Jeff Hordley — things you didn’t know about the Emmerdale star

Jeff Hordley on the red carpet wearing a black suit and white shirt
Jeff Hordley has become a fan favourite over the years. (Image credit: Getty)

Actor Jeff Hordley is something of a soap legend, having played Emmerdale’s resident bad boy Cain Dingle for 22 years.

Introduced in 2000 as the bad apple of the Dingle family tree, Cain spent his early years in Emmerdale shocking viewers with his diabolical behavior, proving he was rotten to the core. Time and the love of a good woman — his wife Moira — may have slightly mellowed the mechanic, but he’s still very much at the center of the village drama.

Thankfully, life for Manchester-born Jeff, is far more wholesome. The dad-of-two, who's happily married to Emmerdale co-star Zoe Henry, describes himself as a ‘real softie’ and loves spending time on his family allotment. 

Here are a few things you may not know Jeff…

Jeff Hordley has a BA degree in Theatre Arts

Jeff Hordley was born on March 7, 1970 and grew up in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Proud of his roots, he's a passionate Manchester City football fan. 

After attending North Chadderton Comprehensive, Jeff went to study at Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre and graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Theatre Acting. 

His first TV appearance came in 1989 when he played Anderson in the kids’ hospital drama Children’s Ward. Interestingly, Emmerdale wasn’t Jeff’s first taste of soap — he has appeared in two episodes of rival northern soap Coronation Street — as a nightclub club manager in 1997, then a minor character called Wayne the following year.

Jeff Hordley as Emmerdale's Cain Dingle with Debbie and Charity Dingle in 2000

Jeff has been in Emmerdale for more than two decades. (Image credit: ITV)

He's been in Emmerdale for two decades

The millennium got off to a great start for Jeff, who made his Emmerdale debut on March 30, 2000. Introduced as the new village bad boy Cain was no stranger to an illegal scam and had a weakness for beautiful women — particularly married ones.

In 2006, Jeff shocked fans by announcing he was quitting Emmerdale to pursue other projects. A string of theatre roles followed — playing Napoleon in a production of Animal Farm at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Mick in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre. 

After three years of treading the boards, Jeff slipped back into Cain’s mechanic overalls and has remained in the Dales ever since. But despite two decades at the top, the star doesn’t take his job for granted and admits he fears being axed each year when his contract is up for renewal.

Jeff Hordley as Emmerdale's Cain Dingle in 2000

Jeff has been playing Emmerdale's Cain since 2000.  (Image credit: ITV)

He's married to his Emmerdale co-star

Cain’s love life has been chaotic to say the least, but in real life Jeff is happily married to his Emmerdale co-star Zoe Henry, who plays vet Rhona Goskirk. The famous pair have been colleagues for 21 years, but their love story began nearly a decade before that. 

Jeff and Zoe first met in 1994 when they studied together at drama school, and the actor previously said: “I saw Zoe and realized she was the girl for me.” Jeff popped the question to Zoe on the day she scooped the Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Manchester Evening News’s theatre awards, and they got married in a low-key ceremony in 2003. 

The happy couple welcomed their daughter, Violet in 2005, followed by son Stan in April 2008. They’re also proud parents to two fur babies — their adorable pet dogs.

Jeff Hordley with wife Zoe Henry on the red carpet, wearing a blue suit in front of a red cutrain

Jeff and Zoe have been married since 2003.  (Image credit: Getty)

He gets reviewed by his elderly nan

Jeff has been on our screens for 22 years, but according to his nan time hasn’t been kind to him. During a chat with ITV’s Loose Women, the actor recalled a hilarious conversation he had with his elderly relative. He said: “I rang my nan to tell her I was appearing on Loose Women and whilst I rang her she said ‘Jeffrey, you’ve just rang me at 7.20pm and Emmerdale is on can I call you back?’ When she rang back she said ‘oh, you do look old’.” Ouch!

Emmerdale Cain

Jeff is a household name after playing Cain for more than 20 years.  (Image credit: ITV)

DJing is his back up career

He may be one of soap’s longest-serving characters, but canny Jeff knows how precarious life as an actor can be. Luckily, he has a backup career to fall back on if Emmerdale comes to an end — being a DJ. 

Discussing his passion for spinning the decks during an interview on ITV’s Lorraine, Jeff revealed he has future DJing gigs lined up and described his set as being a mix of ‘soul, funk, reggae, old 60s stuff and lots of great beats.’ He added: “That (DJing) has been my out-of-work acting job, you always need something else. And DJing was always mine. Still might be...”

He suffers from Crohn’s disease

At the age of 26, Jeff was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease — a lifelong condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. Tragically the star lost his mum to the same disease in 1979, after she suffered complications following surgery.

Following his diagnosis, Jeff underwent an operation to have part of his large bowel removed and was put on medication to manage his condition. However, a health scare in 2002 led the actor to completely rehaul his lifestyle — he quit smoking, cut down on alcohol and eliminated all processed foods.

Jeff now manages his symptoms by cooking from scratch with a home-grown diet and has become an advocate for Crohn’s, using his profile to campaign and raise awareness for the chronic illness.

He grows his own fruit and veg

Jeff and wife Zoe are quite the green-fingered pair, and love spending time at their allotment where they grow a wide variety of delicious produce. 

In 2020, the keen gardeners took part in CBBC’s Lockdown Learning series Celebrity Supply Teacher, giving the young audience a tour of their plot. On display were beds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, potatoes, broad beans, beetroots, onions, artichokes, spinach and strawberries, as well as fruit trees growing redcurrants and blackcurrants.

“We find that getting our hands in the earth and growing our own fruit and vegetables is a great way to connect with nature,” explained Jeff. The famous couple regularly share updates of their homegrown food on their Twitter accounts and were chuffed to make the front cover of the National Vegetable Society magazine last year.

Jeff Hordley’s fact file

Frequently asked questions about the actor...

How old is Jeff Hordley?

Jeff Hordley is 52, he was born on March 7, 1970.

Is Jeff Hordley married?

Jeff Hordley has been married to actress and Emmerdale co-star Zoe Henry since 2003.

Does Jeff Hordley have any children?

Jeff and wife Zoe are proud parents to daughter, Violet, and son, Stan.

Where was Jeff Hordley born?

Jeff Hordley was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

How tall is Jeff Hordley?

Jeff Hordley is six foot.

Twitter: @HordleyJeff

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Laura Morgan
Freelance writer

Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing

Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.