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About the breed

The Norfolk Terrier is a British breed of dog. Prior to gaining recognition as an independent breed in 1960, it was a variety of the Norwich Terrier, distinguished from the “prick eared” Norwich by its “drop ears” (or folded ears). Together, the Norfolk and Norwich Terriers are the smallest of the working terriers.



The Norfolk Terrier has a wire-haired coat which, according to the various national kennel clubs’ breed standards, can be “all shades of red, wheaten, black and tan, or grizzle.

They are the smallest of the working terriers. They are active and compact, free moving, with good substance and bone. Good substance means good spring of rib and bone that matches the body such that the dog can be a very agile ratter or earth-dog.

Norfolk terriers are moderately proportioned dogs. A too heavy dog would not be agile. A too refined dog would make it a toy breed. Norfolks generally have more reach and drive and a stronger rear angulation, hence cover more ground than their Norwich cousins. Norfolk have good side gait owed to their balanced angulation front and rear and their slightly longer length of back.


Norfolks are described as fearless. They, along with Norwich Terriers and Border Terriers, have the softest temperaments of the Terrier Group. Norfolks work in packs and must get along with other dogs. As companions, they love people and children and do make good pets. Their activity level is generally reflective of the pace of their environment. This breed should not be kept or live outside since they thrive on human contact. Generally, Norfolks are not given to digging but, like any dog, will dig out of  boredom when left alone for too long a period. Norfolks can be barkers and are very vocal. They generally cohabit well with other household pets when introduced as a puppy. Outdoors, they are natural hunters with a strong prey drive for small vermin.

Norfolks are self-confident and carry themselves with presence and importance, holding their heads and tails erect. A Norfolk that is shy or that carries its tail between its legs is atypical, as it is hot-tempered and aggressive with other dogs; these traits are not the standard. A Norfolk’s typical temperament is happy, spirited, and self-confident.

The Norfolk Terrier is one of the smallest Terriers, but he’ll never behave that way and wouldn’t believe it if you told him how small he actually is. A Norfolk believes in living with great gusto, whether he’s out and about with the people he loves or digging a hole in the flower bed. He’s robust, sturdy, and tends to be good with children — among the best contenders for a family pet among all the fiery little Terriers.

Of course, not every Norfolk Terrier will be good with children. Adult supervision of the kids along with training and socializing of the dog is still required. The Norfolk usually gets along well with other dogs and with cats, but small pets like hamsters are another story. If yours is a multispecies family, you’ll have to choose another breed, be very careful, or face a crying child once that pet rat meets his doom.

Norfolk Terriers are generally not diggers, are easy to housetrain, and take readily to other types of training as well. When it comes to obedience training, be prepared to put in some effort since, like many Terriers, the Norfolk can be independent and even a bit stubborn. They’re far from the noisiest of the small dogs, but they’re not the quietest, either, and that means more training to keep the yap factor in check.

Norfolk Terriers have been bred to be family companions for so long now that they can never accept life as a backyard dog. Make sure your Norfolk Terrier lives indoors as a member of the family or he’s likely to turn into a noisy, destructive, and very unhappy little dog.

Working style

Norfolks were originally bred as barn dogs to rid the barn of vermin. Some literature suggest that they were also occasionally used on the hunt to bolt animals of equal size from their den. To some extent they are still used in that capacity in continental Europe. Norfolks are pack animals and hence expected to get along with other dogs while working or in the home. As a pack dog, they take turns working their prey. They are fearless and their courage is incredible. Today, of course, they are household companions and must have an agreeable disposition for living with people.


The life expectancy of a Norfolk Terrier is 8–14 years, with some growing as old as 17 years.

Norfolks generally have medium to small litters. Responsible breeders only breed healthy dogs who are of good temperament, good pedigree lineage and best reflect the breed standard. The demand for Norfolk is far greater than the supply. The environment in which they are raised directly impacts the temperament of the puppy for its lifetime.



These breeds have a double coat: a harsh, wiry topcoat and a soft, warm undercoat. Ideally, the coat is combed daily with a steel “greyhound” comb, but all that is really necessary for grooming a companion dog is a good combing once a week to remove the loose, dead hairs and prevent matting. As a minimum, the coat is hand stripped once in the Fall and once in the Spring. Clipping or cutting ruins the coat’s colours and harsh texture. A Norfolk Terrier can be washed with a dog shampoo when it’s dirty.


In the 1880s, British sportsmen developed a working terrier of East Anglia in eastern England. The Norwich Terrier and later the drop-eared variety now known as the Norfolk Terrier, were believed to have been developed by crossing local terrier-like dogs, small, short-legged Irish Terrier breeds and the small red terriers used by the Gypsy ratters of Norfolk (the county in which Norwich the city exists).

They were first called the Cantab Terrier when they became fashionable for students to keep in their rooms at Cambridge University in England.[4] Later, they were called the Trumpington Terrier, after Trumpington Street where the breed was further developed at a livery stable.[5] Then, just prior to World War I, a prominent Irish horse rider Frank Jones sold quantities of the short-legged terriers to the USA, so there they were called Jones Terriers. It was Jones who designated the terriers were from Norwich.

In 1932, the Norwich was granted acceptance into the English Kennel Club and the first written standard was created. The American Kennel Club registered the first Norwich Terrier in 1936. In 1964, The Kennel Club reclassified the drop-ear variety as it its own breed, the Norfolk Terrier, and the prick-eared variety retained the name Norwich Terrier. The American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club both recognized the division of the Norwich Terrier breed in 1979. The Norfolk Terrier was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1979. After many generations, these two breeds have developed as two distinct breeds both in physical looks and in temperament. Of note, there is literature that suggests that the Norfolk and Norwich were always two distinct breeds and the original mistake was classifying them as one.

The Norfolk Terrier is small and sturdy, alert and fearless, with sporting instincts and an even temperament. Good natured and gregarious, the Norfolk has proved adaptable under a wide variety of conditions.

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.

Today, although as many live in cities as in foxhunting country, the Norfolk should still conform to the standard. The characteristic coat requires regular grooming but trimming is heavily penalized. The ears should be neatly dropped, slightly rounded at the tip, carried close to the cheek and not falling lower than the outer corner of the eye.

The Norfolk Terrier is essentially a sporting terrier-not a toy. His chief attributes are gameness, hardiness, loyalty to his master, and great charm. He is affectionate and reasonably obedient. He must be kept small enough to conform with the standard. Above all, the outstanding personality, characteristic of the breed, must never be subordinated for the sake of appearance and conformation.