Bedlington Terrier History by BTCA member Ray Herman
The Bedlington Terrier is very unique among purebred dogs. One of the most obvious differences is the appearance of the dog. Those who own the breed have probably heard many times, “Is that a lamb”?
Yes, the Bedlington may resemble a lamb, especially to children, because of its soft hair, size, and overall shape. The Bedlington Terrier also has a narrow head and the raciness of a Whippet with a pronounced arch over its loins.
But aside from a distinctive appearance, of all the “purebred” terriers the Bedlington has the oldest non-broken pedigree going back to 1782. This notable dog was owned by Squire Trevelyan in the town of Netherwhitton located not far from the towns of Morpeth, Rothbury, and Bedlington in northern England. Many people of different backgrounds owned them and not just the local gypsies as some publications state. So how did the Bedlington Terrier come to be?
The early records of dogs in England give credence to a number of different breeds of terriers that were concentrated in the area known as the Rothbury forest in the county of Northumberland. All of these terriers were collectively known as Rothbury terriers. As employment opportunities increased because of the coal in the area towns grew in size and drew families from southern England and even from other countries. Some of these people, such as those from Staffordshire, were skilled in nail making and of course the coal attracted the miners. It is reasonable to assume that as people migrated they brought their dogs along with them for hunting, sport, and companionship.
The word “terrier” refers to dogs that go to the earth for hunting. They are natural hunters, possessed with a proclivity to go after vermin and rodents. To determine which ones were best for those tasks the men would arrange contests to ascertain those that excelled. Formal dog shows, as we know them, did not begin until the mid-1800’s, so the men cross-bred with other breeds of dogs, to try to improve the terrier skills. Otterhounds may have been used for endurance and strength, Whippets for speed, Poodles for coat, and to a much smaller degree it was even thought that a Bull Terrier was thrown in to the mix for “feistiness”. Since record keeping during the late 1700’s was sporatic we may never know which dogs went in to the Bedlington Terrier breed.