Zak first appeared in 1994, challenging old adversary Ned Glover to a bare-knuckle fight, which he went on to lose. Zak was a former bare-knuckle champion of the Dales and his family were notorious throughout the village for their rogueish behaviour.
His original family consisted of wife Nellie, sons Butch and Sam and daughter Tina. He had another son, Ben, who was killed in a fight with the local doctor's son, Luke McAllister. He was later found to have a heart defect but this did not stop the Dingles pointing the finger at Luke. Tina had mentioned a brother named Nathan, but he never appeared in the series and was never even acknowledged again.
The family quickly established themselves in the village, and forced Luke's family away, although he stayed and ended up with Tina, much to the annoyance of Zak, who arrived in the village and began to beat Luke, and was only stopped in his tracks when Tina announced her pregnancy. However, it was established she had lied to humiliate him at the altar in revenge for Ben's death, leading to him killing himself in his car and nearly Tina in the process.
As the former head of the Dingle clan, Zak is no stranger to drama. His first wife, Nellie, left him, and he lost two sons, Ben and Butch, in tragic circumstances but Zak soldiers on. He is ever hopeful that the Dingle family can overcome all obstacles. In 2015, he declared son Cain as the new head of the family.
Zachariah Bartholomew Dingle was born on the 19th January 1952. He was one of 6 children born to farmer Jedediah and Peg Dingle. In 1960 when Zak was 8 years old, his parents had a huge argument and Jed walked out that night leaving no contact details. Peg said that Jed had died. Zak never knew the truth for many decades.
By 1967 the family had left their old farmhouse and lived in a converted barn at Holdgate Farm. Zak later met and married Nellie Lynch. They had 5 children; Nathan, Ben, Butch, Sam and Tina. However, in February 1974, Zak had an extramarital relationship with his sister in law Faith Dingle, who was married to Zak's brother Shadrach Dingle. A baby boy Cain Dingle was born on the 30th November 1974. For years, Zak never knew he was Cain's father. Zak was a bare-knuckle champion of the Dales. The Dingles were known to be troublesome.
1994-1996: Feud with the McAllisters
In October 1994, Zak challenged old rival Ned Glover to a bare-knuckle fistfight, losing to Ned. He blames Luke McAllister for the death of his son a few months prior, and a feud between the Dingle family and McAllister family erupts. Zak is horrified when his daughter Tina takes a liking to Luke, and informs Tina that Luke killed Ben. Tina refuses to break up with Luke, having secretly come up with a plan. Zak snapped and began beating up Luke, but a desperate Tina revealed she was pregnant with Luke's baby. Following the revelation, the Dingles began supporting Tina and ended their feud with Luke. Tina and Luke decided to marry and nearly did in July 1995. However, Tina revealed to Luke that there was no baby and the entire wedding was a set-up to get revenge for Ben's death. The Dingles were shocked, especially when Tina cleared out Luke's bank account. They decided to hold on to the wedding presents and sell on the ones they didn't want.
1996-2002: Marriage to Lisa, birth of Belle, death of Butch and Cain's paternity
In 1996, many of Zak's prayers were answered when he met Lisa Clegg. They were instantly smitten and, after a few hiccups, the couple married on 28th January 1998. That Christmas, the couple got an especially welcome Christmas present when Lisa, who had no idea she was pregnant with Zak's baby gave birth to their daughter Belle Dingle.
In 2000, Zak and Lisa's marriage was pushed to the limit when Nellie returned. With tensions between them rising, Lisa moved out. Tragedy then struck when Butch was killed in a bus crash. Since Lisa had serviced the bus before it was declared roadworthy, Zak blamed her for the accident and it looked like the marriage was over for good. Zak couldn’t let go that easily and an uneasy truce was declared – largely for the sake of Belle.
