Monday, October 31, 2011

What I Know About Airedales (HUNTING)

The Naysayers!

I belong to several hunting dog forums and visit them all with some regularity. Once in awhile on one of these forums the subject of Airedale Terriers is brought up from someone looking for some opinions on what kind of hunting dogs they make. Most of the answers are of the generic type, stuff that is the oft repeated tales found on the internet and in books. Then there are some folks giving information that actually have some experience with the breed. And of course there are the naysayer internet experts. I have even come across a blog which has the sole purpose of berating the Airedale as a hunting dog. Below are a few examples of some typical responses from some of these self proclaimed experts.

Airedales to me are very overrated living off undeserved decades old reputation, and a waste of good dog food.

"I hear talk of how 'gritty' they are, but all I see are singing dogs, not biters.. I think their reputation is unearned and living off wives tales for half of century."

"If I hear one more time how tough Airedales are or how they outhunt Pointers in the field or out retrieve Labradors on the water, Im going to vomit. All I see in Hunting photos of Airedales are them barking, not biting, game. None of them close on dangerous game or are catchy."


I can surely understand how one can get down a a breed or line of hunting dog when they have a bad experience. But it is a big mistake for one to paint any breed of hunting dog with a wide brush as sorry especially when one has limited experience with the breed. Whoever made those statements above never owned or hunted with an Airedale personally and would have you believe there is not a good hunting Airedale in existence. It is plain to see this fellow above has an agenda and a vendetta against Airedales, there is plenty of picture evidence just on this Blog to prove him grossly wrong!

Making a breed evaluation and indicting all the dogs in it from such scant information such as a few internet pictures or an I knew a guy or heard a tale does not tell the whole story about any breed, far from it!

I started out in the heyday of the dog jockey, if I had a dollar for every sorry hound I got taken on I could buy myself a pretty nice present, that was the bad part. The good part is I now can spot a shyster or blowhard almost immediately.

I owned and hunted with a good many Hounds of all breeds in my lifetime, if I dwelled on and just went by every shy, track jacking, dog aggressive=tree fighting, gutless, retarded no account hound I owned or saw owned by others I would not mess with Hounds period. Especially Walkers, yet the truth be known Walkers are far an away the most successful and popular Coon Hound breed, the fact of the matter is I just had the bad luck or misfortune to get some poor performers, it happens! Even though I was disappointed and yes "Angry" I am not going to stand on a podium and rip Walkers! This kind of stuff comes with the territory and if one can not face disappointment they should stay out of this line of sport.

On the other hand I have also owned and hunted Hounds that were and are as good as any. Even though I have had my fair share of poor performers Hounds are still far and away one of my favorite breeds and I will always have a couple around until I can't hunt coon or rabbits anymore. What I am saying is for me to indict Hounds as worthless hunting dogs because of the sorry ones is ridiculous. Yet you will have some people rip Airedales on just an isolated incident, a few pictures or hearsay.

I have owned and hunted Airedales since the sixties and as I did with Hounds I have had plenty of sorry ones and yes some were produced by me personally. By the same token some of the best all around hunting dogs I have ever had were Airedales, I don't believe there is a more versatile hunting dog alive when you get a good one. There are some pretty fair hunting bred with guts to spare Airedales to be had if someone wants to take the time to look for them.

The Airedale is seeing a resurgence as a hunting dog in recent years, there are never guarantees with any breed but your odds getting a decent hunting dog can be increased substantially. A breeder can tell you anything and everything you want to hear but in the end the dogs they produce have to speak for themselves and that is when and where the truth comes out! My best advice to anyone buying any kind of hunting dog is to do your homework, closely consider the source of your info, find reputable breeders who actually hunt their Airedales and get references from people you can trust!

Now if you think the breed assassins have just crawled out of their holes in recent years with the advent of the internet WRONG! It is something that seems to have been going on forever, before the internet there was magazines for them to push their agenda.

Below is an example of Scott McGill's reply to an magazine article from the early 1900s where a fellow wrote his disparaging remarks about the Airedale breed!

