HISTORY of the Old Dominion Terrier
UKCI (Universal Kennel Club International) was the first registry to recognize the Rat Terrier as a purebred and accept them as a recognized Purebred breed in 1936.
The Rat Terrier is a well known farm dog as far back as anybody can remember but their numbers started dwindling in the 1950's when modernization of farms turned more to chemical/poison varmint control thus the need for less varmint type dogs. A few breeders still had small packs of these wonderful dogs but the gene pool was declining to very small numbers. In an attempt to revitalize the dog and it's numbers, the crossing of these dogs with the Toy Fox, Miniature Pinscher, Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound and Beagle breeds was acceptable practice from the '70's until January 1, 1998 when UKCI officially stopped registering any dog as a Rat Terrier that was a known cross thus closing the UKCI Rat Terrier stud books to known crosses. Although they no longer allowed known crosses to be registered as Rat Terriers from that point, to this day they still allow hardship registration of dogs that have the appearance of the Rat Terrier so it's anybody's guess as to what breeds are now part of the Rat Terrier breed. Those who state otherwise are truly lacking in knowledge about the Rat Terrier.
During the 1970s, Milton Decker, a hunting enthusiast, had purchased a dog of mixed ancestry from the Lindseth family in Oregon claiming it was a Fox Terrier, even though it looks more of a spaniel mix . The dog, named Henry, was the start of Milton Decker's breeding program mixing this dog in with Rat Terriers, a breed whose look he liked. Milton worked with other breeders such as Kenny Keller from Kansas, Lorena Jones and E.C. Allen in TX but he worked more closely with Rosalie Rinnear.
Because there was a need for larger dogs at the time, this made way for breeding and retaining the large size
** WE SHOULD NOTE THAT MILTON DECKER DID NOT TRULY CREATE A LARGER DOG ** As per the history written in The Decker Terrier book by Eli Brown, Mr. Decker bought larger dogs from other breeders to 'create' his line or variation. When Basenji was added to the mix, this allegedly set erect ear type. Knowing that Mr. Decker is an avid hunter, the question here is whether the Basenji was truly added for their ear set or for their hunting ability. We already know that there were many Rat Terrier and Feists that already had erect ears at that time. It is well-known that many of the Rat Terrier purists are against the Decker line of 'Rat Terrier' not so much that a purebred Basenji was added but that a dog of questionable and undocumented pedigree (Henry) was added.
At this point, rumors have been said that other breeders may have used Basenji in their breeding programs as well. It is inconceivable that the Basenji look, with the wrinkled foreheads and wedged foxy faces, came from just one breeding alone.
One other thing that must be mentioned is that the Decker breeding experiments were not consistent. Dogs from that bloodline run the gamut in looks and size. Truth be known, Mr. Decker was set on breeding his perfect hunting dog rather than breeding for the betterment of the Rat Terrier breed. However way it happened (either by circumstance or by purposeful deception), these dogs got registered as 'purebred' Rat Terriers. When both Milton Decker and his friend, Tim Brown, retired from breeding these bastardized Rat Terriers, it took another breeder, Kim Seegmiller, to set type and size of the Decker line. It was Kim who searched for the last of the best of the bloodlines and ended up with what was then called the 'Original 52'. Progeny of the Original 52 were big, buff and with a more gentler temperament for the most part. They were bred for conformation first and function second. When bred to the smaller Rat Terrier they added size, bulk and a more Basenji look with a wedged face.
Sadly, at the height of their popularity, there was a great rift between the hunters and the show people. Many hunters are against any type of dog registry and claim the AKC and UKC ruin dogs and supposedly "the hunt" in the dog is gone. The show people use these registries to help maintain integrity of pedigrees. What hunters don't understand is that both AKC and UKC are simply the record keepers. It is up to the breed club to decide what the standard is along with the temperaments of the dogs. This is all done by vote and agreement from breeders to abide by. Also, many hunters breed their dogs according to what they consider to be 'of good hunt'. By doing so, they are not necessarily breeding purebred dogs, which is why some lines of these larger Rat Terriers look like they may have Pitbull or other breed in them. Because of this rift, Milton Decker was moved to write a letter to the Rat Terrier clubs as well as to the registries asking that his name not be associated with these dogs. At the same time, enthusiasts of these larger dogs have also been getting unfavorable and unwarranted comments from Rat Terrier purists, calling these dogs nothing but mutts and shunning them from the showring by not including the larger, stockier dogs in the breed standard. Ironically, there have been many show breeders who have included these larger dogs in their breeding program and created some spectacular show dogs who fit the current Rat Terrier standard and are now winning in the ring. By doing so, these larger dogs are being bred down and becoming extinct in rapid speed.
