Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teddy Roosevelt's Dog Skip

Skip with Roosevelt on bear hunting trip. Skip liked to ride.

Today is Teddy Roosevelt's 152 birthday, and so I am going to put up some posts celebrating the life and dogs of one of our nation’s greatest presidents.

First up is this picture of Skip, presented to Roosevelt by John Goff during his bear-hunting trip with Goff and his hounds.  Check this link out for more pictures of Skip, hounds, bears and Roosevelt on the trip

For the record, the dog known as the "Teddy Roosevelt Terrier" has nothing to do with Teddy Roosevelt, Skip or anything else other than dog dealing. The story here appears to be that folks with short-legged rat terriers wanted to show their dogs in the UKC, and so they looked back in history to find a famous American dog they could claim as the progenitor of "their" breed.

In fact, as the picture above makes clear, Skip had long legs and was basically a black and tan with a tail that was docked too short. He did not have erect ears (as most Teddy Roosevelt and Rat Terriers do today), and the only white on his body was a blaze on his chest. In short, he has nothing to do with the so-called "Teddy Roosevelt Terrier"!

The Teddy Roosevelt Terrier is described in Wikipedia as being a hunting dog dog, but this is nonsense. The Teddy Roosevelt terrier is a back-of-the-pet-shop mutt that has been promoted to a "breed" in the UKC where cocking up fabricated terrier histories and new terrier breeds have become a kind of sport.

Of course dog dealers have been doing this sort of thing since the beginning, so it's no surprise that it is being done now.

As in all things dogs, caveat emptor!


retrieverman said...

Skip looks to be a bit bigger than the typical feist or rat terrier I see. However, I've known several that were over 30 pounds.

There is a short-legged strain of feist, the bench-legged. Some are like rat terriers with short legs that are crooked like we used to see in Dachshunds. I had one that looked a lot like a dachshund with double-dewclaws on the hind legs.

We thought she was part doxie, until I did some research on cur and feist breeds.

So there is a short-legged feist, just not a short-legged rat terrier.

Henry Chappell said...

Skip looks like a feist. That's a pretty general type, but most have flop ears, docked tails and weigh between 20 and 30 pounds.

Doug said...

So I shouldn't put anything out there advertising my Kill Devil Terrier?


sassanik said...

Obviously related to Jack Russels ;-) as our Jack Russel mix loved to ride horses, she happily sat by herself or on someones lap riding the horse around.

We have very understanding horses.

HurricaneDeck said...

You knew I'd be on this, right?

TRTs are an offshoot of Rat Terriers - I don't know anyone who would say otherwise. They have been around as long as Rat Terriers have been.

I don't know of ANY breeder that promotes TRTs as the SAME dogs that Teddy Roosevelt owned - just that there are pictures of him with bench-legged dogs, and the standard even reads "The short-legged Rat Terriers developed a devoted following and were named in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt, who was once thought to have owned these ratters."

How is that the same as claiming Skip as "the progenitor of "their" breed?"

In UKCI, which accepted the breed in 1936, there were two types of Rat Terriers - Type A - the long legged type, and Type B - the short legged type. Many old time Rat Terrier breeders will still claim that they breed Type As.

When the time came for the Rat Terrier to be accepted into UKC (1997), UKC would not accept that shorter legged dog into the standard - basically they said either pick Type A or Type B, but not both.

The Type B folk had to go their own way and make up their own standard, which is pretty much the same as the Rat Terrier standard except for height/length ratios.

Both UKC standard for the Rat Terrier and the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier readily admit that the dogs were descended from a plethora of other breeds - so I don't know that calling a TRT a "back-of-the-pet-shop mutt" without calling the RT the same.

And as soon as the early 90s, there were some Type A breeders that were still refining the breed with a mixture of Smooth Fox, Manchester, and Smooth JRTs - with the blessings of the UKCI. One of my dogs' pedigrees has a Manchester in it in full view 4 generations back. Nothing to hide there!

