Monday, September 1, 2014

Vintage Airedale Photos

The only thing I know about Airedales is they like to fetch tennis balls and swallow towels, and that's based on a sample of only two dogs, Mic and Pete.

A cross between old fashioned Black and Tan Terriers and Welsh Terriers, neither breed fond of water, and water-loving Otter Hounds, Airedale Terriers were registered with the Kennel Club of England in 1886.

In 1881 the breed was imported to the U. S. and soon became a dependable working dog and popular companion. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding all owned Airedales.

Two Airedales owned by President Warren G. Harding.
Laddie Boy participated in cabinet meetings 
residing in his own hand-carved chair, and 
enjoyed birthday parties with neighbors' dogs.
Source: Library of Congress

A different Laddie, made famous by the military media machine, further popularized the breed during World War Two.  The press embellished dog stories to promote the idea of valor and loyalty, and the story of Laddie, a Kansas farm dog, is a somewhat shameless example.
A boy and his dog - 
as American as apple pie.
It goes that a Kansas soldier, Private Everett Scott, had an Airedale who grieved so much when Scott went into the army, that he starved himself until when, on the brink of death, the dog was flown cross-country to see his master. "Laddie had starved himself for weeks, but yesterday he had a good meal of concentrated broth, milk, brandy and vitamin B1." The newspaper exclaimed,  "The will to live has returned since Laddie returned to Scott, and the men at Fort Ord are pulling for his recovery. With the aid of medical science, Laddie may live for some time to come."

But alas, it was not to be so. The headlines howled, "Transfusions Fail; Scott's Dog is Dead!", adding that the thousands of people who followed his flight across the country to Scott's side know that Laddie died of grief.

Army veterinarians pointed out that the dog didn't die of a broken heart but rather death was caused by gastroenteritis, anemia and old age,  a necropsy report that was buried on page 7. Nevertheless, the sensational story remained front page news: "A great national tribute to a dog's love for his master in a time of war".
Laddie II
"No One Can Replace Laddie",  headlined the Kansas City Evening Star, but replace him the army did, at least in America's mind, by making arrangements to send another Airedale to the Kansas farm boy turned soldier. And that dog, Laddie II, became the mascot of the 17th Infantry.

In 1949 at the height of their popularity,
 Airedales were ranked 20th on the
AKC's most popular dog list.
Today they are the 56th most popular breed.


  1. This is a breed I'm not familiar with, and was surprised to see how large a dog they are...they have an interesting looking coat!

  2. I grew up with Airdales - a succession of 4, all named Riff. They are smart, funny, scrappy and devoted. They are kind of self absorbed (like some of my friends) but if you are up for adventure they're all in. They will chase tennis balls and also eat them. They are non-shedders so must be clipped regularly or you will have a wagging wad of sofa stuffing. They are great family dogs and wonderful with kids. I remember I was getting a spanking once (I was innocent!) and Riff #1 grabbed my dad's hand to stop him. Good dog!