History of the Plummer Terrier

Where to begin? It’s impossible to discuss Plummer terriers without mentioning DB Plummer schoolteacher, writer and avid rat hunter. It is he who began the creation of the breed and from whom they take their name. A controversial figure he has his devoted supporters and those who are less keen. Plummer began his terrier career with a hard strain of JRT from his home in Wales and over the years added beagle, fell terrier, bull terrier, further JRT blood and fox terrier into the mix to create what is now called the Plummer terrier. Originally these dogs were viewed as a strain of JRT but as their distinctive look became more established they were classified as a breed apart from JRT and took the name Plummer terrier.

Plummer wrote about his terriers and their exploits extensively and for anyone who wants a detailed explanation of these early years they would be advised to seek out his books. However, it’s best to take some of his tales with a pinch of salt.

Other people then became involved in the breed; if you discuss Plummers it’s not long before Curtis Price and his dog Rocky is mentioned, a foundation stone in the modern Plummer and he figures in many contemporary dogs’ pedigrees. For many years it was people such as he that took the breed forward, whilst DBP wrote and lived in Caithness. And during this period the first breed club was founded: The Plummer Terrier association [http://www.plummerterrierassociation.org/]. In the mid-nineties DBP reasoned that in order for several defects within the breed to be eradicated a fresh introduction of bull blood was required, the PTA refused to accept this and so DBP and several others broke away and the second breed club was founded, the Plummer Terrier Club of Great Britain. Last year saw the PTA push for acceptance by the Kennel club, which was rejected, and resulted in the formation of a third breed club [yes that’s right another one] the European Plummer Terrier Society. Yes, it’s very complicated being a Plummer owner and we have not even mentioned the way other terrier owners view the breed. Venturing into Plummer land opens a real can of worms. The creation of the three clubs, but primarily the initial two has led to a divergence of breeding programmes: the PTCoGB’s kennels, often labelled the outcross; and the PTA's kennels, labelled "pure". Sadly this issue has become incredibly divisive, but steps have been taken through the creation of a new forum and website allowing owners to mix try and ignore the politics and just talk dogs. I said I would avoid Plummer politics but it’s pretty difficult if I am to give an honest account of how the breed stands. Dry administrative stuff…lets talk dogs.

Once the strain became established and defined as an individual type they were initially known as the Huddlesford Rat Pack. And it is these dogs Plummer documents in his books, those familiar with them will recognise the names Vampire, Omega, Warlock et al. One thing you can’t fault Plummer on is his choice of names, dramatic as ever. These dogs are the foundations of the breed and through Plummer's writings are easily recognisable. However, once we leave the books behind other dogs equally as important but perhaps less well known play a significant role in the development of the breed. Along with individual dogs there are certain kennel prefixes which occur in many pedigrees and are and indication of there role in the development of the dog.

In selecting specific dogs there is always an element of subjectivity; and, also recognising my own frailties in the knowledge department I have been guided by the library section in the Working Plummer Terrier Forum. This is not an exhaustive list, nor can it be considered definitive, any inaccuracies I apologise for in advance. It is merely a handful of dogs, why studs get the plaudits I have no idea…there appears to be little equality in the terrier world, that are commonly viewed as important within Plummer circles. As always people have their favourites and some other dogs may have been included in this list it is by no means exhaustive but just a sample.

Vandal: a dog worked hard to lots of quarry and found in many dogs pedigree.
Welsh Viper: a classy looking dog and also found in many pedigrees.
Inglebrae Ben: similar to Viper in looks, and also found in many pedigrees.
Rocky: a powerful looking dog he is scattered throughout Plummer pedigrees

Stanhill Billy: an equally important stud dog, that is in many pedigrees.
Other names that often crop up in pedigrees from years gone by are: Firebird, San, Kotian, Magog, Troll, Maggot, Barad, Salem, Damien, Rip, Pagan, Rollo, Rupert and many other. All played a role in shaping the dogs that exist today and are found in most dogs’ pedigrees. I mention them as notable and that they are generally viewed as important dogs within the breed.

