Airedale, a valley (dale) in the West Riding of Yorkshire, named for the river Aire that runs through it, was the birthplace of the breed. In the mid-19th Century, working class people created the Airedale Terrier by crossing the old English rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier (now known as the Welsh Terrier) with the Otterhound. In 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognized the Airedale Terrier breed.
In 1864 they were exhibited for the first time at a championship dog show sponsored by the Airedale Agricultural Society. They were classified under different names, including Rough Coated, Bingley and Waterside Terrier. In 1879 breed fanciers decided to call the breed the Airedale Terrier, a name accepted by the Kennel Club (England) in 1886.
Well-to-do hunters of the era were typically accompanied by a pack of hounds and several terriers, often running them both together. The hounds would scent and pursue the quarry and the terriers would "go to ground" or enter into the quarry's burrow and make the kill. Terriers were often the sporting dog of choice for the common man. Early sporting terriers needed to be big enough to tackle the quarry, but not so big as to prevent them from maneuvering through the quarry's underground lair. As a result, these terriers had to have a very high degree of courage and pluck to face the foe in a tight, dark underground den without the help of human handlers.
During the middle of the nineteenth century, regular sporting events took place along the Aire River in which terriers pursued the large river rats that inhabited the area. A terrier was judged on its ability to locate a "live" hole in the riverbank and then, after the rat was driven from its hole by a ferret brought along for that purpose, the terrier would pursue the rat through water until it could make a kill. As these events became more popular, demand arose for a terrier that could excel in this activity. One such terrier was developed through judicious crossings of the Black-and-Tan Terrier and Bull and Terrier dogs popular at the time with the Otter Hound. The result was a long-legged fellow that would soon develop into the dog we recognize today as the Airedale Terrier. This character was too big to "go to ground" in the manner of the smaller working terriers; however, it was good at everything else expected of a sporting terrier, and it was particularly adept at water work. This big terrier had other talents in addition to its skill as a ratter. Because of its hound heritage it was blessed with the ability to scent game and the size to be able to tackle larger animals. It became more of a multipurpose terrier that could pursue game by powerful scenting ability, be broken to gun, and taught to retrieve. Its size and temperament made it an able guardian of farm and home. One of the colorful, but less-than legal, uses of the early Airedale Terrier was to assist its master in poaching game on the large estates that were off-limits to commoners. Rabbits, hare, and fowl were plentiful, and the Airedale could be taught to retrieve game killed by its master, or to pursue, kill, and bring it back itself.
The first imports of Airedale Terriers to North America were in the 1880s. The first Airedale to come to American shores was named Bruce. After his 1881 arrival, Bruce won the terrier class in a New York dog show.
The patriarch of the breed is considered to be CH Master Briar (1897–1906). Two of his sons, Crompton Marvel and Monarch, also made important contributions to the breed.
The first Canadian registrations are recorded in the Stud book of 1888–1889.
In 1910, the ATCA (Airedale Terrier Club of America) offered the Airedale Bowl as a perpetual trophy, which continues to this day. It is now mounted on a hardwood pedestal base, holding engraved plates with the names of the hundreds of dogs that have been awarded Best of Breed at the National Specialties.
The Airedale was extensively used in World War I to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines and transport mail. They were also used by the Red Cross to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield. There are numerous tales of Airedales delivering their messages despite terrible injury. An Airedale named 'Jack' ran through half a mile of enemy fire, with a message attached within his collar. He arrived at headquarters with his jaw broken and one leg badly splintered, and right after he delivered the message, he dropped dead in front of its recipient. 
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson was responsible for the development of messenger and guard dogs in the British Army. He, along with his wife, established a War Dog Training School at Shoeburyness in Essex, England. In 1916, they provided two Airedales (Wolf & Prince)for use as message carriers. After both dogs proved themselves in battle, Airedales were given more duties, such as locating injured soldiers on the battlefield, an idea taken from the Red Cross.
Before the adoption of the German Shepherd as the dog of choice for law enforcement and search and rescue work, the Airedale terrier often filled this role.
In 1906, Richardson tried to interest the British Police in using dogs to accompany officers, for protection on patrol at night. Mr. Geddes, Chief Goods Manager for Hull Docks in Yorkshire, was convinced after he went saw the impressive work of police dogs in Belgium. Geddes convinced Superintendent Dobie of the North Eastern Railway Police, to arrange a plan for policing the docks. Airedale Terriers were selected for duty as police dogs because of their intelligence, good scenting abilities and their hard, wiry coats that were easy to maintain and clean.
At the beginning of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, the Russian embassy in London contacted Lt. Colonel Richardson for help acquiring dogs for the Russian Army, trained to take the wounded away from the battlefields. He sent terriers, mostly Airedale Terriers, for communication and sanitary services. Although these original imports perished, Airedale Terriers were reintroduced to Russia in the early 1920s for use by the Red Army. Special service dog units were created in 1923, and Airedale Terriers were used as demolition dogs, guard dogs, police tracking dogs and casualty dogs.
Two Airedales were among the dogs lost with the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The Airedale "Kitty" belonged to Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the real-estate mogul. The second Airedale belonged to William E. Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Mr. Carter was the owner of the Renault automobile in which Jack and Rose trysted in the movie "Titanic". Carter, his wife and two children survived the sinking.
