The following is an explaination of the "Redline" Airedale by Henry Johnson, written in response to a request by Clint Stubbe:

For this column I would like your definition of what you consider a "Redline" Airedale.  I have a pretty good idea but since you coined the term and it seems like it is really being used a lot lately I thought it best to go to the source to get a definition.  I don't think you meant slick Airedales to fall under the term redline but best for you to answer that.  Remember this may go down in the annals of history and become a new breed standard, or not.  This brings up another question.  Going back to one of your columns where you laid out the divisions in quadrants.  If Grip was a third quadrant, Lulu a fourth quadrant or redline then what constitutes a second quadrant Airedale and where do slicks fall in this scheme of things.

Hope you have time to answer.

Clint

Clint:

You ask about the origins of the term "Redline Airedale."  I started using "redline" probably about 8 or 9 years ago as an informal descriptive term for Airedales with distinctive relatively short, hard coats; sparse to very sparse beards and leg furnishings; dark colored saddles; and deep reddish colored heads and underparts.  The first one of these that caught my attention was Stuart Mauney's Digger (The Iowa Digger Dog, RB187777). Lawrence Alexander bred his Sunny (Southern Aire Summer Morning, pure show stock from David Noe) to Digger and got Minne.  Stuart bred Digger to a bitch called Copperhill's Cycadia Song and gave a female pup to Lawrence and he named her Hilltop's Baby Doll

In time Lawrence bred his Alexander Burtwell to Baby Doll and got Hilltop's Boss ManBoss Man was bred to Minne and produced Cajun (who is now with Matt Thom in Flagstaff, Arizona).

All these dogs were the distinctive redline type.  I was impressed with how strong the redline genes were, almost prepotent.  This suggested to me a very focused gene pool.  You might think strong inbreeding.  I got a five- generation pedigree on Digger and was surprised.  I couldn't see any evidence of inbreeding.  In fact he was an outcross product of a long line of country dogs on the dam side and an almost unbroken line of show champions going back to England on the sire side.

It is not uncommon for show people and some veterinarians (who usually don't know much about Airedales) to say that the redline type Airedale is not purebred and must have resulted from some kind of hound cross.  That doesn't hold up at all.  There is no evidence of hound anywhere in their physical appearance, their teeth, or their temperaments.  At least not any more than there is in any Airedale.  They were all crossbred dogs in the beginning and all of them have some hound in them as well as bull terrier, sheep dog, and bird dog, and who knows what.  Also there is no oral or written record or tradition of any kind to indicate any outcross breeding to a hound or any other breed to produce the redline type Airedale.  And humans being humans, there would definitely be bragging or finger pointing if such a thing had occurred.

Looking at prints and photographs of the early Airedale show champions in England from a few years before and around 1900 you will see dogs that obviously are very short coated and have minimal beards and leg furnishings, some of them being quite slick coated.  I can come to no other conclusion but that the "redline" type we have today represents a throwback to an early version of the Airedale, before the influence of the conformation show ring became dominant.  I can't remember the source, but in one of my Full Crycolumns several years back I quoted a past president of the Airedale Terrier Club of Canada who commented that the short coated Airedale was the rule until longer, softer coats began to come into show dogs shortly after 1900.

He was wondering how that had happened and speculated on some possible cross-breeding to some longer, softer coated dog, possibly some sheep dog type.

I really don't think any outcross was necessary.  There was already sheepdog in them and all you have to do is select your breeding stock to emphasize whatever traits and physical characteristics you want and over a few generations you will change the breed. 

The show people and professional groomers and handlers much prefer the longer softer coats because they can then groom them to hide flaws and can starch and dye them to produce the colors and effects they want, even though it is illegal to doctor the dogs up this way.  One thing about this cosmetic doctoring up of the dogs that is common in the show world is that these cosmetic changes do not breed true.

You breed to what you think is the perfect Airedale because he is a big show winner and when you see the pups you wonder if some dumpster dog didn't jump the fence and get to the bitch behind your back.

Take a look at the "redline" coat a minute.  Here's what the Airedale Standard says about coats: 

"Should be hard, dense, and wiry, lying straight and close, covering the dog well over the body and legs.  Some of the hardest are crinkling or just slightly waved.  At the base of the hard very stiff hair should be a shorter growth of softer hair termed the “undercoat."

