Manchester Terriers are considered by most to be the oldest of all identifiable terrier breeds, finding mention in works dating from as early as the 16th century. In 1570 Dr. Caius (Encyclopedia of Dogs) gives mention to the 'Black and Tan Terrier,' though he referred to a rougher coated, shorter legged dog than we are now accustomed to.
By the early 1800s a closer facsimile to the current Manchester Terrier had evolved. In The Dog in Health and Disease by J. A. Walsh a full chapter was devoted to the Black and Tan, for the first time recognizing it as an established breed. The description Walsh set forth might, in fact, serve well today: Smooth haired, long tapering nose, narrow flat skull, eyes small and bright, chest rather deep than wide, only true color black and tan.
This breed has maintained consistency in type and appearance for nearly two centuries (at the very least).
In its native England, the Kennel Club (UK) recognizes the Manchester Terrier in the Terrier Group and the closely related English Toy Terrier (Black and Tan) in the Toy Group.
In North America the Manchester Terrier is divided into two varieties. The Toy Manchester Terrier was originally recognized as a separate breed in 1938, bred down in size from the Manchester Terrier. The Toy Manchester Terrier weighs less than 12 pounds and has naturally erect ears, never cropped. It is placed in the Toy Group by the Canadian Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club, although the Manchester Terrier is placed in the Terrier Group. The Manchester Terrier non-toy variety weighs 12 to 22 pounds and has 3 allowable ear types (naturally erect, button, or cropped). Other than size differences and ear type, the Manchester Terrier and the Toy Manchester Terrier have the same over all appearance, and since 1958 have been varieties of the same breed.
HistoryThe following is a brief overview of the breed's history in both its native England and America:
The early 1800s saw times of poor sanitation in England. Rats soon became a health menace and rat killing became a popular sport. John Hulme, enthusiastic devotee of the sport of rat killing and rabbit coursing, crossed a Whippet to a cross bred terrier to produce a tenacious, streamlined animal infinitely suited to the sport. (Perhaps the Whippet influence explains the unusual topline of the Manchester still required today). This cross proved so successful that it was repeated, resulting in the establishment of a definite type—thus the Manchester Terrier was born.
By 1827 the breed's fighting spirit had made it equally handy along a hedge row as in a rat-pit. The Manchester could tackle, with silent determination, an opponent twice its size. Ears were cropped to save risk of being torn in frequent scraps. (This also enhanced the sharp appearance of the expression). When rat-killing became illegal in England rat-pits were supplanted by dining halls or public inns, all of which were infested by rats. To combat the rodent problem each inn kept kennels. When the taprooms closed, who do you think took command? The little Black and Tan rat killers who proved their worth one hundred-fold to the inn keeper.
1860 saw the city of Manchester in England as the breed centre for these "Rat Terriers" and the name Manchester Terrier surfaced. Smaller specimens began to gain appeal. Unethical persons were known to introduce Chihuahuas in order to reduce size to as small as 2 1/2 pounds. This resulted in numerous problems, including apple heads, thinning coats, and poppy eyes. Inbreeding further diminished size yet the smaller versions, though delicate and sickly, remained popular for some time.
Smaller Manchesters were carried in specially designed leather pouches suspended from the rider's belt, (earning the title of "Groom's Pocket Piece"). With their smaller stature these dogs obviously could not keep up with the hounds, but when the hounds ran the fox into dense thickets they were not able to penetrate, the little Manchester Terrier was released. Nicknamed the "Gentleman's Terrier" this breed was never a "sissy." His dauntless spirit commanded respect.
In the United States
As in its native country the Manchester gained quick acceptance as a recognized breed. In 1886, just two years after the American Kennel Club was organized, the first Black and Tan Terrier was registered in the stud book. The following year "Lever" (AKC #7585) became the first AKC recognized Manchester Terrier.
The 20th century is dotted by the recognition of breed clubs devoted to preserving and promoting this breed:
In 1923 the "Manchester Terrier Club of America" was recognized and 1934 saw the Toy Black and Tan Terrier changed to Toy Manchester Terrier, and in 1938 the "American Toy Manchester Terrier Club" was recognized.
By 1952, however, the "Manchester Terrier Club of America" (Standards) was without organized breed representation. To the credit of the "American Toy Manchester Terrier Club", the two breeds were combined as one (with two varieties - Standard and Toy) with the formation of the "American Manchester Terrier Club" in 1958, an organization which still survives today.