Saturday, January 8, 2011

Redline Airedale Comments

An article myself and Henry Johnson did a few years ago for Pete Bassani's "Traditional Working Airedale" "Full Cry Magazine" column.

Al Kranbuhl

A nice pair of first rate, hunting bred, game getting "Redline" type Airedales owned by Paul Unger of Canada "Sansa" & "Ranger" produced by hunting line Airedale breeders Pete Basanni and Clint Stubbe.
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REDLINE COMMENTS

I would say one of the most asked Airedale questions I get in recent times is what is my opinion about the Redline type Airedale? Well for a long time I never had a whole lot to say about them because basically I really did not know a lot about them. Before I shoot my mouth off on a subject I like to be in a bit of a position to know what I am talking about, for me that means some first hand experience!

While still far from being any kind of expert on Redlines, over the years I have owned and worked with a few thus gaining quite a bit of personal experience with them. On top of which I have had conversations with other owners-breeders and old timers whose word I consider to be honest and truthful. After soaking up all this information, I have gained some substantial knowledge and have my own opinions that I would like to share with other Airedale folks. They can take it for what it is worth and come up with their own conclusion.

For those readers that do not know the first thing I am talking about, a Redline Airedale in it's simplest explanation is an Airedale Terrier, for whatever the reason is born with a very short, almost smooth hard dense coat. Even though the coat is short upon close examination one can see it still is the typical Airedale double coat, a soft almost cottony undercoat with a very hard wiry outer coat. They also have a rich red tan color along with the typical black saddle, I have as yet to see a short-slick coated Airedale with the so called grizzle colored coat. Like I said the coat is very short and the length can go from a slick type to one with some of the furnishing on the legs and chin getting a bit longer, still much shorter in comparison to what most would consider a typical Airedale coat.

The term Redline is of course attributed to Henry Johnson, a life time Airedale man who most of us remember from his long time stint as writer of the Tennessee Valley Airedale column in Full Cry magazine. Henry was the first one to delve in and research the short coat Airedales, looking into what they are and where they came from. His writings about the Redline Airedale are classic stuff and completely make sense. I happen to agree with his work on the subject because my own experiences and investigations into the short coat Airedales jive pretty much with what Henry found.

The main thing I want to address is all the misinformation that seems to be floating around about these Redlines. There are folks that love them, folks that hate them and folks that don't know what to make of them. The American Airedale Terrier Club of America I am sure would love to see them go away even though they are closer to fitting their precious standard than the stuff parading in the show ring. This show oriented bunch are probably the main reason for much of the bad publicity and the decline in Redline Airedale numbers over the years. The breed club lives and dies by it's almighty standard and any Airedale whose conformation is outside of that standard is looked upon with a very dim view. Then there are a couple of kennel-breeders with so called hunting lines that are trying to make a living off their dogs, they will bash them at every opportunity. They see Redline Airedales as a threat to their sales and bottom line.


Pictured is Paul Unger's Redline Airedale "Ranger", I am here to tell you that this guy is "All Airedale"!! One is lucky to see his kind once in a lifetime, when it comes to hunting, be it birds, small game or big game and a good tree dog "Ranger" is an Airedale that can actually do all the hunting feats we read about in the old Airedale books.
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Ranger showed here putting the run on a Grizz
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First of all Redline type Airedales are "NOT" a cross breed, they are "NOT" a solid red color, nor are they some separate line of Airedale Terrier. They can and have, and still will occur in many Airedale lines, simply put it is basically a genetic anomaly for a short dense hard coat. From the information I have been able to garner, before World War 2 short haired Airedales were fairly common dogs and no big deal. The farther one goes back in Airedale history the more common they appear to have been. This is a fact not some made up stuff. I have talked to many old time Airedale men and they remember them well. Some time ago I had an 89 year old life time Airedale man get a pup from me and he had some stories to tell. He was around when the Airedale was the most popular dog in America. At the time I had one Redline Type Airedale and this old timer looked him over. I asked him if he had ever seen an Airedale with a natural short coat? He replied that he had seen quite a few of them in the old days. While the typical longer wire coated Airedales far out number the slick coats that, they still were fairly common enough when he was a boy. He personally did not care for them himself and much preferred an Airedale with a longer coat. I have had many other similar conversations with old time Airedale folks remembering and seeing short coat Airedales. I will add that on the other hand I have had other long time Airedalers tell me they have never seen such an Airedale and I can believe that also.



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We all have to remember that in the old days accurate Airedale information was not nearly as available, much Airedale information and pictures were just not easy to come by. Most Airedale info came from books in libraries and occasional magazine articles. You simply read what you could find and that is what you had to go on. Even when a book is found it is one of the newer ones with pictures of current show type Airedales and most spew the Airedale Terrier Club Of America philosophy, fine if your goal is "Westminster" but not much help if you are looking to tree a coon. Since the personal computer revolution and the internet, information has exploded and is available in an instant. I am still today finding new stuff about Airedales on a constant and consistent basis.

