Bedlington Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

bedlington terrier

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The Bedlington terrier is a small-sized and unique English dog breed that looks like a lamb with a touch of poodle. It's known for its lamb-like tufted face, pear-shaped head, curly coat, and gracefully arched back. Bedlington terriers are named for the mining town in England where they first originated. Today, these English dogs make charming family companions, but while they are lovable (and cuddly!) they are also alert watchdogs and versatile athletes that are fiercely protective of their loved ones.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Terrier

WEIGHT: 17 to 23 pounds

HEIGHT: 15.5 to 17.5 inches

COAT: Mixture of hard and soft hair, crisp but not wiry

COAT COLOR: Blue, sandy, or liver, sometimes combined with tan

LIFE SPAN: 11 to 16 years

TEMPERAMENT: Good-tempered, affectionate, intelligent, spirited


ORIGIN: England

Characteristics of the Bedlington Terrier

Overall, these charming dogs are lots of fun and love nothing more than to be their family’s center of attention. These well-balanced, gentle dogs are known to be fiercely protective of their loved ones; that's why they make great watchdogs, though they are generally fairly friendly with strangers. The Bedlington makes an ideal dog for an active family seeking a non-shedding, playful, and loyal companion.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Bedlington Terrier

A one-of-a-kind, lamb-like breed, the Bedlington terrier is said to have been bred from sighthounds like the whippet due to its arched back, speed, and agility. It is also believed to share common ancestry with breeds such as the Dandie Dinmont, Kerry blue, and soft-coated wheaten terriers. They move with a graceful, springy step, but can run incredibly fast when the situation warrants.

Though they resemble gentle lambs, the Bedlington has actually been responsible for performing some tough—and often deadly—work throughout its history. Bred in the 1800s, these brave, energetic dogs were created in the Northumberland mining shire of Bedlington as a working man’s dog. The Bedlington was a prized hunting dog of animals such as foxes, hares, and badgers, and they were also expected to be a vermin hunter by the miners of Bedlington.

The very first Bedlington terrier was a dog named Piper. Bred in 1825, it has been said that Piper was still hunting badgers at age 14, even though he was nearly blind and had no teeth. At that time, the Bedlington was considered to be the smartest and fastest of all terrier breeds.

The breed acquired the nickname “Gypsy Dog” because it was often used by the wandering Romanies as a sneaky partner in their poaching activities. The “Gypsy Dog” was recognized by Lord Rothbury of Bedlington who became such an enthusiast of the breed that the terriers were often called Rothbury’s terrier—and, sometimes, even Rothbury’s lamb.

The nail makers of Bedlington also took a fancy to the breed, and it wasn't long before the shire’s miners and nailers began betting their salaries in dogfights, in which they would pit their terriers against each other. They discovered that despite their lamb-like appearance, the Bedlington terrier would become ferocious fighters and would not back down when challenged. Sadly, they would fight to the death when forced into these circumstances. While miners exploited its gameness as a fighting dog, hunters were relying on Bedlingtons as retrievers.

The good news is that Bedlingtons turned out to be more of a sweetheart than a fighter. These charming dogs eventually rose from coal mines and nail factories to become welcomed into manor houses, where British elites would raise their Bedlingtons to be both lovable companions as well as attractive decorations as part of their lavish, stylish lifestyles.

England’s National Bedlington Terrier Club was formed in 1877, and less than 10 years later, the American Kennel Club (AKC) registered its first Bedlington. Those who live in Bedlington, England are still proud of this famous export; Bedlington’s Northern League soccer team is called the Terriers, and the town installed park benches shaped like the breed.

bedlington terrier show
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bedlington terrier getting groomed in 1952
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bedlington terrier playing guitar

Bedlington Terrier Care

Bedlington dogs are lithe, energetic, and require a lot of exercise. They do tend to bark a lot and can become high-strung without ample exercise and mental stimulation. While this breed is energetic, they are not particularly rambunctious or mischievous.


Since it's a terrier, the Bedlington possesses a great deal of energy and will require regular exercise for the benefit of both its physical and mental well-being. The Bedlington prefers a brisk daily walk of at least 30 minutes, but sporadic bouts of more vigorous exercise throughout the week will keep your dog happy. This breed loves to play a round of fetch, go on a long walk or run, and it loves the water for a swim, but afterwards it's more than happy to curl up on the couch with its family. Many of these dogs enjoy participating in sports and competitions such as agility, tracking, and obedience.


