THE WELSH HOUND ASSOCIATION

Hon. Secretary: The Rt. Hon. Lord Davies,

Plas Dinham, Llandinham, Powys. SY17 5DQ

Tel/Fax : 01686 688202

 

Submission to the

Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs

from

The Welsh Hound Association

February 2000

 

The Welsh Hound Association was formed in 1922. Its objects to promote the breeding of the Welsh Foxhound in order that the distinctive national breed may be maintained on established lines. To this end the Association compiles and publishes a studbook wherein hounds are registered and also organise a hound show, which is held annually at the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth Wells. Initially the show was held in conjunction with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show (‘RWAS’), but since 1970 it has been held independently of the RWAS, but as part of the Wales & Border Counties Hound Show held at the RWAS Showground at Builth Wells. In addition to Welsh Hounds, English Hounds and Beagles are also shown. Several thousand people attend the show from all parts of the United Kingdom.

The membership of the Association is composed of officials, past and present, of Hunts which use the Welsh Foxhound.

The latest edition of the studbook published in 1997 and covering the years 1992-1997 shows that a total of 975 hounds were registered during that period by twenty four packs. By making allowances for hounds which may have died during that period, but taking into account hounds born before 1992 which were still alive in 1997, the figure of 975 is a fairly accurate estimate of the number of registered Welsh Hounds in existence in 1997.

It is however further estimated that there is a similar number of hounds in existence which display all the characteristics of the Welsh Foxhound but will, for one reason or another have not been registered in the stud book. The main reason for not registering hounds is the fact that some generations previously an unregistered hound may have been mated to a registered hound and the resulting progeny would not have been eligible for entry into the StudBook.

With the exception of a small number of hounds used by the Mink Hound Packs, all other Welsh Hounds are used exclusively for fox hunting, the vast majority in Wales, where its independent traits and its persistence make it the ideal hound to hunt amongst hills and forestries. It is these traits which make it unsuitable to hunt other parts of the United Kingdom, where due to the proximity of the main road, railway line, etc. Hounds must be extremely biddable and immediately responsive to the Huntsman commands. For the same reason, and in addition that it is slightly slower than the English Hound and also that it sometimes has a tendency to dwell on the line, that Welsh Hounds are not used for drag hunting.

Its irrepressible hunting instincts make the Welsh Hound totally unsuitable as a pet and the Association is unaware of any Welsh Hounds in private ownership. Until the Forestry Commission imposed restrictions on hunting on its land some 3 years ago, certain hunts in Mid Wales in order to reduce costs through the summer months used to disperse their hounds to various farms, where they are individually cared for. Invariably the hounds join forces with their comrades from neighbouring farms and disappear on hunting expeditions of their own.

In the hills of Mid Wales where nearly every farmer in the district will have a hound during the summer, such matters were tolerated, but the prospect of dispersing two thousand odd Welsh Hounds to private homes is a very different proposition.

The Welsh Hound is undoubtedly the native breed of the British Isles and has descended from the Segusii breed of rough coated hound which existed in northern Europe in roman times and before. The ancient laws of Wales codified during the region of Hywel Dda (942 – 948AD) gives the value of the Welsh Hound as 240 pence trained, 120 pence untrained. By comparison a sound pack horse was valued at the same time as 120 pence.

From mediaeval times through to the early part of the twentieth century, the bards which always held a special place in Welsh society, sang odes to the hounds often naming individual hounds all praising their qualities. A country bard from deepest Carmarthenshire writing in the early part of the eighteenth century in praise of the hounds of a Doctor Lloyd of Cryngae, amazingly recites the pedigrees of the hounds back through eight centuries to the hounds of Rhodri Fawr who happened to be Hywel Dda’s grandfather!

Today the Welsh Hound is extremely popular and admired in Wales. The packs which use the Welsh Hound are well supported.

Followers take a keen interest in the hounds, many knowing individual hounds by name. Incidentally many Welsh names such as Gelert, Brenin, Meddyg, Taran, etc. are used.

During the summer months small shows are organised by Hunts in local villages when neighbouring packs bring their hounds and compete against each other, often in conjunction with some other fund raising events such as lamb roasts, duck racing or tug of war competitions and are often supported not only by members of the hunt, but also farmers and the population of the villages where events are held. Many such events are important fixtures in the annual calendar of many villages.

A ban on hunting would have a catastrophic effect on the Welsh Hound. It has been carefully bred to hunt the Welsh Hills since time immemorial.

Its distinctive characteristics and traits and its irrepressible hunting instinct make it totally unsuitable for any other purpose. Adapting or reforming its characteristics or instinct to make it suitable as a pet or for the purposes of drag hunting would be a Herculean task and not one that could be achieved for several generations, if at all. It would be akin to try to stop cats catching mice.

 

Elfan Bell

Welsh Hound Association


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Date uploaded to site 24 March 2000