Zak's health took a turn for the worse when he discovered he had testicular cancer. Zak's illness ensured he got his problems in perspective and his marriage was firmly back on track. Domestic harmony was shattered when his mother Peg came to stay. Zak blamed Peg for the death of his father, Jed, believing she murdered him. When she revealed the truth about Jed deserting them, a truce was declared. When Peg left the village, there was a better understanding between them.
Zak shocked his family when he disappeared to Chile in search of the Dingle fortune. While he was away, Lisa became close to Eddie Hope and it looked like Zak may have lost her for good. Lisa still loved the old scoundrel and they reconciled on his return.
2003-2006: Return and Alice's cancer
Zak returned to the village in October 2003, and whilst expecting a hug, he receives a punch from his wife Lisa. However, he manages to make it up to the Dingles.
When it was revealed his granddaughter Debbie was having an affair with Andy Sugden, Zak hit the roof – and Andy! The fling came back to haunt them when Debbie gave birth to baby Sarah after concealing her pregnancy from everyone. Like the rest of the family, Zak was delighted that Debbie and her daughter are safe and well, welcoming Sarah into the fold. However, Debbie couldn’t cope with motherhood and despite efforts to get through to her, he was devastated when she gave the baby to her foster mother, Emily Kirk, who subsequently disappeared.
With Debbie gone, Zak had a new crisis to deal with when Sam returned to Emmerdale. He told Zak that he and Alice were expecting a child. But soon tragedy struck when Alice was diagnosed with cancer. The family rallied round as the couple tried to come to terms with the situation. Under Zak's guidance, Sam gave Alice the support she needed and the couple were delighted when Samson was born. Their happiness was short-lived though, as Alice was told her illness was fatal just as she was preparing to marry Sam. The family were devastated by the diagnosis but Zak was determined to see Sam through the tough times ahead.
2006-2011: Friendship with Rosemary King
Zak became friends with Rosemary King. He took her at face value, despite her being devious and manipulative. They got on and she asked him to keep a discreet eye on her son, Grayson, and let her know what he was doing. She hired him as gamekeeper at Home Farm and confided family secrets, knowing she could trust him.
She also bonded with his daughter, Belle, and paid for her to attend private school. That ended when Rosemary confessed to poisoning her daughter-in-law, Perdita Hyde-Sinclair and Zak told her to stay away from him and his daughter, Belle.
In May 2008, Zak resigned as gamekeeper of Home Farm after his nephew Eli broke some advertising material for Matthew King's press launch, at a cost of £1500. Matthew insisted Zak pay for the breakages which he did, with money meant for Belle's school fees. Zak asked Matthew to refund the money, and Matthew agreed after the insurance company had paid out. Zak told Matthew he couldn't wait but Matthew refused to pay Zak any sooner.
Since then, Zak has been keeping an eye on his family. He was concerned that Sam had developed quite a soft spot for Jo Stiles and annoyed when Sam was beaten up by Andy Sugden. Zak warned Andy if he came anywhere near Sam again, he'd be fighting Zak. After Jo threw Andy out, he and the other Dingles helped Jo run the farm and were shocked by her revelation that Andy had been beating her up for months. When Jo left the village, wanting to reclaim her life, Zak and Lisa got custody of Sarah. When Andy found out, he tried to take Sarah back but Debbie wouldn't let him. Zak told him he was welcome to visit any time, though.
