Irish Dog Breeds17 July 2023
There are some amazing things to come from Ireland; not excluding the pawsome dog breeds that originate from the Emerald Isle.
This tall and majestic breed are known as gentle giants, with a calm and friendly nature. It’s estimated that they have been around since 7000 BC. Irish Wolfhounds have a fascinating history and were once prized by Irish nobility for their hunting skills. They were often used to hunt wolves, hence their name. With a breed standard height of 79cm for males and 71cm for females, they are one of the tallest dog breeds in the world, and have a spot on our 5 Biggest Dog Breed Guide.
Did you know an Irish Wolfhound was made the Irish Guard's mascot in 1902?
The Irish Setter is the oldest of the setter breeds, and although their exact origin is sometimes contested, they look to be a mix of spaniels, setters and pointers. While they are a lovable and affectionate dog breed, they were originally bred for hunting. Due to their luscious chestnut red coats they’re known as quite the glamorous breed.
They may also be called Irish Red Setters due to their colouring. They are known for their friendly and sociable nature, getting along well with people of all ages, including children if well-socialised from a young age.
Did you know the national bus company in Ireland, Bus Éireann, uses the Irish Setter on its logo?
Irish Terriers are said to be one of oldest breeds in the terrier group. They were used on farms to guard and protect livestock while also controlling vermin. They’re known as the most gentle of the terrier breeds and are recommended for families with children, as they form strong bonds with their family members. As a highly intelligent breed, with an eagerness to please their master, they are easy to train. Irish Terriers were once called the "Daredevil" of the canine world due to their fearless nature and energetic temperament.
Did you know they were used as messengers, as well as ratters, during the First and Second World Wars?
Kerry Blue Terrier
Legend has it that the Kerry Blue Terrier, or the Irish Blue Terrier as they’re also known, was the sole survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of County Kerry. It is believed that they first appeared in the late 1800s. They’ve been used to guard prisons and were bred to control vermin - over time, they became a working dog. Now, however, they are companion dogs and are known to be outgoing and confident. Originating in County Kerry, there was a movement to make this breed the national dog of Ireland in the 1900s.
Did you know a Kerry Blue Terrier interrupted play at the Ashes when it ran onto the cricket pitch?
Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier is thought to be around 200 years old and was bred to work on farms with the responsibility to hunt, guard and also herd livestock. These terriers are hardy and robust, but as they are also trustworthy, affectionate dogs they make great family pets. It is thought that they share their ancestry with the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier, however, their origin is not completely clear. The first record of the breed was in Kerry county in 1785.
Did you know a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier called “Krista” competed against Retrievers in a ‘swim and dive’ competition and nearly won?
Irish Water Spaniel
Although the first reference to the Irish Water Spaniel was in the mid 1800s, it’s believed the breed came about from dogs brought to Ireland by foreign fishermen from Europe. All Irish Water Spaniels can be traced back to a dog named Boatswain, an IWS owned by Justin McCarthy in the 1800s. A variety of breeds have been suggested to be the origin of this breed including poodles and the now extinct English Water Spaniel. While they are classed as “spaniels” by name, at competitions they are classed as “retrievers”. Due to their intelligence and very kind, affectionate behaviour, they are often used as therapy dogs.
Did you know the breed became popular after they were exhibited in Birmingham in 1862?
Glen of Imaal Terrier
Another Irish terrier, taking their name from the remote valley they originate from, Glen of Imaal Terriers (often shortened to Glens) were originally bred to hunt badgers, foxes and rodents, even chasing prey underground which means they still love 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.
Did you know that Glens are often either described as “small, but strong” or "big dogs on short legs"?
Believed to be one of the oldest Irish dog breeds and dating back to the 16th century, the Kerry Beagle was originally bred as a Staghound. 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.
Did you know that their deep bark, is described as "musical" especially when they come together in a pack?
Whether you prefer the Wolfhound or the Irish Terrier, we think we can all agree that Ireland has some truly amazing dog breeds. If you’re interested in learning more about Irish dog breeds or dog ownership in Ireland, we recommend taking a look at the Irish Kennel Club.
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