A native British dog breed, the Welsh Terrier was originally bred to hunt fox, rodents and badger, although during the 20th century this purpose was largely discarded and the breed found itself in use primarily as a show animal. Despite its new purpose the breed does retain many of the traits inherent to other terrier breeds to include a high prey drive and what some would term as a willful streak. Despite the fact that the Welsh Terrier hasbeen claimed to be the oldest existing dog breed in the United Kingdom it is currently on the UK Kennel Clubs list of vulnerable native breeds; meaning that it is believed that the breed is in real danger of dying out, having as few as 300 or so pups registered annually.
The most commonly held belief is that the Welsh Terrier is the oldest native breed of dog in Britain according to the research of Julian Calder and Alastair Bruce for their book, 'The Oldest - in celebration of Britain's living history'. The Welsh Terrier is a descendent of two similar breeds the Black and Tan Rough Terrier and the Old English Terrier both of which no longer exist. Both the Black and Tan Rough Terrier and the Old English Terrier can be traced back to the early thirteenth century in Wales and England, where they were used for the next several hundred years to support packs of hounds hunting for fox, badgers and otters by going down into the dens of these animals and driving them out. By the early part of the nineteenth century the two breeds had become so similar that they were deemed to be the same breed. It was at this point that breeders began to classify all dogs of this type as Welsh Terriers.
Officially recognized as a breed in 1855 by the English Kennel Club and first shown in 1886. The Welsh Terrier was then brought to the United States in 1888, where it was also recognized by the American Kennel Club in that same year.
As the breed gained popularity its hunting dog only image was replaced by the view that it was an excellent show dog as well. The breeding of the Welsh Terrier took a new turn as subtle changes were made in order to make it more suitable for the show ring. The Welsh Terrier was bred with the more refined Wire Fox Terrier at the time resulting in the Welsh Terrier dog we know today, which closely resembles a miniature Airedale Terrier.
Although the majority of modern Welsh Terriers are primarily companion dogs they still retain their hunting and digging instincts very strongly. This breed is still very capable of hunting and tracking game. So much so that they are regular competitors in “Earth Dog” trials where they are timed while they track prey underground in a series of man made tunnels.
Currently the Welshy as it is affectionatly known is listed by the UK Kennel club as a breed that is in danger of extinction, having as few as 300 pups registered annually, in comparison to more popular breeds that register tens of thousands each year.
Notably the most famous Welsh Terrier was Charlie, the beloved dog of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
A sturdy compact dog, of medium size that is colored tan on the head, legs and underbelly while having a black or tan grizzle saddle, the modern Welsh Terrier can grow up to 15.5 inches at the withers with a weight of 20-22 lbs and looks like a miniature Airedale Terrier.
Its body is square and evenly proportioned with long legs that allow it to move with little effort. Tails are traditionally docked so that they are even with the base of the skull when held upright Although docking tails is illegal in most parts of Europe , the tail of an undocked Welsh Terrier is only an inch or so longer than a docked tail and does not make a great deal of difference in the overall appearance of the dog.
The dark brown almond shaped eyes should be set far apart on the skull, with a set of thick triangular ears, set just above the cheek that fold slightly to the side of the head and forward. The skull should be flat between the ears and slightly narrower towards the front of the skull with bushy eyebrows. The muzzle should be roughly half the length of the head with a slight stop, mustache and beard. The teeth should meet in a leveled scissor bite.
The back should be level and straight without slope, with straight round front legs that lead to smallish cat like feet. The Welsh Terrier has a double coat that comprises a soft undercoat with a dense, wiry, hard outer coat that features a black saddle (or Jacket) covering the mid-section of the body and spreading from the back of the neck and tail to the upper thighs; the rest of the body should be tan.
Welsh Terrier puppies are born mostly all black and during the first year as they mature the rest of the coat will lighten to a tan while the saddle will remain black.
It should be noted that this breed does not shed but old hairs will be stripped out through play, excercise and movement if the coat is not raked during grooming.
The Welsh Terrier was developed to be an independent hunting dog and this required them to be very assertive and stoic dogs. The result of this bred for purpose mentality is that the Welsh Terrier can be a bit stubborn, and not overly prone to listening if they believe they are stronger minded or more stubborn than their owner, thus obedience training is a long term proposition and one that has to be constantly worked on and reinforced. To a Welsh Terrier it can be mind over matter, in that they won’t mind cause you don’t matter. It is important for Welsh Terrier owners to possess a calm assertive nature, and have an air of authority about them. The terrier in them means there is also the possibility that they may become dog aggressive if they are allowed to make up their own rules.
This is not to say that they are all stubborn as the Welsh Terrier is considerably less stubborn than most terrier breeds, and well socialized Welsh Terriers tend to be very cheerful and joy filled and would love nothing more than to go bouncing around the yard with you playing ball.
The Welsh Terrier is a high energy dog that requires a lot of regular exercise, such as swimming, going on a long jog with the owner etc. Simply turning them out to run around the yard for a bit would not be not sufficient exercise. When bored they will become yappy, and/or find other ways to keep themselves entertained by wandering off or becoming destructive. It is important that a Welsh Terriers be presented with a challenge to keep them entertained and happy.
Welsh Terriers do tend to get along well with children; if introduced to them at a young age and love to run, play and follow a child as it plays. However, the terrier in them means they will often tug at pant legs which can lead to knocking small children off their feet.
They key to this breed is to start socializing at a young age, and maintain a firm assertive demeanor when interacting with the dog.
Welsh Terries do not shed or moult their hair; it is naturally stripped out as they excerise or play. However, it is still recommended that they be brushed a few times a week and that the coat of a Welsh Terrier be plucked every six months.
Welsh Terriers do appear to have a tendency to have allergic skin irritiations, that can lead to itching, hot spots, and rashes. There are also reports that this breed can have food allergies that present as skin irritations, head shaking, inflammation of the ears, sneezing, rubbing the face on things, anal itching, and in severe cases seizures.
Glaucoma has also been reported as one of the more common eye related problems affecting this breed.
Viewing the Welsh Terrier Club of America, website provides links to further research the following conditions: