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Breeder Buzzwords – The Lakeland Terrier

The Lake District is a mountainous region of northwest England that gave rise to one of Britain’s prototypical Terriers. Descended from the area’s indigenous Fell Terrier, the Lakeland has worked in and around the rocky crags of local farms for generations.

One of the oldest working Terriers still in existence today, the Lakeland was bred to hunt the local fox, with or without Foxhounds. This small and agile dog with its punishing jaws and weather-resistant coat could easily “go to ground,” squeezing through crevices by virtue of its narrow frame. When used with pack hounds, the dog’s long legs ensured its ability to cover good distances over difficult terrain.

Cumberland County is the Lakeland’s birthplace, where the first efforts to promote interest in the breed got under way. A Terrier club was organized in 1912, although the First World War suspended activity for nearly a decade. In 1921, nine fanciers met again at Whitehaven, Cumbria, to draw up a written breed standard. As noted in “The Complete Dog Book, 20th Edition,” Thomas Hosking attended the meeting where the name Lakeland Terrier was chosen for the breed.

Fanciers such as Hosking first brought the Lakeland to the U.S. during the late 1920s and early ‘30s. As noted in a 1998 AKC Gazette breed column titled simply “Type,” Patricia Peters relates that breeders have been able to preserve the breed in this country. “Considering the transition of some breeds such as the Cocker Spaniel, the Lakeland has stayed close enough to its roots to maintain basically the same structure and function.”

According to the United States Lakeland Terrier Club, the breed’s original function was to kill the fox, not simply flush it from its hiding place. As a result, the breed developed a reputation for possessing formidable courage and tenacity for its size.

Always a bold, but friendly, companion, the Lakeland Terrier has become both a useful farmhand and a confident companion at home. The breed became a member of AKC’s Terrier Group in 1934, and its active and agile nature have been featured in the show ring ever since.

Two Lakelands have dominated the competition at Westminster, America’s preeminent dog show. In 1968, Major B. Godsol selected Ch. Stingray of Derryabah for Best in Show and, eight years later, Ch. Jo Ni’s Red Baron of Crofton triumphed under William W. Brainard Jr.

The Lakeland Terrier enjoys the support of modern fanciers who appreciate its self-confidence and mischievous nature. In 2012, the breed ranked 135th of the 175 AKC-recognized breeds.

The Lakeland Terrier is a colorful canine character with a “cock-of-the-walk” attitude and a sturdy but not coarse appearance. Photo by Dan Sayers.

A Relatively Narrow Body

Considering the challenges of its traditional assignment, the Lakeland Terrier is not a big dog. With an ideal height of just 14-1/2 inches at the withers and a weight of 17 pounds, the Lakeland nonetheless packs plenty of power in its moderate frame.

The General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard describes the Lakeland, in part, as “a small, workmanlike dog of square sturdy build.” To permit entry into its quarry’s hiding places, its body is “deep and relatively narrow, which allows him to squeeze into rocky dens.”

To aid the dog’s ability to maneuver underground, the neck is “long, leading smoothly into high withers and a short topline.” To keep up with a pack of hounds, the dog possesses “sufficient length of leg under him to cover rough ground easily.”

The Lakeland Terrier demonstrates its ability to perform its intended task by virtue of its overall balance and proportion. Balance of head to neck to body to legs is of primary importance. According to the standard, “Short-legged, heavy-bodied dogs or overly refined, racy specimens are atypical and should be penalized.”

The Lakeland’s form is often compared with other long-legged Terriers, especially the Welsh Terrier. In a 1986 AKC Gazette article titled, “Is that a Welsh or a Lakeland?” breed columnist Pat Rock answers the question by highlighting the relationship of the dogs’ heads to their bodies. “The Lakeland has a longer neck and a larger head in proportion to his body than does the Welsh…Anywhere a Lakeland can put his head, he should be able to get his whole body.”

A Moody Expression

The Lakeland Terrier’s head is not narrow, nor does it possess the extreme “varminty” expression of the Welsh or the Wire Fox. Instead its expression “depends on the dog’s mood of the moment,” according to the standard’s section on the head.

Typically alert, the Lakeland may appear “intense and determined, or gay and even impish.” Unlike its cousins, the breed’s typical expression can be considered somewhat “soft” by comparison.

The breed’s moderately small eyes are “somewhat oval in outline” and set “squarely in the skull, fairly wide apart.” Eye color varies with coat color. It is “dark hazel to warm brown” with brown eye rims in liver or liver and tan dogs, and “warm brown to black” with dark eye rims in all other colors.

Expression is enhanced through grooming of the furnishings on the foreface to feature the “moderately broad” skull and “strong” muzzle with its “straight nose bridge and good fill-in beneath the eyes.” Flat cheeks prevent the head from appearing too coarse.

The Lakeland’s ears can either enhance or diminish correct expression by their size, shape and placement. Comparison with similar breeds will emphasize the “V”-shaped leather that folds “just above the top of the skull.” The inner edge remains “close to the side of the head,” and the flap points “toward the outside corner of the eye.” High-set ears suggest the Wire Fox and are incorrect, as are ears that are set wide with a rounded skull.

As described in the parent club’s Illustrated Standard, breed type and character for the Lakeland Terrier are reflected in its head and expression. “The Lakeland head is moderate in length and breadth. It should be strong and workmanlike without coarseness. The expression should be bright and alert without meanness or fear.”

Solid or Saddle-Marked

The Lakeland Terrier is the most colorful of the rough-coated Terriers, bred in a wide array of colors “all of which are equally acceptable.” As a breed with a decidedly “workmanlike” appearance, correct type is not dependent on a narrow definition of color. Lakeland coats may be solid-colored blue, black, liver, red, or wheaten, and “saddle-marked” in blue, black, liver or “varying shades of grizzle.” The saddle covers the back of the dog’s neck and back as well as its sides and up the length of the tail, and the head, throat, shoulders and legs are wheaten or golden tan. Grizzle is described by the standard as “a blend of red or wheaten intermixed in varying proportions with black, blue or liver.”

Preparation of the Lakeland’s coat – like that of all rough-coated Terrier breeds – is a specialty that some might say is a dying art form. Stripping of the wiry coat on the head, body and legs maintains both color and texture, and gives the breed its sturdy appearance “without any suggestion of coarseness.”

A game and courageous character, the Lakeland is a colorful hunter that makes a quiet companion at home and a confident contender in the show ring.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.