Plummer Terriers

Plummer terriers and lurcher out rabbiting.

Like all working terriers, a Plummer Terrier is a composite animal. This one made mostly out of Jack Russell, but also with a strong dash of beagle (added for nose and voice), and bull terrier (added for toughness).  A fell terrier was mixed in to improve the overall appearance.  This strain of terriers, first created by Brian Plummer in the late 1970s and 80s, now breeds true in appearance, though outcrosses are still done from time to time.  Plummer terriers range from 11 to 14 inches tall (mostly on the 14" side at this writing), and are most noted for their brown saddle-colored markings. Though mostly worked to rats, some also work fox and others do service as rabbiting dogs.

Plummer himself remains a controversial character. His books are a fun read, but they do not have much practical advice in them, and a close reading suggests a caution: Who in their right mind begins to breed a new dog the way he did? The results were -- by his own admission -- genetic monsters with shot jaws, an ugly appearance, dead mute, and ill-tempered.

After a long period of outbreeding and culling the monsters seem to have faded out of the breed pool, but the dogs today are often too big for underground work. Perhaps that is not a problem if you are developing a dog just for ratting, but is a new ratting dog actually needed? In fact, is any new working terrier breed needed?

Is it too much to ask people to simply preserve and work the breeds we have?

In the end, the final blow for the Plummer terrier is likely to come from the show ring where internecine rivalries are bitter and thousands of insults are traded without one mention made of honest work for the dogs. If salvation is to be had -- and it may yet be had -- it is in the hands of those few genuine diggers and ratters that are trying to size down the breed and keep it working on a regular basis.

There is a problem, however, and it is a problem that the Plummer does not face alone. As a general rule, people that work dogs on a regular basis do not breed a lot of dogs. Dog breeders, on the other hand, often do not work their dogs at all, but instead focus on the "sport" of cranking out puppies and collecting money. Such is the story for every breed, and the Plummer is no different. The end result is a genetic "tipping" towards non-function and a general increase in size. That appears to be going on now with the Plummer.

As for Brian Plummer himself, he is dead. The books live on, and continue to be a fun, if sometimes romantic read. There is a small bit of sound advice in the books, and some amusing tales (no matter their origin). The personality of the man was apparently odd. He liked to bait others into intemperance, and he was known to lift stories from others and present them as his own. He wrote an entire book, under a pseudonym, in which he variously quotes and mildly criticizes his own books -- a decidedly odd thing to do. He suffered from both depression and poverty, and cranked out Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for cash even as he dabbled in recreating "lost" breeds like the Lucas Terrier and the Alaunt -- breeds that had slid into extinction in generations past because they simply had no rational reason for existence and preservation. Today the Lucas Terrier is a scruffy show ring dog, while the Alaunt is little more than a variation of the working pitbull so common across the American South.

Plummer was drowning in dogs -- Bearded Collies, Alaunts, Lurchers, Plummer Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Patterdales, and White German Shepherds, to name just a few. As you can imagine, he could not possibly have had time for so many dogs, and those who visited his kennels after they got larger, report that they were a disgrace.

That said, the books and the dogs are what remain. The books are a fun read, and the dogs are now being petitioned into the Kennel Club -- a tar pit of cash breeders and foolish pretenders from which no other working breed has ever emerged intact and still working. Plummers are a nice enough looking dog, and some work well, but if they go into the Kennel Club the door of doom will slam shut forever. Anyone who thinks otherwise, simply does not know enough about the history, culture and economics of the Kennel Club. Tar pits look benign enough too.

Good reads from Brian Plummer -- available from or (better) Coch-Y--Bonddu Books.