Basque Ratier

He is not recognized by the F.C.I.

Origin
Spain
Translation
Francis Vandersteen

A brief presentation of the Basque Ratier

The Basque Ratier is as elusive as a ghost, as insubstantial as a shadow. And that's not just poetic license, for this once-common working dog is now in a critical state of preservation. What does that mean? It means that there are around 50 dogs left, making them very rare and in danger of extinction. The Basque Ratier is also known as the Villanuco de Las Encartaciones. But be careful. This name is similar to but different from another breed called Villano de Las Encartaciones. Those two extra letters "-uc à Villanuco" make all the difference. The difference between a small, agile Ratier and an imposing, robust cattle dog.

History of the Basque Ratier

Really, little is written about the origins of the Basque Ratier. This agile little dog, originally from the Basque country, earned its living hunting rats and farmyard vermin. Other similar Ratiers have also sprung up in the province of Biscay, along with Canatabria and Burgos. These dogs also have misty roots that go back many centuries. Their distant ancestors may have been dogs brought over by Roman, Carthaginian and Egyptian traders. These animals then interbred with local dogs to produce breeds indigenous to specific regions. What we do know is that the Basque Ratier was extremely gifted at his job. With the enthusiasm we've come to expect from a Jack Russell Terrier, the Basque Ratier tackles rats, mice and rabbits to keep pests out of crops and food stores. But they also have another talent. Affectionately nicknamed door dogs, it's because of their quick reactions when visitors call. Quick as a heartbeat, they rise with an answering bark to the door when strangers arrive. With a bark disproportionate to their small bodies, this makes them a respectable watchdog for the family.

Appearance of the Basque Ratier

This elusive dog, the Basque Ratier, is an enigma. Information on their size and weight is incomplete at best. The consensus is that they are small to medium-sized dogs, but their average weight is between 26 and 29 kg, making them almost Labrador-sized. Likewise, with their height over half a meter from the shoulder, this makes them unusually leggy for a small dog. But what's agreed is their coat, which is said to be short and smooth. And, as for coat color, the breed is traditionally brown, except on the belly where it tends to be yellow or cream. As for proportions, they have much in common with other Terriers in that they have a well-proportioned muzzle, all the better for spotting rats, a robust body and working-length legs.

Temperament of the Basque Ratier

The Basque Ratier has a reputation for being calm and intelligent. Calm, that is, until a stranger calls how loud and piercing their bark is. As hunting dogs, they're used to living on their wits and making decisions. This makes sense, as a dog that has to wait for its master's instructions to catch a vicious rat won't succeed in the long run. The low numbers of Basque Ratiers seem to indicate that their niche is indeed hunting. However, the limited information available suggests that they make good pets in the right hands. The latter is probably a cat- and rabbit-free household, as the hunting instinct of any Ratier means that their strong prey drive makes them uncomfortable with other small mammals.

Needs and activities of the Basque Ratier

Dogs bred for work have a high requirement for exercise and mental stimulation. The Basque Ratier is no exception. They should be given generous physical exercise every day, not just at weekends. For example, two one-hour walks a day are a minimum. They also need enough free time to explore and follow the scents. As for mental stimulation, this can be provided in part through training sessions, which encourage the dog to concentrate. But also, they should have plenty of opportunities to play and smell interesting scents. Puzzle feeders are another way of providing mental work, as these dogs will enjoy solving a puzzle in order to obtain food. An owner who fails to provide sufficient mental stimulation or exercise risks seeing his dog develop bad habits. A Basque Ratier may well use his superfluous energy to allow him to board, dig or chew excessively. Indeed, lack of exercise will quickly lead to weight gain and obesity.

Maintenance of the Basque Ratier

The Basque Ratier's short coat is very easy to care for. All they need is a good brushing once a week to keep their coat in good condition. However, don't be tempted to skip this once-a-week attention. Not only does it spread natural conditioning oils that keep the coat smooth and shiny, it also removes dead hairs. This is a boon for the Basque Ratier pet owner who might otherwise find their upholstery adorned with dog hair.

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