Those of us who are privileged to understand and know the purebred Cesky Terrier recognize it by three distinguished assets. One, it is a well-muscled, short-legged hunting dog that originated in the Czech Republic. Two, it is a hunting machine that seeks prey both above and below ground in the most primitive of environments and, most importantly, does so gladly alongside its brothers and sisters. It’s pack-friendly; Three, and foremost, it is the ideal example of the proverbial dictum that form follows function.
We can perhaps draw an analogy between a professional athlete and the Cesky. Anatomically, there are ideal specifications for both. Being well-muscled is, of course, necessary for the task at hand, as is stamina for longevity at the task. A low center of gravity (being short-legged) makes it easier for the Cesky to move in all directions in an instant and remain upright while doing so; even if the task is dedicated to making sure it does not stand erect. All of the following elements contribute to the Cesky’s success at its task as a professional hunter.
The hallmark of the breed is its unique topline; it is essential to breed type. The slight rise of the topline begins at the last thoracic rib and runs to the highest point on the hip bone, with a slight, gradual drop to the root of the tail following the diagonal of the sloping croup. This topline should never be flat or tabletop as in the Scottish Terrier nor as deeply curved as a Dandie Dinmont. The best way to evaluate this feature is to think of a smooth, rolling ocean wave and you will have the ideal silhouette of the Cesky. The purebred Cesky Terrier also measures slightly longer from the withers to the root of the tail, making it a rectangular dog rather than a square one. In order to create a balance in the purebred Cesky Terrier, the length of the topline from withers to root of the tail should be twice the length of its head and neck combined.
Going back to the well-muscled descriptor, the neck, shoulders, and hindquarters are graciously muscled to facilitate the Cesky’s motion through a burrow where it searches for hare, badger, and other below ground-dwelling game. The same skeletal structure serves to endow the Cesky with speed above ground, and anyone watching a Cesky run an agility course understands this. Anatomically, the longer length from the point in the prosternum to the point of the rump is longer than the length of the distance from the withers to the ground. Proportionally and ideally, the Cesky needs to be 1 to 1-1/2 (sternum to rump).
The longer loin of the Cesky facilitates their hunting, acting as a loaded spring, aiding balance as well as agile turning. A short-backed, nearly square dog is highly undesirable as is a Cesky that is high in the rear. A Cesky that is high in the rear has the potential to damage itself by placing added pressure on its front end. The square Cesky does not have the “spring” in the loin that is a much-needed attribute to function well in the field.
There is a certain grace in a well-formed Cesky that presents an elegant yet strong head that flows into the neck, and a neck that has a slightly forward arch that sits smoothly and almost fluidly and gracefully into firm, well-muscled shoulders. The head should look elegant and not be coarse, thick or heavy in appearance. It should also be rectangular in shape. A ewe neck is highly undesirable as is a coarse, cloddy, short neck or a thickly loaded neck. The shoulder blade muscles are structurally superior to withstand the force exerted on it while engaged in performing its intended purpose of dispatching game.
The front paws are larger and well-padded, again, for pursuit underground. The hindquarters are built larger and are very muscular for extracting prey from dens or burrows. They should not, however, possess the breadth nor the width of the Scottish Terrier or the Sealyham. (See Diagram A., Hana’s Book.) The teeth, especially the canines, are seriously hunting-oriented and they hide a cavernous jaw that speaks of a hunting Terrier bigger than the Cesky. Additional anatomical inspection reveals more about the concept of form following function. The Cesky is, above all, long, low, and lean yet well-muscled. Its rib cage when felt with the palm of your hand is more elliptical than barrel-shaped. Think again of a burrow-oriented hunting dog capable of fieldwork whose main area of expertise is the Danube River basin of the Czech Republic.
