Showsight Presents The Bedlington Terrier

THE BEDLINGTON TERRIER’S VOCATION: THE KEY TO PRESERVING TYPE

chest that enables the Beddy to get into and out of the small dens of the fox and groundhog. A bigger dog is better-suited as a courser or a lurcher. The very wise folk who developed the breed left you an out: “Only where comparative superiority of a speci- men outside these ranges clearly justifies it, should greater latitude be taken.” Big dog/small dog, both have their uses. Relative size should never be the major factor in your decisions. FLEXIBILITY & SPEED Along with its overall size, the Bedlington uses lateral flexibility to navigate tight quarters both above and below ground. “Muscular and mark- edly flexible,” reads the standard. Properly bred, the dog can be neatly folded in half. Often, this is the difference between injury or death and escape from a dangerous situation. Bending the dog is to confirm its flexibility and is standard practice at working terrier shows, but we don’t do it in the conformation ring. Sometimes you can see an indication when it makes its turn on the down and back or when it licks its… well, you know. Not easy to test, but still very important. The brown hare and its primary predator, the red fox, can achieve speeds up to 48 miles per hour. Both are potential quarry for the Beddy (neither is often hunted with Pugs). For their part, Beddys can achieve speeds upward of 35 miles per hour, BUT, they can sustain that speed for up to three miles. The ability to reach that speed and the endurance to maintain it are the product of a “good natural arch over the loin” and “stifles well angulated.” The arch is moderate; the angulation is not. The arch is nowhere near as pronounced as today’s excellent groomers would like to have you believe. It doesn’t need to be. To be fair, most of today’s dogs actually have a proper degree of arch, which is accentuated by the grooming process. You might want to take a few seconds and peer Lateral flexibility in the Bedlington is an absolute requirement for its own safety and its ability to work in rocky crags and crevices which cannot be dug. A smaller, highly flexible dog is desirable for this type of work. Under the current system of judging, it is almost impossible to determine lateral flexibility in the show ring. (R. Reynolds photo)

“Flat ribbed and deep through the brisket” enables the Bedlington to work efficiently in any environment that requires access and extrication from narrow or restricted spaces. (B. Reyna photo)

A singular example of this is the Bedlington Terrier. To this day, the “Beddy” is used for hunting in its native UK, the US, and Serbia, to name a few coun- tries. The social media sites for actual working Bedlington have more than 2,000 subscribers, more, in fact, than the conformation sites. It’s a truly useful dog for varied quarry around the globe. But the Beddy’s roots are firmly planted in Nor- thumberland where they were developed and where they are often worked today for sport and, in some cases, as a source of income for their owners. If your cal- endar is too full to get to Northumberland (or even New Jersey where we offer to take judges hunting) I’m hopeful that this article will show you a side of today’s Bedlington Terrier that will assist you in setting your own structural priorities for the breed. The Bedlington was specifically designed to hunt the fields and fells of Eng- land, and those hills have changed little in the 300-plus years since the breed first emerged. The country is steep, sometimes precipitous and largely open. Today as then, the quarry is largely rabbit (by British law), but in other countries, red and gray fox, groundhog, raccoon, badger (which is legal on the continent), raccoon dog, and wild boar are the current quarry. Even in Britain, fox may be bolted to the gun with the aid of a terrier under certain circumstances. A SOLO HUNTING TERRIER To understand the Bedlington, one has to understand that the breed is first, foremost, and universally a solo hunting Terrier. It was not developed by Dukes in scarlet on horseback, but rather by laborers, tradesmen, and miners for whom the dog was (and is) an additional source of income. Not all hunting with Beddys was (or… ahem… is) totally within the law. To call the breed a poacher’s dog would be totally disrespectful, but you do need to be aware of some of the breed’s character- istics that make it equally well-qualified for “dancing in the dark” or winning in the show ring. A barking dog is not an attribute for illegal hunting. Bedlingtons are quiet and dignified… until things get real. They tend to attack without warning, and the strength and ferocity of their grip is legendary. Once attached, they will not release their quarry, which makes them problematic for some types of hunting such as rats, wild boar or the neighbor’s cat. For this reason they are NEVER sparred. Not ever. (Legend has it, though, that after the hunt there were dog fights behind the local pub wherein significant funds changed hands. Just another reason for the incredible bite.) Most early Bedlington hunters could only afford to keep a single dog. The breed standard recognizes that constraint by setting a preferred size range, (although it doesn’t specify by whom it is preferred). For a dog to bolt fox from dens in the unfor- giving rock of the fells (or the stony fields of New England, for that matter) one wants a smaller dog, 16 inches or less, with the flat-ribbed, deep and compressible

192 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, APRIL 2022

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