Breed facts: Terrier group
In association with the Kennel Club, Nick Mays puts the Sealyham Terrier – this year’s Best in Show breed at Crufts – under the spotlight.
As judge Peter Green strode across the green carpet in the main arena at Crufts (5-8 March 2009) to pick this year’s Best in Show (BiS) winner from the top seven dogs of the 22,000-plus entered, only a few spectators could have guessed that the eventual winner was a representative of what is effectively an endangered breed. This year’s Best in Show was a Sealyham Terrier – a breed high on the Kennel Club’s (KC) list of vulnerable native breeds. The Canadian-bred winning Sealyham – Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice (Charmin) – was not only the top winning dog in America in 2007, he was also runner-up at the prestigious US Westminster KC Show in 2008 and 2009, while being Best in Show at the World Dog Show in Sweden in 2008! Charmin’s win is certain to put Sealyhams firmly in the limelight after being an overlooked breed for so many decades. Perhaps their lack of popularity is down to the fact that they are not really a dog for the novice owner. That said, with training and a firm hand they can make the most loyal and loving of dogs to own and valued members of the family.
The Sealyham Terrier is a true British breed that was developed in Pembrokeshire, west Wales, during the mid 19th century by Captain John Tucker Edwardes of the Sealyham Estate, from which the breed takes its name. Captain Edwardes was a retired soldier and a keen sportsman. He liked nothing better than to go hunting with his dogs on the estate, with his game including foxes, polecats, otters and badgers. The captain used mainly Otterhounds in packs, along with small locally-bred terriers. He was, however, dissatisfied with both for hunting his quarry and determined to create a small, short-legged, active dog with powerful jaws, which was capable of entering an earth and tackling its prey. Unfortunately, Captain Edwardes was more dedicated to the creation of his dream terrier rather than keeping detailed records of how he bred it, so it is not known for certain which breeds were used to create the Sealyham. Various experts have suggested that he used the Welsh Corgi for its compact size, length of back and short legs, although other experts claim that the Sealyham gave rise to the Corgi itself.
- A big dog in a small body
- Ideal for the more experienced owner
- Never dull
- Tough and hardy
- Excellent watchdog
- Brilliant digger
- Splendid character
- Handy size, sturdy and game
- Always a faithful companion
- Full of boundless energy
5 Sealyham facts
Sealyhams live to an average age of 12 to 14 years.
Sealyhams have a tough, wiry coat which needs to be trimmed every two weeks to maintain its shape, while full grooming is required every six to eight weeks. The coat’s integrity can also be maintained by handstripping out any loose, dead hair from time to time. Or the pet Sealyham can be clippered for ease of maintenance.
Sealyhams aren’t fussy eaters and they enjoy a wide range of food, from natural diets such as meat and fish to goodquality commercial dog food.
The breed is extremely healthy, with hardly any hereditary defects or conditions, so most Sealyhams enjoy robust good health for most of their lives. In their latter years they may show a slight tendency to typical old age ailments such as arthritis and poor eyesight.
Height & weight
Height should not exceed 31cm (12ins) at shoulder. Ideal weight: dogs approximately 9kg (20lbs); bitches approximately 8kg (18lbs). General conformation, overall balance, type and substance are main criteria.
It seems most likely that the Dandie Dinmont was used to shorten the legs, while the Cheshire Terrier, a small Bull Terrier-type breed, was crossed in for breeding in gameness. There is also a possibility that Fox Terriers were used somewhere along the line. Some breed experts believe that West Highland White Terriers (Westies) figured somewhere in the breed’s ancestry, as Captain Edwardes wanted his new terrier to have a white coat to make it easy to spot. That said, Cheshire Terriers were also white so, without accurate records, the Westie’s involvement is largely a matter of speculation. However, Captain Edwardes was a close friend of the Marquis of Bute who owned estates in Wales and was a personal friend of Colonel Malcolm of Poltallock in Scotland, on whose estate the West Highland White Terrier was first bred, so it is possible that his good friend may have donated some Westies to the project. Captain Edwardes was a ruthless breeder. If at a year old a Sealyham could not kill a polecat it was simply shot! After the captain’s death in 1891, a Sealyham enthusiast named Fred Lewis continued to breed and promote the Sealyham. Certainly by the beginning of the 20th century, the Sealyham breed was established and gained great popularity as a game, tough little hunter, ideal for tackling badgers, foxes and polecats in their earths, and it was to be found among the hunting packs on many large country estates. From here, it was a short step towards the dog being favoured as an exhibition animal. The first recorded Sealyham entered at a dog show was at a small show in Wales in 1903.
In 1908 the Sealyham Terrier Club was formed by several breed enthusiasts, and the breed was recognised by the Kennel Club two years later in 1910. Sealyhams were first exported into the United States in 1911 and the breed was recognised in the same year by the American Kennel Club. However, not all Sealyham enthusiasts were content with the show ring, and they were keen to preserve the breeds’ working integrity and instincts, so they formed the Sealyham Terrier Breeders and Badger Digging Association in 1912. Of course, nearly 100 years on, we baulk at the idea of badger digging, but at the time it was considered a perfectly acceptable hunting pastime, and the Sealyham was the dog of choice for the job. In the years from the formation of the club to the First World War, the breed became extremely popular, and it was not unusual for some shows to number Sealyham entries in their hundreds. It didn’t take long for the first breed champion to be established either; the first Sealyham champion, in 1911, was St Brides Demon.