On a personal note when I am looking to buy a hunting dog from any breed, it is the dog men like Scott McGill that I seek out!

Al Kranbuhl

What I know About Airedales

Out of an old outdoor publication circa the early 1900s, the author
Scott McGill


I don't suppose anything I can say will settle the argument between the hound admirers and the Airedale fans, but for the benefit of both of these fine dogs, the opinion of a man of sixty-two who has hunted with dogs continually for over fifty years may help some.

My first experience with hunting dogs was down on the farm, where game was plentiful, and "Old Shep' answered our purpose very well. We had many of these shepherd dogs and considered them the best hunters and game getters, until some city men came to our place to hunt bobcat, and gave my father one of their hounds that had been mauled by a cat. We soon got this hound in good shape again and took him out for a hunt, and as he did not do much the first time, my father called him a "lazy cuss," but after a few hunts he soon proved his superiority over Old Shep as a trailer, and what my father at first termed as "yawpin," he later said was "fine music" when this dog opened up on a trail. After the passing of this grand dog, we got more hounds, and later got to crossing them with bird dogs and water spaniels. Among these mongrels were the best all-round hunting dogs my father ever had, and one in particular, a half water spaniel and hound, I place first among all the dogs I have ever hunted with, for work in the rough country where we lived.

When I became old enough to own a dog of my own I got pure bred black and tan hounds with long thin ears and good voices, and for many years would consider nothing else for coon or other fur hunting. Occasionally my neighbors would take their mongrels out with me and tree ahead of my hounds, but I noticed that my hounds would usually get the trail well started first.

I preferred the black and tans with long ears, not because the color or length of ear made any difference in the hunting ability, but I considered these points an indication of good breeding, and certainly they were beautiful dogs. I always kept my dogs in the best of condition, and I am sure I have been repaid many times over for my care of them. I have raised and trained many pups and found that they suited me better than the so-called trained dogs that I have bought.

I have owned upwards of seventy-five or eighty hounds and of these I would place about five of them in class number one as coon hounds; I would place about twenty of them in class number two, and the balance were third grade or worse. The first class do-;s are the kind you seldom get, and then only for a very high price, or through the use of extra great care and patience in training. The second class coon dogs are good coon dogs and cost about a hundred dollars today.

I owned one pure bred (as far as I know) hound that was as game a fighter as I ever saw in action. I never knew him to quit, once he got into a mix-up. On one occasion he was frightfully punished by a bobcat and never made a sound or gave sign of quitting during the fight, though he was bleeding from ugly cuts in the throat, had one eye gouged out, ears split to ribbons, and a broken and badly lacerated foot. By the time I crossed the river to him he was badly used up, but still doing his best. He was, of course, an exception in this respect, for a pure hound, whose business it is only to find the game.

My first experience with Airedales was when a neighbor of mine had a year-old pup sent to him by a city relative. I was not very favorably impressed with this dog at first but consented to have a. hunt with him and take my old dog "Bugle." When my neighbor arrived at my farm, I let Bugle out of his yard, and we did not see him again until we arrived at the tree where he was barking up.

This Airedale did not quite understand Bugle's musical efforts at lirst, and stayed rather close to us most of the time, but I noticed several limes during the hunt that he would smell around a bit, and pick up a rabbit track and run it a few minutes, then come back to us. This was his first trip out and he was a young dog so we did not expect much of him. When we got to the tree, this dog smelled around, watched Bugle, looked up the tree, growled, bit, and tried to climb up, then started to bark. On our next hunt, when we shot the coon out of the tree, the Airedale had him almost as soon as Bugle, and after a few times out this dog began to hunt some and finally we let him kill a coon alone.

From that time on he began to improve fast and or his third hunting season was a good coon and cat do?. He became an eager and persistent hunter, a good tree dog, and though he could not unravel a trail like a good hound, would stick as long as allowed to, or until he had treed. He once killed a twenty-two pound bobcat without help.

