The Breed History
Though the early origins of this breed are somewhat obscure, it is known that the breed was widely used for sporting in Northumberland County in England. The recorded date for the first breeding of a dog referred to as a Bedlington terrier was 1825. The National Bedlington Terrier Club of England was formed in 1877, and the breed was registered in the Kennel Club of England June 1898. Registry in the AKC occurred in 1967.
Breeding for Function
A courageous ratter, pit fighter and vermin eradicator, this breed was renowned for toughness and staying power, and now also enjoys a reputation as an exceptional companion dog.
Height at Withers: female 15.5" (39 cm), male 16.5" (42 cm).
Weight: females 17-20 lb (7.5-9 kg), males 20-23 lb(9-10.5 kg).
Coat: The medium-length haircoat is blue, liver, or sandy; also bi-color such as blue and tan, liver and tan, and sandy and tan. They are trimmed for show to a one-inch coat length on the body. Coat is thick and somewhat curly. Their coat has been called a "lamb's coat"; this is a distinguishing feature of the breed. The coat needs very regular grooming and clipping to prevent matting.
Longevity: 12-14 years.
Points of Conformation: This is a moderately sized dog with an alert demeanor. The head is narrow with no stop, skull is dolichocephalic, and the profile is slightly convex (Roman-nosed). Eyes are almond-shaped, and blue dogs have dark eyes, while others may have a range including hazel. Pendulous ears reach to the lateral commissure of the lips. Nose is pigmented black or brown. They have a long, tapered neck and have a deep thorax, with moderate arch and obvious tuck. Dewclaws are usually removed. The low-set tail reaches to the tarsus. These dogs move straight and true, with a springy gait.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported traits include: Enjoys company, but can be aloof with strangers. The dog will also do alarm barking, and enjoys barking in general. They are average in activity level, and are low shed, low allergy dogs. Regular exercise is important, and one should introduce other dogs or cats with care when the dog is young. Though a fearless fighter, these dogs are playful and gentle with the family.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Copper Toxicosis (CT): Autosomal recessive disorder causing hepatotoxic levels of copper by 2-4 years of age. Without treatment, affected dogs develop progressive liver disease and die. Acute signs include anorexia, depression, and jaundice. Treat with copper chelating agents and liver support medications. A linkage-based test was previously available that had false positive and negative results. A mutation in exon 2 of the COMMD1 gene (formerly MURR1) has now been identified that provides an accurate direct genetic test. (See genetic tests.) Some reports state that there are phenotypically affected dogs that do not test homozygous recessive for the defective gene, and that a second, undetermined mutated gene may also cause the disease in these dogs. The disease can be diagnosed phenotypically by a liver biopsy after 12 months of age. Worldwide screening for CT in various populations of Bedlington Terriers reveals affected frequencies of 11%-57%, and carrier frequencies of 43%-69%. Molecular genetic diversity studies show reduced diversity in the breed, and a call to use quality carrier Bedlington Terriers in breeding programs (bred to normal mates) to reduce further gene pool loss. Reported at an affected frequency of 12.9% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports a high incidence, but very few Bedlington Terriers have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited congenital laxity of patellar ligaments, causing medial luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treated surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 12.3% affected. Reported at a frequency of 1.4% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Bedlington Terriers have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Retinal Dysplasia: Autosomal recessive disorder, present at birth, with concurrent retinal detachment and cataract. Present at a low frequency in the breed.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 12.7% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 4.3% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Pancreatic Acinar Atrophy (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency): Immune-mediated pancreatic acinar atrophy. Clinical signs are poor weight gain, and steatorrhea. Treatment is with enzyme supplementation. Reported at a frequency of 8.9% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Cataracts: Anterior, equatorial or posterior intermediate and punctate cataracts occur in the breed. Age of onset 3-24 months. Reported in 8.49% of Bedlington Terriers presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Identified in 8.41% of Bedlington Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 7.8% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004. CERF Does not recommend breeding any Bedlington Terrier with a cataract.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 6.47% of Bedlington Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 4.96% of Bedlington Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 20.0% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Deafness: Congenital deafness can be unilateral of bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Reported at a frequency of 3.3% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004. Not listed as a breed at risk by Strain.
Heart Murmur/Valvular Heart Disease: Reported at a frequency of 3.1% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004. No specific valve involvement reported.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. Reported at a frequency of 2.7% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Idiopathic Epilepsy (Inherited Seizures): Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 2.4% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Dental Issues: The BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004 reports 2.4% of Bedlington Terriers with undershot bites, and 1.2% with missing teeth.
Aggression: Reported at a frequency of 2.3% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Imperforate Nasolacrimal Puncta: Blocked or malformed tear duct. This defect usually results in excessive tearing. Reported at a frequency of 2.1% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's Disease): Hyperfunction of the adrenal gland caused by a pituitary or adrenal tumor. Clinical signs may include increased thirst and urination, symmetrical truncal alopecia, and abdominal distention. Reported at a frequency of 1.6% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye): Ocular condition causing lack of tear production and secondary conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and vision problems. Age of onset 2-5 years. Reported at an increased frequency verses other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 1.1% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be unilateral or bilateral. This is a sex-limited disorder with an unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 1.1% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Entropion: Rolling in of eyelids, often causing corneal irritation or ulceration. Reported at a frequency of 1.1% in the BTCA Health Survey 2003-2004.
Corneal Dystrophy: Causes opacities on the surface of the cornea. Identified in 1.08% of Belington Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Glaucoma, Microphthalmia, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Renal Dysplasia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for Copper Toxicosis is available from VetGen and the Animal Health Trust. Direct test for the brown color allele is available from VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes patella evaluation, CERF eye examination at a minimum of 1 year of age. and genetic test for copper toxicosis.
Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Rothbury Terrier (historical)
- Registries: CKC, AKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 126 (226 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Bedlington Terrier Club of America: http://bedlingtonamerica.com/
The National Bedlington Terrier Club of England: www.bedlingtons.org.uk
The Bedlington Terrier Association (UK): www.thebta.info/
The Bedlington Terrier Health Group (UK): www.bedlingtonterrierhealthgroup.org.uk
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