length from base of tail to withers.
The coat color can be any shade of red, wheaten, tan, black, or grizzle (red and black hairs mixed together) with no white markings. Their coats are wiry and straight, lying close to the body, with an undercoat. The hair on the neck and shoulders form a mane; hair is short and smooth on the head, ears, and muzzle. Eyebrows and whiskers are long and wiry. Coats are kept natural, with only minor trimming and no shaping.
Their slightly rounded heads are broad, a bit wider between their ears. The wedge shaped muzzle is one-third the length of the occiput to the well-defined stop. Both the jaw and muzzle are strong. They have small, dark, oval shaped eyes rimmed in black. Their eyes are wide set with a bright, sharp expression. This breed has medium sized prick ears with pointed tips that stand upright when alert. Their noses and lips are black and the lips fit tightly over large teeth, in a scissors bite.
The Norwich Terrier’s small body is compact, with a level topline, even when moving. Their strong necks are medium length, blending into their shoulders which are laid back. Their chests are broad and deep and their hindquarters wide and muscular. The elbows are close to the ribs; the hocks are positioned low on their short, powerful legs. They have round feet with black nails and thick foot pads. Feet always point forward. The tails are docked, but long enough to grab. They carry their tails erect, the base of the tail staying level with the dog’s topline.
Note: Policies regarding tail docking are changing in countries, other than Canada and the United States. In the United Kingdom docking is only for working dogs, not pets or show dogs. In some countries it is illegal because it does pose a risk to the dog, in particular to the back.
Norwich Terriers are brave, affectionate, and intelligent. Spirited and curious, despite being one of the smallest of the terriers, they do not want to be lap dogs. This breed has an easier disposition than most of the other terrier types; they are not yappy and enjoy being playful and funny. They make great family dogs or companions and get along well with children and with other cats and dogs. However they do still require socialization with children and other pets. Because of their ratting instinct, they are dangerous around small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, or hamsters.
They are eager to work and have a high energy level, so it is essential you provide your dog with a lot of activity. They like to chase balls, toys, or sticks that you throw. They need an hour of exercise every day, including a walk. Norwich Terriers are curious about everything, so they need to be kept leashed or in a fenced area when exercised.
According to Coren’s rankings of breed intelligence, the Norwich Terrier falls into the above average working dog category. Generally they are easy to train, because they are bright and eager to please. But they are also independent thinkers; if you do not maintain strong leadership with them, your dog may exhibit such dysfunctional behaviors as jealousy and territorial guarding or separation anxiety. Norwich Terriers can be hard to housebreak, but keep in mind they are sensitive to scolding. Patience and consistent, firm leadership will be required to train your puppy.
Norwich Terriers adapt easily to their environment and can live well in an apartment, a house, or in the country. But they will not fare well if confined to a kennel or left outside much of the time; they need to be with their people. If left outside too often or too long, they may turn into barkers or diggers.
The Norwich Terriers’ coats require regular stripping, at least twice a year in the fall and spring. Stripping removes the oldest hair and not only keeps their coats looking good, but helps maintain healthy skin and hair. Use a steel comb daily, or at least once a week, to prevent matting and remove loose or dead hair. Norwich Terriers are light shedders and their coats should not be cut. Bathe only as needed.
Norwich Terriers are a hardy breed, with an average lifespan between twelve to sixteen years. In May, 2011, Magda Omansky, NTCA Health Chair, began conducting a survey in conjunction with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, on health issues in Norwich Terriers. The survey targets breeders and owners.
Some Norwich Terriers are prone to Epelieptoid Cramping Syndrome, or epilepsy. Research studies are being conducted at the University of Helsinki, Finland, to isolate the gene mutations causing epilepsy in Norwich Terriers. The research team is headed by Dr. Hannes T. Lohi and continues through December 31, 2011. Prior research from collected samples of 260 Norwich Terriers, 53 of whom have epilepsy, indicate all the Norwich Terriers with the disorder descend from the same dog, within five or six generations.
Upper Airway Syndrome, or UAS, is also a concern for the breed. UAS is the chronic obstruction of the airways resulting in oxygen deprivation. The University of Zurich is conducting a study of UAS in dogs beginning January, 2001, and concluding in December 2011. In 2005 the same university conducted a study of UAS specifically in Norwich Terriers. The results were not published and not available in English. October 6, 2011, the NTCA held their Third Annual Health Seminar. The topic was The Genetic Study of Upper Airway Syndrome in Norwich Terriers. Dr. Schoenebeck, a Postdoctorate Fellow in the National Human Genome Research Institute, Cancer Genetic Branch, from the National Institute of Health, spoke on the subject.
Other issues that have been reported in Norwich Terriers include: