The Lakeland Terrier was bred and raised in England in the 1800s - long before there was a kennel club, an official studbook or packs of refined foxhounds leading hunters on horses. Terrier experts believe that the Lakeland may share distant ancestors with the Border Terrier, and that it may well be an offshoot of the terrier today known as the Bedlington, which is closely related to the Dandie Dinmont. Most breed fanciers agree that the Lakeland Terrier was created by crossing several different terriers, but there the agreement largely ends. Among the possible ancestors include the Bedlington, the Welsh Terrier, the Border, the Dandie Dinmont and the Wire-haired Fox Terrier. Regardless, the end result was the Lakeland Terrier, which resembles a smaller version of the Airedale Terrier.
The Lakeland Terrier was developed in the rugged shale mountains of the Lake District of northern England, where it assisted its farmer-owners and their handful of nondescript hounds in finding and destroying foxes, badgers, otters and other vermin found raiding livestock or otherwise disturbing the farm. The Lakelands were bred and prized for their gameness; not a single foxhound pack was without one or two of these courageous terriers when on the hunt for the nuisance prey. Offspring of the Lakeland Terrier were prized and often given as gifts to friends and fellow hunters, with the best being kept to continue the owner’s own breeding program. The native Lakeland Terrier was so tenacious and fearless that it would go deep underground, and stay there for days, in its quest to find and kill its prey. Sometimes, it did not survive the effort, but usually its owner was able to extricate their terrier from the vermin’s lair, often requiring blasting operations as part of the rescue.
In the late 1890s, agricultural shows throughout England’s Lake District began to have classes for “the likeliest-looking terrier” suitable for hunting fox or otter. The dogs were judged by Masters of Hounds and other experienced sportsmen. At that time, Lakeland Terriers of all colors were judged together, including grizzle-to-blue and tan, red, wheaten or white, under the umbrella of “Colored Working Terriers.” Eventually, the classes were split into white working terriers and colored working terriers, with true working ability always being first and foremost. The white terriers tended to be used with Otterhounds to hunt in the water, because dark terriers were commonly mistaken for otters and could be seriously injured by excited hounds in muddy waters. Throughout the 1800s, different counties in northern England, including Cumberland, Northumberland and Westmoreland, had a wide variety of hardworking, broken-coated terriers each named for the small community where they were most common. Typically, these old names were changed when official breed clubs were formed.
While the Bedlington Terrier was developed primarily in Northumberland, the Lakeland Terrier’s homeland was lake-filled, mountainous Cumberland County. A terrier breed club was formed in 1912 at the Kersurck dog show and included an organized effort by fanciers to recognize the Cumberland County Terrier and other distinct breeds. World War I intervened. The Cumberland Terrier resurfaced in the 1920s, when nine breed devotees met at Whitehaven, Cumberland County, and agreed on the name Lakeland Terrier. They drew up an official breed standard, and in a short time the Lakeland Terrier was accepted for registration in the Stud Book of the Kennel Club (England). One of these fanciers, Thomas Hosking, later immigrated to the United States. The breed was accepted for registration into the American Kennel Club’s Stud Book in 1934. The Lakeland first appeared in the show ring in 1928, at Crufts. A Lakeland Terrier named Stingray of Derrybach won Best in Show at Crufts in 1967, and went on to win Best in Show at Westminster the following year. He is the only dog to date to have won this “double crown” of the canine world.
Today’s Lakeland Terrier is a fond family dog, a reliable guard and watch dog and an accomplished show dog, in addition to his continued skill as a go-to-ground hunter. He is equally happy in urban or rural environments.
The average life span of the Lakeland Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include eye problems and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. This is a particularly hardy breed.