A past President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, owned a Manchester Terrier during his tenure of the White House. He was known as ‘Blackjack’.

The author Agatha Christie owned two Manchester Terriers during her lifetime.
Treacle, her first and Bingo, who was the model for the canine character Hannibal in her last book, ‘Postern of Fate’.

A sash modeled on the one worn by Jack Black, Queen Victoria’s rat catcher, is awarded each year by Rentokil, to their most efficient pest control manager.

History in the Rat Pits

Contemporary Illustrayion of a ratpit

An important part of the Black and Tan terriers history is the 19th century pastime ‘The Sport of the Rat Pit’. As can be seen in the picture, The pit consisted of an enclosure about six feet in diameter, with wooden sides at elbow height and a rim for the clients to lean on. Into this pit they tipped rats. They then put the dog into the pit to dispatch a given number of rats in a set time. Enthusiasts would take bets on the proceedings. Various terrier type dogs, including the black and tan competed in the rat pits.

Jemmy Shaw, who owned one of the largest sporting public houses in London, would buy over 500 rats a week from the local ratcatcher for his rat pit. Rat pits were found in most cities and large towns, another famous venue was the Three Tuns, in Bolton, owned by Joe Orrel.

Information supplied by ‘H’ Hockley, the BMTC Archivist.

© The original Picture belongs to and is on show at the Kennel Club

© The original Picture belongs to and is on show at the Kennel Club

There are pictures of Tiny, a Black and Tan Terrier that can be seen in different settings. There is also mention of a dog named Billy. There is a picture in the Kennel Club of Billy and he is not a black and tan.

© The original Picture belongs and is on show at the Kennel Club

© The original Picture belongs and is on show at the Kennel Club

Billy, the celebrated rat killing dog, was owned by Mr.Charles Dew and the engraving records the dog performing his wonderful feat, killing 100 rats in five and a half minutes on the 22nd April 1823, this being his ninth match. An advertising broadsheet for the Westminster Pit in March 1825 billed Billy as ‘The Phenomenon of the Canine Race, and Superior Vermin killer of his day having killed nearly 4,000 rats in about Seven Hours’.

So, Who was Billy? You decide.

Option One


When I first came into the breed in the early seventies about the only thing that one was told about the breed’s history was the story of the famous Black and Tan Terrier ‘Billy’ who killed 100 rats in so many minutes. I believed this until I met Mike Homan, the Secretary of The London & Home Counties Terrier Club, who has Staffordshire Bull Terriers. It was Mike who told me, very kindly, that I was talking out the back of my hat and that Billy was a white dog with coloured ears, much more of the Staffordshire type and that they always claimed him as one of ‘theirs’. Over the years I have tried to accept that Mike is right and it was Tiny who was renowned Black and Tan terrier, belonging to Jemmy Shaw who killed rats against the clock in the rat pit. So here is a picture of Billy, by the look of it just starting on his task.


Option Two

Jack Black, Queen Victoria’s rat catcher, was quoted by Mayhew (1851) as saying

I had a little rat dog – a black and tan terrier by the name of Billy – which was the greatest stock dog in London of that day’ He is the father of the greatest portion of the small black tan dogs in London now,

In fact, my terrier dog was known to all the London fancy.

As rat-killing dogs, there’s no equal to that strain of black tan terriers.

Henry Mayhew (1851).

London Labour and The London Poor, Volume Three. Page 15

London. Griffen, Bohn and Company, Stationer’s Hall Court.

When you read the above document it is clear that Jack Blacks Terriers were of a fairly small type.

Option Three

That potentially there were many dogs called Billy around this time, and possibly more likely there were many Black and Tan Terrier type dogs of this name doing this job….

History is all about interpretation….