Much like the other varieties of Rat Terrier, namely the American Hairless Terrier and the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, these larger "Rat Terriers" need to separate from the Foundation breed and be recognized as a breed of their own. To be considered a separate breed, there has to be a marked differences between the Foundation breed (Rat Terrier) and the variation which we now call the Old Dominion Terrier. Size of over 18 inches and averaging between 35 to 50 pounds is just the first difference. A stocky, muscular body with a regal stature as well as a calmer temperament makes the Old Dominion Terrier worthy of its own recognition as a separate breed.
WHY THE NAME 'OLD DOMINION TERRIER'?
Old Dominion notates that this breed has been in development since the 1800s. The Rat Terrier, as a breed, has their enthusiasts who like a small to medium dog and decided that the development of their ideal dog has been accomplished. Those of us who are enthusiasts and breeders of these larger dogs, we are left in a conundrum.
We are either forced to breed our dogs down to conform to the Rat Terrier standards - thus losing this wonderful variation - or continue breeding the best dogs that are left from the Original 52. Sadly, all of the Original 52 are either too old or have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Seeing other breeders breed to the Rat Terrier produces smaller dogs and polluting the Rat Terrier gene pool with the added Basenji and mutt lines that Decker added. We are happy with the Basenji in our lines as it makes our dogs one of the few breeds that can hunt by both sight and scent. We can't undo the mutt in our lines but we can only move forward from here.
MOVING FORWARD AS OLD DOMINION
For those studying closely, the Rat Terrier tree (pictured above courtesy of the Rat Terrier Club of America) once had larger dogs in their history but more recently focus is on the smaller dogs - some with Chihuahua or Toy Fox Terrier in their lines. WE DO NOT WANT THE CHIHUAHUA OR TOY FOX TERRIER IN OUR LINES.
According to purists, the original Rat Terrier has Bulldog-Old Pitbull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Bulldogge and Mastiff in their background. The Bulldogge was a lost breed when breeders bred a smaller 'sourmug' breed. Although loveable, the current Bulldog has had many physical and medical problems and that's why the recreation of the Bulldogge has also been revitalized with the efforts of breeders now calling them Olde English Bulldogge. The Bulldog-Old Pitbull Terrier of that day is now the American Staffordshire Terrier which is a calmer stockier variety of the gamey American Pitbull Terrier. There are other bully breeders who have also revitalized the Bull and Terrier types and have formed the American Bully Kennel Club which has 4 varieties of American Bullies.
Our efforts to preserve and revitalize the type of 'Rat Terrier' we love is to breed back to American Staffordshires, American Bullies, and Basenji OR FACE A BOTTLENECKING OF GOOD AND BAD GENETICS OF WHAT IS LEFT OF THE ORIGINAL 52. WE ARE NOT CREATING DESIGNER DOGS! WE HAVE A WELL THOUGHT OUT BREEDING PROGRAM AND ARE WORKING WITH OTHER BREEDERS WHO LOVE OUR DOGS AS WE DO AND LOOKING TO THEM SURVIVING IN THE FUTURE.
The photos above are of 2 half sisters. They have the same mother but different fathers. The parents in question are of Decker bloodlines and they were bred at the same kennel. This is the perfect example of how inconsistent the Decker line really is, especially for those who do not know what they are doing. The current Decker lines are now being lost at a rapid pace by those who jumped into the 'Decker fad' trying to make a quick buck. They have no standard to go by nor do they have any vision as to what to breed for.
This is why we say all Old Dominion Terriers are of Decker bloodline but not all Decker bloodline Rat Terriers are of Old Dominion Foundation Stock.
We support Rat Terrier breeders who oppose having the Decker line bred to Rat Terriers. We need to work together to educate people of the differences and that we need to be separated as our own breed.
The photos below are some of the earlier large Rat Terriers
(Click on the pics to enlarge)
(Click on the pics to enlarge)