I decided to buy an Airedale to take the rough work off my hounds and got a twoyear-old dog. After much patience and care; trying to train him, I gave him away as worthless. My third one proved to be a good one. He was bred from hunting stock, and showed it in his work. He was a good tree dog and first class in water, would also run a hot track faster than most dogs and was an all night sticker at a tree. I have owned seven other Airedales since this one, but only one of them was as good. My second good Airedale was an excellent cattle dog as well as a hunter and watch dog, and like most Airedales, a good tree and water dog. We never kept him tied from the time when we got him as a puppy, and I never knew him to stray off my farm without one of the family going with him. I worked this dog with a black and tan fox hound bitch and believe they were the best team I ever owned. Each seemed to know just what the other, would do in any circumstances, and each did its part of the work.

Later the Airedale, through an accident, became the sire of a litter of pups out of this bitch. I now have a dog out of that litter and can not think of any price that would buy him. My oldest son also has a dog from that litter, which, with an Airedale and two hounds, makes up his pack of bear and lion dogs, and he says the cross bred is the best and brainiest dog he has, and, as he expresses it, "The best dog in Idaho."

The Airedale to begin with, is half otter hound and half terrier, but the fancy breeders have all but spoiled him by in-breeding him to a fashionable and unnatural standard. I would not consider the average show Airedale worth much to a hunter; such a dog would be too narrow and flat in the skull to have room for much brains or good temperament, he would be too narrow in chest and short in back to have the endurance and ability required in a hunting dog.

But there is a good kind of Airedale; he is bred intelligently, from hunting stock by hunters; he is a "natural" dog in type and disposition, with the hunting instinct and lots of courage and grit bred in him. He has all the desirable qualities of the good Airedale and many of the good qualities of the good hound. The hunter who has such a dog and works him with a good hound is going to get the game and have lots of fun doing it.

The good Airedales may be a little jealous, but that quality makes him a good tree dog, watch dog and companion, and loyal to his master.

There are individual Airedales which are good coon dogs; there are individual hounds not worth their salt; however we can not condemn all hounds on account of the poor ones, nor say all Airedales are good. The average hound is superior to the average Airedale as a hunter and the Airedale requires more care to keep him looking presentable, but the man who likes dogs will be well repaid for the extra care. As puppies, the Airedales are more ''foolish" and require more training to make hunters of them.

A man is not qualified to make the broad statement that "Airedales are no good" or any other similar statement, because of having had an experience with one or two Airedales of the inferior kind. Some of the brother hunters speaking of the Airedale, seem very much peeved at him. Such a peevishness could be brought about by trying to enter a neighbor's chicken coop when an Airedale was on guard, or by trying to take game from a boy that had an Airedale companion. However such feelings are acquired, it shows poor judgment to exhibit them.

The Airedale, being the newest breed, is least standardized, and is. therefore, most likely to produce off-shoots of good and bad. with- all grades in between. In time to come the practical hunters, such as the readers of this magazine, and other sportsmen will perfect a strain of Airedales, exactly suited to the purpose of the hunter, not to take the place of the hound, but to work with him, each dog to supply the quality which the other does not have so highly developed.

Of the dogs that I have owned, the hounds were the best trailers and did it with greater ease and perfection; the Airedales were the most persistent and busy hunters and had more grit and determination; the hounds had the most endurance in a long chase; the Airedales were better at tree or hole. I always love and admire the beautiful appearance of a well conditioned hound, and I honor and respect a good Airedale for those qualities which make him loyal to one master and the courageous fighter that he is. The Airedales I have owned would fight for me; but the hounds would not.

If I were hunting fox exclusively, nothing would answer would be a well bred fox hound; for rabbits I would want a beagle hound; an English setter for birds; an Airedale for woodchucks, but as I hunt nothing but coon, I have "degenerated" so far as to select a first cross of Airedale and hound.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hunting With Airedales Demographics

Had an interesting question posed to me the other day asking who are the folks that are using Airedales for hunting purposes and what are they hunting? I did not exactly know the answer so I decided just for the heck of it to do a bit of unscientific research into that question.