Mutts? How many breeds started as a mutt? How many years of refining that particular breed of dog until it is no longer a mutt? Any answer is fine by me - but I wouldn't trade them for the world.

The Dog House said...

Reminds me of a friend of mine - her father adores her dog and takes her as many places as possible. She`s an ACD GSD mix and looks more like a coyote crossed with a dingo.

People were coming up so frequently to ask him *what is she* that he got tired of saying *a DOG* and just started making up names. I think the last I heard he was calling her a Peruvian Mountain Climber, although there have been hundreds of variations.

PBurns said...

YES, all dogs are mutts, but also YES, there has been a real push to say Teddy Roosevelt developed the rat terrier in general and the Teddy Roosevel terrier in particular. Neither story is true.

I too find it amusing that contrived histories are cocked up all the time for all the dogs, and I have gone so far as to write down a few "fake histories," complete with fake footnotes to mock the practice.

See > the Kill Devil Terrier, for example at >>

Somewhere on here there is also mention of the Shenandoah Mountain Cur and a few others. ;)


HurricaneDeck said...

I tried to use my Google-Fu to find where Teddy is credited as developing the Rat Terrier - and all I can find is that he is credited with coining the phrase "Rat Terrier." So I am not certain where the real push is coming from - certainly not anyone I have heard of... if you out 'em, most of the community will be on them.

I know one researcher in particular who tried to find out who first started calling them Rat Terriers, and she could not find a reliable source. Seems that no one wanted to use the generic "feist" so the somewhat unappealing name Rat Terrier stuck. It is definately not as sexy as, well, all other terrier names! There was a very small contingent of people who wanted to rename them the American Terrier, but it fizzled pretty quickly.

I used to have Three Legged Yellow-bellied Eastern Wyoming Pot Hounds that were $5,000 each... seems that if you put an ad in a major newspaper for dogs you get someone from India calling you about your dogs and how they can help you sell them. I felt kinda bad that they never really caught on that I was pulling their leg.

PBurns said...

Teddy Roosevelt did not name the rat terrier -- the name precedes him by many decades as a search of old online texts will reveal -- and he did not own a rat terrier.

In short, anytime you have the words "rat terrier" and "Roosevelt" next to each other, a a story and an association are being made that is NOT true. I have even been told, in the past, that no one knows what Skip looked like. Not true!


HurricaneDeck said...

I wasn't clear - I meant that I cannot find a push to recognize him as the progenitor of the breed - either the Rat or the TRT. I can only find that he coined the term (and, as noted above, incorrect.)

You are right when you say that the term "rat terrier" has been around for ages. "Rat Terrier" is fairly recent history.

Kyra said...

Our "rat terrier" Pico flattens his usually upright ears when you talk to him and/or when he is doing something tricky - like stepping from one horse's arse to another. (Or checking out the dining room table). So I don't think one can tell from one photo of a dog whether it has upright ears or floppy ears all the time. We have had a couple of rescue Jacks with one ear that did not break over all the time but would shoot upright when they were excited or interested in something.
- Russell Rescue OWII

Sue said...

It is annoying, this proclivity toward making up fanciful histories for dog breeds. Rat Terriers and feists are pretty much from the same stock, though with ratties they started selecting for upright or semi-prick ears. And there's a lot of noise made about how they were developed for pit-rat gambling, as though today's rat terriers descend in a direct and 'pure' line from the dogs used for that odious past-time 200 years ago. Some ratties do enjoy going to ground, and they will certainly dispatch rats, but I think they have more of the squirrel-dog behind them than earth dog. I've got one who is always looking into the trees and will follow my gaze upward with great excitement. The other one is more nose to the ground. They're 'purebreds' with a mutty background, smart and fun, with an off switch that I appreciate, and I love 'em.

T. said...

I've posted to this subject before years back when I encountered information on the American Rat Terrier here that was inaccurate.