Then there are the many historical photos, drawings and paintings of short coated Airedales, we have a bunch of them posted on the Traditional Working Airedale message board for all to see. I have heard some say that the Airedales in all those old pictures must have been shaved, I say "Baloney"! More grasping for straws, there are just way too many pictures and again there are just way too many old timers that actually saw and remember them for that lame explaination to hold water anymore.

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The way I see things from what information that I have compiled is that the Airedale breed as a whole took a huge dip in numbers during the depression and also WW2. Here in the US they went from one of the most popular breeds ever to some pretty low numbers. After the war there was somewhat of a resurgence and a big influx of imported show types from England and also Europe. These imports and their crosses came to dominate the Airedale landscape. A change in the Airedale's look can readily be seen in pictures when comparing Airedales before the WW2 and the Airedales after WW2 on up to today's Airedale.


An example of a current Airedale Terrier Show Dog Coat.
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The pre war Airedales (even the show dogs) on a whole had a much shorter and harder coat than many of the Airedales one sees currently. I would have to say that many of the show Airedales of today with the coat left to grow out would be a good two inches longer in length than the pre war Airedales. The short coated Redline types were almost bred out of existence and it is why they are such a shock to see by the uneducated Airedale people of today.


EXAMPLES OF SOME EARLY CHAMPION SHOW DOGS
Remember these dogs pictured were some of the finest examples of Airedales during that period in time.
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I believe the reason these short coat Airedales seem to be becoming a bit more common is the renewed interest in the Airedale as a hunting dog. I will only speak for myself but I have not found much to cheer about with the show Airedales of today as far as natural hunting ability goes. You can not for generations continue to breed dogs solely for a look and completely neglect their performance and ability in the field and expect to produce good hunting dogs, just not going to happen. I and other breeders looking at Airedales as hunting dogs and breeding them purposely for the hunt have been seeking out the old American working lines noted for their abilities as hunters. Old lines like Oorang, Mooreland, Ouachita, Cabin Hill, Lionheart and the recent Sandhill line to name a few. Then there is the occasional small time breeders that kept just a personal line that was worked and hunted with for many generations. Irene Yates was such a breeder and one of my best came from her line which also produced the JR Gator dog who was a pretty fair hunting Airedale. Odon Corr is another small breeder with very good hunting type Airedales.

Early Redline type Airedale
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What seems to be happening is as hunting Airedale breeders take these old lines into their programs and select their breeding stock almost solely on the individual dog's ability to hunt is these Redline type Airedales are beginning appear on a much more frequent basis. We are in essence breeding Airedales backwards to the way they once were, primarily as hunting-working dogs and not only has the hunting performance changed and got better but the shorter coated pre war look is returning as a natural side effect on it's own. I have to believe that this is the major reason why many of these Redline type Airedales seem to make decent hunting dogs. NOT because they have slick coats, but because of their "breeding", it is the lines they are emerging from that they get the hunt. Now I don't want to give the impression that I think all short coated Airedales will make great hunting dogs. They and all other Airedales along with all the other hunting dog breeds have their fair share of sorry dogs as anyone with any kind of experience knows, "they all do not make it". And again I will remind all that it is possible for a Redline to pop up from any line even some modern show lines although with much less frequency. Again a particular dog will almost always reflect their hunting-working abilities from lines they came from. It is all about the breeding and don't forget it.

So in a nutshell most folks that have really taken a good hard look into these slick Airedales believe they really are nothing more than just throwbacks in look to to some of the old pre war and much earlier Airedales.
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Now let me address a few more Redline questions I get and answer them as best I can. One I hear a lot is "how come they have such a pointed muzzle compared to a regular Airedale?"

Well let me tell you all, years ago when I first started looking into this Redline business I kind of wondered about that myself. It was simple enough to find out, so I took it upon myself to take one of my "hair-bags" and shave his coat down with clippers to the length of a Redline, "including the complete head!" Guess what? Under that bearded square brick shaped Airedale muzzle is the same pointed snout as the Redline Airedale! NO KIDDING! Below is an example of what I am talking about, a fuzzy Airedale that had his coat buzzed off for the summer months, same dog totally different look.