The crisp hair of their coat is a mix of both soft and harsh (but not wiry) hair, and many Bedlington owners are pleasantly surprised to learn that these dogs don’t shed very much, if at all. However, their hair does grow very quickly, and will need to be groomed approximately every two months—they can be groomed at home with the help of both electric clippers and scissors or taken to a professional groomer. Their coat will also need to be brushed and/or combed once or twice a week.

As with all dogs, Bedlingtons need basic grooming, including having their nails trimmed often, teeth brushed daily, and ears checked and cleaned regularly. The breed's ears are unique in shape and hair distribution, and need to be trimmed, as well, to neaten up the ear tassels.


Like most terriers, the Bedlington terrier can be stubborn yet intelligent and eager to please, so early training and socialization should be high on the agenda. This breed will not respond to harsh training methods or physical correction, as it is more likely to lead to a battle of wills with its owner. Instead, training should be performed by owners who are not passive and are willing to remain firm and consistent while relying on positive-reinforcement techniques, such as offering praise and food as rewards.

Common Health Problems

Although they are a generally healthy breed, the Bedlington terrier has been associated with certain conditions, including:

  • Copper Toxicosis: The breed is prone to this genetic disease causing copper toxins to build up in the liver which can make an animal chronically ill.
  • Luxating Patella: Another condition particular to this breed is the dislocation of a kneecap resulting in the dog kicking its leg to try to pop the kneecap back in place.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This condition affects the condition and functioning of the hip joints leading to lameness.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Skeletal growth abnormalities in the dog's elbow can cause lameness in the forelimbs.
  • Hypothyroidism: When a dog's thyroid makes too little of the necessary thyroid hormone, it can lead to many symptoms, including lethargy and weight gain.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease: A dog with this disorder has a problem with prompt blood clotting because there's a lack of a specific protein needed to let the platelets know they need to begin sticking together.
  • Dry Eye: Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, this breed is prone to this condition where the tear glands no longer work, resulting in sore, itchy, and sometimes infected eyes.
  • Distichiasis: Not his condition causes abnormal growth of eyelashes. Hairs grow along the eyelid and into the eye itself, causing irritation.

Diet and Nutrition

The Bedlington terrier should thrive on either a commercially-prepared or home-prepared (with veterinary supervision), high-quality dog food. Like many dogs, they can become overweight, so calorie consumption and weight should always be closely monitored by a veterinarian. It’s also important that this active dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bedlington Terrier

Bedlington terriers are rare, so it may be difficult to find this dog breed in a rescue situation. But you should always be sure to check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for Bedlington terriers that are in need of a forever home. The national rescue group for Bedlington terriers, the Bedlington Terrier Club of America, can also provide online resources to help you find your new best friend.

If your heart is set on finding a Bedlington, you can try locating a breeder. The Bedlington Terrier Club of America and the AKC Marketplace are your best guides towards finding breeders. Expect to pay a breeder on average $2,500 for a purebred Bedlington terrier puppy, depending on the dog's lineage.

Bedlington Terrier Overview

  • Gentle and great with kids

  • Great watchdogs

  • Loves to cuddle

  • Requires a lot of exercise

  • Not suited for apartments

  • Coat requires higher-maintenance grooming

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do your homework when choosing a dog breed. Talk to other Bedlington terrier owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about this particular breed and its care.

If you’re interested in learning more about similar dogs, consider these other similar breeds:

There's a variety of dog breeds out there, and with a little research, you can be sure you'll find the right dog to bring home.

  • Do Bedlington terriers get along with other animals?

    Though it resembles a lamb, the Bedlington terrier was actually bred to chase small animals. Because of this, the Bedlington terrier will require a fenced-in yard and should always be walked on a leash because it's likely to take off in pursuit of another animal. It's also best to introduce this dog to other family pets, like cats, when they are puppies.

  • Are Bedlington terriers friendly towards children?

    These dogs are small enough, gentle, and patient enough to get along famously with kids of all ages.

  • Why are the ears of Bedlington terriers tasseled?

    The breed's ears are indeed unique, with a tasseled bit of fur at the end of each drop ear. The tassel is believed to be intentional to protect the dog's ear from the sharp teeth of dangerous vermin (such as badgers and weasels, for example). When one of these animals tried to grab a Bedlington's ear as it was being hunted down, all it would get is a mouthful of fluff.