7 Facts About the Sealyham Terrier

From pest control to prize winners, the Sealyham Terrier has come a long way – fighting its way back from near extinction! Read on for the facts.

Jan 11, 2024By Natasha Elder
facts about the sealyham terrier

Meet the Sealyham Terrier: a small but mighty breed with a rich history and a dash of Hollywood (or Hollywoof!) glamour. Charming and affectionate, this remarkable breed is known for its lively personality and attractive looks. Keep reading to discover the fascinating history, characteristics, quirks, and resurging popularity of the Sealyham Terrier.

Sealyham Terriers Were Bred for Pest Control

old photo 1915 sealyham terrier
Image credit:Wikimedia

Originally developed in 19th century Wales by a military man named Captain John Owen Edwards, the Sealyham Terrier was bred with the express purpose of eliminating vermin (specifically otters, foxes, and badgers) and hunting small game.

Captain John Owen Edwards wanted to develop a breed that was strong and fierce enough to take on ferocious creatures like badgers while remaining small and low enough to the ground to access hidey holes. Additionally, he insisted that the breed had to be all-white so as not to be confused for whatever they were hunting at the time. Can you imagine accidentally shooting your helper instead of your prey in the confusion and chaos of a hunt?

On the grounds of his family’s property, which was a sprawling estate called Sealyham, the retired military officer made it his life’s mission to develop a breed that ticked every box he had. And he accomplished that mission and presented the world with the Sealyham Terrier we know and love today. Though it’s not clear which specific breeds were bred to achieve this, experts believe the Sealyham Terrier is the result of breeding Dandie Dinmont, West Highland White Terriers, and the now-extinct English White Terrier.

The Sealyham Terrier Breed Was Once Popular

sealyham terrier puppy running action shot
Image credit:Wikimedia

The breed was first shown locally in a town called Haverfordwest, Wales, in 1903, and just five years later, the official Sealyham Terrier Club was formed. By 1911, the breed was officially recognized by The Kennel Club.

Up until 1911, Sealyham Terriers were exclusively bred and shown within the borders of the United Kingdom. After years of proving itself on the show scene, and after being officially recognized, word of this delightful dog spread, and soon, Sealyham Terriers popped up in the United States, and then the world.

The Sealyham Terrier became a bit of a celebrity. Hollywood icons like Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Agatha Christie, Cary Grant, and Alfred Hitchcock are just a few famous names who were proud owners of Sealyham Terriers back in the day. The breed was also favored by the British royal family and was owned by both King George V and Princess Margaret.

As a result of being in the spotlight, the breed was immensely popular in homes, too. In 1932 alone, there were 369 Sealyham Terrier registrations. However, over time, the popularity of the breed lessened, and by 2008, the breed was facing extinction. A 2011 campaign called “S.O.S: Save our Sealyhams” is credited as being the savior of the breed. Since then, the number of puppies registered per year has risen exponentially – from just 43 registrations in 2008 to a whopping 138 registrations in 2022.

Sealyham Terriers Are in Show Winners

sealyham terrier champion best in show award winner
Image credit:Wikimedia

There is something special about Sealyham Terriers, and that specialness translates into the show dog world. Sealyham Terriers excel in the show ring, and the breed has the collection of trophies to back this up.

At the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, a Sealyham Terrier by the name of Barberryhill Bootlegger won the Best in Show award in 1924, and Pinegrade Perfection took home the trophy just three years later. Margaret Magnificent of Clairedale won in 1936, and Dersade Bobby’s Girl won in 1977. These wins should speak to the popularity of the breed during this time.

In the year 2007 at the AKC National Championship, a Sealyham Terrier named Hildago at Goodspice (call name Charmin) won the Best in Show award. This is quite astonishing, given the rareness of the breed at that time. Who knows, perhaps the publicity generated by this win had something to do with the S.O.S. campaign being started?

In 2023, at the annual National Dog Show, that history of winning was brought back to the present when a Sealyham Terrier by the name of Money Stache won the coveted Best in Show once more. Though this was the first time a Sealyham Terrier has won the Best in Show in this specific competition, it’s far from Money Stache’s first win – it’s his 49th Best in Show win!

