HISTORY OF THE LAKELAND TERRIER
Speaker: Alan Johnston (Oregill)
My name for those of you who don’t know me, is Alan Johnston. My Grandfather founded our Kennel – The Oregill Kennel – in 1921
Around 20 years ago our Kennel Club in the UK introduced compulsory Breed Specific Seminars to educate our up and coming judges. So the 3 (Sadly now 2) UK clubs got together to organise them.
From the very 1st one I was asked to speak on the history of the breed. In the Main because mine is the oldest Lakeland Terrier Kennel still going.
The first Seminar I presented was just a speech however technology moves on and Angela and myself have compiled this powerpoint presentation to illustrate the words.
So here we go!
I’d Like to start at the beginning with the reason for the existence of the breed. As anyone who has visited the Lake District should know the fells are grazed by Herdwick sheep – a very hardy breed with extremely wiry dense wool.
The Herdwick has been bred in the lakes for hundreds of years, because it is best suited to the fells as it can withstand the climate, and as one old farmer once told me it’s the only breed that can stand hunger.
The Fell Farm
So Imagine if you will a Fell Farm in the 19th Century, very picturesque, but not the easiest of places to make a living.
On these Farms traditionally you would find three different breeds of dog, all connected to the keeping of sheep.
Each of these dogs of the fells had to be different from they’re lowland counterparts.
The Fell Collie
Firstly the Sheepdog, not quite the same as the type you might see At Sheepdog Trials.
These dogs are expected to drive & gather the sheep out of Crags and Ghylls and a good one will work independently out of sight of the shepherd.
The Fell Foxhound
The Second breed you would meet on the farm is the hound Which differ’s from it’s lowland counterparts in that it is lighter in build to aid agility and perhaps whiter in colour, so that it can be seen easier at a distance.
The Fell hounds usually belong to one of the fell packs of foxhounds summering out at the farms and returning back to the pack for the hunting season starting.
The third breed on the Farm and the one we are concerned with today is of course the Terrier. These little dogs have been bred in the lakes for centuries and have been moulded into a terrier best suited for the work and conditions they will encounter. However to establish the purpose of these terriers, I’ll tell you a bit more about the Fell Farm.
The sheep are gathered and brought down off the fells three of four times a year for dipping, clipping & lambing. The sheep are brought down into the fields close to the farm in April to lamb, this is later in the year than the lowland flocks because the climate is so cold. The birth of the lambs coincides with the weaning of the fox cubs. Not all foxes take lambs, but those that do play havoc with the lambs at this time of year. So the numbers have to be controlled.
Many shepherds would go round to likely places with a terrier before lambing in the hope they might catch the vixen and her cubs.
The Lakeland’s Place of work
Our Terriers share the same ancestry as the welsh terrier and I suppose they are bred for the same job in a very similar terrain. These little terriers were bred in the lakes for centuries mainly on the farms and later by the packs of fell hounds and otter hounds of the area.
Terriers and hounds have to cover the same ground on a hunt in the lakes, heavy fronted ultra short coupled dogs do not have the agility and flexibility in their construction to last more than a couple of seasons.
The Weather in the fells is very changeable, we can set out in the morning in bright sunshine but the higher in the fells we get the colder it gets and the south westerly winds blowing in from the Irish sea bring in the clouds that may be raining in the valley bottoms but that will fall as sleet & snow higher in the fells.
This is the reason that the terriers must have a good hard weatherproof coat. A soft coated dog when wet soon suffers from hypothermia and many dogs have perished for this reason.
Photos of the terrain – Spring & Autumn.
This is Tommy Dobson the founder of the Eskdale foxhounds. He introduced Bedlington terrier into his strain of Hunt terrier, they proved very game and worked well, but they’re coats were they’re downfall.
Most of the terriers were bred at the hunt packs but many would end up on the farms some of them returning when the hunting season started again.
Tommy with Dobbie, Grip & Brick
On this second slide of Tommy you can see that the Bedlington type has gone, all right the two on Tommy’s left aren’t the best looking dogs you’ve ever seen but if you look at the one under Tommy’s right arm the head and ears are beginning to get somewhere near.
Badgers Killed at Salter Hall Wood
Not all the local Terriers belonged to the farmers and the foxhound packs, some were owned by miners and other tradesmen for sport. This photo was taken in 1917 and shows the results of a Sunday afternoon’s outing at Salter Hall Wood with a range of terriers.
It is thought that the miners from Cornwall & Ireland moving to the area for work brought some terriers with them and these were crossed with the local terriers
The local shepherds meets started to put on classes for foxhounds & terriers, mainly to create some variety in the meets. You can imagine it was inevitable that terrier classes would take off. Before long, people were keeping terriers for show and some of them would never see a fox!
Pre War Lakeland’s
The first classifications at shows for the local Terriers were as Coloured Working Terriers, this was to separate them from the white terriers, although many of the local white terriers could have been from the same litters as the coloured working Terriers.
Interest in the coloured working Terrier grew and the competition got harder. Even today, the shepherds meets and Dales shows have terrier shows, but just for the working terriers Russell’s, Borders & Lakeland’s (Although Lakeland’s are sometimes referred to as Fell Terriers).
Alf Johnston & Scawfell Guide & Mr Overs
Best Dog & Bitch - Cartmel Show
In 1921 the Lakeland Terrier Association was formed the breed being called Lakeland Terriers so as to include all the different strains & names that had been used until then. They included Patterdale Terriers, Ennerdale Terriers, Fell Terriers and Cumberland & Westmorland Terriers.
Many were also referred to by the packs they belonged to, for example, Coniston, Eskdale, Melbreak, Blencathra and Ullswater.
