A versatile and fearless hunter in the rugged landscape of Wales, the Sealyham Terrier was developed by Captain John Owen Tucker-Edwardes (1809-1891) of Haverfordwest, Wales, between 1848 and 1891. The breed derives its name from Edwardes’ Sealyham (or “Sealy Ham”) Estate, located next to the Sealy River, between the towns of Haverfordwest and Fishguard in Pembrokeshire (Wales).
As a young man Edwardes served with the Royal Welch (archaic spelling, not Welsh) Fusiliers 23rd Regiment, which brought him to Gibralter where he first hunted with Calpe Foxhounds. The memory of these dogs would inspire him to buy his own pack of Otterhounds upon his retirement and return to Wales years later. Edwardes would go on to marry Anna Jane Jones of Letterston, Wales in 1840; their only child, John, would be born in 1845 and John Owen Tucker-Edwardes would retire from the military and return home to Sealyham Estate in 1848 at the ripe old age of forty.
He would spend his ensuing years hunting foxes, otters, badgers and polecats in the woods and farmland surrounding Sealy Ham while developing his own breed of Terrier. Edwardes carried with him a reputation for being an eccentric hunter, not only for the fact that he owned up to sixteen packs of Otterhounds at a time, but also a large number of local Terriers. Edwardes viewed the local Terriers as inadequate, as they were too large, their bite was too weak and their temperament was too passive. There is; however, some dispute surrounding the appearance of the local terriers owned by Edwardes. Described as both Pembrokeshire Terriers and mongrels, these dogs were according to some sources, either black and tan or completely white.
Appearances aside, during this time (1850’s), the old Devonshire Terrier was common in Wales and may have been the type that Edwardes found inadequate for his requirements. He specifically wanted a smaller dog that was white, with a stronger jaw, shorter legs, and a weather-resistant coat. He also wanted his Terrier to be energetic and possess the stamina to enable it to ride with him on horseback while hunting. This of course meant that the dog would have to be strong and agile in order to navigate the steep and rugged Welch terrain, as well as fierce and brave to face off against prey much bigger than itself. His goal, at which he would eventually succeed, was to develop an aggressive, tenacious, robust breed that excelled in hunting badgers, otters, and foxes.
In many cases, the creators of dog breeds usually hailed from wealth, which afforded them the time, money, and opportunities to pursue such endeavors. John Edwardes was no exception; his family was one of the wealthiest and most prominent in Wales. Contemporaries of Edwardes who paralleled him in developing other Terrier breeds included Reverend Jack Russell, James Hinks, and Col. Edward Malcolm. Russell, a native of Devon in southwestern England, would develop and bred the Jack Russell Terrier (recognized as the Parson Russell Terrier today), his own local Terrier suited to that particular terrain. His goal was similar to Edwardes’ in that he also hunted on horseback and wanted a Terrier capable of accompanying him. Likewise, in Central England, Hinks would develop the Bull Terrier to suit his desire for a larger, all white terrier breed. While across the border in Scotland, Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm was busy developing the West Highland White Terrier.
While Captain Edwardes kept no written records, many breed historians surmise that the much disputed local terriers were probably descendants of the original white Terriers brought to Wales during the Norman Conquest and that Edwardes would cross them with a number of other dogs to create the Sealyham. Some breeds suggested to figure into the mix include the now extinct Bull Terrier, which at the time was likely a small, white local breed called the Cheshire Terrier. This would have added the strong jaw and improved working ability Edwardes desired. It is also believed that the Dandie Dinmont Terrier was crossed in to shorten the legs of the Sealyham. Additionally there is also evidence that the West Highland Terrier was added to maintain the white coloring Edwardes desired. The white color was considered important so that the small dogs would not be mistaken for the varmints they were hunting. A theory that is questionable at best, as in the course of their hunting duties, the dogs would be covered in dirt or mud when they emerged from underground. Other breeds posited to have played a role in defining the modern Sealyham Terrier include the local Wirehaired Fox Terrier, the Devonshire and also the Corgi, the only non Terrier breed.