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Another Terrier breed makes my point perfectly. The Wirehaired Fox Terrier and the Smooth Haired Fox Terrier. The Smooth looks to have a much more pointed muzzle but it is really no different from the Wirehair. In fact these two now separate Fox Terriers were once bred together on a frequent basis. And while speaking of other breeds there are others that have both smooth and wire coat dogs so this is not as odd of a happening as one would believe. To name a few like Jack Russells, Jadgterrier, Dachshunds Collies, Pointers, etc. etc. As we can see some breed clubs embraced diversity and other do away with it and want "cookie cutter" dogs. As for me I am all for diversity! A dog's hide has little or nothing to do with performance, it is whats underneath the hide and what is between the ears along with smart breeding that makes a  good hunting dog!                                          

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Another myth about Redlines is that they are for the most part small in size, fine boned Airedales and again this is not true. Like any other Airedale their size will again be determined from the line they came from. Paul Unger's Ranger pictured above tips the scale at over 70 pounds. I currently have a male slick coat that has been weighed on accurate vet scales several times and he comes in at around 65 lbs and is of good bone, some Airedale people consider 65 lbs on the large side. My dog's size is a reflection of the size of my line of Airedales as most of my males come in somewhere around that weight give or take a few pounds. I once saw a picture of a male Redline type that was close to 90 lbs and on the other end of the scale I kept a runt female slick coat that might weigh 40 lbs (she thinks she weighs 100 lbs). In short they can be any typical Airedale size and remember the easiest thing to change as a breeder is size. In just a few generations you can move them up or move them down to suit you.

I have also heard reports of shyness or lack of grit in Redlines and I am sure there are shy ones and some with no grit. But by the same token let me tell you I have seen plenty of the same in your so called conventional looking Airedales as well. Most of the pure show type Airedales I have worked had serious problems in those areas. Again it is the breeding that determines these traits and when you have a breeder not testing their dogs on real game for these faults you will end up with sorry dogs. My slicks both have shown me they have more than enough grit for the hunting that I do and I expect no less, they are the same genetically as their longer coated littermates in this respect, why in the world would they be different?

Airedale Terriers since WW 2 have unfortunately have come under the iron grip of their breed club and as with most breed clubs the folks running them are for the most part show people not hunters. When any working breed is bred with almost the sole concern focused on the standard to produce "cookie cutter dogs" the working part is going to fade and fade fast. Here is just one quote example of what the "Hunting-Working type Airedale" is up against, below is a bit of typical show-breed club propaganda I found floating around on the world wide web!

"There is no such thing as a working type of Airedale and a show type. There is only one correct type of Airedale for any purpose he may be put to. There is no more excuse for breeding large, soft-coated, houndy eared, thick skulled, light eyed mutts, and calling them working type of Airedale"

YIKES!

And you can surely bet a large sum of money that the Redline-slick coat Airedale would be thrown in for good measure by the person who authored that statement. There is no question in my mind that whoever made the above statement was no way any kind of hunter. When you have this kind of mindset that is bent upon producing a look above all other else I will guarantee your breed's performance in the field will suffer.

Penny Taylor's Redline Airedale "Dill" doing her job when the going gets tough in the briars & brambles.

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In closing I say that the hunting ability of my Airedales has always been my primary goal and interest. I have to be honest and say that in breeding with that goal in mind many of my better hunting Airedales were and are the so called "light eyed" "heavy eared mutts" the ATCA hates. I am a breeder seeking to produce high performing hunting dogs, for me to throw out the best hunters because of their look and breed lesser dog because it fits a standard better is insane.

When it comes to coat, looks and conformation I like to as the old saying goes, let the "form follow function" Through judicious breeding for performance and using the best of those dogs, the best conformation for the tasks such dogs are being bred for will come to the forefront for the most part on it's own.

As for the Redlines, to deny them is ridiculous, in my opinion it would be a terrible loss of the Airedale's past and history to have them disappear completely and just have old pictures to remember them by. I for one hope that there will always be a few around because they just plain deserve to be. The fact of the matter is there are situations like very hot climates and heavy cover thick with burrs and stickers, where a short coated hunting Airedale is just plain more practical. And lastly from my experience I have to say "Redlines" really are nice Airedales that are up to the traditions of the breed's founders in both their look and ability at hunting, they are clearly holding up their end of the Airedale's storied legacy as can be seen in the pictures here on this blog's Airedales in action section.

Audwin McGee's Redline female"Lolo" hunting hogs on three legs, one of her rear legs had to be amputated due to an idiot shooting her. Her Airedale determination and spirit does the Airedale breed proud in my opinion!

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From Henry Johnson

Al:

Very much appreciate your Redline Comments and look forward to seeing them in Pete Bassani's Full Cry column. As to old photos showing short-coated Airedales, some of them were English champions of the time and no one showing those dogs at that time would have shaved off beards or leg furnishings. They were just naturally minimal or non-existent in the breed at that time. Also, as you say, all terrier breeds and several other breeds have smooth, broken, and rough coated lines, frequently in the same litters. I was told once by a show Airedale breeder that years ago, in the first half of the 20th Century, it was fairly common for short-coated pups to appear in show line litters. The show breeders routinely disposed of such pups in an effort to get those traits out of the gene pool. The longer coated dogs offered the groomers and handlers much more to work with in that they could strip and artificially color the dogs to hide faults and shape them to make them look more impressive for the show ring. Not much you can do to change the look of the very short-coated "redline" type.


