The Carnarvonshire Terrier

And now,  poetry time:


“Urddasol ffon im eoe soeh—a gast dda.
Daeargast ddu dorgoch,
T dagu‘r ffwlbart dugoch.
Ac i ewy go’r cachio coch.”

It brings a tear to the eye, doesn’t it?

For readers whose Welsh is rusty, a translation:

“You gave me a dignified (picked)
Stick-and a good bitch
A black, red-bellied terrier bitch
To Throttle the brown pole cat
And to tear up the red fox.”

Colorful, we know.

It’s widely accepted that the old Welsh poem written about 1450 described a Welsh Terrier.  To this day, there are residents of the historic county of Carnarvonshire who insist with the certainty of an oral history passed from one generation to the next that their ancestors kept Welsh Terriers from at least two hundred years before. These people took tremendous pride in the purity of their breed, and indeed, for a time it was even known as the Carnarvonshire Terrier.

As recently as one hundred years ago, Griffiths Hughes, an old farmer living in Dolwyddelan, was famous for his terriers, and a painting of the old sportsman with one of his best Welshies belongs to the family of the late Mr, Rumsey Williams, of Carnarvonshire (Carnarvon), and a copy is also in house of the Master of Ynysfor Otterhounds (we’re on the lookout for this picture, and if readers know of a source, tell us?)

Why would an Otterhound owner keep a painting of a farmer with his Welsh Terrier?

The great-grandfather of the present Master of the Ynysfor Otterhounds pack owned Welsh Terriers going back to 1760. The pack had always been in the family, and Welsh Terriers were always part of the pack. The use of Welsh Terriers within the pack has been documented for nearly two centuries.  It was a favorite with gamekeepers (and poachers).

Sadly, both the Otterhound and Welsh Terrier appear on The Kennel Club’s list of vulnerable breeds, either as truly vulnerable, or at watch.  It is hard to embrace a view of saving a shelter dog (worthy, to be sure) when entire breeds need saving from extinction. It’s that bad.

Image: “Rum,” a Welsh Terrier pastel on paper by “R Ward Binks” (1880-1950).

One thought on “The Carnarvonshire Terrier”

  1. One of my first breeds back in the 1960’s and even then finding appropriate homes for these wonderful terriers was difficult. Hearty robust, and full of spirit and fun they were difficult to understand and proved a handful for the uninformed pet owner. Never a lapdog they were always up for sport or hunting or any good fun. You needed a good sense of humor and lots of patience to shape the high spirited little pups into thinking biddable adult dogs. Always will be among my favorite terrier breeds.

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