Jagdterrier

Peter Richards
Peter Richards (BVSc, MRCVS, University of Bristol)
 
Photo of adult Jagdterrier

The Jagdterrier is a modern terrier breed developed in the inter-war period in Germany. A mixture of disagreements between breeders and the desire to develop a German terrier breed to rival English terrier breeds resulted in the establishment of an extensive and professionally managed breeding program. Over 15 to 20 years of selective breeding, the program created a terrier breed with a distinctive physical appearance and hunting ability to rival the best. They were initially used to flush foxes and badgers from their underground homes, but soon proved capable of extracting much larger animals, such as wild boar, from cover. What the Jagdterrier lacks in size, they make up for in determination and courage. They have no qualms about taking on larger animals and will persist at an activity until they have accomplished their goals.

Jagdterriers may not be suited to first time owners or those who would struggle to provide them with the mental and physical stimulation that they require. They are most suited to experienced owners with an outdoor lifestyle. When given enough exercise, Jagdterriers are calm around the home and make good companions. They are able to get along with older children, however, their strong prey drive makes them unsuitable in households with other pets. If not well socialised, they may not get along with other dogs and a close eye should be paid to any interactions with unfamiliar dogs.

About & History

The Jagdterrier, sometimes known as the German Hunt Terrier, is a relatively new breed having been developed in 1920s Germany. After the First World War, a schism in the German Fox Terrier Club resulted in a handful of members leaving to create a new breed. They decided to begin crossing the Fox Terrier with black and tan Jack Russell Terriers. Their program began with just four Fox Terriers from which all modern Jagdterriers are descended.

The initial phase of the program focused on defining the physical features. The group wanted to maintain the black and tan colouration. They also bred to favour a rough over a smooth coat, which would shed dirt and water easily whilst maintaining body temperature during winter. Once the physical features of the breed were set, the group realised they had a nice looking terrier but with questionable hunting ability. To improve performance, Welsh Terriers and English Wirehaired Terriers were added to the mix.

A program dedicated to breeding a German terrier breed attracted some unsavoury characters in inter-war Germany. One of these was Lutz Heck, the curator of Berlin Zoo, who had a peculiar obsession with genetics and reviving extinct animals, such as the auroch (a species of extinct, wild cattle). However, the support of such individuals was instrumental in providing the funding and resources for such a large breeding project. At its peak, the group housed 700 dogs at their kennels.

Once complete, the breeding program had produced a hardy and tenacious breed of terrier suited to flushing a wide variety of game from their hiding places. Not only would they follow badgers and foxes into their sets and dens, they would also harass larger game, such as wild boar, until they were flushed from the undergrowth. Hunters using Jagdterrier in North America have reported they are so fierce that they are willing to stand their ground when confronted with larger predators, such as cougar and bobcats.

The breed survived the chaos of the Second World War, although with diminished numbers. In the 1950s, some individuals made it to the United States and a population persists there today. In the UK, Jagdterriers are still rare and the breed is not recognised by the UK Kennel Club.

Appearance

Jagdterrier Large Photo

Jagdterriers are small dogs, standing at 33-40cm tall at the withers. Males weigh about 10kg, while females are slightly lighter at between 7.5 and 8.5 kg. As their mixed heritage suggests, they have characteristics typical of other terriers. Their face is similar to that of the Jack Russell, although their muzzle retains some of the “boxy” appearance of a Fox Terrier. The body more closely resembles the Fox Terrier’s with a slightly sloped back from the front legs down to the hind-legs.

The coat is rough and wiry with feathering on the backs of the legs. Some dogs have longer hair on the muzzle, giving them a bearded appearance. Most Jagdterriers are black with tan to rust coloured markings on the muzzle, eyebrows, chest, undercarriage and legs. Some markings may be chocolate, liver brown or white but the breed standards differ between Kennel Clubs. The nose is either black or liver coloured.

Character & Temperament

Jagdterriers can make good family pets but some aspects of the character should be taken into account. The Jagdterrier was developed primarily as a hunting dog. They are intelligent dogs with high exercise requirements. When they’re bored or under stimulated, a Jagdterrier might turn to destruction to express their frustrations. As a result, they’re best suited to a rural lifestyle with plenty of access to the outdoors. They are extremely determined little dogs and will persist with an activity until their goals have been reached, whatever that may be! So, if their hearts are set on mischief, mischief there will be.

Jagdterriers are brave animals and, combined with their determination, this can cause problems with other dogs. Socialisation from an early age is essential for Jagdterriers to learn how to interact with other dogs and learn not to start fights. It should also be noted that Jagdterriers have a very active prey drive so should never be trusted with other animals, even if they’ve grown up together. They can do well with older children and have a playful side, allowing both to keep each other entertained for many hours.

Overall, Jagdterriers are most suited to experienced owners who can handle their demanding characters. They are would be happiest with an outdoor lifestyle with plenty of opportunities to indulge their hunting instincts.

Trainability

Photo of Jagdterrier puppy

Although Jagdterrier are intelligent, this doesn’t make them easy to train. They are independent dogs with strong wills who might not take to commands easily. If they notice a weakness or a mischievous way to accomplish their aims, they will exploit it. Training should be firm but not heavy-handed. Early training should focus on socialisation and developing a good recall. This is particularly important in this hunting breed who might be prone to ignoring their owner over their instinct to chase other animals, including livestock and the neighbourhood cats.

Training sessions should be kept diverse to keep the Jagdterrier from getting bored. Short sessions conducted frequently will be more beneficial than longer sessions in which both dog and owner become bored and frustrated. Consistency in behavioural expectations is essential. Begin as you mean to go on, so don’t allow your puppy onto furniture where they wouldn’t be allowed as an adult.

Health

Jagdterrier are hardy dogs with a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years. There is one condition to which they are predisposed:

  • Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) – The lens in the eye is held in place by connective tissue fibres, the zonular fibres. In individuals affected by PLL, the zonular fibres are weakened, which can result in displacement of the lens within the eye. This displacement can block drainage of the fluid within the eye leading to glaucoma, a painful condition that can result in blindness if left untreated. A genetic test is available to identify affected individuals who should have their eyes checked every 6 months to detect any signs of lens luxation. Affected individuals should not be used in breeding programs.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Jagdterrier have high energy levels for small dogs. They require at least an hour of good quality outdoor exercise a day. They would be best suited for owners who lead an outdoor lifestyle and can provide enough physical and mental stimulation every day. Exercise should be as diverse and stimulating as possible with the opportunity to play and roam.

A one hour on-lead walk will not be enough to satiate a Jagdterrier’s appetite for entertainment. Ideally, their exercise regime should take in an area where they are free to explore and fulfill their instinct to follow scents. Owners should be aware of what other animals are in the area to avoid any run ins with other dogs or livestock, especially sheep and other animals that are liable to run.

Grooming

Jagdterriers are low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Their coats are largely self-cleaning, but a weekly brush will not go amiss. They shed constantly throughout the year, but only moderately.

Famous Jagdterriers

The Jagdterrier has not been used as widely as other terrier species in films and television series. As a result, there are no famous examples of the breed.

Cross-Breeds

There are no recognised Jagdterrier cross-breeds.

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