1904 Airedale



If you have or can find a copy of Holland Buckley's book "The Airedale Terrier", published in England in the early 1900s you will see many pictures of short-coated Airedale show champions of that time with no leg furnishings and minimal beards or no beards at all, dogs we would call "redline" types now. Buckley goes to great lengths to describe these dogs. I will quote here just a little of what he says about them.
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"An Airedale, bred on corrrect modern lines, needs no tonsorial aid, and is, without doubt, the happier for it. And, after all, that is the first consideration of a real fancier, whether his favorite be a pet or a workman. The idea that clever trimming will deceive an experienced judge is really laughable. Try it on with any of our front rank judges, and you will be fired out of the ring, with an unsympathetic reference to the show being a month too soon for your shorn Terrier. A broken coat can, no doubt, to the casual eye, cover a multitude of sins, and sometimes a sausage body; but how any expert can cover up, by trimming, defects of make and shape is one of those things, as Lord Dundreary would say, 'no fellah can understand'--always allowing, of course, that the judge is a capable one. An adjudicator who knows his business will always penalize exhibits trimmed up for his deception. There are certain lines of blood that make for sheep coats. Breeders have themselves wholly to blame if they breed to those lines. A smooth coated bitch of modern breeding is the best asset a fancier can have in his kennel."

As you say, the best I have been able to figure is that the redline type Airedale is a throwback to the early members of the breed, when, as Holland Buckley put it, "the chief object being to breed a dog that could live in the water and tackle anything from a rat to an otter with unflinching gameness."

HSJ
Fults Cove
Tennessee


Henry's Redline Airedale "Jingo"

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And here is a few more of Henry's thoughts on the Redline type Airedale.

Henry Johnson:

Regarding the very short haired, sometimes even slick-coated airedales, they all seem to be what I have been calling the Redline type but can be quite diverse in temperament.

Some of them seem to carry recessive shyness genes, while others show not the slightest trace of this. As a general rule, mot of them seem to have intense hunting drive. Some show Bull terrier physical traits and some even appear to me as if there maybe Irish or Gordon setterr or somekind of sight hound blood in them. All this diversity and doubt about their origins has led to what Kevin Kelly calls the "original stew hypothesis".

What that says is that these Redline types are throwbacks to the pre-1900 airedale and you are getting back to the point where some of the different lines that went into the making of the breed become more apparent, even if you are not exactly sure what they are. Support for this hypothesis exists in pictures of early airedales in old English publications. Few of them had noticeable beards or leg furnishings before around 1900. Also, Barbara Burns, a second generation airedale breeder from Connecticutt, tells me that in her memory, very short to slick coated Redline type pups appeared in airedale litters in the northeast from time to time. Most breeders culled them or placed them without papers, but in at least one case a former president of the airedale terrier club of America showed one of them to a championship under all-rounder judges.

I think if you wanted you could take Redline stock and by selective breeding take it back to a Bull terrier type of a Sheepdog or maybe even a sight hound type, but it would be more dificult
to go back to the Otterhound or the Old English Black and tan terrier. With some other Airedale strains I am familiar with it would be fairly easy to selectively breed for Otterhound characteristics or for smaller, terrier types.

With hunting dogs I am not all that much in favor of the dictates of central authority. I think everybody should do what they think best and breed for what they want, given their terrain and quarry. For myself, I want an all-round hunting/ working/companion dog and not a specialist. I have a classic Redline type in my yard. That's my Old Jack (Hammer/Sass, 11/9/98). When I take him anywhere with me people either love him or don't like the type at all. There is never any middle ground. I'm not sure what I will do with him. I don't want to breed that myself, but do like maybe up to a quarter of it in my line. I'll have to wait and see where I go with this. Right now, I'm just not sure.

One more thing I will say before leaving the subject of slick or very short coated Redline type Airedales. Thet do have ccoat, usually an inch or so of pretty hard wire over much of the body, just very little beard or leg furnishings. And these short, hard coats are closer to what the Airedale standard calls for than what you see on a great many highly bred Airedales today, the ones I call "fluffy dogs". I'll take a quarter of that Redline blood anytime if it helps me get the short, hard, Airy coat the airedale is supposed to have.

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For more about the variety and differences in Airedale coats I have taken from the Traditional Working Airedale board Henry's quadrant system in picture form and posted it here on this blog to give folks a little bit better idea of what he is talking about.

Al Kranbuhl

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