2011-2012: Attacking Cain and mental issues
When Cain was viciously attacked in December 2011, Zak seemed very uncomfortable and he later revealed himself as Cain's attacker when he discovered Cain was going to try and get Jai Sharma falsely imprisoned for the crime. Zak also confessed to Lisa and was going to hand himself in, but Cain kept his father's involvement in the attack secret, and retracted his statement against Jai. Zak is racked with guilt over attacking Cain and starts to annoy Lisa by refusing to do anything. He later disappears for the entire day and returns home, oblivious to how worried his family were. He loses his job at Home Farm as he is losing concentration, so he confronts his boss Declan Macey in The Woolpack. Zak begins drinking heavily and his niece Chas is forced to bar him and he is angry when Sam tells him that he is turning into Shadrach. He takes Samson poaching one day and accidentally leaves his phone in the van. Lisa and Sam are frantic with worry. Zak and Samson are later found by Megan Macey, who calls Sam and he arrives to collect Samson and warns Zak to stay away from him. A few weeks later, a scan reveals some abnormalities in Zak's body, he is referred to a consultant to have some more scans. At the appointment with the radiologist, the doctor warns Zak that in the abnormalities could be pancreatic cancer, but also could be a simple curable form of the flu. However, an appointment later reveals that Zak does not have pancreatic cancer.
In May 2012, Zak begins to act erratically and becomes paranoid, he is told by a vet that his chickens are healthy but in his paranoia and belief that there is something wrong, he kills them. He later starts believing he has cancer again and talks to a doctor about it, the doctor tells him he does not have cancer but Zak refuses to believe it and tells his family that he has cancer. It later becomes apparent that Zak has suffered a nervous breakdown and is later sectioned.
2015-2016: Affair and marriage to Joanie Wright
On Christmas Day 2015, Belle reveals to Lisa that she'd seen Zak having an affair with their lodger Joanie Wright. Lisa is heartbroken by the news, and her and Zak separate. This separation effectively severs Zak's ties to the rest of the family, who convene at Wishing Well Cottage and decide to "excommunicate" Zak from the Dingles. Zak and Joanie then move in with the biological grandmother of Joanie's adoptive grandson Kyle, Kerry.
Early in 2016, Zak tries to regain the attention of his estranged family, especially after they all begin to act rather out of character. Zak becomes determined to know what's going on, and he pesters Sam and Belle in the village shop to tell him the secret they're supposedly hiding. The two initially try to keep it together, but, pushed to her limit, Belle blurts out that Aaron was raped as a child by his father Gordon. Much like the rest of the family, Zak is devastated by the news, and Joanie begins to question his loyalties. Zak tries to show Joanie how much he loves her by proposing, which she accepts.
In April 2016, a fire starts in Sharma & Sharma factory when Zak's daughter Belle and doctor Jermaine Bailey are caught canoodling by Rakesh Kotecha. Belle goes to put out the candles but doesn't realise when one falls in the bin. Rakesh covers for Belle, saying that she got here when the alarm went off. Jai finds that the CCTV has been turned off and the bin was set alight, so the police suspect arson. Zak looks like the most likely suspect, and as he also has access to keys to the factory, he is arrested for arson.
Zak and Lisa divorce in June 2016, allowing Joanie and Zak to marry. At his stag do in August 2016, a drunk Zak accidentally calls Joanie "Lisa", unnerving her. However, Joanie gets over it and the pair marry the next day. Following their wedding, Belle's mental health gets majorly worse as she runs away from home. Zak and Lisa are distraught when the police find a body and believe it to be Belle, but Zak and Lisa are relieved it isn't her. She is found a month later collapsed, and Jermaine Bailey diagnoses her with schizophrenia. However, with the help of her family, Belle recovers.
Jermaine and Belle enter a relationship, with half the Dingle family against it, however, they do end up coming around. Zak believed Jermaine was having an affair with Megan Macey when both he and Cain caught them together on numerous occasions. This resulted in Jermaine getting punched but Jermaine reveals that Megan had asked for him to help Frank Clayton keep away from her. Jermaine later leaves the village to work in Boston, to the dismay of Belle.
Joanie began being uncomfortable with the amount of time Zak and Lisa were spending together, going as far as to voting herself out of a job to work elsewhere to prevent them from seeing each other. Joanie managed to find a job and a flat outside of the village and convinced Zak to move with her. However, on Christmas, Zak confesses to Joanie that he doesn't want to move and wants to stay in the village. As a result, Joanie tells Zak that their relationship is over. Zak goes to Wishing Well Cottage to try win Lisa back, but she makes clear she's not interested in a reconciliation.
