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Gelert

Lived c. 1210
Breed: Irish Wolfhound

A Dog's Life

Gelert is a dog of legend - the following is a brief overview of one version of his story, though other variations exist.

Gelert was the brave and loyal hound of Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, who was said to have been an avid hunter.

One day, Llywelyn and his men were preparing for one such hunt, when the prince - as per usual - summoned his hunting hounds with his horn. All but Gelert appeared before him, so the prince regretfully left for the hunt without his favourite hunting dog by his side.

Later that same day when Llywelyn returned to his castle from the hunt, he discovered a mess of ripped tapestries and an upturned cradle in his son’s nursery. The prince found furs that had been covering the cradle nearby, all of them torn and covered in blood. There was no sign of his beloved son.

Not long after he’d arrived in the nursery, Gelert approached Llywelyn with a blood-stained muzzle and paws. The prince immediately suspected the worst - that the blood belonged to his son and that Gelert had killed the infant in his absence. Llywelyn, in a moment of madness, drew his sword and struck a death blow to the hound.

As Gelert lay dying, the prince heard a cry from under the cradle - it was the cry of his infant son, trapped beneath. Not far from the child, laying on the floor, was a dead and bloodied body of a wolf. Llywelyn knew instantly that he had made a grave mistake - the blood on Gelert had belonged to the wolf. He had been protecting the prince’s son.

Llywelyn was overcome with grief and remorse at what he had done to his faithful friend, but there was nothing he could do to save Gelert. So, with great ceremony, he had his favourite and most loyal hound buried just outside the castle walls.

Some versions of the legend say the prince never smiled again after that day, and that he could still hear Gelert’s dying whimpers, long after.

Every Dog Has Its Day

  • It’s said that Gelert’s body was buried outside the castle walls; a stone slab bearing Gelert’s name marks the grave
  • He is associated with the village of Beddgelert (“Gelert’s Grave”) in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, but it is now accepted that the village actually took its name from an early saint (Kilart or Celert), not Gelert