In the 19th Century, Wales was dependent on the farmer, and the Welsh farmer was entirely reliant on the crops that his land produced. Anything that interfered with crop production or destroyed livestock was unacceptable. The killing of poultry by foxes and the destruction of fields was intolerable for these farmers. Thus, foxes, stoats, otters, weasels, rabbits, rats, pigeons and the like were of little value for the damage they created. Indeed, they had no compensation for the damage in their wake. As Robert L. Howell stated: “Agriculture implied a constant battle against Nature, predators as well as weeds, and the only problem was how best it could be won.”
There were only a few certain avenues left to the farmers: traps, poison, guns, or other animals. Traps were considered cruel and poison was not selective in what it killed.
Guns and animals that hunted were considered the best alternative and were often used in tandem. From packs of Foxhounds and Otterhounds the accompanying Terriers were developed. It was when guns became so inexpensive that rules for game birds were introduced. There was also a code of sportsmanship which governed the behavior of the hunters. Defenseless or resting animals were never killed, only animals in movement or flight.
It was to facilitate the annual need to thin the foxes and badgers, harmful to the farmers, that the Sealyham came to be developed. In particular, the Sealyham was created to kill foxes that were so hard to exterminate. Otters were another pesky nemesis, particularly to fishermen, but their populace had diminished along riverbanks by industrial pollution and development.
One can often find references suggesting the development of the Sealyham Terrier as early as the 1840’s, but this is unlikely for several reasons. The primary reason is that Captain John Owen Tucker Edwardes (1808-1891) who developed the breed did not reside at Sealyham during that period. His father, William Edwardes, died on May 8, 1858, so the Sealyham properties were not inherited until then, and Captain Edwardes may not have taken up residence at Sealyham Mansion until after his mother’s death on November 30, 1876. Until 1858, Captain Edwardes was recorded living with his father-in-law, William Jones, in St. Lawrence parish.
Because the Sealyham Terrier can trace its origin to a specific person and vicinity, it is not unreasonable to think that records would exist as to how and when the breed was developed. However, if these records exist, they have not yet been located.
The Dyfed Archives in Haverfordwest have most of Edwardes’ Estate papers. Research trips there have failed to identify anything relevant in answering many of the outstanding questions. However, some of what could be found is contradictory to what has been written and repeated.
It was on a research trip to the Dyfed Archives in 1989 that the only certain ancestor of the Sealyham could be identified. In the records of Captain Jack Howell MFH, it was recorded in his hand that the great-great-grandsire of the famous early sire Peer Gynt (born before 1900) was a Smooth Fox Terrier, a breed not previously found in any of the postulations.
Many excellent writers have discussed the origin of the Sealyham and speculated on the breeds used to create the Sealy. Unfortunately, what has happened over time is these conjectures have become accepted as fact when they should not. Color, structure or movement ought to have eliminated some from consideration and many photos of the Sealyhams circa 1900 and before suggest a different ancestry than what was hypothesized.
Clearly, the lack of complete official documentation of the Sealyham’s origin only adds to the mystery of the breeds involved. Captain Edwardes’ vision was always to create a white hunting Terrier to accompany the Foxhounds and Otterhounds on hunts. White was essential so the dogs would not be accidentally shot, being mistaken for the vermin they were searching.
Breed type was still being set by 1900. The breeding records of Capt. Jack (John Hamilton) Howell, Master of the Foxhounds for the Pembrokeshire Hunt, and Mrs. Catherine Octavia Carden Edwardes Higgon are essential to documenting the early history of the breed. It was Mrs. Higgon (as widow of Capt. Charles Gustavus Whittaker Edwardes) who started to revive the breed into a recognizable type by sponsoring a class for Sealyhams at Haverfordwest on October 5, 1903. She, more than any other person, is responsible for there being a Sealyham today.
It was in the smoking room at Sealyham Mansion on January 21, 1908 that brothers Jack and Adrian Howell, together with Catherine Octavia Carden Edwardes Higgon and her second husband, Victor James Higgon, met to form the Sealyham Terrier Club. Their aim was to persuade the Kennel Club to register the Sealyham as a distinct breed rather than the looser description of Fox Terrier (Sealyham). A Breed Standard was drawn up with a Standard of Points to set breed type.
The four founders felt that interest in the Sealyham breed across Pembrokeshire was sufficient to call a general meeting at Sealyham Mansion on February 8, 1908. Hugh Edwardes, Lord Kensington, an Edwardes cousin, became the first President of the new club. (President in 2020 is Sam Richards, the current owner of Sealyham Mansion and properties.)