So now they were sailing under the same Flag with the Association it wasn’t long before the Kennel Club recognised them as a breed, and the first certificates were given out in 1931.
Although many dogs were being bred throughout the lakes, and a few even further afield, the majority were bred in my home town of Egremont.
These dogs were the descendants of the Eskdale & Ennerdale and the Melbreak packs and the local working dogs that had belonged to the Ore miners.
There were well over 20 breeders in Egremont alone, and many were breeders of top class Lakeland’s. Some made it to the big shows but most breeders could only afford to show locally.
Remember, during the depression many working class people were out of work and a few pounds from the sale of a litter of pups would have been very welcome.
Tom Magean & The Mockerkins
What the breed needed was some money thrown at it. This happened when Tom Magean of the Mockerkin kennel became interested in the breed.
He was a very wealthy man who owned the Cumberland Bus Company.
Magean asked my Grandfather, Alf Johnston, who was also an employee of his to retire from driving buses and handle his dogs. Tom bought most of the Oregill dogs and changed them to the Mockerkin Prefix.
Many of these dogs at the time were half-bred Lakeland and Wire fox Terrier. A lot of Fox terrier was introduced to try to improve the shape of the Lakeland. In the 30’s the Mockerkin Kennel was the leading kennel.
Mrs Graham-Spence's Egton Lakelands
Mrs Graham-Spence’s Egton Kennel based at Howtown, Ullswater. A lady who had enough money to purchase good foundation stock including My Grandad’s Oregill Lady shown here on the slide with a selection of Egton Lakeland’s. Lady was the mother of the first Champion Lakeland Bitch Mockerkin Mist.
These two kennels exhibited countrywide encouraging many southerners to take up the breed.
Egton Surprise!! Back to Black
For those of you who have been looking at Lakeland’s in the ring at the moment you may have noticed one or two Black ones appearing.
The Blacks, the Blues and the Livers all died out in the UK & when you think about it these were the Bedlington colours and the breeders of the time were breeding away from the Bedlington, but this black dog was exported to Scandinavia in the 1930’s and through him a black gene pool was maintained and slowly spread across the continent
It was exported from there to America and eventually has been re-imported to the UK from Europe.
And the colour is making its way again. Of course, there have always been blacks among the working type.
The breed as a show dog was developed between the two World wars, a space of only about 21 years although the Lakeland as a breed had come a long way many improvements were still to be made
When the Second World War commenced most of the shows were put on hold and many breeders cut down their stock because of food shortages, at this time a lot more Wire Fox Terrier and Welsh terrier blood was added.
This is a photograph of my father in his uniform I estimate it to be from around 1941/42 just look at the heads on the two dogs in this photograph it should be very obvious that Wire Fox Terrier was being used.
In the 30’s & 40’s the competition was very stiff in Cumberland and it was much harder to win Best of breed at local shows such as Whitehaven & Workington, than it is to win at Cruft’s today.
(Father of the Breed)
When the dog shows started again after the war, the breed came out vastly improved and almost a new breed.
This Dog Oregill Captain - Never made up due to the War - is regarded as the father of the breed as he is in the pedigree of every Lakeland shown today.
Oregill Cracker & Copper Coin
These two post War Champion Dogs are in here to illustrate that at that time Lakeland’s were still dual purpose dogs.
Cracker was a big winner and Grandad’s favourite dog he was used in the main by show breeders.
Copper Coin, Crackers Son was made up by the time he was 14 months old and never worked and yet the people who used him were in the main the breeders who were only interested in dogs for work, including the local huntsmen of the Melbreak and Eskdale & Ennerdale packs.
My own pedigree lines traced back far enough will come back to Cracker but it’s my working type Lakeland line that carries the blood of Copper Coin.
How did we get from this?
Ch Lemon Lady
Ch. Oregill Elspeth
You wouldn’t think these dogs are from the Same Breed would you?
But here they are Ch. Lemon Lady won the Lakeland Terrier Bitch CC at Crufts in 1936 - Grandad did the double that year with Mockerkin Maranto winning the Dog CC.
So how did we change the breed so much?
With Quite a lot of these!!!!
Dad & Wire Bitch
Next doors, Crackley Wire fox Terrier!!!!
I’d like to read a couple of excerpts from a letter my Grandad wrote to Miss Morris of the Kelda Kennel dated August 1951
“The best Lakeland or Working Terrier as it was called back then in 1920 when I first took notice of them, was a dog called Speddings Scamp, a half bred dog, in fact nearly all the leading dogs in those days were half bred ones, and many since including Champions were half bred wire fox terrier and Lakeland crosses, but it’s easier said than done and I have spent many years on this game and more often you are unlucky than lucky”
“Speddings Scamp was sire to Castle Bugler who was out of a bitch called Flower Girl – A good Wire bitch but Lame”
“It was remarkable how these half breds sired such good colour’s few mismarked ones were drowned”
“Scawfell Guide was a real terrier and won a great deal. He was a real black & tan and sired many leading dogs including champions as he mated many white bitches and done well as he was fairly well colour bred for two generations”.
“Champion Mockerkin Mac, Guardsman and others were only half bred but did much good to get the type we need.
The Wire Breeders went for the long lean Head.
“We Don’t Want That”
Carousel & Chastity
“I was very keen on Type and still am, I want a fox terrier only black & tan, both dogs are made for the same job, so why should they be different only the wire men went for the long Lean Head, we don’t want that!”
Overview and up to date
A few years ago Frank Jones (Jonwyre) posed a question in his column in Dog World in the UK.
“Which Town in England had 6 Lakeland Breeders, most of them in the same street?”
We all knew he was talking about Egremont so I asked my Dad how many breeders he could remember and we came to a total of 23. Nowadays there is only me left in Egremont, a sad state of affairs.