Sealyhams on the brink of extinction

The sealyham terrier, a traditional English dog breed once popular with celebrities and the aristocracy, is on the brink of extinction, breeders have warned. Only 49 rare sealyham puppies were registered with the Kennel Club last year, making them more rare than the giant panda.

Countrylife magazine has launched a campaign to save the breed, once a must-have for the well-heeled dog owner. Princess Margaret, Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor all owned sealyhams, and Alfred Hitchcock appeared walking two of the dogs at the beginning of his film The Birds (1963). At the height of their popularity in the 1920s, 2,000 puppies were registeredannually.

Described by breeders as "a pet with character, confidence and humour", sealyhams were originally bred for badger- and otter-hunting on a Pembrokeshire estate in the mid-1800s.

Harry Parsons, founder of the Working Sealyham Terrier Club, said that the dogs still make excellent rat-catchers, and loyal companions. "The way they bond with their owners is almost magical," he told Countrylife. "You have to own one to see it and believe it."