History of the Breed

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 named Charles (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 (right) appeared to take his type from Jack, his sire, whilst Nell (left below) 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 right) . 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.

( Shown above – a Bedlington Terrier from the early 1900s ).
* ‘brown’ is not a recognised colour in the modern Staffordshire Bull Terrier 

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.

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 left) 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)

The Beginning of a Show Breed

Following Kennel Club recognition in 1932, the breed was scheduled first at Richmond Championship Show, where fourteen dogs were entered with Best of Breed going to Mrs. Fagan’s ‘Smudge’, a dark grizzle and tan prick-ear (also described as black-backed by Mrs. Fagan ). There were no Challenge Certificates on offer for the breed and the judge was Mr. Ernest Hertz. Smudge, a grandson of Mrs. Fagan’s foundation bitch,’Brownie’, later became an important sire.

The first champion in the breed, Ch. Biffin of Beaufin, attaining his title in 1935 when The Kennel Club allocated Challenge Certificates to the breed for the first time, was owned by Mrs. E. Mainwaring, who liked her terriers to have their ears dropped and, as Biffin wanted to prick his ears, it was said she weighted them to keep them down!

Biffin has had an influence on the breed as a whole, both ear types being able to trace back to him. His maternal granddam, Midge (not only unregistered, but pedigree unknown) was behind a number of early winners. Mrs. Guy Blewitt, another early breeder, tried very hard to find out more about the influential ‘Midge’, but without success. The postcard which she received in answer to her query from Midge’s owner.Mr. W. Ross, and bearing the clear postmark of 2nd. August 1932, survives to this day in the Norfolk Terrier Club of Great Britain archives. Midge was eleven years old at that time, but her owner had never been able to trace her pedigree.

The First Champion in the breed

(Dog) Drop-ear, born 15th. May 1932
Breeder: The Hon. Mrs. Hoare
Owner: Mrs. E. Mainwaring 
Sire: Kein ( sire and dam both unregistered)
Dam: Gyp ( sire: Pepper [unregistered])
(dam: Midge [unregistered ])

Early Breed Standards

The first Breed Standard for Norwich Terriers was drafted by Mr. Jack Read, President of the Norwich Terrier Club and introduced two areas of controversy: one, that the coat should be red and no other colour, and the second, ear-carriage.

The first official Standard is reproduced below 
(complete with original spelling errors).

Standard of points of 
as passed July, 1932, and revised January 1933. 
HEAD. Muzzle, ” foxy,” yet strong ; length about one-third less than a measurement from the occiput to the bottom of the stop, which should be a good one and well defined. Skull wide, slightly rounded with good width between the ears. Ears, if erect, slightly larger than a Cairn’s; if dropped, very neat and small, and CORRECTLY dropped. 
EYES. Very bright, dark and keen. Full of expression. 
TEETH. Strong ; rather large ; closely fitting. 
JAW. Clean, strong, tight lipped. 
NECK. Short and strong ; well set on clean shoulders. 
LEGS. Short; powerful; as straight as is consistent with the short legs at which we aim. Sound bone, feet round, thick pads. 
QUARTERS. Strong, with great powers of propulsion. TAIL. Medium docked, carriage not excessively gay. WEIGHT. 10 to 14 lbs. 11 lbs. being the ideal. 
HEIGHT. 10 to 12 inches at the withers, (not to exceed). 
COLOUR AND COAT. Red, (to include red wheaten), white on the throat a/o chest being allowed. Coat as hard and wiry as possible, but lies much closer to the body than a Cairn’s, and is absolutely straight. It is longer and rougher on the neck and shoulders, in winter forming almost a mane. Hair on the head, ears and muzzle, except slight eye- brows, and slight whisker, is absolutely short and smooth. 
GENERAL APPEARANCE. A small, low, keen dog, tremendously active. A perfect demon, yet not quarrelsome, and of a loveable dis­position, and with a very hardy constitution. 
FAULTS. Long weak back, a mouth badly over or under shot, full eye, soft expression. 
DISQUALIFICATIONS. Yellow eyes; soft coat, or wavy, or curly, or silky. A long narrow head; square muzzle; trimming is not desireable, and should be penalized rather than encouraged. Honourable scars from fair wear and tear shall not count against. 

In 1934 the official Standard for Norwich Terriers was revised in that the reference to the colour ‘white’ in the section on Colour and Coat was altered to “white on the throat a/o chest undesirable, but shall not disqualify”.

In 1935 there was a further revision to admit Black and Tan as a colour. After the official recognition of Black and Tan, Mr. Jack Read, the Club President, felt so strongly against the colour that he resigned from the Club.

(Bitch) Prick-ear, born March 1934
The First Prick-ear Bitch Champion
Winner of 11 C.C.s

Sire: Smudge (Burhill Shadow x Bunty , unr.)
Dam: Peggoty (Kein x Gyp) 
Ch. Miss Manette’s dam was a full sister to the first champion, Ch. Biffin of Beaufin

Another very closely bred to Midge’s line was the prick-ear, CH. PONTO THE SAGACIOUS DOG, (pedigree below). It would have been so interesting for us now, in the early years of the 21st. Century, to see a picture of Midge herself and to know her ancestry.

(Dog) Prick-ear, born 3rd. April 1937
Winner of 10 C.C.s
Sire: Barkis ( Bingo of Boxted x Ch. Miss Manette)
Dam: Tatty Coram (Smudge x Peggotty) 
Tatty Coram was a full sister to Ch. Miss Manette

With the advent of shows following Kennel Club recognition ears became all-important, many breeders preferring the prick-ears. Inter-breeding between the two types of ear carriage did continue for a time but, eventually, breeders kept to one or other ear type.

Even in the 1930s the breed had begun to divide and by the end of the 1940s there were very few Norwich, we have been told, with mixed ear carriage in the first two or three generations.

Norwich Terriers Post World War II

The war years had been very difficult for those interested in show dogs. There had barely been enough to sustain the people let alone animals, and, of course, all shows had been suspended for the duration. 

When Championship shows recommenced after the War, the Norwich , going into the show ring untrimmed ( and often ungroomed as well) did not look much like showdogs, but, of the two ear types, it was the prick-ear which began to win most Challenge Certificates and make the most progress.

Miss Marion Sheila Scott McFie, who had joined the Norwich Terrier Club in 1935 and had a personal preference for the drop-ears, bred and showed extensively and successfully before the War, and it was generally acknowledged that it had been largely due to her efforts that the drop-ears were kept going in such strength during the years of World War II. 

By the late 1950s Miss McFie had already begun a campaign to persuade The Kennel Club to give each ear type a separate register within the one breed, but it took until 1964 before the two types actually received separate recognition.

Although the Club had wanted separate registers, The Kennel Club had insisted on two separate breeds being formed, each with its own separate name. It was decided that the more dominant prick-ears should keep the name “Norwich Terrier”, and, after some debate, it was agreed by the Club, and after a Ballot had taken place, that the drop-ears should be known as the “Norfolk Terrier”. 

After the formation of the Norfolk Terrier Club in 1964, the two breeds started on their separate ways.

Prick-ear male, born 15th. August 1955
Winner of 14 C.C.s 

Prick-ear bitch, born 27th. June 1950
Winner of 14 C.C.s 

If you’re interested in having your own norwich terrier, please check also here.