Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed Information Guide


Once mingled with the Norwich Terrier, as a single breed, the Norfolk and Norwich have now separated into their own individual breeds. The Norfolk is known as one of the world’s smallest working terriers and is recognized from his sister breed, the Norwich, by his folded or dropped ears.

Norfolk Terrier History

In the late 1800’s, it became a popular past time of the English stables, to develop small scrappy terrier dogs that were well-suited to keep rats and other vermin out of the barns. These small and agile dogs would have to be petite enough to fit in amongst bags of grain and other barnyard materials, yet be ferocious enough to go toe-to-toe with an angry cornered rat. Breeding all manner of terrier dogs together, the race was on to create the ultimate ‘ratter.’

Frank “Roughrider” Jones was the man credited with developing what originally started out as the Norwich Terrier and would eventually go on to be recognized as both the Norwich and Norfolk Terriers. By crossing various terriers from different stables throughout Norwich, Market Harborough and Cambridge, he would create a very amiable little terrier with a powerful drive for vermin-hunting. Often used in packs, whether cleaning out the stables of rats or racing down into a fox hole to flush out a hunter’s quarry, they quickly gained popularity throughout England. By 1932, he was recognized by the AKC as the Norwich Terrier.

There was a great deal of controversy surrounding these scrappy little terriers, however. When they were originally registered with the AKC Stud Book, there was quite a bit of variety in the various Norwich Terriers who were being registered. All manner of colors and sizes could be found, as well as different hair coats and, of course, some had prick ears while the others had drop ears. By 1964, the English Kennel Club decided to put an end to most of the arguements and chose to recognize them as two separate breeds; the drop-eared terriers would be known as the Norfolk Terriers, while the prick-eared puppies were registered as Norwich Terriers. Today, breed standards have changed so that the two are uniquely separate from one another and distinctly different. In 1979, the AKC would follow suit and recognize them as two separate breeds.

In England at the turn of the century, working terriers from stables in Cambridge, Market Harborough, and Norwich, were used by Frank “Roughrider” Jones to develop a breed recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1932 as the Norwich Terrier. In the early days there was a diversity in type, size, color, coat, and ear carriage. Correct color and ear carriage were constantly argued. When the Norwich breed standard was drawn up the drop ear and the prick ear terriers remained one breed. The English Kennel Club, in 1964, recognized them as two breeds-the drop ear variety as the Norfolk and the prick ear as the Norwich.

In the United States those who remember the “Roaring Twenties” still refer to the Norwich as a “Jones Terrier” after Frank Jones, from whom many American sportsmen traveling abroad bought their first little red terriers. In 1936, thanks to the efforts of Gordon Massey (who registered the first Norwich Terrier in this country) and Henry Bixby, then Executive Vice President of the American Kennel Club, the Norwich Terrier was accepted as a breed by the AKC. It remained one breed until 1979 when division by ear carriage became official. The drop ears are now recognized as the Norfolk, while the prick ears remain Norwich.

Visually there appears to be a distinct difference between the two breeds, resulting in two slightly different breed standards. Each breed has developed with success since separation.

Norfolk Terrier Appearance

One of the smallest of the terrier breeds, the Norfolk embodies all it is to be terrier – short, yet powerful, legs are able to propel him nimbly across the ground. His coat is dense and bears a somewhat adorably shaggy appearance, and he is found in all different shades of red and wheaten, as well as black-and-tan varieties and grizzle.

The Norfolk has dropped ears, but still maintains a very bright and alert expression, always seeming to be listening for something and ready to take on the world.

Norfolk Terrier Temperament

Like many terriers, the Norfolk is best described as scrappy. Very lovable, when it comes to their masters, they can be a bit timid with sudden movements from strangers, but are generally quick to warm up to (and swarm over) the neighbors. Possessing a very playful and clown-like attitude, they are wonderful companion animals.

While the Norfolk does well with a pack of other Norfolks, early socialization is important to avoid aggression with other canines, particularly of other sexes. Careful consideration must also be given, should you have other pets – remember, it’s natural instinct for these dogs to hunt vermin and they can’t differentiate between a wild rodent and your pet rabbit, ferret, rat or guinea pig. Sometimes, even the cat can be dreadfully hassled.

Norfolk Terrier Exercise Info

The Norfolk is a busy body but, fortunately, he does enjoy long periods of rest between his restless antics. Because of their activity levels and their playfulness, they are idea for families with older children or with very active adults who want an ‘on the go’ companion.

If you plan on bringing a Norfolk into your home, plan on going for regular walks, taking frequent trips to the dog park, or playing a good half-hour or more’s worth of fetch the ball every day. These scrappy little terriers are no couch potatoes!

Norfolk Terrier Grooming Info

The Norfolk’s coat is not prone to matting easily, but he will require a weekly brushing, just to keep the natural oils distributed through his coat and to help remove any dander that may have accumulated on his skin. Additionally, this breed does require occasional stripping, to gently pull the dead hair from his coat. Be sure to have a responsible breeder show you how to do this properly or be sure to take him in to the groomer’s regularly, to help keep him comfortable and happy.

Norfolk Terrier Training Info

The Norfolk puppy is quick to learn, both good things and bad. Sharp-witted and intelligent, they pick up things quickly, so it’s important to be consistent to avoid confusion. Additionally, they are willing to please, love praise, and seem to work exceptionally well with clicker training.

Norfolk Terrier Health Info

The Norfolk is generally a hale and healthy breed, though there are a few complications that linger in some of the bloodlines. Hip dysplasia is certainly a concern with these scruffy little terriers, as well as luxating patellas. There are also a small number of individuals that have shown to have troubles with mitral valve disease, so it’s important to purchase your puppy from a reputable breeder. Never be afraid to ask questions or voice your concerns with your potential puppy’s breeder – they’ll be more than happy to answer them all.

Norfolk Terrier Right Breed Info

The Norfolk is an amazing little family dog and makes a wonderful companion. He loves the company of humans and thrives when he’s close to his people. For this reason, it’s generally not a good idea to get a Norfolk if you’re someone who works a good portion of the day and doesn’t enjoy a dog on your lap and lots of play and snuggles.

Another thing to consider is the natural instincts of these wire-haired terriers. Bred as vermin hunters, they are not well-suited to homes that keep pets that he may consider possible prey. Rabbits, guinea pigs, or pet rats and mice do not mix with Norfolk Terriers and, occasionally, even the family cat may be at risk if proper socialization doesn’t take place.

If you don’t mind this, or the occasional hole in your lawn (they’re natural diggers), the Norfolk Terrier may be the perfect dog for you and your family!

More Information about the Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed

Norfolk Terrier on Wikipedia