In the history and “lore” of most breeds were events that became a recognized part of a breeds history. There may also have been some things that happened so rarely they were overlooked and forgotten. In the history of the Rat Terrier breed, there have been, and continue to be, sporadic reports of hairless puppies born to normal coated Rat Terrier parents.
It is now known that this hairless gene is a simple recessive gene that either originated in the Rat Terrier or in one of hits parent breeds. However they got here, the history of the American Hairless Terrier (AHT) began in 1972, when Edwin Scott’s neighbor gave him a little hairless female. This hairless puppy was born in a litter of normal looking coated puppies, and was produced by coated mid-sized Rat Terrier parents. In a previous litter, the same two parent dogs had produced a hairless puppy, which was lost, probably from exposure. This second puppy, however, was very vigorous, and grew just as well as her siblings. Mr. Scott named her Josephine.
As he and his family lived with her, and her progeny, they came to realize what a gift this hairlessness would become. The hairless dogs are so easy to keep clean and pest free, people who don’t want to be bothered with fleas and hair can experience “dog joy” free of those annoyances. But even more important than “convenience” is the true joy experienced by a family that could never before have a dog. Allergies keep millions of people from being able to live with coated dogs. Those of us who have not been denied this pleasure have no idea what a loss that can be.
Almost every breeder of these hairless dogs has come to know their true value through an association with the families who need them. It is very difficult for non-allergic family members to be denied a much wanted pet because another family member cannot tolerate living with it. The situation for the allergic individual can be even more painful! Not only are they unable to have the pet they want, but they might also feel responsible for the loss the rest of the family must endure. Happily for them all, it appears that a higher percentage of sensitive persons can tolerate this hairless breed, than any other breed in the world!
These hairless dogs produce a normal amount of lubricating skin oil, the same as do coated dogs. With no coat to disperse onto, the oil serves another purpose, most important to sensitive people. Between baths, the oil stays on the surface of the skin, and traps the normal dander that all skin produces, thus keeping the dander out of the environment, and making it less of a threat to an allergic person. When the dog is bathed, the dander goes down the drain. This breed appears to be well able to tolerate being bathed two or even three times weekly. Their skin is surprisingly durable, even though it lacks the protection of a haircoat. That same lack of a haircoat, however, does make the skin very susceptible to sunburn. They must be protected by clothing or sunblock particularly those that lack pigment (primarily white dogs).
As far as how the weather affects them, these dogs are very similar to their coated counterparts. They are able to tolerate limited exposure to cold better than prolonged exposure to heat and humidity. Overall, they are every bit as tough and active as their coated brethren.
The personality of this hairless terrier is that of any terrier. Given the opportunity to hunt squirrel, dig for moles, catch vermin or chase a ball, these dogs will be right in the middle of the hunt or the chase! They are now also outstanding terrier racers, lure coursers, agility dogs, fly ball participants, weight pull and obedience dogs. In short, anything you take the time to teach them, they are willing and very able to learn!
There are numerous accounts of our hairless friends working a tree, killing vermin, and digging for underground treasures. For most owners, nothing is more pleasurable than watching them do what comes naturally. But when it is time to settle in their owners lap or sit by their side, they are right there, ready to enjoy the companionship of their humans. They do tend to bond closely with their families, so early socialization is important.
This hairless terrier is different from all other hairless breeds in several ways. Most evident is the quality of its “hairlessness”. The skin is so much softer and smoother than that seen in any other hairless breed. With the exception of some whiskers and eyelashes, it is totally hairless. Some individuals when viewed at an angle, in good light, may exhibit a very fine, downy “peach fuzz”. Sometimes, there are also “hairy hairless,” those that are primarily hairless but grow “rogue”/course hairs over the course of their lifetime. This is likely due to an incomplete expression of the hairless gene and it is genetic (parents that are hairy-hairless have babies that also grow extra, unwanted hair).
Another notable difference from all other hairless breeds, is their normal dentition. While some have missing premolars, most have full dentition and the canine teeth are of normal size and set in a correct angle within the jaw. So, while there are some differences, it is important to note that these are just dogs, and require regular veterinary care just like any other dog. They do not have special diseases or sweat glands to cool themselves. They pant like all other dogs and lose heat via the pads in their feet.
Very important to breeders is the fact that this hairlessness is a recessive trait, with no lethal gene, as is found in the other hairless breeds. Breeders may breed hairless to hairless without danger to the developing puppies. This most useful trait is what most of today’s breeders are using to add new genetic material to the breed.
The inheritance pattern of this simple recessive trait:
A.) When a hairless is bred to a hairless, 100% of the puppies will be hairless.
B.) When a hairless is bred to a coated dog that does not carry the hairless gene (genotypically a Rat Terrier), 100% of the puppies will have coats and all will carry the hairless gene. These dogs are referred to as coated carriers.
C.) When a hairless is bred to a coated carrier, you will have 50% hairless pups and 50% coated carriers.
D.) When a coated carrier is bred to a coated carrier, you will have 25% hairless, 50% coated carriers, and 25% coated that are genotypically Rat Terriers (do not carry the hairless gene).
In January 1999 the Rat Terrier was fully recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC). At the same time, these hairless “cousins” became recognized as the hairless version of the more familiar coated Rat Terrier. Since the foundation hairless lines had been inbred for so many years, it was very important to introduce new, unrelated Rat Terrier lines to the foundation hairless dogs. So, even after full breed recognition from UKC in 2004, we continued to outcross to Rat Terriers. However, we are now known as the American Hairless Terrier, with 2 varieties: coated and hairless. The Rat Terrier breed does not include any dogs that are KNOWN to carry the hairless gene or have hairless dogs in the background. The Rat Terrier currently has 2 varieties, the miniature and the standard.
In 2011, the AHT was accepted into Foundation Stock Service with the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AHT is moving into the Miscellaneous group January 2013. Our AHTs with Rat Terrier parents and grandparents can participate in performance events in the AKC but have to wait until F3 prior to being eligible for conformation. However, they are still eligible for all events with UKC.