Origins of the Norwich Terrier in the United Kingdom
© Eileen Needham 2005

Official Recognition of the Norwich Terrier by The Kennel Club took place in 1932.

Present day Norwich ( and Norfolk ) Terriers began life as a Show breed in 1932 when, as the drop and prick-eared Norwich Terrier , the breed was accepted on The Kennel Club Breed Register, but it is interesting to look at the breed's possible evolution.


East Anglia ( shown left ) is that part of England which bulges out into the North Sea. The region is generally flat and low-lying, (many places shown as dotted areas on the map are actually at only sea level ), and contained, at one time, extensive marshes known as "The Fens". These fens were largely drained in the 16th. Century by Dutch engineers. As a result of that the area is covered by a network of canals, known locally as 'drains'. The region extends roughly about 90 miles from north to south, and about the same distance from east to west across the widest part.

There is little in the way of high ground, the highest being the Gog Magog Hills on the Cambridgeshire / Essex borders and extending for a short distance into Suffolk. The highest points in that area just about reach 200m (shown by cross-hatching on the map).

The fertile land of East Anglia forms an important arable farming region, producing most of the country's cereal crops.

Historically, small terrier-type dogs were popular amongst the farming and sporting community in East Anglia to use on rats and other vermin which infested the marshy region and its barns and crop stores. It is possible that some of these were the forerunners of the early Norwich Terrier.

During the 19th. Century it is known that some of the Undergraduates at Cambridge University bought small terriers from a local dog dealer namedCharles (Doggy) Lawrence. Cambridge, too, had plenty of vermin around, situated as it was on the banks of a river, just on the edge of the Fens, and these small terriers, which were often a tan or black and tan colour, were used mainly for catching rats around the Cambridge Colleges which were concentrated between the River Cam and the main street of the town. The dogs became known locally as "Trumpington Terriers", taking the name from the street where many students lived. The origins of those dogs are not really known but there was a suggestion that a small Irish Terrier ( smaller than the present-day breed) and a bigger type of Yorkshire Terrier had been used in their breeding.

Early Breeders.

At about the same time Mr. Jodrell Hopkins, of Trumpington Street, Cambridge, bought a small brindle Aberdeen-type terrier bitch and mated her to a game little red dog of Doggy Lawrence's named 'Jack'. Jack is known to have had a long silky coat. A puppy from that union, 'Rags', was given to a Mr. Jack Cooke, Master of the Norwich Staghounds. Rags was a small red terrier with a shaggy, harsh coat and prick ears (although in those days many terriers had their ears cropped). He was a wonderful worker and an excellent sire.


From one breeding of the 'Aberdeen-type' bitch (shown on the right of the picture) to Jack ( on the left) there were two offspring, a male, Rags, and a bitch, Nell.
Rags (left) appeared to take his type from Jack, his sire, whilst Nell ( right) seemed to have more of the modern Norfolk Terrier about her.


After buying a little red dog, Hopkins concentrated on the red until he evolved a line which, with very few exceptions , bred true to type. The exceptions were always brindle or grizzle, never black and tan.
He had to part with his original bitch as she was, apparently, death on everything, including poultry. It is recorded that her descendants retained her qualities of gameness but had a more amenable temperament, fortunately.
Mr. Lewis (Podge) Low, the son of a local veterinary surgeon, was keen on a good terrier, and owned a smooth-haired, white, prick-eared bitch called 'Ninety' (pictured left) . He had several litters from her sired by Rags. All the puppies were red, some of them being bought by Mr. Frank Jones, First Whip to the Norwich Staghounds. Jones found these terriers to be in great demand amongst the local sporting fraternity, and so he began to breed them himself. Later, when he went to work as a roughrider to a Mr. Stokes of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, he became known as 'Roughrider Jones'.
Roughrider Jones sold his terrier pups far and wide, some being exported to America, where they became known as " Jones Terriers ". In trying to establish the type he wanted, Jones crossed his stock with other terriers he fancied, and one of his sources of supply was the stud groom to Mr. Jack Cooke, Mr. Horace Cole, who had bred several litters out of a small, wire-haired terrier bitch, and sired by one of Cooke's Trumpington Terriers.

Mr. Jack Read ( later to become the Breed Club's first President) bought a puppy in 1909 from a litter by Rags out of Ninety, and he went on to experiment in breeding to get the sort of terrier he wanted, He used a Bedlington from his own Kennel to obtain more drive, and, later, a 'brown'* Staffordshire Bull Terrier from a strain he admired belonging to the Countess of Kimberley to correct the Bedlington coat.

( Shown on the right - a Bedlington Terrier from the early 1900s ).
* 'brown' is not a recognised colour in the modern Staffordshire Bull Terrier

From there, Jack Read crossed to a small type Irish Terrier, and then bred back to Mr. Cooke's strain, eventually producing, in 1929, a dog which was used extensively at stud and which would go on to produce many show winners (both prick and drop-ears ), called 'Horsted Mick', (pictured below) who was himself a prick-ear.

At about the same time Mr. W.E. West began his 'Farndon' line with a bitch from Roughrider Jones and, in 1912, Mrs. Phyllis Fagan also began with a bitch called 'Brownie' whose dam, 'Flossie', red with a black back, was very game. Many famous winners can be traced back to Brownie.

So, the foundations of the show Norwich were being established. There appeared to be no actual planning of a new breed, breeders simply mating their bitches to Rags' line because they liked the type and colour of the offspring. They continued with their efforts to breed true to that type.

However, with so many other breeds and cross-breeds featuring in the background of the Norwich Terrier, it is not surprising that it was difficult to establish the type breeders desired.


Summary of the Breed History by Eileen Needham ©, taken from the following articles and information:

The Early History of the Norwich Terrier: compiled from information supplied by early breeders.
(The Norwich Terrier Club Yearbook 1932 - 1953)

Further light on the possible origin of the Norwich Terrier: by Monica Taylor
Early Days: by Sheila Monckton.
( The Second Norwich Terrier Club Handbook 1960)

The First Twenty-five Years: by Marjorie Bunting.
(An account of the history of the show Norfolk since recognition as a separate breed in 1964)
The Norfolk Terrier Club Handbook 1989)

For an account of the early Show days of the Norwich Terrier click here.

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