I used the Traditional Working Airedale message board's members to get some idea who are the people that hunt with Airedales. Online since 2004 the Traditional Working Airedale message board makes no bones about who we recruit for members. Our focus for members is a narrow one, you must have an serious interest in hunting with Airedales and you must participate on the board along with an introduction of who you are and where you are from. As this is being written the board has some 300 members. While certainly not the last word it does give a pretty good representation and shows hunting trends of hunters who are actually using Airedales to hunt with.

So after sorting through the information obtained from this group of folks we will try to answer the question, "who are the people that actually hunt with Airedales and what game do they hunt?

We will look at the gender statistics first off, out of that 300 plus membership there are only a half dozen women members that are regulars and only one or two of them would be considered a hard core hunter. Interesting considering that there are probably more women that own and breed Airedales than men but when it comes to numbers we can see that men are far and away the ones that actually seriously hunt Airedales.

The board's new member introduction section tells a lot and it is one of the reasons it is a requirement for new members. Below is a typical introduction and the majority of the intros are pretty much the same.

Hello everyone, my name is Joe and I live in Ohio, I hunted with hounds and trapped lot as a boy but after I got out of school and got a job and started a family, I had to let my dogs go and hunting was set on the back burner.

I am now at the point where things have settled down and have some free time. I would like to get myself a dog and get back into hunting. I not only want a hunting dog but I want the dog to double as a family pet for my wife and kids.

I have done a bunch of research and the Airedale seems to be tailor made for what I am looking for. A great companion and pet for the family and also a dog I can take out on the weekend and do a bit of hunting with.


What we are seeing on the board is typically middle aged to older retired guys (40s through 60s) that were hunters in their youth, got away from it for a little bit but have now come to a time in their lives where they can get back into the swing of things. Not what one would call hard core but for fun and some recreation.

In my opinion a good Airedale makes the perfect hunting dog for these guys and I must admit that the type and frequency of hunting I am involved in these days, as I get older, I am kind of starting to fit into this group myself.

While we have a few young Airedale member-hunters we do not have anywhere near the numbers I would like to see and that is for a couple of reasons. First of all when young most of these guys are hard core, speaking for myself I would hunt just about every day during season and would consider a day I did not limit out a failure.

Most of the really serious hunters I have been around go with a top performer of specialist breed, for Coons it was a Coon hound, for Rabbits it was a Beagle. Personally while I was always serious I was different in that I did bring in an Airedale along most of the time and they certainly always were contributors to the hunt but I was an exception to the rule as most hunters would stick with straight up specialists.

The second big thing is the price of an Airedale, many breeders are asking two to three times higher for what it costs to buy a top bred Hound or Cur and even a Bird dog pup.

It is a pretty hard sell to get somebody with a half a brain to pay three times the going rate for a well bred cur pup to hunt Squirrels with for an Airedale pup that in most cases will not do nearly as well.

We need the young folks, personally I will do my best to get a pup into the hands of a serious young hunter, the youngsters hold the future.

And lastly there are the serious straight up Airedalers, the guys live, eat and sleep hunting with Airedales, our numbers are not huge but these are the guys, hunter-breeders, that work to maintain that Airedale hunting Tradition both in the dog itself and in the field! These guys hunt their Airedales on anything and everything!

What kind of game do hunters use Airedales for? On the board we have three categories of hunting, Small Game, Big Game, and Birds. It is pretty easy to see where the interest is.

Half of all hunting threads and posts are in the Small Game section, by Small Game we are talking Coons, Squirrels, Possum, Fox, Chucks, Rabbits, Rats, Coyotes etc for the most part.

We then can divide what is left of the second half of the posts and threads into thirds, two thirds of which are in the Big Game section. By Big Game we are talking Bear, Lion and Hogs.

The last third are threads about Bird hunting, this may be surprising to some considering the push in recent years to represent the Airedale as a bird dog. Not surprising to me, in all my years with the Airedale breed I have had very few inquiries about using an Airedale for actual bird hunting.

I will say there are some folks involved with bird field trial type events that are training and using Airedales, but as with Hounds, trialing is a lot different than actually going into the field with a gun and hunting wild game.

