Some hundred years ago terriers were used to go to earth and work with hounds. Captain Edwardes, a keen sportsman, who lived on the estate of Sealyham between Haverfordwest and Fishguard, Swales, bred to stabilise the type of terrier required for this work. one essential was pluck. We read that any dog that could not face up to its quarry was shot. The dogs had to low to the ground, not too big, but strongly made, as they were used to go to earth for fox and badger or any other rodent. They were predominantly white as it was aid that otherwise there could be a danger of the hounds mistaking the terrier for vermin I doubt if this was the true reason for their colour as any dog emerging from an earth would hardly appear white and in any case the hounds would know the terrier in their pack.
In the early days the Sealyham, that took its name from its place of origin, was a queer looking dog of very mixed type and cannot be compared in looks to the smart little dogs we see today. From old records we learn that the following breeds all went into the making of the Sealyham: the Welsh Corgi for size, length of back and lowness to the ground, the Cheshire Terrier (now extinct), which was a kind of small white Bull Terrier, for colour, tenacity of purpose and gameness. The Dandie Dinmont was used to introduce strength of jaw and lowness to the ground, while the Fox Terrier gave the double weather resisting coat, and the West Highland White Terrier kept the size small and implanted more firmly the white colour. It is interesting to note that the corgi was the only non-terrier breed used. The other breeds would have all displayed great worrying ability and gameness which were essential for Captain Edwardes' purpose. Even today some Sealyham show physical signs of their forebears, i.e. the uneven topline of the Dandie Dinmont, the narrower front and length of the leg of the Fox Terrier, and the short back of the West Highland White.
Whether in fact all the above mentioned breeds were used is open to question. The actual origin appears to be of little importance provided it is always borne in mind that the Sealyham was undoubtedly evolved as a sporting dog of great courage and that it had to be sufficiently flexible and of any size to go to ground. It was frequently used in Badger digging and was required to give tongue and tell the diggers where the badger was. The Sealyham was not required to kill the Badger (in fact I doubt if it could as the badger is bigger than the dog) but to prevent it going up another earth pending the arrival of the diggers. An earth is not wide and the badger works very fast so the Sealyham had to be very quick, supple and active. Badger digging is almost a sport of the past, but the breed is often used for ratting and rabbi ting and is a keen and effective worker.
Any breed should be capable of carrying out the work for which it was evolved. If it cannot do this is raison d'etre is lost. I am confident that the high standard of conformation can be maintained, at the same time fostering the keen sporting instinct by giving our dogs the opportunity to use these instinct whenever possible. It would be a thousand pities if a breed with such a gay, fearless character should be allowed to deteriorate into purely a show automanition. There are those who maintain that the working and showing sides cannot be combined, but it should be possible to retain the correct temperament along with a sound active dog of good type sufficiently pleasing to the eye to win in the show ring.
The breed was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1910 in which year classes were first scheduled at the Ladies Association Show. During the 1914-18 war very little Breeding was done, but in the 1920's the Sealyham rapidly gained in popularity came too quickly and those wishing to cash in on this phase did not pay sufficient attention to temperaments. Since the end of the second world war it most certainly is not true to say that the Sealyham is of doubtful temper, but criticism still occasionally sticks.
The breed has gone on from strength to strength, although at the time of writing it has, along with most other terriers breeds, lost some of its popularity. It is now scheduled at many all-breed Championship Shows. Competition is strong enough to make showing interesting and win worth while. A number of Sealyhams have won the terrier group and have been made Best in Show at all-breed Championship Shows. There is a steady is a high and the modern specimen is more uniform in type and more pleasing to the eye than its forebears.
In those more affluent days there was a wide choice of first class dogs so that breeding good, stock was perhaps easier than it is today, when the breed has become less popular and the selection of the stud dogs is very limited. Few people now are in a financial position to keep many dogs. Another factor was hat the over-riding desire to win and make money out of dogs was almost unheard of. Stock was ruthlessly culled and so the standard of the breed steadily improved.
Between the two world wars there were many well known kennels that all have left their mark on the breed. Many of these notable breeders employed professional handlers who selected promising youngsters, kennelled, trained and prepared them for show, usually had great success.
The present day breeder is deeply indebted to the earlier breeders who by their hard work, enthusiasm and knowledge, helped to evolve the Sealyham as we know it today. Of the very earliest enthusiasts, Captain Edwardes, the founder of the breed, Lord Kensington and Mr Fred Lewis must rank high. These three were largely responsible for bringing the Sealyham before the public prior to the breed by stamping in the type that was required. These dogs were Huntsmanan Peer Gynt. With the desired type they also produced faults which to a great extent have been eliminated by intelligent breeding, through bad mouths, 'Chippendale' fronts and soft coats still crop up from time to time.
Nancy H Binley (1983)