During the 1930s, when airedales were farmed like livestock, American breeders developed the Oorang airedale.
Capt. Walter Lingo, of LaRue, Ohio, developed the Oorang Airedale strain. The name came from a line of bench champions, headed by King Oorang 11, a dog which was said to have been the finest utility dog. King could retrieve waterfowl and upland game, tree raccoons, drive cattle and sheep, and bay mountain lions, bears, and wolves. King even fought one of the best fighting bull terriers, and killed his opponent. He also trained in Red Cross work, and served the American Expeditionary Force at the front in France.
Lingo simply wasn't satisfied with the average strain of Airedale, and after an incredible series of breedings, for which he brought in great Airedales from all over the world, he created the "King Oorang." At the time, Field and Stream magazine called it, "the greatest utility dog in the history of the world." The Oorang Kennel Company continued until Walter Lingo's death in 1969. To help promote the King Oorang, as well as his kennels, Lingo created the Oorang Indians football team headed up by Jim Thorpe. The team played in National Football League from 1922–1923. Jerry Siebert, an Airedale breeder in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, followed in Lingo's footsteps, and bred "Jerang Airedales." There is a kennel in Tennessee that claims to have original Oorang Airedales.
After the First World War, the Airedales' popularity rapidly increased thanks to stories of their bravery on the battlefield and also because Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding owned Airedales. President Harding's Airedale, Laddie Boy, was the "first celebrity White House pet". President Harding had a special chair hand carved for him to sit on at very important Cabinet meetings. In the 1920s, the Airedale became the most popular breed in the USA.
President Roosevelt claimed that "An Airedale can do anything any other dog can do and then lick the other dog, if he has to."
The Airedale Terrier is the largest of the terriers and stands square in appearance. The skull is about the same length as the muzzle, with a very slight stop that is hard to see. The head is long and flat. The nose is black. The teeth should meet in a level, vice-like or scissors bite. The small eyes are dark in color. The V-shaped ears fold slightly to the side of the head and forward. The chest is deep. The topline of the back is level. The front legs are perfectly straight. The tail is set high on the back. The double coat has a hard, dense and wiry outer coat with a soft undercoat. Coat colors include tan and black and tan and grizzle. The head and ears should be tan, with the ears being a slightly darker shade of tan. The legs, thighs, elbows and the under part of the body and chest are also tan, sometimes running into the shoulder. In some lines there is a small white blaze on the chest. The back of the dog, sides and upper parts of the body should be black or dark grizzle in color.
The Airedale Terrier, the "King of Terriers," is brimming with personality. He has the trademark terrier temperament: energetic, curious, feisty, and boisterous. He thinks he is a comedian and will provide you with years of comic relief. He craves your attention and will act out to get it. They are intelligent, and quick learners, but they certainly think for themselves, so their idea of "trained" might differ from yours. They are notoriously unreliable on the recall. They seem to think everything over. They like to work with you, not for you. They seem to be born mischievous and act like puppies until they are about two years old. They like to destroy doggie beds, shred newspapers and eat rugs. They also love to dig. They will also steal laundry and food. They like to find their own adventures in life. To minimize their misbehaviors, it is imperative that you give your Airedale daily exercise. They enjoy doing most anything you do: hiking, jogging, backpacking, canoeing, camping, and agility. They are loyal, devoted, and protective, and will bark when someone approaches the door. They are excellent watch dogs! The Airedale will certainly stand his ground (one time that the stubbornness works for you). The Airedale is a terrier, and will chase small animals. They are not reliable with cats, unless they grow up with them, and even then, it's not a sure thing. Some Airedales are aggressive with other dogs. Airedales do wonderfully with children, but these are large, exuberant, high energy dogs with head-butting enthusiasm who like to roughhouse. They can injure a young child without ever meaning to, so many breeders recommend they don't go to homes with young children. Airedale parents need to keep a close eye on their dog's health, because Airedales rarely show pain. They can be seriously injured or really ill and still be wagging their tail. If an Airedale is for you, then you will need to be devoted to a high maintenance, high energy member of your family. They need your affection and attention and they will want to supervise everything you do. With careful, diligent, patient training and parenting, the Airedale can be the best family pet in the world, but you have to be the right family. You need to be okay with a rowdy, jolly joker helping you run your house!
Height: Males 22 - 24 inches (56 - 61 cm) Females 22 - 23 inches (56 - 58 cm)
Weight: Males 50 - 65 pounds (23 - 29 kg) Females 40 - 45 pounds (18 - 20 kg)
The Airedale Terrier is not recommended for apartment life. They are very active indoors and will do best with at least an average-sized yard.
The Airedale Terrier should have at least an average sized yard available. A very active breed, this dog loves to swim, jog, run, and play so this breed does require extensive exercise. Not recommended for apartment life as they are very active indoors and can become a tyrant if not sufficiently exercised.
About 10-12 years.
The hair of this breed is hard and crisp making it rather hard to groom. Dead hair should be plucked at least twice a year. The Airedale Terrier can shed heavily or not at all depending on the cut of the coat. Washing the beard regularly is a must to keep it free from caking.
The Airedale has a sweet disposition, but when challenged, is not afraid to stand up for himself. Obedience training is important for these quick learners, but make sure to keep it interesting - they can get bored easily! They also thrive with daily exercise. Although relatively easy to maintain, the Airedale coat needs regular brushing and stripping.