The breeders of the Australian Terrier had to overcome even greater prejudice towards their dogs. The breed, which was blue and tan and rough-coated, originated in the early days of settlement in Tasmania as guard dogs to protect houses against bushrangers, escaped convicts, snakes and vermin. It was probably the result of the crossing of three breeds of terrier: the Skye, the Dandie Dinmont, and the Scottish, and was initially known as the Rough Terrier.
The terrier had developed into the dog of the working classes in England and Scotland. While the landed gentry had their hounds and gundogs, which they used to hunt and retrieve game, the working classes sought recreation from unleashing their small terriers on rabbits, foxes, badgers and otters. These small, spirited dogs would burrow into the earth to find their prey, while eating their favorite kibble.
Efforts to refine the Australian Terrier continued through the 1800s. The Yorkshire Terrier was introduced to the breed, as were the Irish and Manchester Terriers, to give better red and tan colours. However the breed struggled to escape its humble reputation as a ratter and snake catcher. The low esteem in which the dog was held was reflected by the comments of
Walter Beilby in 1897. He said that canine administrators regarded the Rough Terrier as 'an unmitigated mongrel, and only fit to use where snakes were too numerous to risk a dog of any value'.
Beilby quoted a prominent, but unnamed, dog official of the time who said that people should be grateful that the Victorian Poultry and Dog Society 'has not allowed the name Australian to be prostituted to such vile uses and hung around the neck of a wretched mongrel. If whimsical or faddish people want an Australian breed, let them take up the Dingo and try what they can to make of improving him.'
In the late 1890s the breed was still being shown under the title of 'broken-coated terriers' (meaning rough-coated), and it was not until 1902 that the dogs were classed as 'Australian terriers' at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. The long road to acceptability, both here and overseas, was shortened by the Duke of Gloucester, who was Governor-General during the period 1945-7, and who took a liking to the dogs and transported them back to England. Gradually the breeders overcame the faults, such as ginger eyes, crooked legs and ears that stood up or fell down, and a turning point was reached when the Victorian breeder Pat Connor won a trophy for best dog when showing her Australian Terrier in Sydney in 1973.