This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
Many writers have more or less casually alluded to Welsh hounds, but their information does not go beyond telling us that they resemble foxhounds in all but coat, which in the Welsh variety ought to be wiry haired and not quite smooth. And as a fact we know so little, or absolutely nothing, about the origin of the ordinary English foxhound, that it is no wonder we are equally lacking in information concerning the Welsh hounds, whose praises have so often been sung. What the hounds were like which are included in the rules and regulations of Howell the Good, there are no means of knowing; nor, as far as one can discover, is there any book or magazine article which attempts to sketch, even in the merest outline, the history of the Welsh hounds; whilst, equally noteworthy and somewhat odd, no drawing or illustrations of them have hitherto appeared in any book about dogs.
In the hunting treatise of Edmond de Langley, Duke of York, fourth son of Edward III., mention is made of Kennitis. Now, a rough Welsh rug or cloth was, says Jesse, called a Kennet, and he thinks these Kennitis might have been the Welsh harriers sent by the Prince of Wales to Count d'Evreux.
The earliest Welsh hounds known appear to have been kept at Margam, and were the property of Sir Thomas Mansel, who, records tell, gave them to Mr. Jenkins, of Gelly, and these were more or less rough or wiry-haired. A correspondent, a famous Welsh fox hunter, informs me that these old Gelly hounds were for the most part black and tan in colour, varying in height from 17 to 21 inches; excelling in legs and feet. Their heads and ears more inclined to the bloodhound type, than do those of the modern strains, having considerable peak, and ears hanging well down and pendulous. Their necks, backs, and loins were good. Their voices were exceptionally fine, one old sportsman likening the music of the Gelly pack when in full cry to the tones of an old church organ. It must not be forgotten, these far-reaching notes were of great importance in hunting this rough and in those days sparsely populated country. The present squire of Gelly still retains some few of the old strain.
There are many packs of hounds in Wales which are actually only Welsh in name, and much confusion has been caused by the inference conveyed by many writers that all foxhounds and harriers in the Principality are of the old wiry-haired or hard-coated strain. Such is far from being the case, and it is doubtful whether even the hounds of Squire Talbot, which, to the glory of the pure Welsh hounds, are credited with an extraordinary run from Margam to Llanelly, were quite free from "foreign" strain.
Not very long ago a hunting correspondent of the Field was astonished to find a so-called pack of Welsh hounds the common foxhounds of the shires and elsewhere; and so recently as last year the writer went over to Aldridge's to see a pack of Welsh hounds which had been sent up, from the neighbourhood of Aberystwith, for sale. These, too, were English foxhounds, many of them of fashionable blood, and none of them had an atom of "wire-haired" coat to denote that they were originally descended from the native hound of the Principality. This was Mr. Vaughan Davies' pack.
At the time the Gelly hounds were in their prime, there was another noted Welsh pack kept by the late Squire Jenkins, Lanharran (uncle of the present squire), but they differed greatly from the "Gelly" in colour, for they were mostly white - lemon and white sometimes turning to darker colours, such as red and a grizzled black and tan, but white predominating - being the favourite colour of the Squire. Here they had smooth as well as rough hounds, and particular attention was paid to their music. I have heard it stated by old hunters who knew these hounds well, that of all the packs they had ever hunted with, they never saw or heard one that excelled the Lanharran. After the death of Mr. Jenkins, they were handed over to the late Mr. W. Morgan, Tremains, who carried them on until his death. They were later on removed to Braich-y-Cymmer, in the Ogmore Valley, where, after a few years, they found their way back again to Llan-harron. From thence Col. Blandy Jenkins drafted them to different packs now hunting in Glamorganshire - principally to the Ystrad. There was another pack of Welsh hounds, viz., the "Croes-cade," kept by one of the best sportsmen and finest judges of Welsh hounds that Wales ever possessed - the late Mr. William Perkins, of Croes-cade. These were similar hounds to the Lanharran, both in make and shape, but their voices were not so fine. I believe in the present day a good deal of this blood found its way into the kennels of Lord Tredegar and the Llangibby.
I should rather fancy that the pack of hounds which contains the greatest amount of "pure Welsh blood" is that of the Ynysfor, hunting round about Penrhyn Deudraeth, Merionethshire, and of which Mr. John Jones is the master. This is a smallish pack of thirteen couples, which hunts pretty much all the year round, after the season for fox being over, otter hunting being successfully followed. The country is perhaps as rough as any in the United Kingdom, and Mr. Jones finds the Welsh wire haired hounds, of which about half his pack is constituted, the best animals for his purpose. They have been in his family for three generations, which extend in this case over one hundred years. The father of the present master bred from the hounds of old Mr. Rumsey Williams, of Penrhos, who kept a pack, mostly of Welsh blood, near Carnarvon at the beginning of the century, and in a great measure the present Ynysfor hounds are largely descended from them. Fresh blood has from time to time been obtained from various districts in South Wales, where the rough haired hound is generally believed to have been originally produced, or, at any rate, two or three generations back, it was more easily to be found there than elsewhere.