|Photo: Miniature Fox Terrier pup and adult in rural New South Wales, Australia. May 1957|
Although the origins of the breed are English, the breed was developed in and is endemic to Australia. It is akin to the Toy Fox Terrier, a breed that developed along similar lines in the United States. Some Toy Fox Terrier owners can trace their dogs' pedigrees to "Foiler", the first Fox Terrier registered by the Kennel Club in Britain, circa 1875-6, and although to date no such credentials have turned up for Miniature Fox Terriers in Australia, the similarities between the two breeds support the idea that they had the same source, British fox terriers of the 19th Century. They are not alone in this; other related breeds include the Jack Russell Terrier, the Rat Terrier, and the Tenterfield Terrier.
Miniature Fox Terriers most likely originated when smaller fox terrier types were crossed with Manchester Terriers, and, later, to other toy breeds such as the English Toy Terrier. Hunters were seeking a smaller, speedy fox terrier that could be used for hunting smaller pests such as rats and rabbits. Such dogs were brought to Australia by settlers; one MFCA breeder can trace the breeding of Mini Fox Terriers by her family back to the days of settlement. By the late 1800s, the breed type was clearly identifiable, where the Little Fox Terrier proved its worth against rabbits, rats, and snakes on Australian farms. The mortality rate of these little dogs must have been extremely high and it is a tribute to their hardiness that the breed survived. Miniature Fox Terriers demonstrated tenacity, endurance, and extreme loyalty to their owners; the dogs were routinely taken on the hunt, were sometimes used in search parties, and were used at Sydney's North Head Quarantine Station as vermin exterminators.
The dog's vigilance, size, affectionate temperament, and ease of care resulted in it becoming a popular choice in urban households as well; they were well established by the 1920s and by the 1950s the Miniature Fox Terrier was iconic. So well known and popular was the "Little Foxie" that very little thought was given to the need to preserve its lines.
By the 1980s, the interest in dog fancy, the looming spectre of proposed breed-specific legislation, and increasing concerns about the need to protect purebred dogs led a group of enthusiasts to begin meeting informally to consider the future of these little dogs. In 1986 the Miniature Fox Terrier Club of Australia was formed. The founding members sought advice from senior members of the Royal NSW Canine Council and a breed standard was then developed for the breed (see "About the MFCA").
APPEARANCE. This is a balanced, smoothly-muscled dog breed; its head is distinctive, with erect ears that can stand straight up or fold at the tips. It has expressive dark eyes and a wedge shaped head. An important distinguishing feature is its articulate, oval-shaped foot. The breed standard has always allowed for the dog's tail to be docked or undocked however owners in Australia cannot have the tails docked by choice. In the case of injury only a veterinarian can legally attend to the tail. Natural bobtails are known to occur in this breed and club shows today cater for both the long tailed and bobtailed dogs. There are only three permitted colour combinations: black and white, tan and white, and tricolour (black, white, and tan). The coat of the Miniature Fox Terrier is always short and fine (see the Breed Standard).
THE MINIATURE FOX TERRIER TODAY. The popularity of the Miniature Fox Terrier is growing internationally, but they are still relatively unknown outside of Australia. The "Little Foxie" is renowned in its native land. Several parliamentarians made reference to this breed during legislative hearings on canine issues. ‘Pasqua' and ‘Fergus' owned by Anthony Field of The Wiggles, are Mini Foxies, and Ian Thorpe, the Australian Olympic swimmer, has spoken fondly of Tiny, his Miniature Fox Terrier, in several interviews.
Today, the Miniature Fox Terrier is still very much the working terrier and is in great demand on rural properties across Australia. They are also extremely popular as pets and enjoy playing the pampered pooch. As long as their active minds are kept stimulated with games or toys and they receive at least moderate exercise, they make excellent urban and apartment dwellers. They are fantastic companions and thrive on a loving relationship with their devoted human owners.
