The Breed History
This breed is likely an early offshoot of the Old English Black and Tan Wire (or Coarse) Haired Terrier and as the name implies, Wales is their place of origin. Records there date back 1000 years. In the year 1855 the breed was given this official name. They were first brought to America in the late 1880s and AKC registered in 1888. They are similar in appearance to Lakeland Terriers, though the latter dogs lack the distinctive coloring.
Breeding for Function
In Wales these dogs were valued hunters, successful with foxes, badgers and otter, and also excelled as vermin control dogs. Today, these dogs generally serve as companion animals.
Height at Withers: female 14-15" (35.5-38cm), male 15-15.5" (38-39 cm)
Weight: Average 20-21 lb (9-10 kg)
Coat: They possess a wiry coarse outer coat with distinctive black and tan coloring. The undercoat is short, dense and wooly. Tan is found on the head, legs and belly. The black jacket can be grizzled. Puppies are often born almost all black.
Longevity: 10-14 years
Points of Conformation: The Welsh Terrier has a compact square conformation, is medium sized, and the head is square. In overall type, they appear similar to a scaled down Airedale. The eyes are small, dark and almond-shaped, deep and fairly wide set. The ears are triangular and small, and the fold sits above the top of the skull and fold forwards. The stop is slight, and the muzzle is square; nose is black, lips are pigmented black also. The neck is moderate in muscling and thickness; slightly arching without throatiness. The topline is level, the thorax deep and ribs are well sprung. The foreface furnishings include a well-developed moustache, brows and beard. The high set tail is usually docked and is held high. The limbs are straight boned and the feet are round and small; nails are black. The stride is longer than with most terriers, and movement projects an effortless appearance.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Well mannered, gregarious, good with other dogs; better than most terriers, though may see small pets as prey. An extroverted personality, high activity levels, high exercise needs and high intelligence characterize the Welsh Terrier breed. The beard may need cleaning after meals. May tend to dig, especially if bored. Should not be off leash unless in a fenced enclosure. Low shedding dogs but the haircoat needs regular grooming and stripping twice a year. Known to persevere in a dog fight, and some dogs have a stubborn streak. They are generally good with children. Some report that females can be a bit more difficult to housetrain.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 17.8% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Welsh Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Welsh Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) and Secondary Glaucoma: An autosomal recessive gene causes primary lens luxation. Homozygous affected dogs usually develop lens luxation between 4-8 years of age. Rarely, heterozygous carriers can develop lens luxation, but at a later age. Lens luxation can lead to secondary glaucoma and blindness. Relative risk of 7.20x versus other breeds. Reported in 0.58% of Welsh Terriers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Welsh Terrier with lens luxation. A genetic mutation has been identified, and a genetic test is available. OFA testing shows 36% carrier, and 1% affected.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 10.40% of Welsh Terriers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Welsh Terriers are significantly over-represented with atopy versus other breeds.
Glaucoma: Primary, narrow angle glaucoma occurs in the breed. Can cause secondary lens luxation. Age of onset 4-6 years. Screen with gonioscopy. There is a 2.6 to 1 female to male prevalence in the breed, with an affected frequency of 3.6%. CERF does not recommend breeding any Welsh Terrier with narrow angles.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 2.3% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cataracts: Anterior, Posterior, intermediate and punctate cataracts occur in the breed. Reported in 5.14% of Welsh Terriers presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Identified in 1.73% of Welsh Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Welsh Terrier with a cataract.
Corneal Dystrophy: Epithelial/stromal form causes a bilateral non-inflammatory corneal opacity (white to gray). Identified in 1.73% of Welsh Terriers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Reported in 1.30% of Welsh Terriers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Seizures generally appear between 1-3 years of age. Reported on the WTCA website. von Willebrand's Disease is reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Pectus Excavatum: Two six-week-old intact Welsh terrier littermates were presented for funnel-like depressions of the cranial sternum associated with inversion of the rib cage. Thoracic radiographic examination revealed a significant dorsal deviation of the first to the fifth sternebrae. At 12 weeks of age, there was complete radiographic resolution of the sternal deformity.
Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma: A 14-year-old female Welsh Terrier was presented with a paratracheal mass. Cytology demonstrated round to polygonal cells with distinct cell borders, mild to moderate anisocytosis, round to oval eccentric nuclei with prominent nucleoli, and a variable amount of finely granular, eosinophilic cytoplasm. Histopathology and immunohistochemistry diagnosed a medullary thyroid carcinoma.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for Lens Luxation is available from OFA and Animal Health Trust.
Tests of Phenotype: Recommend patella evaluation, hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: none
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 101 (534 registered)
- Internet resources: Welsh Terrier Club of America: http://clubs.akc.org/wtca/
Welsh Terrier Club of Great Britain: www.welshterrierclub.co.uk
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