By 1910, the Sealyham Terrier Club had increased to 58 members with 13 approved judges. The efforts to obtain separate registration for the Sealyham was still being pursued and proved very frustrating. The Secretary-Treasurer, Jack Howell, became so infuriated by the lack of response from the Kennel Club that he was determined to storm the building. Wearing a morning coat, striped trousers and top hat—with a white carnation in his buttoneer—Howell went to the Kennel Club and used his considerable charm to the effect that they agreed to present Sealyham classes at their Crystal Palace show.
The first British exports went to India in 1908. The first USA imports from the UK were Harfat’s Pride and Stella, bred by Messers Fred Weaver Lewis and Howard B. Gwyther in 1911. Their owner was August Belmont Jr., President of the American Kennel Club. The first American-bred litter was born September 1, 1912 and was bred by Mrs. Alfred Irénée du Pont (Mary Alicia Heyward Bradford) of Wilmington, Delaware.
The first Sealy to be exhibited in the USA was (Ch.) Folly, shown at the San Mateo Kennel Club in California. The first USA Champion was The Varmint in 1914, bred by Reverend Henson in the UK and owned by Tyler Morse. The first American-Bred Champion was Ch. Hemlock Hill Ivo Clyde (1915), born June 9, 1915 in Brookline, Massachusetts, and bred by Mrs.
By the 1920’s and 1930’s, the breed had become so popular it was among the top twenty breeds in registrations. Britain’s entry into the Second World War on September 3, 1939 ended the steady supply of imports into the United States, and the war itself ended many breeding programs in the United Kingdom and in the United States. Gone were many of the first generation of breeders in both places. The end of hostilities in 1945 did not find the resumption of breeding except for a few breeders on either Continent.
The most famous Sealyham personality in the UK was Cora Charters of Windsor, Berkshire. Although Mrs. Charters bred a few litters, it was her uncanny ability to pick outstanding stud dogs for her kennel that made the St. Margaret dogs the dominant force in the breed for type and excellence for nearly 50 years. From the early 1920’s, Mrs. Charters was the supreme authority on breeding. In her later years, her most famous dog was Ch. St. Margaret Steve who was “Dog of the Year in the UK” in 1959 before coming to Dorothy Wimer (Pool Forge) in Pennsylvania.
Equally respected as a British authority was Alice Leigh Armynel Groome Baylay, born in 1905. Her parents were Brigadier-General Sir Atwell Charles and Maria Edmondson Groome Baylay. Armynel’s maternal grandfather was James Groome, Governor of Maryland. Armynel became a much-respected columnist in the dog papers and a sought-after judge who judged Best in Show at Championship Show level and judged the Terrier Group at Crufts. Armynel died in 1971 when her kennel manager, Pat Willis Crick, inherited the Shenden prefix and continued to breed Shenden champions.
American breeders of note before 1960 include Bayard Warren (Barberryhill), Edith Barnes (High Orchard), E. Pennington and Esther Meyer (Van Winkle), Jeanne and Axel Pearson (Pearson’s), Albert and Gertrude Geiger (Hemlock Hill), Frederick C. Brown (Pinegrade), Helen M. Schweinler (Croglin), James A. Burden (Woodside), Mr. and Mrs. W. Fitch Ingersoll (Shelterfield), Claire Antoinette Knapp Penney (Clairedale), and Sylvan L. Froelich (Hollybourne).
Elizabeth Robbins Caswell “Sister” Choate was the wife of Boston Herald publisher Robert Burnett Choate, Sr. “Sister” Choate lived in Danvers, Massachusetts, where she bred more than 125 litters of Sealyhams and many, many champions. Her Robin Hill Sealys were the most famous in America and every Sealy in America descends from her lines. Wins included two Group One’s at Westminster, 11 Bests of Breed at Westminster, and Westminster Best-in-Show Team (1944) and Westminster Best-in-Show Brace (1948). Mrs. Choate also wrote articles for distinguished publications.
Margaret Fatman Josten was the wife of famed composer and educator Werner Josten. Her uncle, Herbert H. Lehman, was US Senator from New York and her sister Elinor was wife of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury. Mrs. Josten also bred a string of winners under the Hampton Hill prefix, including the great Ch. Hampton Hill Defiant who was four times Best of Breed at Westminster, a record which stood until the 1990’s. Defiant, like the Robin Hills, can be found in every pedigree.
