At first I thought we all knew the History of our breed. So, why write about it all over again. However, once I started reading and researching, asking people some of the facts I required. It was great to refresh the mind how the Border terrier evolved, be it a little vague at times. There is no doubt that the use of the Border has changed little over the years.

To begin, I would like to go back a little further than 1920!

The Evolutionary ‘Map’……. It is believed that the Terrier descended from CANIS FAMILIARIS PALUSTRIS, the lake settlement dog which lived during the New Stone Age. Already domesticated, it lived with humans in their pile-supported houses on riverbanks or by lakes. This dog was similar in appearance and size to the Spitz. It is believed to be the ancestor of breeds such as the Spitz, Pincher and the Terrier.


The word ‘TERRIER’… Dogs originally bred and used to ‘go to earth’ (from the Latin word TERRA) after foxes, badgers or other animals.  

It is believed that the word ‘terrier’ appeared for the first time in 1359 by Gace  de la Vigne who wrote a ‘poeme sur la Chasse.’ The following year 1360, a book written by Gaston Phoebus, the Count of foix, in which terriers work underground received a lot of attention. However, there is no description of the terriers.

Fox hunting was a popular pastime as early as 1219. The King, Henry the 3rd granted permission for John Fitz-Robert to keep dogs of his own for hunting in the forest of Northumberland. So, it is known that terriers were used in the same way as the Border terrier is used to day, in and around the Border country and showing the same characteristics. The Border terrier originated from the Border country and is essentially a working terrier. Originally bred for the control of vermin and flushing out foxes, which had gone to earth, they were not required to worry the fox.

From about the middle of the 17th century Terriers of various sorts began to appear in sporting paintings. These had a close resemblance to the modern Border terrier. A portrait of Arthur Wentworth an earth stopper with a foxhound pack in 1750 appears with terriers not dissimilar too to-days Border terrier, also 2nd picture 1820. 

Until the middle of the 19th century the history of the Border terrier is a little vague. There is no doubt that the Border terrier has close links between the Bedlington and the Dandie Dinmont terriers, all-originating from the border country, between Northumberland and Scotland. It was also accepted the 3 breeds descended from terriers bred by wandering tinkers, who lived in and around the Northumberland location. 

It takes some believing that this could be possible when you think of the Border, Bedlington and Dandie today. The Border terrier changing the least over the years. However, even the Border can still carry some of the characteristics, of the other two breeds, soft topknot and occasionally puppies are born with white feet and quite a few carry a white patch on the chest.

A terrier not dissimilar to the Border was to be seen in Coquetdale in the valleys of Northumberland, which was commonly called the Coquetdale terrier. 

Recently, I came a cross a reference to the Reedwater terrier, which appeared to have links with the Border terrier. So, I did a little more research to find where I believe the connection could be!  

It was known in 1857 Jacob Robson moved his Hounds from East Kielder to Bryness in Reedwater. Mr Dodd of Catcleugh amalgamated the 2 packs. They became known as the Reedwater Hounds. It is therefore a good probability the Reedwater terrier and Coquetdale terrier were one of the same. As the 2 valleys are close.

The Bedlington terrier was known as the Rothbury Terrier and the Redesdale Terrier a white terrier now extinct. All these small villages are in very close proximity to each other.

The Ullswater Foxhounds and the adjacent packs in the Lake District are known to have close associations with the early Border terriers. The Foxhounds packs are hunted on foot in the fells of Cumbria. It is well known that Joe Bowman, the Huntsman for the Ullswater Foxhounds since 1879 hunted the pack for over 40 years, worked and produced terriers which occurred in the early Border terriers pedigrees. Lord Lonsdale of Lowther close to Penrith, refers to his terriers, which they bred at Lowther since 1732, they kept the pedigrees of these terriers. Colour re-wheaten, grizzle, blue & tan and a considerable number were white with rough coats. Could this white be a throw back from the Redsdale Terrier?

Lord Lonsdale Terriers were used with the Ullswater foxhounds, so known has the Ullswater terrier. The Lonsdale family still have very close connection with the Ullswater pack, Lady Jane the great, great Granddaughter of Lord Lonsdale; is one of the Masters of the Pack to day.

An article appeared in the Field (March 1878) Referring to the Ullswater Foxhounds packs, makes reference to their terriers as using 3 couples of shaggy little mountain terriers. We know from pictures that Joe Bowman produced and worked with Ullswater Terriers, A photo in 1870 shows his terriers Ullswater Jimmy and Mytle. Joe gives a description of his ideal terrier fit for the Fells, hard wiry coat, narrow front, strong jaw, not snipy like that of a show fox terrier, nor bullet-like to show suspicion of a bulldog cross, a short back, legs to help him on rough terrain and enable him to work underground. Short-legged terrier is of little use in mountain foxhunting country. He goes on to say, eyes small and dark showing gameness. ears medium in size and dropping neatly to the side of the head. Legs strong in bone feet round& cat-like, the head and tail up to show himself to the best advantage. Joe Bowman was a very respected huntsman and a big favourite at Sheep-trials, dog and puppy shows. On the other hand, his terriers also command the highest respect in the ring as well as going to ground. It was quoted in his book    “the Ullswater Terrier, the bonniest little pet which ever nestled in a lady’s lap or struck terror into the hearts of a Fox”……. Well, that sounds like a Border terrier doesn’t it?

