The word Patterdale refers to a village in Cumbria, hut it is an unfortunate misnomer, because the breed that has been given this name did not develop there. Some authorities have insisted that the breed’s title should be changed to Black Fell Terrier, or more simply to Fell Terrier, but the name Patterdale has become so widely accepted that to abandon it now would only add further confusion. The breed was developed for going to earth to attack rats, rabbits and foxes.
In the past the Lakeland and the Patterdale Terriers have often been considered to be one and the same, but it is clear from modern illustrations that today they exist as two distinct types. The explanation for this is that originally, the tough, working terriers of the Lake District, in north-west England, were known collectively as Fell Terriers. These little dogs had always shown considerable variation in form because they were bred for specific personality rather than for specific appearance. But then, in 1912, one particular variation was given the name of Lakeland Terrier, and certain breeders concentrated on developing and exaggerating this strain. By 1928 it had been exhibited under Kennel Club rules and was on its way to becoming a showy competition dog. By now it differed markedly from the more basic, working Fell Terrier, not only in appearance but also in its hunting ability.
Two Lake District breeders decided to develop, as an alternative, a fixed type of Fell Terrier that would still be a good working dog and would not be led astray by ‘show business’. By the early 1950s, Cyril Breay and Frank Buck had created a Black Fell Terrier of a distinct type. In the 1960s this was further developed by a gamekeeper called Brian Nuttall and for some mistaken reason was given the name of Patterdale Terrier. The name of Patterdale stuck, despite the fact that the village in question was some distance from the centres where the breed was created. But whatever confusion over names existed, the fact remains that there are now two quite distinct breeds of Fell Terrier, the showy Lakeland and the more workmanlike Patterdale.
To understand the special role of the working Patterdale Terrier it is important to recognize the practical attitude of the Lake District hunters. For them, the fox is not a ‘worthy opponent’ to provide an afternoons gentlemanly sport. Like the rat, it is dirty vermin to be destroyed by whatever means are at hand. The fearless little Patterdale Terrier is sent to earth and, if the fox bolts, it will be pursued by hounds. But if it resists, the terrier is brave enough to attack it and usually manages to kill it. This quick killing spells success for the local hunters, but would ruin a more leisurely afternoons sport. So the role of this terrier in the traditional fox-hunting field has been severely limited, and to this day it has remained a lesser-known local breed. It did not reach America until the late 1970s but once there became a favourite companion on expeditions to destroy groundhog, raccoon, fox or badger.
In personality, the Patterdale Terrier is a brave, stubborn, tenacious and determined breed.