But not all authorities are in agreement regarding these mixes, in particular the inclusion of the Bull Terrier, Welsh Corgi, and Dandie Dinmont. Regarding the Welsh Corgi’s role, early 20th century champion Sealyham Terrier breeder Mr. Fred W. Lewis believed it to have been included by Edwardes, to shorten the Sealyham Terrier’s legs. Of this he wrote: “This is all a matter of speculation, and I am disposed to think that the Welsh cur or cattle dog a very sturdily built, short, crooked legged dog, used by cattle drovers -was the means adopted to shorten the legs of the Sealyham terriers. The cur in most cases possessed plenty of pluck, and an inherent taste for hunting. That the majority of Sealyham terriers were very crooked in front is a well known fact, which can be verified by those of us who are old enough to remember Captain Edwardes and his dogs."
Indirectly reiterating the assertion of Lewis, in 1920, a writer for Dogdom Magazine, on discussing the renewed interest in the Welsh Corgi, states that in olden times, the breed was known as a cur and goes on to say “…it is hoped the Sealyham world will not receive a very rude shock when it hears that it has been advanced in conversation, among those who are aware of the habits and wanderings…of farmers’ and the countryside dogs, that the Corgi or Pembrokeshire Heeling Cur may have had a little bit to do with some of the outside terriers owned at Sealyham by ‘The Cap’n’ [as he was known as] in those days…”
Freeman Lloyd, a noted author on dogs, was a contemporary of Capt. John Edwardes; he frequently hunted with the Captain and his son. He supported the notion that the Bull Terrier went into the mix. The fact that he had close contact with Edwardes and was knowledgeable about dogs, lends credibility to his statement in spite of Robert Leighton’s insistence, in his book The Complete Book of the Dog (1922), that the Bull Terrier and Dandie Dinmont were not used to breed the Sealyham Terrier.
Freeman Lloyd also provides firsthand accounts of just how proud Capt. John Edwardes was of his Sealyham Terriers, writing that Edwardes was rarely seen without two of his Terriers in tow. In fact, when he presided over political meetings in the nearby town of Fishguard, he always had two of his Sealyham Terriers up on the stage next to him.
Henry Charles Howard, the 18th Earl of Suffolk, describes them in his book “Encyclopedia of Sport “(1897) as short-legged with long-bodies, similar to the Wire Fox Terrier in color, coat, and head, but sturdier and smaller. Rawden Lee in his book “A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland (the Terriers) “(1894) describes the Sealyham in a similar fashion but adding that they are hard biters “too much so in some instances.” He also comments that they resemble not the Wire Fox Terrier, but the “animal whose destruction it was bred to accomplish, namely, the otter.”
Capt. Edwardes and his heir apparent, John, both passed away in 1891, his son dying six months after his father. Edwardes’ brother, Owen, would die two years later in 1893. With the deaths of the breeds creator, his heir and his sibling, the Sealyham Terrier found itself on the road to extinction. Seeing the situation, Mrs. Catherine Edwardes of Sealyham set out to not only revive the breed but also set a standard by proving them to be quality specimens for the bench. (Catherine Edwardes was the daughter-in-law of Edwardes’ brother Owen, and later became Catherine Higgon.) In October, 1903, she offered prizes at the Haverfordwest Dog Show for Sealyham Terriers. This was the first record ever of the breed being entered in a dog show and the turnout was good. But despite the numbers, it was obvious the breed had devolved by the unevenness of type that presented itself at the event; almost as if folks had scrounged up any Terrier even remotely resembling the Sealyham in hopes of winning a prize. But Mrs. Edwardes persisted and would continue to offer prizes for quality Sealyham Terriers exhibited in the local dog show for a number of years thereafter. Her actions would contribut to a revival of interest in the breed.
What sealed the deal, however, was the day a group of four Terrier enthusiasts gathered in the smoking room at Sealyham House: Catherine (Edwardes) Higgon, her husband Victor Higgon, Capt. J. H. Howell (Master of Foxhounds), and Mr. Adrian Howell met to discuss the possibility of starting a breed club. To that end they sent notices to local newspapers in search of any interested parties. The result of their efforts was the formation of the Sealyham Terrier Club of Haverfordwest in January, 1908. At the very first meeting they drew up a standard for the breed. Lord Kensington was elected as president and Mr. J.H.Howell as honorary secretary. Catherine Higgon bred and exhibited Sealyham Terriers (her dogs had the affix “Sealy”) until World War II.
