Sealyham Terrier
A Sealyham Terrier
Other namesWelsh Border Terrier, Cowley Terrier
Height 12 inches (30 cm)
Weight Males 9 kilograms (20 lb)
Females 8 kilograms (18 lb)
Coat Double
Colour White
Kennel club standards
The Kennel Club standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Sealyham Terrier (Welsh: Daeargi Sealyham) is a rare Welsh breed of small to medium-sized terrier that originated in Wales as a working dog. It is principally a white-bodied, rough-coated breed, developed in the mid-to-late-19th century by Captain John Edwardes at Sealyham House, Pembrokeshire.

Following the First World War, it surged in popularity and was associated with Hollywood stars and members of the British royal family. Its numbers have dropped significantly since then, with the breed listed as a Vulnerable Native Breed by the Kennel Club; an all-time low was recorded in 2008 when only 43 puppies were registered in the United Kingdom. This decline has been blamed on an influx of foreign and designer breeds, and the Sealyham's reduced usefulness as a working dog.

This breed is equally suitable as a family dog or a working terrier, given the right training. It is affected by few breed specific breed disorders, with the only two prevalent conditions being lens luxation and canine degenerative myelopathy. A DNA test is now readily available to identify dogs who carry the gene that causes lens luxation and breeding programs can be adjusted.


Sealyham House, where Captain John Edwardes originally developed the Sealyham Terrier

The breed was developed between 1850 and 1891 by Captain John Edwardes, at Sealyham House, near Wolfscastle in the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire. Originally the breed was used for pest control, to hunt small game, and to eliminate vermin, particularly badgers, which he usually relocated.[1] The Welsh Corgi, Fox Terrier (Wire), and the now extinct English White Terrier all played a part in the make up of the Sealyham,[1] although Edwardes did not keep records.[2] He wanted a small white dog with a strong jaw, and a wiry coat. The white coat was particularly prized, as it meant that the hunter in the field could distinguish the dogs from the quarry.[2] Edwardes culled weak dogs, and bred the stronger ones.[3] After Edwardes' death in 1891, other breeders began to work with Sealyhams,[2] including Fred Lewis, who promoted the breed.[3]

A modern, groomed show dog.

The breed was shown for the first time in 1903, and the Sealyham Terrier club was created in 1908; the breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1911.[3] The Sealyham Terrier now is recognised by all of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world.[4] During the early stages of its recognition, the breed was alternatively known as the Welsh Border Terrier, or the Cowley Terrier.[5] The American Sealyham Terrier Club was founded in 1913.[6]

During the 1920s and 1930s, Sir Jocelyn Lucas used the dogs to hunt badgers which he usually relocated.[7] At this time he also used Sealyham Terriers for hunting otters, stoats and squirrels.[7] Deciding that he wanted a better hunting dog than the Sealyhams, bred for conformation showing, he cross-bred the dogs with the Norfolk Terrier. This resulted in an unrecognised breed of dog he called the Lucas Terrier, which he described as "death to rats and rabbits".[2]

The Sealyham surged in popularity after the First World War in the UK and the United States.[2] Within the Hollywood film industry, the Sealyham became a fashionable dog to own by the Hollywood elite. The terrier was owned by actors Tallulah Bankhead, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor,[1] and by writer Agatha Christie.[8] Cary Grant owned one which he named Archie Leach – Grant's real name.[9] Alfred Hitchcock had one of his Sealyham Terriers seen in his 1941 film Suspicion. Alfred Hitchcock can also be seen at the start of his 1963 film, The Birds, walking two of his Sealyham Terriers in a cameo appearance, although he also owned a third Sealyham not featured in the movie.[9] The British royal family also favoured these dogs; King George V owned a dog named Jack.[1] In 1959 one Sunday newspaper reported in the UK: "A notice has been posted in Clarence House and Windsor Castle giving explicit instructions that when Princess Margaret has breakfast in bed, her two Sealyhams must be brought to the room along with her breakfast tray."[10] These two dogs were called Pippin and Johnny, and were looked after by the Queen Mother when Princess Margaret fell ill.[1] In the 1960s, children's author Maurice Sendak owned a Sealyham named Jennie, which he featured in his 1967 work Higglety Pigglety Pop!.[11]