Right down to the coat, the purebred Cesky Terrier is a hunting Terrier. The fall over the eyes, the furnishings, and the other details of the coat are burrow- and field-oriented. They function as protection. The coat should be silky, smooth, and with a slight wave, though never curly as in a Kerry or Wheaten Terrier. A cottony, wooly coat is highly undesirable, as it is prone to collecting debris and retaining a great deal of moisture. The intent of the cut of the coat is to emphasize a well-muscled, yet elegant, hunting dog. The hair of the topline may be slightly wavy, but it should not be more than one-half inch as stated in the Standard. The furnishings of the lower portion of the dog serve as protection in the field and should be of firm texture and fine, with a slight wave. As stated in the AKC Standard, the coat of the head, lower portion of the neck, shoulders, thighs, rump, and tail is “quite short” but blended smoothly into the topline.
When born, purebred Cesky Terriers are either black or brown. Those born black mature into dogs that range in varying shades of grey from charcoal to platinum gray. Those born brown mature into dogs that are chocolate to tan.
Frantisek Horak, the person who gave birth to the ideal of the Cesky, was, for a while, enamored of the Scottish Terrier. He spent a number of years believing that the Scotty was his ideal hunting dog for the Danube River Basin—and it was almost his ideal dog. The problem was, the Scotties that he owned and bred spent more time scrapping with one another while hunting than they did actually hunting. A friend who understood his dilemma recommended he look at the Sealyham. Horak saw advantages to both breeds and wondered if a breeding might bring him the dog he sought. He spent well over a decade researching the concept, studying both breeds, and finally, four years after the conclusion of World War II, he conducted the breeding. Some years after that, he sought and obtained FCI approval for this new breed.
For Horak, getting the “correct” temperament was a major breakthrough. Unfortunately, the Cesky
Terrier has, sometimes, received a bad rap for not being “A True Terrier” because of it. The reason? The Cesky is decidedly reserved and, seemingly, does not have the Terrier “fire” and, therefore, does not spar—for good reason. It is a pack-friendly hunting dog. The Cesky is quiet, yet attentive and focused. The tail carriage is sometimes unique to this reserved and rather stoic breed; carried in a saber-like fashion either down, in an S-curve, or at a 1 o’clock position. A tail carried much over the back is incorrect for the breed and can denote an incorrect topline. However, the tail carriage is not an indicator of Cesky temperament, save when it is clamped between its legs which is an indication of discomfort in a situation.
It would be a mistake, however, to let the Cesky’s reserved demeanor fool you. In its homeland, the Cesky routinely trains to pursue native burrow-dwelling animals, and is also regularly used for tracking such game as wild boar, deer, fox, and marten. Anyone watching a Cesky pursue prey 10-15 times its weight or more has no doubt about the Cesky Terrier’s “fire.” They are first-rate hunting Terriers.
Of course, this begs the questions: Are purebred Cesky Terriers good pets and do I want one? Are they too hunting-oriented? The definitive answer to the first question is, “Yes.” And while hunting-oriented, Ceskys are companions that are loyal to a fault. They are protectors of the family, and for those “in the know” they are the world’s greatest couch potatoes. They are hypoallergenic, clippered, and thus, relatively easy to maintain. They are also very routine-oriented. However, there are two cautions to owning a purebred Cesky Terrier. One, they cannot be left alone with food as they can literally eat themselves into oblivion. Daily feedings of only a specific amount are necessary, and toys, save those made of the most durable rubber, cannot be given to a Cesky. They can destroy most any toy whose label says otherwise; they will eventually chip away at solid rubber toys. Life expectancy of solid rubber is no more than 3-4 weeks, if that. And this begs the second cautionary question: “Do they chew and cause unnecessary destruction?” No, they do not. In this respect, they are like any other dog.
The mindset of Frantisek Horak is revealed through his notes, studies, and copious writings. Those of us in the AKC parent club, the American Cesky Terrier Fanciers Association (ACTFA), are truly grateful to our Czech counterparts for sharing this information.
By Julie Gritten and Bob Comer