One of the most prominent early Sealyham Terriers was Peter Gynt, born in 1903. He is considered the father of the “modern” (post Edwardes) Sealyhams. Bred by Mr. G. H. Morton, he was considered an example of Edwardes’ ideal Terrier; Peter Gynt became a foundation stud for the breed. Mr. Harry Jones bought the dog at the Kennel Club show of 1910 for five lira. Another outstanding Sealyham Terrier from the early days, was Huntsman Roger Bach, bred by Fred Lewis.
Prominent breeders of the day included Kensington, Lewis, Lucas, and Higgon. Kensington, Lewis, along with Captain Edwardes, are credited with putting a stamp on the breed standard and bringing it to prominence. In 1909 Sir Jocelyn Morton Lucas bought twelve Sealyham Terriers from Capt. Jack Howell and more from Mr. Gladdish Hulk. With these dogs, Lucas began his line of Ilmer Sealyham Terriers. Eventually the dogs became too large, so he and his kennel partner Mrs. Enid Plummer, crossed the smaller female Sealyhams with a Norfolk Terrier. This mix was the start of the Lucas Terrier, a new type that is not recognized by the KC although it has had a separate breed club in England since 1986.
Sealyhams first entered the championship show ring in October, 1910. At the Crystal Palace Show they took many of the top awards. The Kennel Club (KC) of England recognized the Sealyham Terrier March 8, 1911. The KC first offered Challenge Certificates for the breed June 19, 1911 at the Great Joint Terrier Show held in London. In 1912 the Sealyham Terrier Breeders and Badger Digging Association was formed with the aim of maintaining the working characteristics of Sealyham Terriers. The AKC recognized the Sealyham Terrier in 1911 also, shortly after the dogs were imported to the United States for the first time. The American Sealyham Terrier Club (ASTC) was formed May 15, 1913.
On July 21st, 1911, The New York Times carried the story of the first Sealyham Terriers to arrive in the United States. The article states that on July 20th, Mrs. Alfred I. Du Pont, wife of the Vice President of the Du Pont Powder Company, arrived from England on the Olympic, which had docked in New York the day before. She brought with her six “rare dogs” to the Du Pont Kennels near Wilmington Delaware. She estimated the six Sealyham Terriers to be valued at $300,000. Two of the dogs were given to her by the Duchess of Teck, mother of Queen Mary of Great Britain and a third by the Duchess of Hamilton. The other three Sealyham Terriers were bred in St. Cloud, France, near Paris, at another Du Pont Kennel. All the dogs had won first prizes in Paris dog shows. Two rather glaring pieces of misinformation are presented in the NYT article. The first is the statement that the Duchess of Teck was the originator of the Sealyham Terrier breed. The other is the assertion that Sealyham Terriers are a cross between Scotch and Wire haired Terriers. The latter statement contains some truth; the name “Scotch Terriers” encompassed a wide variety of local Terriers in Wales in the 1800s.
In November, 1919, Sealyham Terrier Brockholt Bronx, won at the Great Joint Terrier Show, beating out several other first class dogs of his breed. The Elf was a Reserve Champion at the Victory Show in 1919. Mrs. Byron Rogers of Long Island, New York, bought a puppy of Brockholt Bronx during her travels through England and Scotland. Rogers also purchased The Elf from Howell Jones. The 1920s were a boom time for the Sealyham Terrier as the breed enjoyed an upsurge in popularity and became widely known throughout Britain. The breed began to decline, however, when badger hunting was outlawed.
It was also around this time that a trend toward larger dogs began to develop and with it controversy among dog breeders who favored the larger Sealyham and those that did not. The primary objection by purist to the larger dogs was that they would be too large to fulfill their working function of going to ground by pursuing prey such as otter, fox or badger into its burrow or lair. While those in favor of the larger version felt that the bench or show version lacked the size necessary to tangle with larger aggressive prey like the Badger. In order to quell the trend and enforce the smaller standard, the Sealyham Terrier Club began offering prizes and prize money only to those dogs eighteen pounds or less.