This Blog's hunting Airedales In Action Photo section is indicative also, those photos show pretty much the member's hunting tendencies and were their interest is. These stats also fall in line with pretty much with everything that has ever been written about hunting with Airedales going back to day one.

Approximate Percentage Wise Breakdown Of Game Hunted Is As Follows

Small Game = 50%

Big Game = 34%

Bird Hunting =16%

So there you have the breakdown and it is what it is, most Airedales are hunted by middle aged to a bit older men who are not the hard hunters they once were but still interested in getting out and having a productive but more a casual day afield. They want a dog that doubles as their family pet but can do a reasonably good job producing a wide variety of game to the gun. For that job there is no better a candidate than a well bred Airedale.

Al Kranbuhl

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hunting Dog Faults

A survey taken back in 2006

The question was posed to those in the hunting community who trained and used dogs. I asked hunters in all disciplines of hunting and those included were bird, squirrel, big game and coon. Breed was of no consequence as long as it was a hunting dog.

The individuals polled were "REAL" hunters that actually hunt with dogs not internet pretenders.

The question is a simple one but one of the most if not the most important regarding hunting dogs.


1. Dog on Dog aggression= 1973

2. Shy-Timid= 1528

3. No Nose, Can not move a track accurately= 617

4. Various Other, slick treeing, babbling, jacking a track, no ranging out, etc.= 598

Timid and shy were almost interchangeable with dog aggression, in other words most said that even though one was their first pick the second pick was just about as bad.

My personal thoughts when is comes to faults are about the same as the survey, I detest dog on dog aggression and will not own a dog that exhibits that trait, it is the absolute worse fault a hunting dog can have.

I want to add something here, there are some that believe that grit and dog aggression go hand and hand. With correctly bred hunting dogs that train of thought is pure "Bullshit"! Airedales are indicted by many unknowing hunters as being surly and ill toward other dogs which puts an immediate stigma on them from being used by serious hunters for the reasons shown in the above survey.

Airedales that are bred up right for hunting should not be causing any trouble when hunted with other dogs, Historically Airedales have always been hunted not only singly but in packs and especially with Hounds. I have personally hunted my Airedales from day one along side both with other Airedales and many other hunting dog breeds with zero problems. I will add that my Airedales have shown me all the grit that is needed to get the job done for the hunting I do.

I can tell you all this, anyone defending dog on dog aggression is not any kind of a real hunter, real hunters just do not hunt with those kinds of dogs, they are dogs I would avoid like the plague no matter what the breed.

Al Kranbuhl

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Obtaining A Hunting Pup

From 1921's The Airedale For Work & Show by A. F. Hochwalt

"I would say to the would be owner of a working Airedale, select a puppy from a reliable utility strain and train him yourself. The average puppy from a working strain is very intellegent. very game and very hardy."

"Some of the bench show strains are lacking all these qualities and gameness. It is not beyond the bounds of truth in saying fully seventy percent of puppies descended from a generation of bench dogs are sadly lacking this most essential quality of the Airedale."

A. F. Hochwalt

Well there you have it, and sadly some things never change and in fact the situation is probably even worse in today's Airedales. Hochwalt recognized way back in 1921 the effect show dogs were making on the Airedale breed in the working department and I have to agree with what he said.

My own personal experience with show line Airedales has not been good at all when it comes to hunting, they are watered down and just seem to be lacking and weak in all of the important traits that go into the makeup of a number one hunting dog.

Any breeder who thinks they can produce good hunting dogs without getting them in the woods and severely testing them to see if they have what it takes is living in a dream world, and a big reason why you see many of today's Airedales performing so poorly as hunting dogs when they are actually hunted seriously.

If you are not testing your dogs and hunting them, "BOTH MALES &  FEMALES" you are breeding blind! All the good traits that went into the Airedale that caused them earn their stellar hunting reputation was through selection and testing, to keep and retain those traits requires more of the same, it is a process that never ends!

Al Kranbuhl

Pete Bassani's Redline Airedale "Joe Boy" and Den Terriers after a successful hunt.