That Typical Terrier Temperament, With a Twist

sealyham terrier pumpkins field
Image credit:Wikimedia

With their beard-like facial hair, attention-grabbing coat (more on that down below!), and happy-looking smile, Sealyham Terriers have a lot going for them in the looks department. But this beautiful breed has a lot more going for it than just a pretty face.

Sealyham Terriers are small dogs, but what they may lack in size, they sure do make up for in personality. The typical traits of a Sealyham Terrier can be summed up as:

  • Affectionate
  • Alert
  • Comical
  • Friendly
  • Independent
  • Inquisitive
  • Outgoing
  • Spirited
  • Stubborn
  • Trainable
  • Of fair intelligence (the breed ranks 56th in “The Intelligence of Dogs”)

Although Sealyham Terriers are independent, outgoing, and stubborn like most Terrier breeds, they are known to be very calm and relaxed indoors, which sets them apart. This also makes them one of the most wonderful breed options for families with children. But since they can be a bit on the snippy side, they’d be better suited for life with older children rather than babies and toddlers.

Sealyham Terriers Have a Generous Life Expectancy

sealyham terrier puppies running grass
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When you adopt a Sealyham Terrier, you’re likely getting a friend for life. The breed has an average life expectancy of 11 to 16 years, though the average life span is thought to be around 15 years. This makes them one of the longest-living dog breeds.

Generally, Sealyham Terriers are thought to be a healthy breed. However, they are known and prone to developing breed-specific health issues that may shorten their life expectancy if not properly treated. The most common breed-specific health issue that a Sealyham Terrier is likely to experience is a condition called Lens Luxation.

Sealyham Terriers are predisposed to the Lens Luxation condition, which is a genetic eye issue in which the lens is displaced from its normal spot. When untreated, this luxated lens leads to glaucoma, and irreparable optic nerve damage can ensue within 72 hours. The symptoms of Lens Luxation include an excessive build-up of pus in the corner of the eye, indications of eye discomfort, and changes to the appearance of the inside of the eye.

The Sealyham Terrier Has a Remarkable Coat

sealyham terrier standing log white
Image credit:Wikimedia

Another aspect of the Sealyham Terrier that sets them apart from any other breed is their marvelous coat. Sealyham Terriers are double-coated dogs. They have a weather-resistant undercoat and a wiry outer coat of medium-length hair. Notably, Sealyham Terriers have long facial hair that looks like a beard. Their hair can look wavy, but it’s not considered curly. According to the official accepted breed standard, Sealyham Terriers should have all-white coats or white coats with lemon, tan, or badger markings on the head and ears.

This beautiful coat needs grooming at least twice a week to avoid matting. Additionally, the coat will require proper shaping or stripping every three months or so to ensure the length remains manageable. The grooming requirements for Sealyham Terriers are quite intense – just one look at that gorgeous coat, and you’ll know why this is the case!

When grooming needs are met, the Sealyham Terrier rarely sheds. This fact has garnered it a reputation for being hypoallergenic, which means it’s a good breed for people with allergies. Remember, no dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but the Sealyham Terrier, and its remarkable coat are officially recognized as being allergy-safe.

The Sealyham Terrier is a Welsh Dog Breed

sealyham terrier forest walking
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Because they’re such an uncommon breed, many people don’t know of Sealyham Terriers – let alone recognize that they’re a Welsh breed. The United Kingdom is known for being the breeding ground of several well-known dog breeds, and while the majority of breeds come from England, very few come from Wales.

Though Wales is not known for being a land of dog breeding, you may recognize some of the other breeds that are considered Celtic canines. Sealyham Terrier aside, here are the other six native Welsh dog breeds:

  • Cardigan Corgis
  • Pembroke Corgis
  • Welsh Hounds
  • Welsh Sheepdogs
  • Welsh Springer Spaniels
  • Welsh Terriers

It must also be noted that Wales was once home to two other breeds; the Welsh Hillman and the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog, but sadly, both have joined the list of extinct dog breeds. The Welsh Hillman was an ancient herding dog that looked similar to a German Shepherd but was lighter in color and weight. Last spotted in Towy Valley in the 1980s, the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog is now officially thought to be extinct.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership