The development of the breed is contested to Great Britain and the United States, with the original Rat Terrier - a cross of Smooth Fox Terrier and Manchester Terrier blood being developed in 1820s Great Britain, and the modern Rat Terrier, as we recognise it today, evolving in America. This version of the Rat Terrier combined Smooth Fox Terrier, Whippet and Beagle blood, with a Beagle being incorporated for hunting ability and colour. From the 1890s onwards, the Rat Terrier was no longer black and tan, but red, in line with its forebear. Primarily bred as an all-purpose farm dog, with a specialism in catching vermin and hunting small game, the Rat Terrier established a concrete reputation for itself as the ultimate reliever of rats, whether around the home or farmstead. With the introduction of chemical pesticides, fewer Rat Terriers were seen on the American farm, although the breed has retained its reputation. Recognised by the AKC in 1999.
A stocky and small-sized breed, boasting a deep chest, strong shoulders, a defined muzzle, high-set ears and powerful legs. The coat is typically short and close-fitting, commonly observed in colours of solid red, sable, chocolate, pearl, black and tan, red brindle, or blue and white. Bred for its working capabilities rather than its appearance, the Rat Terrier is an efficient and athletic-looking dog, boasting no undesirable traits. It is rumoured that within 7 hours, one Rat Terrier had successfully caught and killed 2,501 rats in an American barn, showcasing the breed's dogged hunting ability.
Inherently vigilant to change and threat, the Rat Terrier makes an excellent watch dog. Its prey drive and tendency to chase smaller animals is strong, so early training against this is imperative. Otherwise, the Rat Terrier possesses a friendly, fun-loving temperament that renders it well suited to active family life. In order to discourage destructive behaviours around the home, regular exercise, mental enrichment and human companionship is essential. Despite its varied ancestry, the breed boasts the attitude of a typical Terrier, being inquisitive, energetic, responsive and eager to please. A healthy, fully grown Rat Terrier will weigh in the range of 5.5-16 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. It is not uncommon for the Rat Terrier to outlive this expectancy.
Generally speaking, the Rat Terrier is both hardy and long-lived. Very few health complaints are identified in the breed, and those that are are of a mild nature. Documented cases of patellar luxation and hip dysplasia are numerous, and deafness is prevalent in the breed. Otherwise, the Rat Terrier is relatively low maintenance when it comes to supporting complete health.