(Mary) Thelma “Pat” Miller came to Sealys in the mid-1930’s and continued breeding until her death in 1991. There were many Rinklestone champions. A stalwart supporter of the breed, Pat was considered one of the great authorities on Sealyhams. Unlike most of her contemporaries, Pat’s dogs were always owner-handled. Her long service to the American Sealyham Terrier Club made her the most significant contributor to that organization’s success. She was mentor to many who followed, including Barbara and Jack Carmany, Sharon Cowen, and Sharon Yard.
Dorothy Fullerton Adelheim Wimer (Mrs. William W. Wimer, III) was an extremely popular breeder from the 1950’s until the 1980’s. Dorothy lived in Churchtown, Pennsylvania, where her Pool Forge Sealys, Welsh Terriers, Airedales and Beagles were famous. She owned many of the top Sealys of the period, including studs GBR/USA Ch. St. Margaret Steve and GBR/USA Ch. Alcide of Axe (Group One at Westminster). Dorothy was the owner of 1977 Westminster Best in Show Winner Ch. Dersade Bobby’s Girl.
Sue Keitle Sutliff’s first Champion was Rinklestone Tam O’Shanter from whom almost 800 US champions and 75 British champions descend through two of her daughters. Twenty-two of her dogs placed in Groups and four won six Bests of Breed at Westminster. Her GBR/USA Ch. Jenmist Dougal was the first Sealy to rank as high as #5 Terrier in the US.
Martha Thayer “Patsy” Wood (Mrs. Richard Gilpin Wood, III) had been raised with Sealys and was living in Houston in the mid-1960’s when she decided to breed Sealyhams. Upon returning to her native Pennsylvania, she established one of the breed’s great kennels. There were many important Penllyn champions, including some famous studs: Pound Sterling and Pimpernel being just two. Patsy left us in 2018. She mentored so very many of those who are active today and her legacy to the breed is inestimable.
Also of note in the second half of the Twentieth Century American Sealyham history is Nabila Amina Knaum Afffendi (known as Princess Emina Toussoun, also Mrs. Cornelius Bretsch), first cousin of Egypt’s King Farouk. Her kennel was Aboukir. Also, Bill and Shirley Hitt (Sherwood Hill), Howard and Myron Stone (Stonebroke), Peggy Browne (Pegfield), Cheryl Jennings (Tintern), Nancy and Ray Dunleavy (Cherrydun), Betty Terry (Suncoast), and Sally Sweatt (Bushaway).
The Westminster Kennel Club Show is where Sealys have had enormous success with four of the breed taking Best in Show: (1924) Ch. Barberryhill Bootlegger; (1927) Ch. Pinegrade Perfection; (1936) Ch. St. Margaret Magnificent of Clairedale; (1977) Ch. Dersade Bobby’s Girl. Five other Sealys have won the Westminster Terrier Group. Sealys also took Best in Show Team in 1943 in addition to the previous awards mentioned.
Famous professional handlers who worked for Sealy Kennels included Percy Roberts (Pinegrade), Joseph Thompson (Barberryhill and Robin Hill), Frank Ortolani (Hampton Hill), Andrew De Graw (High Orchard), Al and Bernice Ayers (Pool Forge and Sutliff Farms), Peter Green (who came to work at Pool Forge in November 1963), and, of course, breeder-handler Margery Good.
Sealys have also had considerable success at Montgomery County. The first Best in Show there was won by Ch. Wolvey Noel of Clairedale in 1936. Forty-three years later, Margery Good piloted her homebred Ch. Goodspice Tarragon to Best. In 1995, Gabriel Rangel handled Ch. Fanfare’s Goodfellow to the top and, in 2006, he showed Ch. Stonebroke Right On the Money to the top award. Just two years later, Margery went Best for a third time with Ch. Efbe’s Goodspice Easy Money. Other Sealys have placed nine times in the Group at this show.
Ch. Wolvey Noel of Clairedale held the Best in Show record of 22 wins for bitches for four decades. Ch. St. Margaret Magnificent of Clairedale’s record of nine Best in Show awards for dogs stood for over 30 years until Ch. Jenmist Dougal (Al Ayers handling) earned his tenth Best in Show in 1972. This record stood for just two years until Dougal’s nephew, Ch. Roderick of Jenmist, shown by George Ward, took 22 Best in Show awards, tying Wolvey Noel. All records were smashed two years later by Ch. Dersade Bobby’s Girl’s 48 Best in Show wins under Peter Green’s leadership. In the early 2000’s, Ch. Stonebroke Right On the Money won an amazing 67 Best in Show awards for owners Mickey and Linda Low and is the top-winning American-bred Sealy of all time. For bitches, Ch. Tintern Tzarina, bred by Cheryl Jennings and handled by Geoff and Peggy Browne, holds the record for American-bred bitches with 13 Bests.