Proving the point that the larger dogs were just as capable of going to ground as the smaller dogs was Mr. Sidney Bowler of Haverfordwest, Wales. A breeder of Sealyham Terriers known under the Bowhit prefix, Bowler was also an exhibitor and judge of the breed, who kept them for both working and show. In 1920, he sent Dogdom Magazine a photograph in which three of his dogs dug out and successfully fought and dispatched a thirty pound badger; thus proving that his larger show Sealyhams could perform their working function just as well as their smaller counterparts. In spite of such efforts to promote the breed as both a working and show Terrier, the modern smaller Sealyham Terrier barely resembles its working class ancestors. In 1935, “Hutchinson’s Dog Encyclopaedia” reported that Sealyham Terriers who were Champions in the show ring were “much too large and much too clumsy for the work they were originally bred for…”
Kennels breeding Sealyham Terriers flourished from the early 1900s through the 1960s. Mr. Gwyn Jones, owner of Felcourt Kennel in Wales, bred nine Sealyham Terrier Champions from 1924 to 1950. Jones was known as “the wizard of the breed” because of his uncanny ability to spot a good Sealyham Terrier specimen among the everyday dogs he saw while traveling around Wales. Thomas F. Dickinson was the owner of Axe Kennels, also in Wales, and the breed correspondent for Our Dogs magazine for many years. He served as President of the Midland Sealyham Terrier Club from 1966 to 1969. In all, Axe Kennels bred eight Champions, two of them were also American Champions.
It was 1932 when Dickinson’s Sealyham Terriers first won a Challenge Certificate (CC). His first Champions were in 1953; the winning Sealyhams were Ch. April of Axe and Ch. Asp of Axe. Ch. Alycidon of Axe, born in 1959, was Dickinson’s last Champion to win in 1965. Thomas Dickinson bred and handled Alcide of Axe throughout his British show dog career. In 1962, the dog held the all time breed record, having won twenty CCs and nineteen Best of Breed awards. He won Best in Show in 1961 at both Windsor and Leicester all breed shows. When Mr. Dickinson became ill, Ch. Alcide of Axe was sold to Pool Forge Kennels in the U.S., becoming an American Champion in 1962. Kennel Eastfield was a big name kennel in the Sealyham Terrier world from the 1920s through 1960s. The first Eastfield Champion was Ch. Crick Hoodwink; the last was Ch. Chief Romance of Eastfield.
Kennel Ilmer, one of the earliest Sealyham Terrier kennels, exported to countries all over the world, including to the former Soviet Union, Lebanon, Egypt, Nigeria, and Malaya. Members of the Dutch and British Royal families owned Ilmer Sealyham Terriers as did Alfred Hitchcock, several film stars, and the English novelist E. Philips Oppenheim. Princess Mararet’s Sealyham Terrier was Ilmer Johnny Boy. In the 1937 film “Storm In a Teacup”, along with Vivian Leigh and Rex Harrisson, a pack of Ilmer Sealyhams star in the movie.
Kennel Nutfield of Surrey, England, was owned by Miss V. Benson and managed by Mr. Pickering, considered one of the best handlers of the 1930s. Ch. Nufield Sandboy was born in 1930 and won his first Championship at ten months of age. He was a superb sire, fathering Ch. Nutfield Merry Boy, one of the most prize winning Sealyham Terriers in Sweden. Ch. Nutfield Stormer was considered, as of 1939, to be one of the most perfect breed specimens.
Mrs. Cora Charters of Kennel St. Margret produced her first Champions in 1926, St Margret Meldoy, Misfit, and Surprise. St. Margret Surprise became a Champion in the U.S. as well. In 1933 Ch. St. Margret Magnificent was born and exported to the United States in 1935, obtaining the prefix Clairedale. He was Best In Show (1936) at Westminster, with already seventeen Best In Shows for 1935. Ch. Margret Steve born in 1957 was, like Ch. Nutfield Stormer, considered one of the most perfect breed specimens. He was Dog of the Year in 1959. St. Margret Sugar Daddy was the last Champion from this kennel in 1963. All told, Mrs. Charters bred thirty eight Champions, with over two hundred sired from her dogs. Most Sealyham Terriers today carry some blood from St Margret in their pedigrees.