2017-2018: Joanie's death and reconciliation with Lisa
After Joanie is sentenced to a month imprisonment for assaulting a police officer, she is released in January 2017. However, when Lisa gets Joanie from the police station, she enters cardiac arrest and dies in the Dingle van.
Belle begins a relationship with Lachlan White, which Zak is unhappy about because of Lachlan's past. Zak begins working for Victoria Barton in May 2017. Victoria sends him to an event being held at Home Farm in the Diddy Diner van, and decides against using the patties for the burgers which Victoria supplied. Zak uses his own meat patties instead, causing anger among the customers - which are all vegans. Zak attempts to flee in the van, knocking down another stall and unknowingly running over Alfie. Luckily, Lachlan manages to rush him to the vet's surgery in time, and Alfie survives. Belle, on the other hand, is furious with Zak, and Zak is shocked when Belle reveals the injuries to Alfie Zak had caused.
In December 2017, Alfie is found collapsed by Lisa and Zak, who rush him to the vet's surgery. Paddy informs the family that Alfie has liver cancer and is in pain. The Dingles make the tough decision to put Alfie to sleep, and Zak stays by Alfie's side as Paddy puts him to rest.
In March 2018, Liv Flaherty and Gabby Thomas's "prank" on Daz Spencer goes wrong when Lisa accidentally drinks Daz's drink, which had been spiked with ketamine. Lisa was later found collapsed on the table and rushed to hospital where she was informed that she had ketamine in her system. She later goes into cardiac arrest, and the family are worried that Lisa may not make it. Lisa survives and is horrified when it is revealed that Gabby was behind it, and even more so when Liv confesses to her role. Lisa makes the controversial decision to call the police on Liv, causing her to be ostracised by a majority of the family. A huge strain is placed on their relationship when Zak tells Lisa that he believes that she is in the wrong. Lisa later suffers an angina attack, which pushes her to make the decision to leave the village. She later returns and tells Zak that she is working in Scotland and will only come back when she is ready. Belle worries for Zak's mental health but he takes the whole thing alright and remains optimistic over Lisa's return.
Chas discovered she was pregnant and the Dingle clan were excited when Paddy proposed, meaning he'd be joining the family for the third time. However, on the wedding day, the couple announced that it wasn't going to happen and Marlon let out their secret. Zak was horrified to discover that Chas and Paddy's baby wouldn't survive long after birth, and that Chas and Paddy had told barely anyone. He announced that he and the Dingle clan would support the pair in any way possible.
2018 to present: Trips to Scotland and Lisa's death
In October 2018, Zak joined Lisa in Scotland, staying there together for a couple of months. Without telling the rest of the Dingles, Lisa and Zak discovered that Lisa was terminally ill which Zak struggled to handle.
In May 2019, Zak and Lisa returned to the village, still not having told anybody but Charity about Lisa's condition. They were greeted with a welcome home party at Wishing Well Cottage with everybody gleefully unaware of what was to come. However, when Charity started breaking down knowing Lisa would die, she finally revealed the news to a devastated Belle. The family struggled to take in the news but stuck together. A few days later, Zak proposed to Lisa who happily agreed to marry him. On 23rd May, Zak and Lisa married but just a few hours later Lisa passed away. Zak and Belle struggled with her death. In June Lisa's funeral was held.
In September 2019, Zak went to visit Debbie in Scotland where she lived at a garage she inherited from Lisa.
- Zak is banned from entering Australia after smuggling bacon into the country for the Australian Dingles.
"Fancy that. A party, and no-one thought to invite us." (First line)
"There's nowt to fear but fear itself." (Zak's motto)
"You couldn't make a paper aeroplane!" - to Butch Dingle
"Lunatic, is it? Yeah? Well is this mad enough for ya? Eh?" (before setting Cain Dingle's caravan alight)