The dogs themselves, the older dogs written about in Plummers books, were smaller and had less leg than those currently produced. They were worked hard to rat, as Plummer indicates in his books and also to other legal quarry. Many entered hunt service, some with great success. As the dogs grew more popular [although popular is a relative term here] there became established heartlands of Plummer breeders: parts of Wales, South Yorkshire, the North East and the Fylde coast. Established kennel prefixes also began to figure prominently in dogs pedigrees, for example: Remlap, Coalville, Wyremead, Stonyford, and Legion. All very familiar to Plummer owners, and they feature heavily the pedigrees of many dogs.

Currently the breed clubs are petitioning for Kennel Club status, this is an ongoing process and the KC has stipulated that various conditions must be met within a stated time-frame for this to proceed. However, many owners have little interest in this aspect of the breed, they accept that it is taking place but do not engage with the process preferring to work their dogs as they have always done and let the primary breeders concern themselves with the Kennel Club.

The Plummer terrier is a striking dog to look at, its fiery red coat should conform to two distinct patterns collared [a white band around the neck] and caped [a full red cape only showing white on the throat]. They should be heavily coloured and preferably be no more than 14” at the shoulder. Terriers that do not posses collared or caped markings and have more white on them are labelled shattered, they are perfectly fine as workers, companions but are not classed as good examples of the breed. The same can be said for tri-colours, dogs which carry black in their colouring, and there are some stunning examples of tri-coloured dogs but due to the breed standard these dogs would fail to win in a registered show. The dogs are athletic and carry few faults although Patella luxation and Perthes disease have been known and breeders are taking steps to eradicate these.

There are few finer sights than a well marshalled pack of Plummers taking a line or in a thrashing melee working their quarry.

As a working dog the Plummer is a versatile dog, which has many uses. They are keen retrievers, most generally take to water freely, intelligent, have excellent noses, are biddable and have many uses in the field. They’re often found ferreting, some are found in the beating line on local shoots, some are used to ground [used legally in conjunction with the gun to protect game birds] but if it’s a pure earth dog you are interested in its probably best to look elsewhere; but undoubtedly they are most commonly used in a pack hunting rats. There is a famous pack that once hunted mink on the River Wyre. The dogs pack well and watching a field of six-seven or more Plummers hunting is a real thrill. There are many people working their dogs this way on farms, beaches, shoots etc and taking incredible hauls. One such pack of six dogs [five Plummers and an aging JRT] took 110, 130 and 86 rats on three consecutive Sundays on a local shoot. However, many people have just a single dog and enjoy bushing the odd rabbit or taking a few rodents. The dogs can give a lot of pleasure in the field and can be used in a variety of ways.

Dogs sometimes go to homes as pets; however like all dogs from a working background they require plenty of stimulation both mental and physical. Plenty of exercise and a firm discipline; despite their small stature they are most definitely not lap dogs. Allow them to burn off their boundless energy, engage their brain and you have a wonderful pet; despite this there are certain lines that are renowned for their feistiness and as with all dogs its best to read up a little to ensure the dogs are suitable before purchasing. I recently heard of somebody interested in using his Plummer in agility classes. Stimulation can come in many forms.

During the summer there are an expanding number of shows you can take you dog too: Weston Park (The Midland) Carlton Towers at Selby, this years newest large show the Great Yorkshire, is opening classes for plummers, ithe PTA has many shows, and just last year saw another show at Wolsinghham, in Weardale. Shows are generally relaxed affairs giving the chance to meet old friends and new; view the dogs, some you may never have seen but only read about via the internet; and generally enjoying the friendly banter. Terrier shows have often been a staple of country shows and as the breed grows in popularity the Plummer is beginning to feature more in these events. Breed classes are now beginning to feature in many of the working terrier shows and this can only benefit the development of the dog.

This is in no way a definitive piece of writing concerned with the Plummer terrier, it merely gives an insight into the development of a relatively new working breed. In the flesh these fiery red and white dogs are striking. Internet forums have played a role in the growing acceptance of Plummer terriers amongst the working terrier community, some of whom still harbour doubts but many are willing to recognise the sporting qualities of these dogs. Through the writings and photographs of people on the www it has been possible to show the dogs are capable of putting in a good days graft whatever form it may take.

Well, this has been a brief peek into Plummer land, it is full of controversy, hearsay, misconceptions etc just like any other dog world. But in the end it all pales into insignificance because the sight of a dozen fiery red and whites, a level pack as DBP himself always craved, stirs the heart of any genuine dog man.

Tom Stockwell.


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