Kennel Ventmoor was owned by breeder Mrs. Ida Mercer of Hereford. Her kennel was known worldwide; many of her Sealyham Terriers were imported to the U.S. and some to South Africa. Ventmoor Kennel was known for producing Sealyhams so true to type that they were immediately identifiable. Ventmoor Kennels produced Champions from 1948 to 1955. The first was Ventmoor Chairman; the last was Ventmoor Catrelia who was a Champion in the U.S. The kennel bred ten Champions altogether.
Sealyham Terriers enjoyed popularity in Hollywood. Sealyhams were owned by Alfred Hitchcock, Gary Cooper, Jean Harlow, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Humphrey Bogart. Hitchcock, the Hollywood director known for putting in a cameo appearance in all his films, appears in the classic movie “The Birds”. In the opening scene, Hitchcock is walking two of his own Sealyham Terriers (Stanley and Geoffrey) out of a shop as Tippi Hedren enters. Hitchcock owned a third Sealyham Terrier named Mr. Jenkins, who appeared in his movie “Suspicion”.
More recently, a Sealyham Terrier received a cameo role in the film “The Departed”. When actor Matt Damon exits an elevator, an old lady walks a Sealyham Terrier toward the same elevator at the end of the movie. Sealyham Terriers are featured in the work of children’s author Maurice Sendak, including his classic Where the Wild Things Are. His own pet, Jennie, is in his book Higglety, Pigglety, Pop! When the book was adapted into a movie in 2010, called “There Must Be More to Life”, Jennie’s voice is done by Meryl Streep.
The Sealyham ranks 152nd out of 167 dog breeds in popularity, according to the 2010 AKC list. Sealyham Terriers are not numerous, but they do win consistently in dog shows. Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice (Charmin), a Canadian bred Sealyham Terrier, won the Best in Show at Cruft’s in 2009. Charmin also won the World Champion (Best in Show) in Stockholm, Sweden at the 2008 Federation Cynologique Internationale Wolrd Dog Show. Charmin has been featured in Eukanuba ads after winning the 2007 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship Best of Show. The ASTC membership of owners and breeders is close to three hundred. Although, the majority of today’s Sealyham Terriers are primarily pets and show dogs, they also excel in agility, obedience, conformation, and earth dog activity competitions.
Currently, the Sealyham Terrier is on the list of Vulnerable Native Breeds (breeds native to Britain that the KC has identified as having 300 or less dogs registered per year). In 2010, only forty nine Sealyham Terriers were registered with the KC, compared to 1,084 in 1938. The Terrier Group has a lot of breeds on the list, but the Sealyham is noted for having the sharpest overall decline in numbers. In response to this a number of fanciers are actively campaigning to not only preserve the breed but hopefully popularize it enough that it’s numbers improve. One of which is Ivor, a Sealyham Terrier from Wales, who has his own facebook page (www.facebook.com/ivor123) where he has issued a plea for help. If Sealyham Terrier fans show half the determination the breed does, who knows, they may survive after all.
Sealyham Terriers were bred to be working dogs, therefore the weights listed are general; size is more important than weight. These dogs should be as substantial as possible, but still remain small enough to go to ground (underground into animals’ dens) and quick enough to hunt small animals. Male dogs should weigh about 23 to 24 pounds and the females slightly less. Their height (measured from ground to high point of withers) should be about, but not exceed, 10 ½ inches.
Sealyham Terriers have two coats; the top is hard and wiry and the undercoat is soft and dense. These dogs are either all white or mostly white with lemon, tan, or badger marks on the head and ears.
The length of their long, broad heads is about an inch longer than their necks, or about equal to three quarters of the dog’s height at the withers. Their slightly domed skulls have a shallow indentation that runs between the brows to the muzzle, which has a moderate stop. The cheeks are flat, without heavy jowls and their jaws are square. Their strong, white teeth should close in a level or a scissors bite. Canine teeth should fit tightly together. Their folded ears are level with the top of the head and have a rounded tip. The ears are long enough to reach the outer corners of their eyes, falling forward with the edge landing close to their cheeks. They have ears that are thin, yet thick enough not to crease. Their dark, oval eyes are medium sized, set wide apart, and deeply set. Sealyhams noses are black with large nostrils.