The top-winning Sealy of all time was Ch. Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice, bred in Canada, who placed Group One at Westminster (2008) and also took Best in Show at Crufts (Birmingham, UK) in 2009, the World Dog Show in Stockholm in 2008, and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in 2007. “Charmin” won a total of 91 Best in Show awards in his American career. He was an amazing sire with a wonderful temperament and lived to 14-½.
Ch. Torset Touch of Class, bred by Stella Rootes in the UK and shown by Margery Good, is the leading all-time sire of 41 champions, while his great-grandson,
Ch. Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice, is runner-up with 36 champions.
Ch. Slyfox All Fired Up Seberdale, bred by Mark and Joan Taggart and Frandel Brown, and owned by Karen and Kenneth Haugland, is the all-time leading dam having produced 16 champions. In second place is her ancestor Ch. Penllyn Paprika Goodspice who produced 13 champions.
The American Sealyham Terrier Club was founded May 15, 1913 with August Belmont Jr. as its first President. Since 1952, the ASTC has held its annual Specialty in conjunction with Montgomery County Kennel Club in Pennsylvania. In the past 15 years, the Sealyhams Forever Foundation was formed to rescue and rehome any Sealy in need. Sharon Yard is President of the former and Suzanne Hill is President of the latter.
The Sealyham Terrier Club of Southern California, founded in 1954, is the only regional Sealy Club in the United States. It has a small, but active, membership and holds its annual Specialties in conjunction with Great Western Terrier Association. Two great ladies, Helen Moser and Dorothy Love, led this club for decades. Jill Ferrera is current President.
British Royalty first became associated with the Sealyham through the marriage of King George V’s brother-in-law, Prince Adolphus of Teck, and Lady Margaret Evelyn Grosvenor. The Duchess of Teck was one of the breed’s earliest and most influential supporters. King George himself owned a Sealy named “Jock.” Princess Margaret owned two Sealys, “Pippin” and “Johnnie.” Both were bred by Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas, MP (Ilmer). Queen Mother Elizabeth frequently took care of the Sealys. Queen Elizabeth is shown with a Sealy in early photographs with her Corgis. Lord Louis Mountbatten and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands also owned Sealys as did Winston Churchill’s daughter, Mary Soames.
Sealyhams became famous in the 1930’s and 1940’s with Hollywood and other famous folks. Among those who owned Sealys were Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Colman, Conrad Veidt, Clark Gable, Adolphe Menjou, Madeleine Carroll, Tallulah Bankhead, author Agatha Christie, author Maurice Sendak, Dorothy Parker (Algonquin Round Table), Deborah Kerr, Betty Grable, George Brent, Bert Lahr, pro golfer Gene Sarazen, author F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wimbledon Champion Helen Wills Moody, Leslie Howard, Catherine Cornell, Hedda Hopper, Zeppo Marx, Mae West, NY Yankees Pitcher Lefty Gomez, Rex Harrison, Publisher William Randolph Hearst, Jr., and humorist Will Rogers.
Actor Gary Cooper and his wife Rocky owned Best in Show winner Ch. Hollybourne Delia and bred her champion son, Ch. Balgary Plainsman. Perhaps the greatest advocate was Sir Alfred Hitchcock who featured a Sealy prominently in the 1941 film “Suspicion” and made his cameo appearance in “The Birds” walking his Sealys “Geoffrey” and “Stanley” (both bred by Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas, MP) out of a San Francisco pet emporium. Other films with Sealys: Storm in A Teacup; Peg O’ My Heart; The Young in Heart; and Bells Are Ringing.
Because of the dramatic drop of Sealyham registrations over the past few decades, the Sealyham is classified as a Vulnerable Native Breed in the UK. The breed is also in the lower 10% of Terrier registrations in the US. It is hoped that designer breeds will run their course and that people will once again discover the charm, engaging personality, and fun of life with a Sealyham Terrier. It is a jester, peerless guardian, best friend, entertainer, hot water bottle, enthusiastic listener, and door chime all in one adorable package.
by Henry Sutliff, III