Off in a Flash

True to its terrier roots, the feisty Norfolk can’t be stopped when it’s on the chase.

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The Norfolk is one of the dog world’s well-kept secrets. These scruffy little terriers were treasured by generations of fanciers on both sides of the Atlantic for well over a century before they achieved official kennel-club recognition.

“The Norfolk is truly a big dog in a small body,” says veterinarian and Norfolk breeder, Marian Shaw, D.V.M. “They are certainly keen hunters. One day, we heard our dogs barking frantically outside. By the time we got there they had pulled the siding off the house, made a hole in the wall and gone in after a groundhog that was under the bathroom floor.” The breed’s founders would have been delighted with this story. Their goal was to create a fearless, thoroughly game terrier.

The smallest of the working terriers, the Norfolk Terrier was discovered in England, by University of Cambridge undergraduates in the 1870s. The students began using these fiery little terriers to protect their dormitory food supplies from a flourishing rodent population. The dogs not only did the job, they became essential companions to the students and were dubbed Cantab Terriers.

“The breed thrived in England,” says breeder and judge Joan Kefeli of Thornville, Ohio. “Several breeders were developing these dogs in different parts of the country. They were great pack dogs and vermin killers. They also had to be charming because they lived in the house.”

Roots of the breed
The main supplier of Cantab Terriers was a Cambridge dog dealer named Charles “Doggy” Lawrence. It’s believed that Lawrence created his Cantabs from a mix of Irish, Yorkshire, Border and east Anglican red terriers, a strain of rough-coated terriers bred by local farmers and stable owners.

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