The stars’ choice
Extremely popular in the 1930s and 40s, Sealyhams were the dogs of choice for the rich and famous. At the beginning of the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds, Hitchcock (in one of his regular cameo appearances in a film he directs) is walking his two Sealyham Terriers – Geoffrey and Stanley – out of a shop as leading lady Tippi Hedren walks in. Hitchcock also owned a third Sealyham named Mr Jenkins.
There is a veritable Who’s Who of ‘A-list’ film stars who owned Sealyhams, including Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Richard Burton. Sadly, the breed has declined in popularity since the Second World War, due to the hunting of badgers and otters becoming illegal. From a high point of 1,084 dogs registered with the Kennel Club in 1938, there were only 43 Sealyham puppies registered with the KC in 2008. For several years now, the Sealyham has been on the Kennel Club’s list of vulnerable native breeds, and entries at anything other than breed club shows struggle to reach double figures. The Kennel Club states that this may be due to the fact that they are not the easiest breed to keep in top form for the ring, but they have much going for them, as do all the other ‘minority breeds’. That said, Sealyhams can still give the more popular terrier breeds a run for their money at shows, as the 2009 Crufts winner has proved!
KENNEL CLUB BREED STANDARD Thinking of getting a Sealyham Terrier?
Here’s what to look out for: A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure.
Free-moving, active, balanced and of great substance in small compass. General outline oblong, not square.
Sturdy, game and workmanlike.
Alert and fearless but of friendly disposition.
Head & skull
Skull slightly domed and wide between ears. Cheek bones not prominent. Punishing, square jaw, powerful and long. Black nose.
Dark, well set, round, of medium size. Dark, pigmented eye rims preferred but unpigmented tolerated.
Medium-sized, slightly rounded at tip and carried at side of cheek.
Teeth level and strong with canines fitting well into each other and long for size of dog. Jaws strong with regular scissor bite (upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws).
Fairly long, thick and muscular on well-laid shoulders.
Forelegs short, strong and as straight as possible consistent with chest being well let down. Point of shoulder in line with point of elbow, which should be close to side of chest.
Medium in length, level and flexible with ribs well sprung. Chest broad and deep, well let down between forelegs. Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Notably powerful for size of dog. Thighs deep and muscular with well-bent stifle. Hocks strong, well bent and parallel to each other. Feet Round and cat-like with thick pads.
pointing directly forward.
Previously customarily docked. Docked: medium length. Thick with a rounded tip. Set in line with back and carried erect. Quarters should protrude beyond set of tail. Undocked: medium length of tail to give a general balance to the dog. Thick at root and tapering towards tip. Ideally carried erect, but not excessively over the back, and with no curl or twist. Quarters should protrude beyond set of tail.
Gait & Movement
Brisk and vigorous with plenty of drive.
Long, hard and wiry topcoat with weather-resistant undercoat.
All white or white with lemon, brown, blue or badger pied markings on head and ears. Much black and heavy ticking undesirable.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
100 years of Sealyhams
2008 marked the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Sealyham Terrier Club, and to mark this special occasion, a centenary show was held at Sealyham Mansion – the original residence of the Sealyham’s originator, Captain Edwardes. The club had many visitors from all parts of the world – exhibitors and Sealyham devotees of all descriptions from Italy, France, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Bosnia, Finland, Lebanon, USA, Chile and Australia. It was undoubtedly the biggest gathering of Sealyhams for many years and was a successful event for all concerned. For more information visit http://sealyhamterrierclub.co.uk
Strong-minded, attentive and ‘game’,Sealyhams are extremely intelligent dogs and can be quite wilful, but can be very easy-going with the right training and leadership from their owners. Some members of the breed are known to be strong-headed and obstinate, which can make training onerous, so they are not perhaps the dogs for inexperienced dog owners, or families wanting a playful and easyto- train companion. Sealyhams don’t like being pulled around, so small children should always be taught to treat them with respect. As such, they are better suited to the more experienced dog owner or someone who doesn’t mind putting in the hours with training. Sealyhams will mix with other breeds if introduced carefully, preferably at an early age, but invariably these tough little dogs are going to be the bosses in any inter-breed relationship! They do have a strong chase instinct so are perhaps not best suited to have alongside small pets or cats. Sealyhams have a loud bark and make good watchdogs, being quite wary of unexpected strangers.
Exercise & training
Sealyhams are highly energetic and can be on the go for long periods of time, so regular exercise and plenty of it is very important. Incredibly loyal dogs, Sealyhams will follow their owner anywhere, happily trotting alongside them on long walks or just pottering around the house or garden. Needless to say, they are quite fond of the discipline of the show ring and will, with the necessary training, make attentive – as well as attractive – show dogs.
The Sealyham Terrier Club Mrs J R Wonnacott (secretary), tel. 01646 698786.
Midland Sealyham Terrier Club Mrs D Bettis (secretary), tel. 01299 266380.
Sealyham Terrier Breeders Association Miss J Moyes (secretary), tel. 01252 850367.
Thanks Special thanks to Janet Wonnacott, Cathy Thomas and David Brinsley for their help with this article and to the Sealyham Terrier Club for information provided for this feature.
About the author Nick Mays is a journalist specialising in animal media. He lives in Yorkshire with his family and four dogs. Nick is also the author of several books on animal care.