At Least Westminster’s Wire Fox Terrier Isn’t Inbred

GCH Afterall Painting The Sky

Breed: Fox Terrier (Wire) Sex: Bitch
AKC: RN 17023004  Date of Birth: June 18, 2008
Breeder: A J Pertuit Jr & Betty Seton
Owner: Victor Malzoni Jr & Torie Steele & S & M Olund & D Ryan
Sire: Ch Fyrewyre Fast And Furious  Dam: Fyrewyre Forget-Me-Not

A lot of fair criticism can be leveled at the Wire Fox Terrier winner of Westminster 2014, and not for any specific faults of the nice looking bitch Afterall Painting The Sky that took home Best In Show.

She’s a fox terrier that’s probably never seen a fox, never dug to prey or bolted anything more than a squirrel from a tree in her back yard.  This is a distinction that can likely be said of all of her ancestors back 100 years and is a simple reality of what dog showing is.  Dog shows don’t select “working” dogs and really, there’s not much demand for a fox hunting dog anyway. Certainly less demand than there is for a pampered dog that LOOKS somewhat like a dog that hunted fox a century ago in a country thousands of miles away.  This, too, is a simple reality of the modern era.  Moan all you want, the fru-fru fox terrier hasn’t doomed working terriers, lack of real work has.

The win wasn’t a big surprise.  The Westminster Kennel Club has awarded more BIS wins to Fox Terriers than any other breed and when they first started giving out “Best In Show” awards in 1907 they awarded them to a Smooth Fox Terrier for the first four years.  Thereafter the Wire Fox Terrier, an artificial breed division based solely on the type of coat, reigned supreme.  They took home BIS in 1915, 1916, 1917, 1920, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1937, 1946, 1966, 1992, and now in 2014.  That’s 14 wins for Wire Fox Terriers, more than any other breed by a wide margin, the next best performer coming in at 8 wins for the Scottish Terrier.

It’s a rather common criticism that Westminster is a “Terrier” show, and really has been since the start. The Terrier group has won 46 times, Sporting 19, Working group 15 (3 wins for what are now Herding group dogs), Toy 11, Non-sporting 10, Hound 5, and Herding 1.

These distorted numbers invalidate the promise of what a dog show is supposed to determine: comparing individual dogs against their breed standards.  The odds are just astronomical that such a strong bias would exist if there were a level playing field.  And heck, if we believed the farce that the entire point of breeding to these standards is to produce animals fit for work, I’ll point out that the Herding group, which clearly has the greatest claim on animals still being used for their original purpose, has but 1 win and that comes from a German Shepherd Dog owned by a Firestone heiress: a breed that’s never actually been used widely for shepherd work!

One breed has won more than twice of any other breeds and the Terrier group has won more than twice any other group.  Now, count how many people you know who USE a terrier for some sort of work.  Sure, there are people who find excuses to exercise their pet terriers in work-like-things that are better called hobby sports (and recall that fox hunting used to be a sport for the rich aristocracy and the terrier men were there as paid help, it wasn’t a sport for them, they were on the clock).  Do know even a single person who needs a terrier as a tool for doing a work activity that is not done simply to pantomime what other people did in the past?  Do they get paid for this work?  File a tax return as a business?  Didn’t think so.

Adding to the superficial nature of the breed, the “Wire” Fox Terrier is an example of a breed that was created for no other purpose than to divide an already fine breed into separate breeds, crush diversity (we can’t have two different coat styles in one breed!), and award more ribbons.  It’s perfectly acceptable to show types to create a new breed by dividing a gene pool on some superficial metric, creating  two smaller gene pools and driving up the background inbreeding and further limiting the sorts of matings that can take place and diversity that can exist in a breed.  It’s NOT acceptable, apparently, to create a new breed by mixing two older breeds.

The dog world is full of these rather arbitrary splits: Rough and Smooth Collies are divided by a coat length, Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers are divided by a coat length, Great Danes are divided into “families” by coat colors and few breed between families creating de facto breeds, Belgian Sheepdogs are divided into the Groenendael, Tervuren, and Malinois over coat and superficial characteristics, etc.

Despite the new claims that the breeds were developed separately (the same has been claimed of Corgis which has been disproven by DNA), the Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers were once the same breed and the division by coat style is actually ill conceived as the ideal wire coat was only maintained by admixture between smooth and wire haired dogs.  It was a moderately wire coat versus the rather abundant and long softer wire coat we see today.

By placing an artificial barrier between the two varieties, the ability to keep the wire coat in check was lost and much like what happened with the Rough Collie, an over-abundant and high maintenance coat has replaced a moderate and effective working coat, and there’s really no means to rein that back in, as breeders can now only help but doubling down on more and more coat.

Not that it matters, though, it’s just another affect of the show world creating high maintenance hairballs out of once moderate and rough and ready dogs.  But it’s not like there are gussied up equestrians in blood red coats bemoaning their lost fox terriers.

One small consolation, which might come as a surprise as I have often criticized the carefree and wanton use of continued inbreeding to produce winning dogs, Afterall Painting The Sky is not very inbred at all in her recent pedigree. In fact, decidedly less so than both of the Border Collies who won at Westminster this year.

I’ve filled in a pedigree complete to 6 generations (and a bit further when I could find the information) and found the COI to be only 3.84%


Sky’s first sign of inbreeding comes in on the great grandparent level. Where an outcrossed individual would have 8 unique great grandparents, Sky has 7.

AfterAll_Painting_the_Sky_pedigree_chartWhile it’s almost certain that looking at more generations would result in much higher COI numbers, this dog’s recent breeding is not overly tight and focused on a small number of dogs.

It would most certainly be healthy and productive to remove the barriers from breeding Smooth to Wire Fox Terriers, and it would be even more healthy and diversity supporting to open the stud books and allow breeders the freedom to use modern knowledge and possibly a small but steady stream of other breeds to keep the Fox Terrier gene pool healthy and large.  Closed stud books and closed gene pools are toxic.  But until that day comes, at least the people behind this winning bitch didn’t give in to the lure of kennel blindness and mindless devotion to the inbreeding cult to produce their winning bitch.

And it’s very sad that both of the Border Collies at Westminster had higher COIs.


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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.