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If your family is looking for a dog who can be a small but sturdy playmate for the kids by day and a delightful armchair companion by night, what you’re about to read may be life-changing.

Norfolk Terrier body

1. Norfolk Terriers were invented by a guy with a cool nickname

Frank “Roughrider” Jones, an English horseman of the early 20th century, developed a strain of little red terriers as rat killers and fox bolters. So closely was Jones associated with this type of dog that generations of American sportsmen referred to them as Jones Terriers.

2. A Norfolk Terrier is not a toy

They’re small. They’re loyal. Their looks can be described in just three words: cute, cuter, and cutest. And they will gladly curl up in your lap. But don’t dare call these little guys lapdogs!

Norfolks, despite their toyish qualities, are true terriers —feisty, fearless, and game for adventure. Among the smallest of the working terriers, Norfolks will stand 9 or 10 inches at the shoulder, but their bodies are substantial and hardy. And there’s nothing foofy about their hard and wiry protective coat.

Norfolks are little dogs obviously built for a good day’s work. Their partisans describe them as a “perfect demon” in the field.

3. Norfolk or Norwich? It’s easy to tell which is “wich”

The Kennel Club of England recognized Jones’s terrier as a breed, called the Norwich Terrier, in 1932. The AKC followed suit in 1936. Within the breed there were always two varieties: the drop-ear and prick-ear. The Kennel Club declared the varieties two separate breeds in 1964, and the AKC did the same in 1979. The prick-eared (ears up) variety continued to be called the Norwich, and the drop-eared (ears down) was rechristened the Norfolk.

To tell the difference between the two breeds, just remember: The “folk” in “Norfolk” sounds like “fold” (the ear is folded over); the “wich” in “Norwich” sounds like “witch” (the ear is erect and comes to a point, like a witch’s hat).

4. Norfolk Terriers are small dogs with big personalities

Ol’ Roughrider Jones bred his little red dogs to be two-in-one terriers. They were self-reliant enough to work solo as an earthdog, dispatching rats and other varmints. But they were also used in packs on foxhunts. As pack dogs, expected to get along with their pack mates, they are more gregarious than typically independent-minded terriers.

These days, not many Norfolks are turned loose in packs on foxhunts. Their “pack” is more often their human family, other household dogs, and their pals at the dog run. They are among the most sociable of terriers yet retain plenty of the classic earthdog’s gameness and pep. This combination of true terrier spirit and pack-dog amity is an endearing characteristic of the breed.

Norfolk Terrier - storm

5. Norfolk Terriers are great family dogs

Don’t take my word for it. Instead, visit with Barbara Miller, one of America’s leading Norfolk Terrier fanciers. Barbara has bred and shown generations of top champions (including Storm, the show-ring legend in the photo above). In this video, featuring some drop-dead adorable puppies, Barbara explains why the Norfolk Terrier just might be the small but substantial dog your family has been searching for.

For more on the breed, visit the Norfolk Terrier Club. If you’d like more about terriers, blast off for “Planet Earthdog.”