Irish Dog Breeds
In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re celebrating the loveable breeds of Irish descent with a fun AKC profile covering the background and personality of each of these eight beauties.
Glen of Imaal Terrier— Glen of Imaal, a valley in the Wicklow mountains, is the region in Ireland after which this hardy breed is named. Longer than tall and sporting a double coat of medium length, the “Glen” possesses great strength and conveys the impression of a dog of good substance. This is a working terrier, who must have the agility, freedom of movement, and endurance to do the work for which it was developed. Like its Irish counterparts, the Glen is also courageous, and always ready to give chase. When working, it is active, agile, silent, and intent upon its game. Otherwise, the Glen can be a docile companion for families with older children.
Irish Setter— Green may be the colour most often associated with Ireland, but deep mahogany is the colour of this four-legged beauty. The Irish Setter was among the original breeds recognized by AKC at its inception in 1884 and is part of the Sporting Group. Irish Setters have rollicking personalities and require a good amount of exercise to satisfy their breed instincts; they are tough and tireless field retrievers. They are also loving companion dogs who enjoy the company of children. It takes about three years for this breed to fully mature into adulthood, so if you’re considering bringing an Irish Setter into your home, you should be prepared for an active, fun-loving dog.
Irish Terrier— This breed was featured in the 2007 movie Firehouse Dog, in which it was cast as a canine hero. Not surprising, considering that Irish Terriers were used to transport messages between troops on the front lines in World War I. Their bravery and spirit make them incomparable pals, and they possess great tenacity. Loyal and friendly, Irish Terriers hardily adapt to any situation, and they are deeply committed to their owners. The Irish Terrier has quite a history. It was first recognized by the AKC in 1885 and served as longtime mascots for the Notre Dame Football team, providing halftime entertainment for adoring crowds
Irish Water Spaniel— This breed was among the original nine breeds recognized by AKC in 1884. It has been referred to as the “Shannon Spaniel,” the “Whip-Tail Spaniel,” and the “Rat-Tail Spaniel.” Distinguishing characteristics are a topknot of long, loose curls and a body covered with a dense, crisply curled liver-coloured coat contrasted by a smooth face and a smooth "rat" tail. This ancient breed is a natural water dog. Irish Water Spaniels are devoted to their family and cautious around strangers. They are impressive dogs and possess an endurance quality which makes them equally agile in the water and in the field.
Irish Wolfhound— While Irish literature refers to this ancient breed in many ways, including “Big Dogs of Ireland,” Irish Wolfhounds were documented in Rome in the year 391 A.D., where they were presented to the Roman Counsel as gifts, which “all Rome viewed with wonder.” No wonder—they are the largest and tallest of the galloping hounds. Males should be a minimum of 32 inches tall and weigh 120 pounds; females should be a minimum of 30 inches tall and weigh 105 pounds. This is a swift breed which hunts by sight, and needs an ample, fenced yard to accommodate its full gallop. As in early times, Irish Wolfhounds possess an extraordinary social temperament, as well as the intelligence to separate friend, family, and foe.
Kerry Blue Terrier— The “Kerry Blue” hails from the Irish county of the same name; he had been purebred in that section of Ireland for more than a hundred years. Known for his superior working and hunting skills, the Kerry Blue is used for hunting small game and birds, and for retrieving from land as well as water. Size doesn’t matter, for he is an unsurpassed watchdog and herder of flock. In some instances in England, he has even been used for police work. The breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1922, and came into the national spotlight when CH. Torums Scarf Michael won best in show at the 2002 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier— A truly Irish breed, the “Wheaten” has a special connection to St. Patrick’s Day, having first appeared in the show ring at the Irish Kennel Club Championship on March 17, 1937. The name of this breed describes the characteristics of the coat—soft, silky, with a gentle wave, and of warm wheaten colour. Underneath is a formidable dog that enjoys plenty of exercise every day. Most Wheatens are natural greeters towards people, and extremely alert in their surroundings. They are quick learners and love to travel with their owners.
Irish Red & White Setter—The Irish Red & White Setter became an official AKC breed in January 2009. This breed is thought to have emerged at the end of the 17th century in Ireland, and is red and white in colour, as opposed to the solid red Irish Setter. The history of the breed is as mysterious as the myths and legends of the country of origin. Its original purpose was as a versatile hunting companion—both fur and feather—providing food for the table. As companions, they are loving, loyal, and best suited for a very active family.
For more information on these or any of the AKC’s 170 breeds, go to akc.org.