The Bedlington Terrier, also known as the Rodberry or Rothbury Terrier, the Northumberland Fox Terrier, the North Counties Terrier, the Gypsy Dog or simply the Bedlington, comes from a small mining village in the county of Northumberland, England. This lamb-like dog, with its pear-shaped head and arched back, looks like nothing else in the canine world. While the Bedlington's body type and coat do not resemble that of the typical terrier, their personalities do. Bedlingtons have boundless energy and are intelligent, tenacious, friendly and bold. They are terrific family dogs and form strong bonds with their human companions. Despite its wooly cuteness, this is a tough breed with a strong work ethic – a terrier through and through. The Bedlington Terrier was accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1886 and is a member of the Terrier Group.
The average male Bedlington stands 16½ inches at the withers, and the preferred height for females is 15½ inches at the withers. Dogs under 16 or over 17½ inches, and bitches under 15 or over 16½ inches, are seriously faulted under the American breed standard. Their weight is to be proportionate to their height, typically within the range of 17 to 23 pounds. Unlike most terriers, this breed has a distinctive mixture of hard and soft hair that is curly and crisp to the touch but not wiry. Although Bedlingtons do not shed much, they still require frequent brushing and trimming, and it is best to bathe them on a regular basis because their unique coat tends to attract dust and dirt. Bedlington Terriers come in two colors - liver and blue – with one not given preference over the other. Early in the breed's history, the better specimens were liver. Today, the blue color predominates.
While no one knows for sure, it is thought that the Bedlington Terrier's ancestors may have included the Rothbury Terrier, Whippet, Kerry Blue Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Otterhound and/or the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. They were named after the mining shire of Bedlington, which is in the Hannys hills of northern England. Bedlington Terriers were especially popular with miners, who used them to exterminate rats from local mines. Owners of these feisty terriers also enjoyed racing them against the fleet-footed Whippet, because the miners' Bedlingtons often won the match.
The first dog of the Bedlington "type" supposedly was called Old Flint and belonged to Squire Trevelyan in the 1780s. However, the first real evidence of a Bedlington Terrier came from a litter bred by a local stone mason, Joseph Ainsley. Mr. Ainsley acquired a bitch named Coates Phoebe in 1820. He bred her to a Rothbury dog named Anderson's Piper in 1825. One of the offspring of that cross, known as "Ainsley's Piper", was the first dog known to be called a Bedlington Terrier. Legend has it that Ainsley's Piper was successfully set on his first badger at only 8 months of age and became a plucky and persistent hunter for the rest of his life. Piper was reported to draw a badger from its den after he turned fourteen years of age, and after a number of younger terriers were unsuccessful. Piper was toothless and almost blind at the time, but he was completely successful in his efforts.
This game and fearless breed continued to gain popularity among hunters and other sportsmen throughout the Bedlington region due to its superior ratting and badger-flushing skills and its ability to cover wide swaths of terrain without tiring. During the early years of the breed, they also were used to hunt rabbits, otters, polecats and foxes. Some owners used their Bedlington Terriers in the brutal "sport" of pit dog-fighting, where large sums of money were wagered on the fights' outcome. Never an instigator, Bedlingtons still were tenacious and, once involved in a fight, usually fought to the death. They are aptly described as having the heart of a lion in the body of a lamb – truly the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing.
The breed first entered the show ring in 1870. The National Bedlington Terrier Club of England was formed in 1877. The American Kennel Club recognized the Bedlington Terrier in 1886, as a member of the Terrier Group. The Bedlington Terrier Club of America was founded in 1932 and became a member of the American Kennel Club in 1936. Over time, the breed became prized as a companion dog by all who met him, due to his great heart, adorable appearance and affectionate nature. The Bedlington's popularity peaked in the United States during the 1960s. The Bedlington Terrier is highly competitive in the conformation ring and also can be seen winning in obedience and other performance disciplines. He is perhaps best known as an affectionate, fun and fuzzy companion.
The average life span of Bedlington Terriers is 11 to 16 years. They have relatively few health problems, but do have a significant risk of developing copper toxicosis, which is a severe copper storage liver disease that affects a substantial proportion of the modern Bedlington Terrier population. Bedlington puppies should be tested for this genetic condition. Bedlingtons also are predisposed to several ocular (eye) disorders, including entropion, cataracts, retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia. They may also be predisposed to patellar luxation and renal cortical hypoplasia. Their curly coat requires frequent brushing and trimming, and it is best to bathe them on a regular basis as their unique coat tends to attract dust and dirt.
At first glance, a Bedlington Terrier can be easily confused with a lamb. However, once you get to know a Bedlington, you'll see they are 100% terrier. Sassy, strong willed, and always alert, Bedlingtons are everything you'd expect from a terrier breed. They love people, but will be quick to let everyone in a three-block radius know when a stranger gives off a bad vibe. Great family dogs, the Bedlington Terrier loves to run and play with children, then shamelessly hog the sofa for snuggling with mom and dad in the evening.