Another article I found in Richard Clapham’s book, Fox Hunting on the Lakeland fells, refers to the terriers Joe Bowman used, were mostly crossbred showing more or less Bedlington blood. Some had light coloured silky hair on the heads. Most of Joe’s terriers were rough coated, as a silky coat is no good for a working terrier, the dogs would be unable to withstand cold and wet properly.

Concluding all this information of the Terriers in the fell packs. I personally believe that the Border terrier was around and used many years ago by the Lakeland Fells Packs, especially the Ullswater pack, whom we have hunted with for the pass 30 years. 

Interestingly the field magazine around 1826 describes, 2 foxhounds packs in the Border country as using terriers, red, grey and wheaten in colour, with small white marks on their chests. They are always small, half the weight of a Dandie Dinmont. Having a hard close coat, good feet and legs, as they were used 3 days a week with the hounds to go to ground when needed.

In 1879 Jacob Robson with E.L Dodd & Simon Dodd, became joint master of the Border Foxhounds, a position they held for 54 years. The Border Foxhound success spread, along with their terriers, it was not long before they became known as the Border terrier. By 1880 the name was widely accepted. The contribution the Robson and Dodd families have made to the development of the breed cannot be over estimated. It was the 2 families that helped get the breed recognised by the kennel club a few years later.

By 1870 the breed was appearing in the show ring, Bellingham show a classic for Border enthusiasts, a win there was highly valued. Also in 1878 William Hedley had already started showing his Border Bacchus.

Mosstrooper was the first to be registered in 1913 even though the kennel club would not recognise the breed. Again in 1914 the kennel Club rejected the application to recognise the breed. Vigorous campaigning by Morris of the Tyne area and many others, in the columns of “Our Dogs” resulted in the Kennel Club recognising the breed in autumn 1920.

However, some Border terrier enthusiasts were far from happy about the breed being accepted as a show dog. They had seen many other breeds of terriers ruined, becoming nothing but show specimens and virtually useless for under ground work.

The Border Terrier Club was formed in 1920 and as we know still runs successfully today in the Carlisle area. By 1921 five sets of CC’s were being awarded to the best dog & bitch at championship shows. The first dog to be made up was Ch. Teri owned by Mr & Mrs Dodd.  The Bitch Ch. Liddesdale Bess owned by Miss Bell Irving. Both made up in 1921.

After 1939, no Championship shows were held during the war1940-1945. After the cessation of the hostilities, the Kennel club allowed only breed clubs to hold champ shows. Border terriers were allocated 2 shows.

By 1950 the champ shows were up and running again and our breed was allocated 21 sets of CC’s; So by 1950 the breed had 83 champions and the annual registrations stood at 659, compared to 111 in 1920.

In 1963 Dandyhow Brussel sprout was awarded his only CC. However, he went on to become one of the breeds most influential studs, siring ten champions. One of which was Dandyhow Shady Knight who was made up in 1969 owned and bred by Mrs Sullivan, Shady Knight had a total of 24CC’s.

By 1975 the annual number of Borders registered had increased to 1111, 55yrs after the initial registration.  Also 1975 saw an increase in the CC’s to the breed, now standing at 26 sets. The top winning Border of that time was Ch. Step A Head being awarded 15CC’s in one year, the highest number won in a single year by a Border.

In 1981, the breed had 31sets of CC’s. One particular dog was made into a champion this year Ch Lyddington Lets go. He went on to sire 7 British & 3 American champions. In 1985, the daughter of Let’s go was awarded her first CC Nettleby Mullein went on to become the bitch record holder 18cc’s which she held until 1996. When Ch Dandyhow Cleopatra took over the bitch record with 24CC’s. In 2007 Ch Brumberhill Betwixt gained 25CC’s and holds the bitch recorded.

The Dog record holder was the legendary Ch. Brannigan of Brumberhill who 1985 had gained 2ccs by 1989 he had gained a grand total of 31CC’s and still holds the breed record today. In 1988 he was Reserve best in show at Crufts, which we all know in this breed, is a massive achievement.

Unfortunately the registrations are still increasing. Maybe the bubble will burst and they will not be bred for the sake of making money and that the real enthusiast will help keep the breed to the correct standard. Breeding only to better & improve the breed, we must always consider the interest and welfare of the breed.

Our breed may have only been registered over 90 years ago, however, evidence as proved that they were around a lot longer than that. The Border terrier has changed very little in that time; their ability to work is paramount. Just because it’s against the law to use them for hunting, dose not mean we should forget what they were originally bred for. The standard states essentially a working terrier and capable of following a horse, to me that says size and fitness. We don’t want the Border terrier to go the way a lot of the other terrier breeds have gone, only good for the show ring!!!!

(contribution by Mrs Margaret Bailey, Grindelvald Border Terriers)