Welsh Hound

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Welsh Hound
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The Welsh Hound, as the name suggests, is a hunting dog with strong ties to Wales. A true hound, the Welsh Hound is a working breed whose purpose was hunting foxes. But this isn’t the sort of hunting that farmer’s do to control vermin that damage crops, so much as the sport of fox hunting.

Once it was a common sight to see packs of hounds, baying on the heels of a fox, with riders in hot pursuit. But in the 20th century, this type of hunting has become socially unacceptable and is illegal. This leaves our friend the Welsh Hound as a dog without a purpose.

Their lively nature and need to socialise in packs, can represent a considerable challenge to an inexperienced owner. This is not a breed that takes to loafing on a sofa. Woe-betide the owner who doesn’t adequately exercise and entertain their Welsh Hound. This is likely to result in a dog that finds their own amusement by barking, chewing, or digging. That said, although a rare breed, the Welsh Hound is rising in popularity especially in the United States.

About & History

The Welsh Hound has been around for two to three centuries, but despite its comparatively recent origins, there is debate over the exact nature of their heritage. There are two main theories over the ancestry of the Welsh Hound. The first involves the Celtic Hound, a dog that has been around in Wales since the 5th century. It’s thought Celtic Hounds were crossed with a smooth-coated hound breed, possibly related to the St Hubert Hound. These crosses were mated with English Staghounds, to create the breed we know recognise as the Welsh Hound.

However, there’s an alternative argument that the Welsh Hound is a direct descent of a breed that no longer exists, the Segussi breed. At this poin,t anyone interested in researching the Welsh Hound further, finds themselves sent round in a circle… since the Segussi’s main claim to fame is being the foundation stock for the Welsh Hound!

Whatever the truth of their origin, the Welsh Hound peaked in popularity in the 19th century. Their story mirrors that of fox hunting, and as the sport fell from favour and became illegal, so the numbers of this hound dwindled.


The appearance of a Welsh Hound is similar to that of a Foxhound, but instead of being smooth-coated they have a wiry, medium-length coat.

As befits a dog that travels fast over rugged terrain, the Welsh Hound has an athletic and yet sturdy build. In common with many dogs that are bred to work, they have a good length snout, which enables them to breathe easily and pant as required by the demands of rigorous exercise. They have drop ears that hang down over the cheek, but lack the excessive length of some scent hounds.

The Welsh Hound is a robust fellow with a straight tail that is carried high but never curled. The tip of that tail provides a marker for the huntsmen to follow. Their coat is coarse, giving protection against the bracken and gorse the dog may encounter when hunting. That said, whilst a coarse coat is the norm, the occasional Welsh Hound has a smooth-coat and is still welcomed as part of the pack. The most typical coat coloration is white with patches of either red, fawn, black, or tan.

Character & Temperament

When a dog is created as a working breed, those dogs that perform best are chosen to selectively bred from. This accentuates those traits that are considered desirable in the breed. In the case of the Welsh Hound, this includes having boundless energy, working as a team, and having a loud bark.

The typical Welsh Hound is therefore happiest when living as part of an extended doggy family in a pack. They are a happy dog and largely accepting of whatever circumstances they find themselves in, provided they get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

As a sociable dog they don’t fare well when kept as a lone pet or confined for long periods of time. Their nature is such that they need constant social interaction and expect to be active for most of the day.

The other implication of their natural love of hunting is that they tend to have a stubborn streak. When on the trail of an interesting scent, they are liable to fully focus on that and go where the will takes them. This can make training a challenge, especially for an inexperienced owner.

On the plus side, the Welsh Hound is not an aggressive breed. He’s a sociable fellow and thrives in the company of other dogs, which is great for those in the position of having a large doggy household.


The Welsh Hound is used to following the pack, especially when they pick up a scent. With a natural inclination to copy what their fellow hounds are doing, this sometimes makes it tricky for an owner to make themselves heard.

Training a Welsh Hound can be something of a trial, despite the dog’s intelligence. That stubborn streak means the breed is fond of self-determination rather than listening to instruction.

But this doesn’t mean that heavy-handed or dominance-based training methods are appropriate. No. Instead, key to successful training is the use of reward-based obedience training coupled with a talent for making those sessions fun and entertaining for the dog. Win his attention by intriguing him, and half the battle is won.


The Welsh Hound has an overall reputation as a healthy breed. Those problems to which they seem most prone include heart murmurs and kidney disease.

Heart Murmur

A heart murmur is caused by turbulent blood flow within the heart. Heart murmurs are generally graded from I to VI, with I being the quietest and VI the loudest.

A dog with a murmur that is Grade I or II does not need any treatment. However, once the murmur reaches Grade III a heart scan is advisable. This is because once the heart starts to enlarge, then taking a medication called Pimobendan can greatly increase life expectancy.

Kidney Disease

The kidneys play a vital role in filtering blood to get rid of naturally occurring waste products. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, this leads to a build up of natural toxins.

A symptom of kidney disease is excessive thirst, which in turn, means the dog needs to urinate more often. Whilst there is no cure for kidney disease, it can be alleviated by feeding a high quality low protein diet and the use of medications to assist renal function.

Exercise and Activity Levels

It is no surprise given the Welsh Hounds heritage and purpose in life that they are a high energy dog through and through. They are at their happiest when running as a pack over fields and heathland.

Conversely, they make a poor coach potato dog as they need an outlet for all that energy. To make a success of owning a Welsh Hound, an owner would do well to be keen on fitness and running. This breed would also make for a great companion for agility or activities, such as Canicross.


The coarse coat of the Welsh Hound is designed for protection. The natural oils that accumulate on the coat help to waterproof it and repel dirt. Keep this in mind and avoid over-bathing the dog, as this strips out those natural oils. Should the dog need to be bathed, then avoid over-conditioning the coat, as this also removes some of its naturally protective properties.

The Welsh Hounds coat is very thick, and be warned that he does shed. A seasonal shedder, this means he loses a lot of hair all at once. Regular brushing will help reduce the amount of hair that adheres itself to soft furnishings and carpet.

Famous Welsh Hounds

As a pack dog, the Welsh Hound does not stand alone but with his furry-comrades. Those curious to know more about the Welsh Hound would do well to check out the Welsh Hound Association.


The Welsh Hound is considered a rare breed. Therefore efforts are focussed on maintaining the breed and keeping it pure, rather than out-crossing to create hybrids.

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