Jacob was conceived in 1915 when his mother, Maggie was raped by her husband Joseph. He bought Emmerdale Farm in the 1930s. In 1945, he married Annie Pearson and they had 3 children, Jack, Peggy and Joe Sugden. In early 1964, Jacob and Jack had an argument over battery farming so Jack left for London.
In his later years, Jacob drunk away a lot of the farm's profits down The Woolpack, leaving the farm in a sorry state. Jacob fell ill to pneumonia in 1972, and decided to bequeath the farm to Jack, to teach him a lesson for abandoning the farm 8 years earlier. Jacob died on the 10th October 1972, and his funeral took place in the village of Beckindale on 16th October, prompting his son Jack to return to the village for the first time in eight years.
Prior to his death, Jacob had been married to Annie for around thirty years.
- Jacobs Fold is named after Jacob Sugden.
- An discrepancy is Jacob's birth and death date originally sees his gravestone as Jacob's death date on 3rd July 1972 aged sixty-two. This was later changed to reflect the transmission of the funeral episode on 16th October 1972. His birth date was also changed to 30th January 1916, making him 56 when he died. This may have been to make him closer to Annie's date of birth which was 1920.
- There was a framed photo of Jacob and Annie on the mantlepiece in Emmerdale Farm, in which Al Dixon, who would later appear as Walter, a popular extra character from 1980 to 1985, appears as Jacob.