It is far easier to perpetuate a vulnerable breed with integrity and devotion than to attempt to recreate it and hope to get the combination just right. We’ll never know with certainty what breeds Captain John Tucker Edwardes used to create the Sealyham Terrier, but theories abound.
Edwardes didn’t keep records, but one Welsh dog expert speculated that Edwardes probably used white coated terriers that his Flemish ancestors brought to Wales. Still, he was friends with Colonel Malcolm of Poltallock, creator of the West Highland White Terrier, and it’s possible that a Westie or two were loaned to Edwardes’ breeding program. A third theory is that the now extinct Cheshire Terrier, also white, helped set the color, though this small Bull Terrier-type breed may have been used more for its gameness than color. Fox Terriers might have been recruited somewhere along the line, while the Welsh Corgi is thought by some to have contributed to the Sealy’s compact size, length of back and short legs. Others think it’s more likely that the Dandie Dinmont was used to shorten the legs. Author, Robert Leighton, however, disagreed in his book, The Complete Book of the Dog, where he stated that the Bull Terrier and Dandie Dinmont Terrier were certainly not used when breeding the Sealyham Terrier.
Who really knows for sure. Edwardes didn’t record his efforts, his only son passed away in 1891, and the rest of us are left to speculate, guess, and assume. What is more certain is that it would be challenging to recreate the Sealyham from scratch today, particularly with 21st century sentiments. Captain Tucker-Edwardes was ruthless in developing his vision of a badger-digging, otter-hunting dog. He culled weaklings and those that didn’t exhibit gameness. Quick to shoot dogs that shied away from pursuing their quarry, it was even said that he exposed puppies to rats, and those that didn’t show curiosity were dispatched.
With only 113 Sealyham puppies having been registered in 2016 with the UK’s Kennel Club, we had better find a way to keep this marvelous breed going, and others like it, because reinventing them at a future time if and when the world realizes what it has lost will be tough.
Image: Sealyham Terrier by Martha Van Loan is available here