Border and Lakeland Terrier

Lakeland Terrier (Red)Lakeland Terrier (Red)These two Terriers of the Border Region share a common background. The Border Terrier was originally bred was used for fox hunting. So when the Breed Standards were written more than a century later, their working heritage was reflected by its opening words which state that the Border Terrier is: 'essentially a working terrier capable of following a horse' whilst the Lakeland Terrier still contains the word 'workmanlike' in its general appearance.

History - One Terrier split into two

Border Terriers c 1900Border Terriers c 1900

A strain of terrier that is supposedly the oldest of the terriers in the district was given the generic name 'Terriers of the Border Region' because they required no other designation than the work they did. It was not until the 1920's that their fame was bolstered by specialist clubs and breed recognition. Some two decades before they were recognized as a pure breed, they were described

.. remarkable how most of them have kept their good looks whilst bred only for work... these Border Terriers have been running up and down Northumberland and other of the more more northern counties since time immemorial almost. Of later years they have been taken in hand by some of the 'hunting men' on the Borders as more useful for their purpose than any of what may be called, without prejudice, fancy or fashionable varieties[1] 

Border Terriers c 1920Border Terriers c 1920

History of the Border Terrier

But in 1920 the Border Terrier became recognized with the original breed Standard written by Jacob Robson, who kept forerunners of today's Border Terriers all his life to run with his packs of Foxhounds. His father also had similar packs.

Because like Jack Russell Terriers, Border Terriers have chests so flexible they can wriggle along and squeeze through the incredibly small earths or tunnels where the fox lives, the chest of a Border Terrier remains capable of being spanned. But like the long legged terriers, he still has a terrier front.

Coloured red and mustard as well as and black and tan and pepper and varying in weight from 15 to 18 pounds, they were a little larger than today's Border Terrier Breed Standard requires. But Jacob Robson stated:

when bigger they cannot follow their fox underground so well, and a little terrier that is thoroughly game is always best[1].

History of the Lakeland Terrier

Lakeland Terriers c 1930Lakeland Terriers c 1930

The Lakeland Terrier was used for a slightly different purpose. He eliminated mountain foxes that lived in the Lakes District. These foxes often sought refuge on the rocky ledges inside their dens. So these terriers did not squeeze through soft earths. Instead they had to enter rocky dens. So they had to be sufficiently narrow in the chest to enter these rocky dens and then have the length of leg to jump onto the ledges so they could tackle the mountain fox[2].

Border Terrier NZ late 1970'sBorder Terrier NZ late 1970's

Today there are still Terriers of the Border Region called Fell and Patterdale Terriers which work in the traditional manner in England but are not yet recognized by the Kennel Club UK. So whilst acknowledging these current working types of terriers, in-depth discussions here are confined to the two recognized breeds which are the Border and Lakeland Terriers. In England today Lakeland Terriers are primarily showdogs and were first recognized in 1928.

History of the Lakeland Terrier in Australia

Lakeland Terrier 1954Lakeland Terrier 1954

In Australia, a couple of Lakelands were imported into Victoria in the late 1940's. Then in 1954 Mr Fell and his daughter Sadie Moorby arrived here from England with the legendary dog 'Jims Swell' (pictured) plus a couple of well-bred bitches from the famous 'Blackwell' kennels in UK. These founded the Manesty Kennels which have had a great influence on the Lakeland Terrier here spanning 60 years.

The Border Terrier did not become established in Australia until well into the 1970's with foundation stock coming from Rosemary Williamson's famous 'Patterdale' kennels in New Zealand. In particular Mr Robert Bartram from Queanbeyan, NSW near Canberra began with Brigit of Patterdale, then importing Rhozzum Venture from UK who produced several Champions. These did much to put the Border Terrier on the map in Australia.

The Border Terrier Today

The head of a Border Terrier, uniquely described in the Breed Standard as 'like that of an otter' is best understood by comparing the heads of these two species, as follows.

Border Terrier Similarities Otter
Border TerrierBorder Terrier Front view similarities:
  • the shape and placement of the eyes
  • the square shape of the skull
  • the flatness of skull
  • the set of ears
Otter Otter
Border TerrierBorder Terrier Side view similarities:
  • the lack of definite stop
  • the short muzzle
  • the strength of the muzzle
  • the width and depth of the underjaw
  • the size of the nose
Otter Head Profile

Border TerriersBorder Terriers

The body of the Border Terrier is described as 'fairly long', built so the dog is capable of working underground in fox dens. So, when judging this breed the process of spanning a terrier must always be followed. Additionally, the specialized skin or pelt of the Border Terrier should be checked.

The skin or pelt of a Border Terrier is unusually thick and resilient to protect the dog should it get caught on the jagged edges of rocks and tree roots that are encountered when the dog crawls through the confines of a fox den.

