CHAPTER XXXVII. THE WELSH TERRIER

This breed is near akin to the wire-hair Fox-terrier, the principal differences being merely of colour and type. The Welsh Terrier is a wire-haired black or grizzle and tan. The most taking colouring is a jet black body and back with deep tan head, ears, legs, belly, and tail. Several specimens have, however, black foreheads, skulls, ears, and tail, and the black will frequently be seen also extending for a short way down the legs. There must be no black, however, below the hock, and there must be no substantial amount of white anywhere; a dog possessing either of these faults is, according to the recognised standard of the breed, disqualified. Many of the most successful bench winners have, nevertheless, been possessed of a little white on the chest and even a few hairs of that colour on their hind toes, and, apparently, by the common consent of all the judges of the breed, they have been in nowise handicapped for these blemishes.

There are not so many grizzle coloured Welsh Terriers now as there used to be. A grizzle and tan never looks so smart as a black and tan; but though this is so, if the grizzle is of a dark hard colour, its owner should not be handicapped as against a black and tan; if, on the contrary, it is a washed-out, bluish-looking grizzle, a judge is entitled to handicap its possessor, apart altogether from the fact that any such colour on the back is invariably accompanied by an objectionable light tan on the legs, the whole being a certain sign of a soft, silky, unterrierlike coat.

The coat of the Welsh Terrier slightly differs from that of the wire-hair Fox-terrier in that it is, as a rule, not so abundant, and is, in reality, a different class of coat. It is not so broken as is that of the Fox-terrier, and is generally a smoother, shorter coat, with the hairs very close together. When accompanied with this there is a dense undercoat, one has, for a terrier used to work a good deal in water, an ideal covering, as waterproof almost as the feathers on a duck's back. The other difference between the Fox and Welsh Terrier—viz., type—is very hard to define. To anyone who really understands Welsh Terriers, the selection of those of proper type from those of wrong type presents little if any difficulty.

As a show-bench exhibit the Welsh Terrier is not more than twenty-two years old. He has, however, resided in Wales for centuries.

There is no doubt that he is in reality identical with the old black and tan wire-haired dog which was England's first terrier, and which has taken such a prominent part in the production and evolution of all the other varieties of the sporting terrier.

There are several people living in or about Carnarvonshire who can show that Welsh Terriers have been kept by their ancestors from, at any rate, a hundred to two hundred years ago. Notable among these is the present master of the Ynysfor Otterhounds, whose great grandfather, John Jones, of Ynysfor, owned Welsh Terriers in or about the year 1760. This pack of Otterhounds has always been kept by the Jones of Ynysfor, who have always worked and still work Welsh Terriers with them. From this strain some good terriers have sprung, and this although neither the present master nor any of his ancestors have concerned themselves greatly about the looks of their terriers, or kept anything but a head record of their pedigrees. They are all, however, pure bred, and are set much store on by their owner and his family, just as they always have been by their predecessors.

Until about the year 1884 no one seems to have considered the question of putting specimens of the breed on the show bench. About that year, however, several gentlemen interested in the variety met together to see what could be done in connection with the matter, the outcome being that the Welsh Terrier Club was shortly afterwards founded, the Kennel Club recognised the breed, and the terrier himself began his career as a show dog.

The specimens which were first shown were, as may be imagined, not a very high-class-looking lot. Although the breed had been kept pure, no care had been taken in the culture of it, except that which was necessary to produce a sporting game terrier, able to do its work. One can readily understand, therefore, that such an entirely “fancy” point as a long foreface and narrow, clean skull had never been thought of for a moment, and it was in these particulars that the Welsh Terrier at first failed, from a show point of view. Naturally enough, good shoulders, sound hind-quarters, more than fair legs and feet, and excellent jackets were to be found in abundance, but as the body was almost invariably surmounted by a very short and wedge-shaped head and jaw, often accompanied with a pair of heavy, round ears, an undershot mouth, and a light, full eye, it will be realised that the general appearance of the dog was not prepossessing.

The Welsh Terrier to-day is very much improved beyond what he was when first put on the bench. This improvement has been brought about by careful and judicious breeding from nothing but pure bred specimens. No outside aid has been invoked—at any rate in the production of any of the best terriers—and none has been required. It is a matter for great congratulation that the breed has been kept pure despite all temptation and exhortation.

The Welsh Terrier breeds as true as steel; you know what you are going to get. Had popular clamour had its way years ago, goodness only know what monstrosities would now be being bred.