8 Irish dog breeds | Happy St Patrick's Day!
To celebrate St Patrick's Day, we are taking a look at the 8 dog breeds that originate in Ireland. Although they all have their unique backgrounds and personalities, you will see a theme of Terriers who have high energy and heaps of loyalty. All of them make great pets, proven by the fact that four of the nine breeds feature on Ireland’s 10 most popular breeds of 2020!
1) Red Irish Setter and Red and White Setter
The first reference to these auburn gundogs in literature was in the 16th century! Red setters were predominantly used for hunting game, namely birds whilst the almost identical Red and White Setters are still working gundogs. The Red Setter was favoured by two American Presidents; Harry Truman and Richard Nixon both owned one and they were Alexander II, Tsar of Russia’s favourite dog.
Unfortunately, the Red and White Setter almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century and is still classed as a vulnerable breed.
2) Irish Wolfhound
This large breed got its name from its role as a guard dog against wolves. They are a sighthound who has inspired literature and mythology due to their size.
Presumed extinct in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were reintroduced by crossing descendants of the original breed with various similar breeds and are now currently the fourth most popular dog breed in Ireland!
3) Irish Terrier
Considered one of the oldest Terrier breeds and a descendent of the black and tan Terrier, the Irish Terrier was used as a ratter, guard dog, livestock guardian and hunting companion. They became the 4th most popular dog breed in Ireland and Britain in the 1880s and during WWI and WWII they were used to deliver messages and catch vermin in camps. They earned the nickname ‘Daredevil’ because of their tenacious bravery.
4) Glen of Imaal Terrier
Taking their name from the remote valley they originate from, they hunted badgers, foxes and rodents, even chasing prey underground which means they still have a desire to dig. They need plenty of exercise but are also happy to chill with their family these days and make a great family dog as they are loyal and protective.
5) Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Bred as an ‘all-purpose farm dog’, the Wheaten Terrier Common shares ancestry with Kerry Blue Terrier and Irish Terrier but were not owned by the gentry as the other breeds were. Instead, they were referred to as the ‘Poor Man’s Wolfhound’. The first record of the breed was in Kerry county in 1785.
6) Irish Water Spaniel
The modern breed we know and love was bred in Ireland in the 1830s. However, their history prior to this is a mystery as no breeding records were left. A variety of breeds have been suggested of which they may have been bred from including poodles and the now extinct English Water Spaniel.
7) Kerry Beagle
Dating back to the 16th century, the Kerry Beagle was originally bred as a Staghound. They are now used to hunt foxes and hares. These dogs were taken by many Irish people when immigrating to America in the 1800s and the breed is believed to be the foundation breed of the Coonhound.
8) Kerry Blue Terrier
Originating in County Kerry, there was a movement to make this breed the national dog of Ireland in the 1900s. Their exact makeup of breeds is unknown but there is a story of a “blue dog swimming ashore from a shipwreck: the coat of this dog was so lovely that it was mated with all the female Wheaten Terriers in Kerry”. Although this is a romantic story, it is believed they may have been bred with the Spanish Water Spaniel, so there may be some truth in it!
Hopefully, you learnt something new about your favourite breed or maybe you have discovered a love of a breed you never heard of before. If you are interested in spending time with one of the breeds, check out BorrowMyDoggy to see if there is an Irish breed near you!