The ancestors of the Tenterfield Terrier originated in England. The fox hunters of the day used Fox Terriers and Fox Terrier types, but found they needed a smaller dog to send down the fox hole and to be used generally for hunting vermin.
It is believed smaller Terriers were selected by the 'Terrier men' of the hunt purely on working ability. They did not really care what the dog looked like as long as it could and would enter the hole and bolt the fox or vermin. The dogs coats ranged from smooth through to broken or wiry. But the colour was always predominately white so the dog would not get mistaken as a fox by the hunters and accidentally shot.
Once the dog arrived in Australia, the smooth coated dogs were selected because they were regarded as cleaner when the dogs had to work amongst the dirt and filth that housed the vermin.
The early settlers to Australia brought out these little dogs as a working dog for vermin. The dogs were widely used throughout England and Australia for ratting and rabbiting. Over the next hundred or so years the breed became quite established in Australia as a working terrier and family companion. There was hardly a farm in Australia that did not have at least one of these terriers. There was never a reason for any of these people to develop a breed registry for their beloved breed - they were just loved. Back then the dog was commonly referred to as the "Miniature Fox Terrier".
It is believed these terriers were bred quite extensively in and around northern New South Wales, specifically a place called Tenterfield. A known breeder of this terrier was George Woolnough, the Tenterfield Saddler (Peter Allen's grandfather). Letters written from early Tenterfield residents telling us of how George loved his little terriers and owned "an awful lot".
In the early 1990's a group of interested owners, who wanted to secure the future of this terrier, advertised for interested persons to attend their first meeting. This meeting led to the formation of the Miniature Fox Terrier Club of South Australia. A similar club had been running in New South Wales for some time prior to this. A club was then formed in Western Australia and a breed registry was established soon after, with the first entries being January 1991.
In 1992 it became quite apparent that if we were to eventually have this wonderful little dog recognised by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC), the name "Miniature Fox Terrier" was extremely inappropriate, as the terrier was not a miniaturisation of the Fox Terrier. We, as a club, could understand this valid point, as any link to the Fox Terrier had long since been removed.
After consultation with all club members, moves were made through SA, WA and NSW to instigate a name change for the breed. Numerous ideas were put forward which resulted in a ballot to all members of each club. After much publicity via the media, it was strongly voted by some 85% of returned votes, to embrace the name "Tenterfield Terrier". The establishment of the Tenterfield Terrier Club of Australia Inc took place in January 1993.
The Tenterfield Terrier is a true terrier. His characteristics are that he is strong, active, agile working terrier of great versatility and of a pleasing proportion. He has proven himself without question as a hunter of various forms of vermin, including foxes and of being an extremely loving family pet - he is at home hunting either larger vermin on the land, hunting small vermin around the home and property or curled up on a loving knee in front of a fire. The Tenterfield Terrier is an ideal companion for both children and the elderly alike.
There have been very few breeds of dogs developed in Australia. On 1st January 2002 the Tenterfield Terrier received recognition as a new breed by the ANKC and placed on the development register. From 1st June 2002 keen owners have been showing these dogs in all States of Australia under national and international judges. The Tenterfield Terrier is shown 100% naturally with only minimal grooming required to remove loose hair during the seasonal change of coats.