The Wire Fox Terrier is a dog of many talents, but their original and first job was as a hunting dog. They were originally bred for fox-hunting. There were fox-hunting hounds that were bred to chase foxes until they got to a hole in the ground. The hound would stop and the chase was over. When the Wire Fox Terrier was developed, their ability to hunt extended beyond just chasing the fox. With their agility, prey, and hunting drive, they would chase the fox until it ran in the hole and then climb in the hole after the fox. Their short docked tails came in handy with the hunters, who were able to pull the terrier out of the hole if the fox wouldn't come out on its own.
The AKC has an activity called the Earthdog training, which tests the hunting ability of the Wire Fox Terrier. The test consists of a long tunnel, which ends with a cage that consists of two caged up rats. The dog has the task of having to go through the tunnel, which is only about 9" wide, and use its scent to find the rats. When he gets to the cages with the rats, his job is to bark, growl, or whine at the rats to let you know he has found his prey. There are different levels of this competition, with the difference being in how long the dog should stay by the rats. This competition is to keep the dog's hunting drive strong as well as to see how good they do. The rat cannot get close enough to bite or hurt the dog. The dog is not able to kill the rat, either. His job is to know the scent is coming from the tunnel, go through the tunnel and alert you to the fact he has found something.
The Wire Fox Terrier is still used effectively in the hunting of small animals and vermin today. They have the ability to chase their prey "to ground" and keep with it until they capture it. As a rule, they won't kill the small vermin, but rather grab it or hold it until either a larger dog can take it or the hunter. They are very good at hunting rabbits and are used as such for the sport. In addition to the rabbits, many owners will use their Wire Fox Terrier to assist them in their small game hunting. Part of it is to spend time with their wonderful pet, but it is also to take advantage of all the assistance the terrier can give.
Although the Wire Fox Terrier is known for its great scenting and hunting ability, most of the terriers are used as family pets or show dogs today. The Wire Fox Terriers compete in many hunting events in with their owners, however.