Checking the PeltChecking the Pelt

The flexibility and thickness of the skin or pelt allows the dog to wriggle past these obstructions when fox hunting. Specialist terrier judges often check the skin's thickness and flexibility by grasping it across the back with two hands as demonstrated.

The Border Terrier's skin or pelt is covered by a rough coat. It comes in red, wheaten, grizzle and tan and blue and tan. Although there is no height specified in the breed standard, he has a racy build with a fairly long body and weighs around 5 - 7 kilograms (eleven and a half to fifteen and a half pounds).

Border Terrier (Blue and Tan)Border Terrier (Blue and Tan)

The tail of the Border Terrier is described as 'fairly thick and the base and tapering'. Most working terriers should  have tails which are thick at the base, so hunters could use the tail as a handle to pull the terrier out of a burrow or den, should the necessity arise. Hence the common saying among terrier folk 'no tail no terrier'. The photo below is of a Border Terrier taking part in the discipline of 'Earthdog' where he is entering an artificial den.

Border Terrier entering artificial Earthdog denBorder Terrier entering artificial Earthdog den

Although the Standard calls for the tail to be 'set high' and 'carried gaily' the Border Terrier's tail set-on and carriage should not be the same as those terriers whose Breed Standards have similar wording but also require the back to be short. Instead the Border Terrier's body is described as 'fairly long'.

Because the Border Terrier had to dig its way into the earths where the foxes lived, it has a Terrier front. But his hindquarters are described in the Breed Standard with one word 'racy'. Combine this racy build with the strength of loin required in a dog 'capable of following a horse', the Border Terrier's tail cannot come vertically off the topline like that of the shorter backed terriers. Instead the correct tail set-on and carriage should be comparatively lower as ideally pictured on the two dogs pictured.

The Lakeland Terrier Today

At first glance, a Lakeland Terrrier's outline looks like a Fox Terrier (Wire) or a Welsh Terrier (see table below) and built like the long legged terriers.

As the Breed Standard of the Lakeland Terrier is, in my opinion not sufficiently explicit to reflect these subtle differences. So, the Lakeland is presented here as a comparison with these other two apparently similar breeds. Note the following features which reflect the Lakeland's origin as a Terrier of the Border Region compared with the Welsh or the Fox Terrier (Wire) - see table below.

  • Despite the furnishings of the beard, the head should not have the elongated muzzle of the Welsh or the Fox Terrier (Wire)
  • The ears are set lower on the skull than the Welsh or the Fox Terrier (Wire)
  • The body is not as short as the Welsh or Fox Terrier (Wire)[3] 
  • The whole dog is smaller in both height and weight than the Welsh or the Fox Terrier (Wire)
  • The varying colours of the Lakeland reflect the colours of other terriers of the Border Region that is black and tan, blue and tan, red, wheaten, red grizzle, liver, blue and black.

Lakeland Terrier (Wheaten)Lakeland Terrier (Wheaten)Lakeland (Black and Tan)Lakeland (Black and Tan)Lakeland Terrier (Blue)Lakeland Terrier (Blue)

Comparison between Fox, Welsh and Lakeland Terriers

These 3 Terriers are directly compared here because although they appear alike, they differ not only in origin but also in several physical aspects. So it is important to compare these differences.

Terrier Fox Terrier (Wire) Welsh Terrier Lakeland Terrier

Fox Terrier (Wire)Fox Terrier (Wire)

Welsh TerrierWelsh Terrier

Lakeland TerrierLakeland Terrier

Background Old English White Terrier (rough coated) Old English Black and Tan Terrier (rough coated) Terrier of the Border Region
Head Proportions Little difference in length between skull and foreface Medium length from stop to end of nose. Jaws rather deep. Length of head from stop to tip of nose not exceeding that from occiput to stop
Ears Top line of folded ears well above level of skull (Button Ears) Set in fairly high and carried forward close to cheek Set neither too high or too low on head
Chest Deep not broad Good depth and moderate width Chest reasonably narrow
Body Proportions Back short Back short Back moderately short
Height and Weight Dogs not exceeding 15.5 inches at shoulder, bitches slightly less. Ideally 18 lbs. Not exceeding 15.5 inches at shoulder. 20 - 21 lbs. Not exceeding 14.5 inches at shoulder. Dogs 17 lbs, bitches 15 lbs.
Colour White predominates with black, black and tan or tan markings Black and tan or black grizzle and tan Black and tan, blue and tan, red, wheaten, red grizzle, liver blue or black

References and Further Reading

[1] Rawdon B. Lee, "Modern Dogs" of Great Britain and Ireland (Third Edition) London:Horace Cox, "Field" Office, Windsor House, Bream's Buildings, E.C. 1903 Chapter XV1, Pages 451 - 455

[2] Mr and Mrs Graham Spence, "Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia" Published by Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) LTD., 34 - 36 Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4 1933 Pages 1121-1132

See also Jane Harvey DVD "Terriers Then & Now" Published Rangeaire Vision 2002-2004 ISBN 978-0-9804296-4-0