Both the Dandie Dinmont and the Bedlington Terrier are thought to share the same ancestry, and both are equally obscure. Although today their appearance is quite different, early specimens of both breeds bore a close resemblance to each other. Both were valued as vermin killers and both originated in the north of England. It is thought that the Bedlington was first known in Cumberland County towards the end of the 18th century, and that some specimens found their way into the adjoining county of Northumberland, where they were bred with local terriers. The resultant cross became known by the regional name of Rothbury Terrier.
The breed became popular with coal miners who cross bred the Rothbury to create a terrier-of-all-work, that is, a dog that could work equally well on land and in water, and fleet enough to catch a rabbit. Thus the Rothbury was crossed with the Whippet, and it was at this point that the present-day conformation of the Bedlington was set. While there seems to be some difference of opinion among dog historians as to when the present name, Bedlington, was adopted, all agree on the Rothbury/ Whippet cross. Whether the breed had been renamed before or after the cross, which is said to have occurred in the 1870s, is not significant; what does matter is that the miners had created one of the gamest of terriers, able to swim down an otter, course a rabbit and give a good account of himself in the fighting pit. The Bedlington is said to have become the poacher’s greatest ally and in some parts of England is still known as the “Gypsy Dog.”
It is known too that in the 1870s the Bedlington made its debut in the show ring and soon attracted public attention. In 1875 the National Bedlington Terrier Club was formed, and in 1895 the first breed standard was draughted. Slowly but surely ever since, the breed has been transformed from a rough-looking creature valued more for his working ability than his appearance to a gentle-mannered, elegant show dog and companion.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Bedlington was introduced to this continent where it was boosted to immediate acclaim when a member of the breed was awarded Best in Show at the prestigious Morris and Essex Kennel Club event in 1947 followed by a similar win at the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York in 1948.
The Bedlington Terrier was first registered in Canada in the years 1888-1889.