That's all it says.  Not a word about long flowing beards and pillow-like fluffed-out leg furnishings.  In my mind there is no question about it.

The "redline" type Airedale has a coat much closer to the Airedale Standard than the modern show line dog does.  Sure, some show line dogs have excellent coats.  But a lot of what looks like a good coat on the modern show dog is just the product of cosmetic doctoring and if you breed to that dog there is a good chance you will not get a good natural Airedale coat.

How short or long can the "redline" coat be?  Well, you will see types like Cajun or my Old Jack or Eddy Boatwright's Country Slicker that are slick coated on the head and have almost no beard or leg furnishings at all, but even those so-called slick coated ones have good harsh coats of an inch or an inch and a half long over most of the rest of the body.  They are not really slick coated all over, just on the heads and maybe on the forelegs. And then you will see quite a few "redline" type Airedales that have somewhat longer coats and relatively short but fairly decent beards and leg furnishings.  There is a gradation here from the so-called slick types back through a much more heavily-coated dog.

As I said, it is fairly common for show people to reject the "redline" type Airedale and say they are not pure specimens.  Pure bred or not, they don't want them in the show ring and such specimens will not win in conformation against the dogs with long fluffy beards and leg furnishings.  Hunters on the other hand see it quite the opposite and as a general rule prefer the shorter coated dog because they have low maintenance, self-keeping coats that do not mat up with burrs and weed seeds or ice or ball up with packing snow.

At first I thought maybe the "redline" type Airedale was coming just from a very restricted line, mainly from Digger and his descendents.  But over time I have seen the same type produced from several other lines, and Barbara Burns tells me it was not uncommon to have such short-haired reddish colored pups appear in Airedale litters in the Northeast twenty or thirty years or more ago and that the show people would cull them or sell them without papers because they wanted more beards and leg furnishings.

All this indicates to me that the "redline" type Airedale is not due to any cross breeding but is a throwback to some of the early dogs and that the "redline" characteristics are still there, hidden in the gene pool, in most if not all of the modern Airedales.  When "redline" pups appear, if you selectively keep and line breed them you will eventually begin to get litters with a high percentage of "redline" types. 

Matt Thom in Flagstaff, Arizona, is the foremost "redline" Airedale breeder I know these days, and Eddie Boatwright of Collinwood, Tennessee, may be a close second.

Now you also asked me about this quadrant system I sometimes speak of. That hasn't been used much and may not be very useful.  I just laid out a straight line across the page in front of me and put the modern, long-coated show line type Airedale at the left end of the line (left being socially progressive, liberal, and politically correct) and the extreme, shorter-coated "redline" type Airedale at the right end of the line (right being conservative). 

I then drew lines from the two end points down to a central point to make an inverted pyramid and put old Airedale Jerry at that point (they all come from him, you know).  Then I divided the horizontal line into four equal parts and connected the dividing points to the center point at the bottom.  That gave me four quadrants, with the modern, longer coated dog being in the 1st quadrant and the classic "redline" type Airedale being in the 4th quadrant.  There are all possible variations between the two extremes.  I don't use this classification much and don't really know how practical it is, but my own breeding goal was and is the third quadrant dog.

By the way, I also used to say that the modern show line dog of the 1st quadrant type has been "much improved" over old Airedale Jerry, whereas the 4th quadrant dog is the same conservative, old "unimproved" type that Airedale Jerry was.  Some people say that the "redline" type dog has more natural hunting drive than the 1st and 2nd quadrant Airedales do.  I can't prove it myself but am inclined to believe that is true more often than not.

I see on the message boards that Al Kranbuhl ("Airedale from New York") thinks that is the case, and I know Al has had a lifetime of experience with English Hounds and hunting Airedales.  However, there is no doubt plenty of room for controversy there.

Hope this answers your questions.  It's about all I can contribute on the subject.  Somebody else will have to take it further if you want to continue the discussion or investigation into what the "redline" type Airedale represents.  Whatever they are and wherever they came from I can tell you they are damn good dogs.

Henry Johnson

Fults Cove
Tennessee




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