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THE BEDLINGTON TERRIER
As terrier ancestry goes, the Bedlington can claim a highly respectable antiquity. Its pedigree is lost in those oft-quoted “mists of obscurity,” which seem a stock phrase in writing of the origin of the terrier family, but the mists date farther back than the general. More than one monograph has been written on the Bedlington, and more than one shot made at its earliest history, and to this day you shall find its argument able to fire the blood up in the North, where the burly Northumbrian fancier would have you understand that he knows more about its ancestry than is dreamt of in the philosophy of Southern fanciers. Be this as it may, and I am the last to dispute it, here are three or four versions to add to the collections of “true and original ” histories of the derivative from whence the Bedlington sprung
A former Honorary Secretary of the Bedlington Terrier Club tells us that sometime at the end of the seventeenth or beginning of the eighteenth century there lived a certain William Allan in Rothbury Forest, Northumberland, who owned a strain of rough terriers, and was famed for his skill in hunting the otter, and showing sport to those who engaged his services. To him was born in 1720, in a gipsy camp in Rothbury Forest, a son named James, who became a famous piper, or wandering minstrel, I take it. He inherited his father's canine stock, which included two favourites known as Peachem and Pincher, and amongst their descendants occurs the name Piper, given to the terriers in pious memory of the piper aforesaid. And of this Peachem it is recorded that his master was wont to observe, “When Peachem gives tongue I dare always sell the otter's skin." This line of research dates back to 1782, when the breed was known as the Rodberry or Rothbury terrier. Another antiquarian traces the family tree of the Bedlington back to a terrier named Old Flint, who belonged to a certain Squire Trevelyan in the North country, and was whelped in the year 1782 also. A third groper in the mists would have us believe that the Bedlington was an importation from Holland, “but all the Holland about him," says Mr. Rawdon Lee,“ was that Mr. Tapnell Holland was one of his great supporters in the 'Sixties, and a leading exhibitor of the variety in its early days.” A fourth yarn, if that expression is permitted, traces the breed back to a couple of terriers, named Peachem and Pincher, owned by Mr. Edward Donkin of Flotterton, who was master of a pack of foxhounds that hunted the Rothbury country, and whose terriers achieved a surprising fame for their keenness in their work.
With these four reputed avenues of descent offered him, the reader, who has paid his money, may, so to speak, take his choice. For myself, whilst I "hae ma doots " about human family pedigrees, having some experience of the methods by which they are manufactured, I do not harbour any about canine pedigrees of the eighteenth century, being persuaded they leave no room for doubt, but only a certainty that they are fanciful and imaginative. Still, granted that in or about 1782 there was a breed of Rothbury terriers, whereof certain units were known as Peachem, Pincher, and Piper, the singular coincidence does remain that these particular names (possibly inherited) certainly appertained to the Bedlington terrier when he came to be known as such in or about the year 1820. “What's in a name ? " asks the dramatist ; in this instance there may be something more in it than appears on the surface. For eighty years ago we find Ainsley's Pincher and Anderson's Pincher, Ainsley's Peachem and Donkin's Peachem, and Donkin's Piper and Turnbull's Piper, all posing as ancient pillars of the Bedlington breed in the vicinity of Bedlington. If Piper Allan's terriers were so noted as to have left similar names on record, it is easy to understand that their names may have been perpetuated in their progeny. And for the Bedlington terrier of 1825, be it noted, it was a dog scaling about 15 inches, and weighing as many pounds; liver or blue coloured; the hair hard and linty; the head tufted with lighter-coloured hair, of a silkier texture; the ears long, and hanging close to the cheek, with slight feathering on the tips; and slender and lathy in build. And the first owner and breeder of this type proper was named Joseph Ainsley.
During the next four decades many attempts were made to improve the breed by introducing crosses from others, mostly terriers, although an otterhound cross is mentioned. The result was not satisfactory. Always a game dog and a fine water-dog, the Bedlington wanted nor bull-terrier nor otterhound blood to inspire it with pluck or a love for swimming. You may read wonderful tales of its dash and spirit in many books; how, for instance, Ainsley's Piper was entered to badger when he was only an eight-months' pup; how thirteen years later, when he had not a tooth left in his head, he drew a badger where younger dogs had failed ; and