History is history, and the Bedlington origin remains a mystery!
It seems from recorded historical writings, that the most likely main origin of the Bedlington Terrier is the Rough Scotch Terrier, said to have been brought to the hilly and pastoral Border Country of England and Scotland by Scotsmen relocating to work on the mines in the region. Another likely theory is, that different Terrier breeds, that were popularly used in hunting, were sold to various breeders from different regions or countries, and the offspring then produced, usually acquired the name from where they came. In the case of the Bedlington, the true origins are rather difficult and confusing, but it is factually accepted that they hailed from the rocky, hilly country bordering England and Scotland. One of the earliest mentions of a Bedlington-like dog, appears in a diary of a Hungarian nobleman, Z. Molar. He writes of a visit to the Rothbury district in 1702, where he participated in a hunt. In a gypsy encampment on the way, he noticed Agar-like dogs (Hungarian greyhounds), with hair like a lamb! He was told that they were great for hunting hare and rabbits and were also kept by some people for sport. Mr. Molar described in his diary, that these dogs were “the red of bricks” – I guess one could say like today’s reddish liver Bedlington. Maybe this is the earliest recording of Bedlington ancestors.
In the 1860’s, letters were published in “The Field” referring to the Cowney Family dogs that were “pale headed Rough Scottish Terrier type dogs”. One of the Cowneys who moved to Morpeth about the 1800’s, took some of the family dogs with him. Morpeth is only a few miles from Bedlington, in the Northumberland Region, where development of the breed took place in the 1820’s. At that time, the dogs were bred mainly for their positive trait of hunting ability, but were also bred for sport. The true terrier, from the Latin word “terra” meaning ground, were excellent dogs who dug out and caught rats, rabbits and other vermin – a necessity for country living and especially for workers on the mines.
The Bedlington, being fast and agile, became a keen favourite of the gentry (elite) at that time, when Lord Rothbury became an enthusiast of this little dog, and its popularity spread throughout the country. There were quite a few breeders in that region of Northumberland and Rothbury, and in those years, the breeds were referred to as Northumberland Terriers or Rothbury Terriers to name a few. It is not certain which breeds actually played a part in the development of the Bedlington, but there is speculation on the Dandie Dinmont, the Old English Terrier with crosses to the Otter Hound, and even the Whippet.
The name Bedlington Terrier was used by Joseph Aynsley, one of those breeders from the town of Bedlington in Northampshire , and has been in use for more than 170 years. However, the actual recorded birth of the breed was in 1825, when Phoebe, the bitch that Joseph Aynsley acquired from Ned Cotes on his death, was mated to James Anderson’s liver dog Old Piper. The male puppy born of this mating, was also called Piper and he was the first dog to be called a Bedlington Terrier. It is considered that the progenitor of the modern breed was “Old Flint”, whelped in 1782, from whom Phoebe and Piper were descended. This is the pedigree that applies to every Bedlington today.
Around the early 1900’s, better records were being kept. The Bedlington started to be bred as a companion and a show dog.
The first Bedlington Kennel Club was established in England in 1869. The oldest club today is the National Bedlington Terrier Club registered by the England Kennel Club in 1898. Other major Bedlington Clubs are in America and Scandinavia. The American Bedlington Club was formed in 1932 and the Scandinavian Bedlington Terrier Club in 1977. The first dog show with a class for Bedlington Terriers, took place in Newcastle in England, in 1879.
The Bedlingtons have spread to different parts of the world, but yet they remain a rare breed. The very first Bedlingtons to enter and register in Israel, were Isotop’s Felicia and Toolbox Freestyler in 2003!
May Bedlington history continue!