A Sealyham Terrier photographed in 1915

The Sealyham was once one of the more popular terriers,[4] and one of the best known Welsh breeds. Today, however, the Kennel Club (UK) lists the Sealyham as amongst the most endangered native breeds.[4] In 2008, registrations of new puppies with the Kennel Club dropped to an all-time low of 43, placing it among the bottom three on the list of Vulnerable Native Breeds. In October 2011, British magazine Country Life highlighted the breed on its front cover, with the heading "SOS: Save our Sealyhams",[citation needed] and launched a campaign to save the breed.[1] End of year figures for 2011 showed that 49 puppies were registered with the Kennel Club in the UK, keeping them within the bottom three on the list of most endangered breeds.[10]

Another notable Sealyham Terrier, Ch. Efbe's Hidalgo At Goodspice, also known as Charmin, won Best In Show at Crufts in 2009, but his victory was not televised as the BBC had dropped the coverage of the competition earlier that year, following the controversy after the channel showed the documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed.[12] He had previous won the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in the United States in 2007,[13] and the World Dog Show in 2008. While in retirement, Charmin attended many shows as a spectator until he died in October, 2018.[14]

Ivor the Sealyham terrier gained a loyal following on social media channels before his death in 2020

Sealyham terriers have also been featured on social media channels, contributing to a gain in notoriety of this rare breed. On Facebook, Ivor the Sealyham terrier (2007–2020) posted weekly photos, updates and videos of his walks in Wales, gaining over 20,000 fans worldwide.[15]

Harry Parsons, founder of the Working Sealyham Terrier Club, has stated that, "To sustain a need between 300 to 500 puppies a year".[1] The Kennel Club has blamed the decline of the breed on the availability of designer dogs and newer breeds such as the Shih Tzu, and the banning of tail docking which has reduced their ability as working dogs.[1] Paul Keevil, formerly of the Kennel Club's vulnerable breeds committee explains: "Traditionally, soon after Sealyhams were born, their tails were docked by half their length, because they were small working dogs and they quite often got stuck down holes, meaning that they required short, strong tails for the owner to be able to pull them out."[9] As of 2010, the breed is ranked 152nd out of 168 breeds according to registrations by the American Kennel Club.[16] By 2017, the breed ranked 150 out of 190 breeds registered by the American Kennel Club.[17] In 2023, a Sealyham Terrier named Stache won the US National Dog Show.


A close-up of the face of a Sealyham Terrier
An adult Sealyham Terrier (not in show trim)

Sealyhams measurements vary by breed standard according to particular countries. The Kennel Club breed standard states the height of a Sealyham Terrier should not exceed 12 inches (30 cm), measured at the withers or at the top of the shoulder blade. The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard states height to be "about" 10.5 inches at the withers.[18] Weight for a Sealyham is also slightly different. The Kennel Club stating 8 kilograms (18 lb) for females, or 9 kilograms (20 lb) for males,[19] with the AKC standard "23 - 24 lbs for dogs; bitches slightly less."[18]

They have a white double coat which requires regular brushing with a wire comb in order to prevent matting.[20] It has a dense undercoat, while the outer coat is wiry and weather resistant.[21] Markings on the face can be in a variety of colours including lemon, black, brown, blue, and badger, which is a mix of brown and black.[22] Heavy body markings or patches or excessive ticking on the coat are discouraged.[22] Sealyhams are low to the ground, and in muddy weather their long coats can become quite dirty.[3] Sealyham coats are groomed by hand stripping, in order to keep the coat from becoming too soft. However, if they are not shown, Sealyhams can be clipped and this is often the preferred grooming approach for pets. As with many terriers, Sealyhams have essentially non-shedding coats.[23]


A Sealyham Terrier in the woods

Although happy in the company of others, they are fine if left alone. Sealyham Terriers are suited for both the town and country.[3] They can be strong willed, occasionally vocal,[24] and boisterous but also full of personality and affectionate.[20][24] While they make for loyal family companions, they can be trained to be working dogs, making them excellent mousers or ratters.[2] They can also be taught as puppies to get along with other animals, including cats and birds.[20]

