Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Old and New Border Terriers?

Reposted from February 2005

Border terriers owners go to extraordinary lengths to claim that their dogs are an ancient breed, despite all evidence to the contrary -- they point to indistinct dogs tucked into the corners of oil paintings, and talk of everyone from Caius to Walter Scott.

In fact, there is little evidence to suggest the Border Terrier existed before the start of the Kennel Club era which began in the 1860s, and it was not until 1920 that the border terrier made it into the formal Kennel Club roles in the U.K. -- a late entry due to the fact that, up until then, it was not very distinct from the non-pedigree fell terrier which had previously been incorporated into the Kennel Club as the "Welsh Terrier" after an attempt to claim it as an "English Black and Tan Terrier" failed. See here for more on this tale.

One of the more bizarre examples of reaching for history can be seen on pages four and five of Walter Gardner's book "About the Border Terrier." This book is notable -- as are all border terrier books -- for not having a single picture of a border terrier working a fox.

Gardner does, however, devote two full pages to two pictures of "The Old" and "The New." The picture on the left ["The Old (1879)"] shows "The Dandie Dinmont 'Doctor' with Dr. Hemmings' Bedlington Terrier 'Geordie'" The picture on the right ["The New (1973)"] shows "John Jardine of Dandie Dinmont Fame with one of his terriers and Miss M. Edgar with her Border Terrier."

The Old and the New? What? The dogs being compared are not even the same breed!

What is amazing here is the suggestion that the Border Terrier is nothing more than an 1879 Bedlington. This is patent nonsense.

The origins of the border terrier are not complex or deeply hidden -- they are a type of modified fell terrier -- a breed with which they are routinely crossed in working circles to this day.



retrieverman said...

Bedlingtons are interesting looking dogs. It's kind of like a smaller poodle lurcher. http://www.american-terriers.com/images/bedlington_terrier.jpg

I don't think you can use them as earth dogs.

I've heard they require more trimming than poodles.

Definitely not related to border terriers.

retrieverman said...

I received a correspondence from a Dandie Dinmont enthusiast who claimed the Dandie to be the ancestor of both the border and the fell-type.

I said it was possible, but I was skeptical.

PBurns said...

It's very popular to claim that Bedlingtons and Dandies and Scotties are all the "original" terrier ... along with the Cairn, the Welsh, the .... well, it goes on and on and it is all nonsense

The story is much simpler: the first working terriers were dachshund-like dogs brought over by the Romans (and found buried near Hadrian's wall near greyhounds also brought over by the Romans). They were crossed with small spitz-looking dogs left over from the Vikings, and the result is a small dog that can go to ground and looks like any small shaggy cross-bred terrier you can find around today. There were no breeds, and the very concept of breeds did not show up in the working terrier world until dog shows and dog dealers. The Bedlingtons of 150 years ago did not have roached backs and linty coats! Nor did the Dandies have sway backs and long bodies or weight 30 pounds! Both breeds, for the record, are genetic wrecks with their own diseases. Stay the hell away is what I say!