This section is from the book "The Terriers. A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland", by Rawdon B. Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: The Terriers.
Another writer says the Sealy Ham terrier, whose fame has spread far beyond the boundaries of Pembrokeshire, is mostly used for otter hunting. It is a distinct type of terrier, which by judicious breeding the Edwardes family succeeded after many years careful mating in producing, with long, wiry bodies and short legs. This terrier resembles in certain features the animal whose destruction it was bred to accomplish, namely, the otter. The late Capt. Edwardes was extremely proud of the working capabilities of his dogs, and never tired of relating encounters which his dogs frequently experienced with badgers, otters, foxes, polecats, etc. Many is the time that the foxhounds have had to enlist the services of the Sealy Ham terriers in bolting a fox which had gone to earth. It is said of the late Capt. Edwardes, that on one occasion, when presiding at a political meeting at Fishguard, he was accompanied on to the platform by two of these terriers. This same Capt. Edwardes set a high value on the pedigree of his family's terriers, and at one of the Haverfordwest dog shows three years or so ago the following entry from him appeared in the catalogue, there being a class especially provided for "working" terriers: "Capt. O. T. Edwardes' Tip, 3 years, pedigree known for a hundred years, warranted to go to ground to fox, badger, and otter; £5".
Some admirers of these Sealy Ham terriers claim that they can hunt and kill an otter in a manner similar to that in which otter hounds perform their work. Unfortunately, I am an unbeliever in any terrier in such a capacity, for only the old-fashioned looking otter hound, with his immense jaws, slow but sure on his drag, powerful in water as on land, can hunt the otter as it ought to be done, though the well trained foxhound comes in well as a second edition; terriers should only be used as accessories to the sport. As to the capabilities of terriers to kill an otter, I may say that something like twenty-five years ago a 21 lb. otter was caught in a trap, and, being comparatively uninjured, was next day let loose in a large pool of water, where it was free to fight, but could not well escape, though an island in the centre of the pond afforded a resting place, and it could come out on to the bank also. All the afternoon, for four hours or more, was the poor creature attacked and worried by over two dozen terriers of all degrees and sizes, many of them with a good dash of bulldog blood in them, and 3olb. weight each, or more. In the end the gamest dogs were placed hors de combat, and the otter was recaptured, evidently no worse for the punishment he must have received. Being present at this, and also having repeatedly seen a pack of hounds in a meadow worrying an otter for five minutes, the latter all the time working towards the stream, and eventually escaping, are, I think, sufficient reasons for doubting the powers of a dozen, or even two or three dozen, Sealy Ham or any other terriers - Irish, Dandies, and Scotch thrown in - to kill an otter by their own powers, and without the unfair assistance of poles and sticks, nets and big stones.
Writing on the above strain of terriers reminds me of a peculiar episode Captain Medwyn mentions in his "Angler in Wales" (1834), an amusing book and interesting, especially as the gallant captain and his friends were well acquainted with Byron and Shelley during the time they resided in Greece and Italy. The heroes are Vixen and Viper, called Scotch terriers, but almost all terriers were Scotch in those days; perhaps they might have been Sealy Hams, or at any rate they were doubtless of Welsh extraction. A half-pay naval captain had killed an otter with them the day before Captain Medwyn met and recognised him as an old acquaintance. They set out to hunt the Tivy, and the particulars thereof I shall give in the author's own words.
"Each of us was armed with a harpoon. The shafts were nearly eight feet long, and had been attached by a carpenter over night to spear-heads forming part and parcel of my naval friend's implements of warfare. . . . Our eagerness for the sport was whetted by stories on stories which he graphically told, of several of the feats performed by Vixen and Viper, and their perilous 'scapes from the jaws of sundry of these amphibious savages. . . . We came at last to an unfrequented, un-tracked region, a likely haunt. One side was denuded of wood, and on the other a steep bank ran shelving down to the river's edge, clothed with underwood, so closely intertwined as hardly to admit of the dogs penetrating it.
"It was just such a spot as otters would choose for their kennels, and R------ (who was master of the terriers) soon descried a spraint which appeared fresh. He immediately hied on the dogs. Their rough wiry skins seemed impenetrable to the thorns and brambles, and they began to beat actively among the briar-work.
"It was soon surmised that they were on the scent of game, and R------, who was acquainted with their habits, said, 'They are on another ! Look out! They are not far from him ! Push him out, Vixen ! At him, Viper!'
"He had hardly spoken when a rustling was heard, the leaves trembled and shook, and a dog otter of prodigious size rushed from his couch among the roots of the alders, and took to the water, the two terriers close behind. . . .
" 'There cannot be a finer spot,' said R------, ' for a successful chase. Once drive him on the opposite side, and he will find it difficult to hide himself, and must be ours. . . . Well done, Vixen!' But the dogs required no encouragement, and as the otter dived they dived also; and such a monster was he in size that when he rose to take breath he could hardly at first be distinguished from the terriers.
"R------ had waded the river, and the dourghie was for some time lost, the dogs swimming round and round, anxiously looking about for his reappearance. He did not remain many minutes invisible, the fresh-water seal soon showing himself again, This time he was not above fifteen yards from where R------ was posted, and he was afraid of throwing his harpoon for fear of spearing Vixen, so close did he rise to her.