Harry Parsons described his Sealyhams thus: "They make great companions, and the way they bond with their owners is almost magical. I keep six indoors, and if someone rings about an infestation and asks us to go ratting, they will know and are out of the door in a millisecond. If you train them, they'll retrieve. They'll do anything to please you."[2]


This is a hardy breed with few breed specific health problems.[24] The main hereditary problem highlighted by the American Sealyham Terrier Club is an eye condition called lens luxation, for which there are DNA tests. Genetic testing can now readily determine if the condition will be passed on and most breeders test both parents before breeding. Lens luxation is a condition in which the lens slips out of position in the eyeball due to the weakening of the fibers that holds it in place.

This in turn blocks the flow of fluids in the eye, leading to a painful increase in intra-ocular pressure (glaucoma) and often irreparable optic nerve damage, leading to visual field loss and eventual blindness.[25]

As of November 2011, the Kennel Club has not highlighted any specific concerns regarding the breed's health to conformation show judges.[26] Due to the low numbers of the breed, two of the most prevalent problems facing the breed today is the popular sire effect and the general problem of genetic diversity within the breed.[27][28]

The breed is predisposed to atopic dermatitis.[29]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hough, Andrew (26 October 2011). "Campaign launched to save Sealyham terriers 'from extinction'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 26 October 2011. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Waugh, Tessa (26 October 2011). "Country Life says: Save our Sealyhams". Country Life. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Sealyham Terrier". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "An Introduction to the Vulnerable Native Breeds". The Kennel Club. 20 December 2006. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  5. ^ Mason (1915): p. 34
  6. ^ "Pembrokeshire Record Office Sealyham Terrier Clubs Records". Archives Wales. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  7. ^ a b Lucas M.C., Captain Jocelyn (1922). The Sealyham Terrier. T.H. Cumbie Ltd, Halford Street Leister. pp. 65–109.
  8. ^ "The Sealyham Terrier - Back in the Spotlight". The Kennel Club. 24 March 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  9. ^ a b c McCarthy, Michael (5 February 2009). "Final cut for Hollywood's favourite dog". The Independent. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  10. ^ a b Webster, Isabel (25 December 2011). "Former Royal Favourite Dog Close To Extinction". Sky News. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  11. ^ Hurtig, Jennifer (2007). Maurice Sendak. New York: Weigl Publishers. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-59036-485-7. Sealyham Terrier Maurice Sendak.
  12. ^ "Terrier wins controversial Crufts". BBC News. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  13. ^ "Top dogs have the last bark at Eukanuba". USA Today. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  14. ^ Deeley, Dawne (17 July 2008). "American Dog Win World Dog Show". Dog Channel. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Ivor The Sealyham Terrier Facebook Page". Facebook. 2019. Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  16. ^ "AKC Dog Registration Statistics". American Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  17. ^ "American Kennel Club statistics".
  18. ^ a b "Sealyham Terrier Standard" (PDF). American Kennel Club. Retrieved 13 April 2024.
  19. ^ "Sealyham Terrier Standard". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 13 April 2024.
  20. ^ a b c "Care Requirements". Pedigree UK. Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  21. ^ "All About the Sealyham Terrier" (PDF). American Sealyham Terrier Club. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  22. ^ a b "AKC Sealyham Terrier Breed Standard". American Kennel Club. 9 February 1974. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  23. ^ "Sealyham Terrier". Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  24. ^ a b c "Sealyham Terrier Breed Profile". Your Dog. Archived from the original on 14 October 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  25. ^ Packard, George. "Lens Luxation: a brief overview". Sealyham Terrier Health Guard Database. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  26. ^ "Breed Watch: Sealyham Terrier". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  27. ^ Bell, Jerold S. (August 2004). "Popular-Sire Syndrome: Keeping watch over health and quality issues in purebreds". AKC Gazette. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  28. ^ Bell, Jerold S. (March 2007). "Small Population Breeds and Issues of Genetic Diversity". AKC Perspectives. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  29. ^ Rhodes, Karen Helton; Werner, Alexander H. (2011-01-25). Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-8138-1596-1.