If you are thinking that you would like a pup of this breed, please plan ahead. Today, prospective owners usually face a wait before a pup can be made available to them, particularly if they are hoping for a female pup. Litters in this breed are small in number (the average litter has 3 or 4 pups only) and there is a limited number of registered breeders in Australia. Bitches are mostly bred on alternate seasons, but sometimes there can be a couple of years between litters. Male pups often dominate the litters. Often there are people on a waiting list for a pup, so breeders sometimes do not have to advertise the fact that pups have arrived. You may not find a breeder in your immediate area and you may need to liaise with a breeder in another state or territory. It is wise to think ahead and make contact with a registered breeder who is listed on the club's website. Visit the breeder if you can, or ask about the parent dogs ... and be prepared to wait patiently until nature can deliver.
"What are the differences between the Miniature Fox Terrier and the Tenterfield Terrier?"
There are clear differences in the breed standards of the two breeds and an individual dog cannot be matched to both of the breed standards because of these differences.
The principal differences are in the shape of the feet (a difference which can affect the function of the dog) and in the colours that are allowed in each of these breeds, both in the coat markings and the nose. Also from the breed standards: the Miniature Fox Terrier has a small sized skull; the Tenterfield Terrier has a medium sized skull.
The then Tenterfield Terrier Club of Australia (TTCA) authorised the shape of the feet of the Tenterfield Terrier as "round" in shape in January 1999, in consultation with the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) and round shaped feet became a permanent feature of the Tenterfield Terrier. Terriers with round shaped feet are strong legged terriers which traditionally were required to dig and to flush animals out of earth; the feet and legs must be of strong bone for this purpose. Round shaped feet on well bred Jack Russell Terriers and Tenterfield Terriers are distinctly different to the narrow, oval shaped feet of the Miniature Fox Terrier.
The oval shaped foot (also known as a "semi-hare" foot) of the Miniature Fox Terrier is important and is directly related to the function of the dog. The foot and the pastern - the area immediately above the foot which is akin to a wrist in a human - is narrow, is highly articulate and flexible, and is linked to speed and function. The oval footed Miniature Fox Terriers are lightweight ratters that can pounce on their prey with great speed and accuracy, can leap and turn speedily and accurately seize their prey. Their narrow and very flexible pasterns allow them to groom their face and ears delicately, in a cat-like manner, and also to scratch vermin out of nooks and crevices, but not dig deeply into the earth. Only three other breeds of terrier in the world appear to have the oval (semi-hare) shaped foot - the English Toy Terrier, the Manchester Terrier and the Toy Fox Terrier, and this feature needs to be preserved in the Miniature Fox Terrier.
COLOUR. The colours in the skin and hair of a dog can relate to the genetic inheritance of the dog. If non-standard colours are present this can be an indication that other breeds of dogs may have been used in the bloodlines of this dog. Miniature Fox Terriers can be registered only in three (3) colour combinations: a) black/white, b) tan/white, c) black/tan/white. The body of the dog should be predominantly white and the colour should not extend past the hock. Tenterfield Terriers also have these colour combinations but in addition, liver coloured markings and brindle markings are allowed. Brindle and liver coloured markings are not acceptable for registration with the Mini Foxie Club of Australia as they are known to be colours of other breeds. Other colours such as blue or fawn are also not allowed. The dog must be predominantly white on the body - a full coloured coat can also be an indication of other breeds in the background. If the different colours of other breeds were to be allowed to creep into the gene pool of purebred Miniature Fox Terriers, there is a risk that other traits of those breeds would also be introduced; hence only the three original colour combinations of black, white and tan, are allowed.
NOSE. Miniature Fox Terriers have black coloured noses. Tenterfield Terriers are allowed to have liver coloured noses on dogs with liver coloured markings. Liver coloured noses are not permitted in registered Miniature Fox Terriers for the following reasons:
a) a black nose has full pigment and therefore has good protection from the UV rays of the sun; b) it is thought that black noses have specific use relative to a dog's sense of smell and that strong pigment is important, although what exactly the pigment does is not clear. There are no benefits to the gene pool of Miniature Fox Terriers for liver coloured noses to be allowed in this breed and there is a risk of weakening some of the features in little dogs that are, by instinct, small hunting terriers of hardy disposition.