TR being credited with naming the Rat Terrier is recent history - as stated the term 'rat terrier' had been in use hundreds of years before TR and in TR's hey day Manchester terriers -aka RAT terriers - were very much in vogue. TR did not coin the term, he certainly did not name the breed, and the shorter legged offshoot of the rat terrier breed has simply run with the bit with this manufactured history.

I've personally contacted the White House historical folks to verify that there was never an infestation of rats (thus, as the manufactured history goes, requiring TR to use his ratting dogs to rat the white house basement and thus giving rise to the name of the breed) and have shared my findings with online TR groups to verify the truth and end this myth.

It’s a great story - TR named the breed the Rat Terrier because he ratted the white house with them -but it simply is not true.

What IS true is that the shorter legged type "B" rat terriers are NOT mutts. They were called rat terriers until UKC required them to be excluded from the breed because of their different leg lengths. They are purebred rat terriers, but now called by this other manufactured name and shown under such.

Dan Moore said...

To clarify on some of the points already made. Roosevelt could not have coined the name because as mentioned it's use to denote the Black and Tan Terrier was used since at least the 1850's or even before.

In the Feb 28th 1850 edition Joseph Shuman of Philadelphia ran an add calling all "Rat Terriers" to a show in which he purchased the "The largest collection of Rats ever nestled together" for a baiting contest "in order to advance the breed called Rat Terrier." The event was to be held on Saturday March 2nd. Entry was free for all dogs under 22 pounds.

This predates Roosevelt's birth by 8 years.

As stated almost all "Rat Terriers" of this early period were Black and Tan Terriers, now known as Manchester Terriers. This is evidence by several old hunting magazines, books and even National Geographic Magazine in vol. 35/36 pages 237 and 243 in 1919.

There is no hard evidence that Roosevelt had Rat Terriers of the modern sense but he did own Manchesters. The only dog ever mentioned as killing rats in the White House while Roosevelt was there was a dog called Scamp. Scamp is never described by the Roosevelts but is mentioned as not only killing rats in the basement but also chasing squirrels in the yard. This dog is not to be confused with Skip, the aforementioned Black and Tan feist given by Jon Goff.

In all the newspaper clippings I have gathered there is one mention of a Rat infestation but who was called in to rid the White House of the rats was a professional exterminator C.M. Barclay who used ferrets and two little "rat dogs" to kill the rats. See Washington Post 18th March 1906 page 2. There is no mention of what these "rat dogs" were but there is mention of a Bulldog named General Lee used to carry in the baskets.

I suspect that it is this mention of these two dogs and the aforementioned Scamp that got convoluted and therefore the early Rat Terrier breeders like the Kellers out of Kansas "elaborated" on the history. I know in the Keller's history brochure from the 1970's they do mention this supposed relationship.

Another breeder and contemporary of the Keller's, Jimi Valentine from the Shreveport area, doesn't make this supposed leap nor talks much of this history other than his own childhood history with the breed from the 1920's.

There are many instances of these Black and Tan terriers being bred to Beagles and I personally would believe this scenario being the founding breeds used to create the modern rat terrier and with the popularity of Bench Legged Beagles at the time, the bench legged variety as well.

It's seen in several Rat Terrier breeder brochures from the 70's and 80's that both varieties existed and both were bred without thought of leg phenotype and morphology.

So the most plausible explanation is the short legged Rat Terrier now called the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier has existed as long as and right along side of the current Rat Terrier.

It wasn't until the Rat Terrier Club of America was formed in 94 that the types were separated into the two breeds. The Rat Terrier Club of America whose aim was to promote the Rat Terrier and it's offshoot and founding club for the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier called the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier Club of America whose aim was to promote the short legged variety. Well in more accurate terms, to give those whose dogs no longer were accepted by these Rat Terrier breeders and it's club to have a club of their own. Both clubs shared the same mailing address and even the same secretary.