This breed requires moderate exercise and has been known to tailor their activity level to that of their owner. Older people can raise an active, happy Bedlington just by taking daily walks just as a young person who brings their Bedlington on jogs can, too. Apartment living is OK for the Bedlington, so long as daily walks are part of his schedule.
Bedlington Terriers enjoy playing with children, however they can be counted on to set their own boundaries. Children should be cautioned not to play too roughly with this breed, as they won't hesitate to nip or bite when pushed too far.
As with most terriers, training a Bedlington can be a challenge. They like to do things in their own way, and don't appreciate being told what to do. For this reason, treat training and using lots of positive reinforcement works best. That way, he thinks that learning new behaviors actually benefits him, rather than you. A stern hand won't work, as it just creates avoidance behaviors and stubbornness.
Barking is a classic terrier trait that is present among all Bedlingtons. They will bark at noises and anyone coming in to the home, even if they know the person. Early training and socialization can help keep the family's collective sanity in check.
Bedlington Terriers can be aggressive to other dogs. If raised alongside other animals, peaceful coexistence is possible, but new pets should probably not be introduced to a Bedlington's home. They will also chase after small animals outside, so they should never be left off-leash in an area without a sturdy fence. Bedlingtons have been known to dig under fences to seek out new adventures, so even in a fenced yard, this breed should not be left unattended.
A graceful, lithe, well-balanced dog with no sign of coarseness, weakness or shelliness. In repose the expression is mild and gentle, not shy or nervous. Aroused, the dog is particularly alert and full of immense energy and courage. Noteworthy for endurance, Bedlingtons also gallop at great speed, as their body outline clearly shows.
Narrow, but deep and rounded. Shorter in skull and longer in jaw. Covered with a profuse topknot which is lighter than the color of the body, highest at the crown, and tapering gradually to just back of the nose. There must be no stop and the unbroken line from crown to nose end reveals a slender head without cheekiness or snipiness. Lips are black in the blue and blue and tans and brown in all other solid and bi-colors. Eyes - Almond-shaped, small, bright and well sunk with no tendency to tear or water. Set is oblique and fairly high on the head. Blues have dark eyes; blues and tans, less dark with amber lights; sandies, sandies and tans, light hazel; livers, livers and tans, slightly darker. Eye rims are black in the blue and blue and tans, and brown in all other solid and bi-colors. Ears - Triangular with rounded tips. Set on low and hanging flat to the cheek in front with a slight projection at the base. Point of greatest width approximately 3 inches. Ear tips reach the corners of the mouth. Thin and velvety in texture, covered with fine hair forming a small silky tassel at the tip. Nose - Nostrils large and well defined. Blues and blues and tans have black noses. Livers, livers and tans, sandies, sandies and tans have brown noses. Jaws - Long and tapering. Strong muzzle well filled up with bone beneath the eye. Close-fitting lips, no flews. Teeth - Large, strong and white. Level or scissors bite. Lower canines clasp the outer surface of the upper gum just in front of the upper canines. Upper premolars and molars lie outside those of the lower jaw.
Neck and Shoulders
Long, tapering neck with no throatiness, deep at the base and rising well up from the shoulders which are flat and sloping with no excessive musculature. The head is carried high.
Muscular and markedly flexible. Chest deep. Flat-ribbed and deep through the brisket, which reaches to the elbows. Back has a good natural arch over the loin, creating a definite tuck-up of the underline. Body slightly greater in length than height. Well-muscled quarters are also fine and graceful.
Legs and Feet
Lithe and muscular. The hind legs are longer than the forelegs, which are straight and wider apart at the chest than at the feet. Slight bend to pasterns which are long and sloping without weakness. Stifles well angulated. Hocks strong and well let down, turning neither in nor out. Long hare feet with thick, well-closed-up, smooth pads. Dewclaws should be removed.
A very distinctive mixture of hard and soft hair standing well out from the skin. Crisp to the touch but not wiry, having a tendency to curl, especially on the head and face. When in show trim must not exceed 1 inch on body; hair on legs is slightly longer.
Set low, scimitar-shaped, thick at the root and tapering to a point which reaches the hock. Not carried over the back or tight to the underbody.
Blue, sandy, liver, blue and tan, sandy and tan, liver and tan. In bi-colors the tan markings are found on the legs, chest, under the tail, inside the hindquarters and over each eye. The topknots of all adults should be lighter than the body color. Patches of darker hair from an injury are not objectionable, as these are only temporary. Darker body pigmentation of all colors is to be encouraged.
The preferred Bedlington Terrier dog measures 16½ inches at the withers, the bitch 15½ inches. Under 16 inches or over 17½ inches for dogs and under 15 inches or over 16½ inches for bitches are serious faults. Only where comparative superiority of a specimen outside these ranges clearly justifies it, should greater latitude be taken.
To be proportionate to height within the range of 17 to 23 pounds.
Unique lightness of movement. Springy in the slower paces, not stilted or hackneyed. Must not cross, weave or paddle.
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Sources: American Kennel Club