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The History of the Bedlington Terrier

Nobody can be absolutely certain about the origins of the Bedlington Terrier or when it first acquired that name. Different sources offer different answers. There are many Internet sites that offer some history, but the best overview is to be found in three publications written by the two best-known names in the breed - Ken Bounden and the late Ian Phillips.

These are The Bedlington Terrier by Ken Bounden (now only available in its second edition and available from our shop), The Centenary Book of the National Bedlington Terrier Club 1898 – 1998 (no longer in print) and An Eye For A Second Century both written by Ian Phillips.

Whatever the history all Bedlington owners will agree that these dogs make excellent pets, workers and show dogs. The breed standard says “Spirited and game, full of confidence. An intelligent companion with strong sporting instincts. Good tempered, having an affectionate nature, dignified, not shy or nervous. Mild in repose but full of courage when roused.” That is a description that is immediately recognised by any Bedlington owner. Anybody who buys a Bedlington and has room for more than one dog will very soon find themselves the owners of at least two. In appearance not everybody’s concept of a terrier, but just a short time in its presence soon demonstrates that the Bedlington is a terrier through and through

Excerpt from the video presentation: The Bedlington Terrier an

Illustrated interpretation of the Breed Standard by the MBTC

with NBTC. The full video is available on


It is difficult to produce an entirely accurate history of this native British breed, as early details are sketchy and have relied on word of mouth rather than formal records, but the Bedlington Terrier, as we know it today, has been in existence since the mid-1800s. However, a strain of rough-coated terriers was recorded in the area around the Rothbury Forest in Northumberland from the late 18th century, which became known as the Rothbury Terrier, or sometimes the Northern Counties (Rough) Fox Terrier, which gives an indication of their purpose. These were game, spirited dogs, used for poaching, sport and vermin control, and were required to hunt and go to ground for fox and badger, otter, rat and rabbit, again suggesting why some of the present-day Bedlington's traits, characteristics and physical attributes are what they are. No doubt, too, the Bedlington-owning miners of Northumberland also indulged in terrier racing, and wagers in the rat-pit. This diversity of activity goes some way to explaining why the Bedlington's distinctive shape developed, and why the breed is unlike any other terrier.


The geography of the area where the breed was developed also played a part in which attributes were prized and encouraged. Northumberland, England's most northerly county, has a diverse physical geography - to the east, towards the North Sea, it is low and flat; further west, the terrain becomes increasingly mountainous and craggy, with a mix of granite, lava and limestone soils. The Bedlington, therefore, was required to work across a

variety of landscapes, and needed the tenacious, tough and robust temperament required of a versatile working terrier.


The earliest authentic record of the Bedlington Terrier as we have come to know it, is of a dog called Old Flint, whelped in or around 1782 (the records are conflicting on the actual date) and owned by Squire Trevelyan, of Netherton Hall, near Morpeth in Northumberland. Old Flint's descendants were recorded throughout the early 19th century, and the name "Bedlington Terrier" is attributed to Joseph (John?) Aynsley around 1840, although the breed also continued to be known as the Rothbury Terrier until the 1870s.


By the 1890s, dogs of a recognisable "Bedlington'' type, such as James Anderson's Piper, were described as "slender build, 15 inches" high, 15lb in weight; liver colour with hair like hard, woolly lint. Their ears were large, hung close to the cheek and were slightly feathered at the tip". Edward Coates' Phoebe, whose pedigree can be loosely traced back to Old Flint, was "black or black-blue, with a light coloured silky tuft on her head. About 13" high, weighed in at 14 bs".








These dogs were capable of going to ground on fox (now restricted to the protection of game birds) or badger (100% illegal for many years), which required a game terrier with an exceptionally strong jaw and neck, and flexible body. Bigger, stronger dogs were needed for badger, which explains some of the variation in size still seen today. A ratting dog needs super-fast reflexes, speed in turning and a keen eye. For rabbits, a good nose' allows a

dog to mark an occupied warren, so the rabbiter knows where to place his nets, and patience, good hearing and a keen eye allows the dog to pounce and snatch the occasional rabbit flushed out by a ferret. Bedlingtons can also flush rabbits from dense undergrowth, and they work successfully alongside lurchers and sighthounds, which are better equipped for coursing and catching the rabbits.


The basic construction and attitude of the Bedlington Terrier has changed only a little over the years, although some of the feisty nature has been moderated. Trimming and presentation has changed substantially, however, judges must be careful to reward the dogs which are fit for the purpose they were originally developed for, and not be overly influenced by glamour and abundance of furnishings. Bedlingtons were first classified at the Darlington Show in 1866 and the Kennel Club recognised the breed in 1873. In the late 1800s, the original Bedlington Terrier Club drew up a standard of points, and in 1910, the National Bedlington Terrier Club formulated what appears to be the first Breed Standard. There have been a number of minor amendments to the Standard, to reach the present one.


John Cornforth’s Newcastle Lad (KCSB 6668)


Clyde Boy, 1980

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