Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated April 6, 2009)
The Bedlington Terrier, like the Dandie Dinmont, came originally from the eastern end of the Border districts in England. There are many reasons to believe that the one strain had a good deal to do with the other. They are both credited with having been developed, with various crosses, from the old Border Sleuth Hound or short-legged, rough-haired Terrier of the Border dales. The distinguishing characteristics of both breeds, not found in other Terriers, are the long ears and the topknots.
Many authorities credit the Bedlington Terrier with a longer lineage of traceable pedigrees than any other Terrier, in fact, longer than any breed with the exception of the Greyhound and a few packs of English Foxhounds. There are, of course, no photographs of the first so-called Bedlington or it might be seen that he looked nothing like the Bedlington of today.
From the very nature of the inhabitants of these mining districts from whence the Bedlington came, one can surmise the kind of dog that would appeal to them. It would have to be able to hold its own when pitted against other dogs in match fights, fast enough to catch a rabbit in the open, and game enough to tackle anything from badger to fox. It would have to be a first-rate water dog. The Bedlington was all these. He was particularly well known as a fighter to the death when set upon.
Somewhere along the road in the development of the breed there must have been a long-legged Terrier cross. It is firmly believed that there was a Whippet cross, for the miners and nailers were fond of coursing and naturally put speed into their Terriers. These game Terriers were kept by nomadic tinkers and gypsies who traveled the country in search of work, or sport, or a wager. It may well be surmised that the rough, tough ancestors of the present-day Bedlington were often employed as pit fighters, badger and rat Terriers as well as assistants to hounds in fox hunting.
In the Live Stock Journal as late as 1875, the Bedlington was given no other name than a "northern counties Fox Terrier". It was a mining town by the name of Bedlington from which the breed derived its name. The first known Bedlington terrier was introduced in 1825. He was first used to hunt fox, badger, and otter. His courageous heart and lovable qualities gradually endeared him to his owners as a house dog.
It can, therefore, be determined that as early as that date he was a tractable pet. His baby lamb-like appearance is deceiving. The characteristics of gameness and hardihood are still retained. In fact, not too many years ago, when a commission was sent to England, for a "thoroughly game Fox Terrier" and one was sent, there was an accompanying message. It stated that if he was not game enough, then no Fox Terrier would do and the buyer would have to get a Bull terrier or a Bedlington.
Although there are certain outward characteristics in the Bedlington that indicate a strong relationship to the Dandie Dinmont, there are also wide divergences. The Bedlington in point of build and color stands alone. It is well described as a lathy dog and the lines on which it is built shows that it is speedy. There are two distinct colors, liver and blue. It is only a question of fancy which is preferred. In early days the liver was much in evidence and many of the best dogs were that color. Lately the blue has become more fashionable.
The Bedlington enjoyed a notable popularity in the early shows in England, but then seemed to be supplanted by the growing popularity of the Airedale. The breed also suffered from the craze for extra long heads and this influence began to be seen in the less rounded character of the head in the vicinity of the occiput. It must be said that it is now an entirely different looking dog. In the early days "trimming" was not resorted to. There was plenty of grooming but that was all. In other respects he was shown as nature intended rather than as man saw fit.
A general description is that of a graceful, lithe, muscular dog. The height being that of about fifteen or sixteen inches for both males and females. The males weigh about twenty four pound and the females about twenty-two pounds, this giving the impression of being light and springy. When they run they gallop like a Greyhound with the whole body. The coat is very distinctive and unlike that of any other Terrier, it would be thick and linty (not wiry).
Additional information on the Bedlington Terrier can be found at the website for the American Kennel Club.
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