Teddy Roosevelt terrier

Teddy Roosevelt terrier.
Teddy Roosevelt terrier.

The Teddy Roosevelt Terrier is a small to medium-sized American hunting terrier. Lower-set with shorter legs, more muscular, and heavier bone density than its cousin the American Rat Terrier. There is much diversity in the history of the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier breed and it shares a common early history with the American Rat Terrier, Fox Paulistinha and Tenterfield Terrier. It is said the Rat Terrier background stems from the terriers or other dogs that were brought over by early English and other working class immigrants. Since the breed was a farm, hunting and utility dog there was little to no planned breeding other than breeding dogs with agreeable traits to each other in order to produce the desired work ethic in the dog. It is assumed that the Feist (dog), Bull Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Whippet, Italian Greyhound, the now extinct English White Terrier, Turnspit dogand or Wry Legged Terrier all share in the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier’s ancestry.[1] These early Ratting Terriers were then most likely bred to the Beagle or Beagle cross bred dogs (for increased scenting ability) and other dogs. Maximizing the influences from these various breeds provides the modern Teddy Roosevelt Terrier with a keen sense of awareness and prey drive, an acute sense of smell and a very high intellect. Although they tend to be aloof with strangers they are devoted companion dogs with a strong desire to please and be near their owners side at all times.

The current UKC standard calls for a Teddy Roosevelt Terrier to range in height between 8 and 15 inches with their weight being proportionate to their height. It is not uncommon to see Teddy Roosevelt Terriers weighing as much as 25 lbs or as little as 8-10 lbs.[2]


Early American history shows that the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, like the Rat Terrier, were often referred to as Feist or just plain terrier mixes. In the case of the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, “bench-legged feist”.[3][4][5]

Being the breed was primarily a farm and hunting dog it was common to see and hear of crossing Rat Terriers to other breeds. One such early cross was with the Beagle and it is very possible it is this cross that reinforced the bench leg since the Bench Legged Beagle was a common hunting companion.[6]

Separating the long legged phenotype from the short legged phenotype in most cases did not occur and it was very common to see litters born from parents of either or both phenotypes displaying a variety of leg and body length yet all were still considered and labeled merely as Rat Terriers. In wasn’t until the middle 1990’s that an effort to segregate the types began in earnest but mixing of the two types in some cases still exists today.

When the types were separated by the Rat Terrier Club of America the short legged variety was named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, although he never owned Rat Terriers nor was he instrumental in developing the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier. The dog most attributed to being one of the foundations for the Rat Terriers was a black and tan mixed bred feist type dog owned by the Roosevelts. In one of his letters to his children President Roosevelt writes “There is a very cunning little dog named Skip, belonging to John Goff’s pack, who has completely adopted me. I think I shall take him home to Archie. He likes to ride on Dr. Lambert’s horse, or mine, and though he is not as big as Jack, takes eager part in the fight with every bear and bobcat.”[7] Often confused with Skip the black and tan feist, the Roosevelts also had a dog named Scamp. Scamp is the only dog mentioned in Roosevelt’s letters as ever hunting rats while in the White House, “Scamp is really an extraordinary ratter and kills a great many rats in the White House, in the cellars and on the lower floor and among the machinery. He is really a very nice little dog.” [7] Unfortunately there are no pictures of Scamp nor descriptions other than one which describes him as a Fox Terrier.[8] Another Terrier which often is confused with the Rat Terrier was Roosevelt’s dog named Jack. In Mr. Roosevelt’s letter dated July 27, 1902 to Mrs. Roswell Field he writes, “It is a real pleasure to send you a photograph of my boy Kermit, with Jack, the Manchester Terrier, who is absolutely a member of the family.” Indicating Jack was a Manchester Terrier, not a Rat Terrier.

The first Standard for the breed was developed by the now defunct Teddy Roosevelt Terrier Club of America in 1996.[2] There are currently several registration organizations all of which have their own standard but the most commonly accepted is the United Kennel Club [9] and the United Kennel Club International.[10] Although the UKCI still only recognizes them as a variation of the Rat Terrier.

In 1999 both “Rat Terrier” and “Teddy Roosevelt Terrier” were accepted as a separate breeds by the United Kennel Club.[9]

Currently, the UKC accepts Single Teddy Roosevelt Terrier Registration Applications for dogs from 10 different registries where they are simply designated as “Rat Terriers.” [1]. (Wikipedia)

A list of all the dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club:

























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