Sealyham Terriers’ necks are muscular with a good reach, a bit less than two thirds the height of the dog (at withers). The neck is not coarse, even refined at the throat. Their necks are firmly set on their well laid back, muscular shoulders. Shoulders are wide enough to allow freedom of action. Their strong bodies are quite flexible; their deep chests are well let down between their forelegs. The body length from withers to where the tail is set should be about the same as the height at withers (10 ½ inches). The topline is level; the hindquarters protrude well past set-on of tail. They have strong second thighs, well bent stifles, and their hocks are well let down. The Sealyham’s hindlegs are longer than their strong forelegs. Even though their feet are large, they are compact with round, thick pads. Their well arched toes point straight ahead. The forefeet are larger, but not quite as long as hind feet. The Sealyham Terrier’s tail is docked (where legal) and set far enough forward so that the spine does not slope to it. They carry their tails upright.
Sealyham Terriers make great family dogs and companions to the elderly. They are loyal and devoted; they love to be with you, and remain playful into their old age. Young children, such as toddlers, should not be around this or most other Terrier breeds. Children old enough to respect their dog’s boundaries, however, will enjoy this family pet. Sealyham Terriers are inquisitive, confident creatures who are good at understanding what you want from them or what mood you are in, and communicate well with their people. They are adaptable and will do well living on a farm, in a house, or in an apartment.
Sealyham Terriers are harder to train and slower to learn new commands than most other breeds. Terrier breeds are known for their willful and stubborn natures, but the independent Sealyham stands out within the Terrier Group. It takes great patience to train them, and requires consistent leadership in order to quell their instinct to dominate. Wavering or weakening in training will give them permission to misbehave. But Sealyhams do want to please you, ultimately. Positive rewards such as food and praise must be consistently applied. Any physical or punishing treatment of the dog will generate either an obstinate or retaliatory response. Sealyham Terriers tend to be possessive of their toys and food; this behavior needs to be extinguished through the positive, consistent training you give him or her, beginning in puppyhood.
Sealyham Terriers have active minds that must be kept busy, but they are less physically active than other Terrier breeds. Indoors, they are content to lie around, nap, and play the role of lapdog. Their exercise requirements can be met by a brisk daily walk. They do enjoy hunting, playing ball, and are apt to dig. When in an enclosed outdoor area, they should be supervised to prevent digging out or digging up plants. Also, they should never be off leash when outside because of their instinct to give chase, disregarding all else--including their own safety and your commands. Because of their independent natures, they do not mind being left alone for periods of time.
They tend to be aloof toward strangers and aggressive toward other dogs they do not know, especially of the same sex. They will not back down if another dog initiates a fight, regardless of the other dog’s size. If they are raised with another dog or cat, they usually do fine with them, but not with other pets. Their instincts to chase are too strong and rabbits, hamsters, and the like will not fare well with Sealyham Terriers in the household. They do make good watch dogs, as they will bark if a stranger approaches, but they are not inclined to be yappy.
Their double coats require brushing and combing at least twice a week to get rid of mats and excess hair. They need to be groomed monthly or at least every other month. These dogs do not shed much, making them a good fit for allergy sufferers. If your Sealyham Terrier is a show dog, professional grooming is a must.
Sealyham Terriers enjoy good health and can be expected to live up to fifteen years. The biggest health concern for the breed is PLL or Primary Lens Luxation. PLL is hereditary; a dog must inherit the gene from both parents to be affected, but the dog will be a carrier even if it inherits the gene from only one parent. Dr. Gary Johnson of the University of Missouri has identified the defective gene that affects Sealyhams and several other Terrier breeds. A DNA test is now available.
PLL’s onset is sudden and can occur in a dog between the ages of four and eight. The lens slips out of place; if untreated it can cause glaucoma and irreparable damage to the optic nerve and the retina within 72 hours.
Other possible health issues are: