The Welfs were a Bavarian dynasty so named because many of its members were named Welf.
The first known member is Welf I, father of Judith, the wife of the emperor Louis the Pious, and of Emma, the wife of Louis the German. The two sons of Welf I, brothers of Judith and Emma, were Conrad and Rudolph. Conrad was the ancestor of the counts of Burgundy.
Welf II was a count in Germany and Bavaria.
Henry the Proud, duke of Bavaria and also of Saxony, was the favoured candidate in the imperial election against the Hohenstaufens. He was defeated in the election and was dispossessed of his duchies.
Henry the Lion recovered his father's two duchies. He married Matilda, Duchess of Saxony. Dispossessed of his duchies after the Battle of Legnano in 1176, he was exiled to England in 1180 and died there in 1195.
His son Otto of Brunswick was elected to the imperial throne under the name Otto IV.
In Italy the partisans of the Welfs were known as Guelphs.