WELSH TERRIERS and DNA testing - Towards sufficient genetic variation in a small population

The Welsh Terrier is a long-legged, rough-haired terrier, which was originally bred for hunting foxes, badgers and otters. This tireless Terrier has a strong temperament, without being aggressive. By nature, it is a happy, playful and fearless, which makes it an easily motivated pet and hobby dog.

The Welsh Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds, which descends from the original black and terrier. These rough-haired terriers were used for hunting in caves in England and Wales, from where the first references can be found as early as the 11th century. In 1860, a breed club was established in Wales and the English Kennel Club accepted the breed and its name in 1866. As the English noticed the show potential of this breed, it started to be bred to be more attractive. This is how the Welsh Terrier got its present appearance. Today, the Welsh Terriers are less used for hunting purposes. A large proportion of individuals is used for hobbies, for example, dog shows, agility and obedience training.

Terriers have been used for hunting in the British Isles several hundred years. The first written references to Terriers in the Wales area can be found as early as 900's. For hundreds of years the different breeds were not specifically named and all terrier-like cave dogs were called the "Terrier". In a Welsh thank you letter from the year 1450 is written as follows:

A fine big stick you gave me
and a good black and red terrier bitch,
to choke the brown polecat,
and to tear up the red fox.

The Welsh Terrier is curious and intelligent. Because of its cheerful, lively character and convenient size it is suitable for a wide variety of residential environments and is easy to practice activities with in many different ways. As an energetic dog, it also needs inspiration in its life. When a dog is properly trained, it is mostly open and friendly. A hunting dog needs to be fearless and confident in nature, in order to be able to work in its original role as a cave dog. This requires responsiveness, sharpness, good nerve structure, and also the ability to resolve situations independently, for it could perform its tasks successfully.

The breed population is small and most of the individuals are related to each other. Perfectly unrelated individuals are hard to find. The population is based on the same pedigrees in most European countries. The variety of males used for breeding has become less diverse in recent years and the pedigrees of the combinations have become more similar. Limited markets regulate the amount of litters to be produced and lead to strong pruning of individuals used for breeding. As many individuals and different lines as possible should be used for breeding. Using foreign breeding material will continue to be absolutely necessary.  

Sufficiently large and diverse population is the basis for all development in breeding and ensures sufficient genetic variability in the future. The aim is to increase the population size. It needs to include the mix of different lines and offer more options for breeding material. The aim is also to achieve a vital population containing enough genetic variation to secure sufficient variability in the future. Knowledge of the genome and inheritance of breeding individuals needs to be deepen, and the potential genetic problems should be known. The number of individuals used for breeding must be increased and the number of produced litters per individual reduces. Excessive pruning based on single traits should be avoided, and more attention should be directed into a comprehensive assessment of an individual and its offspring, and their characteristics.

The Finnish Breed Club Walesinterrierikerho ry wants to encourage to have their dogs tested with MyDogDNA and report the results to the breeder and further to the breeding committee. The results can also be communicated directly to the breeding committee. MyDogDNA wants to support the Club's efforts to have a more comprehensive view on the dogs to ensure sufficient genetic variation. Therefore, a campaign has been opened to the breed and it will be valid until the end of August. During this campaign, owners and breeders of Welsh Terriers can purchase the MyDogDNA PASS test package at the price of 99 euros. The reduced price can be obtained with the code WALES2014.


Reference: Walesinterrierikerho ry