March 17, 2015
The Dogs of Ireland
With today being St. Patrick’s Day, plenty of people are embracing their inner Irish, regardless of whether they can actually trace their ancestry back to the Emerald Isle. The dogs in this post, however, are Irish through and through, and many proudly bear names that reveal their Celtic roots. So put on your green, sit back, and read all about the dogs of Ireland. Sláinte!
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You will never forget the first Irish Wolfhound you see; a massive, muscular, somewhat shaggy dog, the Irish Wolfhound can reach 7 feet tall when standing on its hind legs! A true gentle giant, these big guys generally have mellow, placid temperaments and can be exceptionally social. They are also quite intelligent, and able to discern family, friend, and potential threat. Bred to hunt wolves, elk, and red deer, Irish Wolfhounds have a predatory nature and tend to chase things. They can make great family pets, provided you have a large yard for them to roam in, and a way to contain them. Luckily, Seamus the Irish Wolfhound (pictured) has a DogWatch Hidden Fence to keep him and his siblings Saoirse and Ogie contained while they greet guests and roam the beautiful grounds of Milltown House, a seaside Guesthouse in the town of Dingle, in County Kerry, Ireland. What a perfect job for these friendly, calm and handsome dogs!
To see what Irish Wolfhounds look like as wee pups, check out this video of Saoirse from December 2016, with her Dad and hotel co-owner Stephen McPhilemy. How adorable is she?!?!
Known for its gorgeous, glossy mahogany coat, the Irish Setter was actually one of the first breeds to be recognized by the American Kennel Club® at its inception in 1884. Irish setters have lively (and sometimes pushy) personalities and require a good amount of exercise. They can be loving companion dogs and especially enjoy the company of children, but may not be the best fit for a first-time dog owner. Irish Setters take longer to mature than the average dog – generally about 3 years – so if you’re considering welcoming one into your family, be prepared for a longer-than-usual puppy phase, and make sure you’re ready for this energetic, fun-loving addition.
Irish Terriers originated in County Cork and are the oldest of the terrier breeds. They are brave, intrepid animals that possess a deep devotion and commitment to their owners. Used in World War I to carry messages across the front lines, Irish Terriers are tenacious and adapt to any situation with a near reckless abandon, which led them to receive the nickname “Daredevils.” They are generally good-spirited companions, but can be aggressive toward other animals and are not recommended for a house with non-canine pets. Irish Terriers also need and love a lot of daily exercise, so they can make great jogging or hiking companions for active people or families.
Irish Water Spaniel
A rare breed, the Irish Water Spaniel is one of the oldest spaniel breeds that exist today and one of the original 9 breeds recognized by the AKC® in 1884. Called the “clown” of the spaniel family, the Irish Water Spaniel is the tallest of the spaniels and has webbed feet to aid in swimming, which served it well in its original job retrieving ducks from the water. It is known for its smooth face, its curly, poodle-like coat that requires regular brushing, and hairless tail, which acts as a rudder in the water. The Irish Water Spaniel possesses great endurance and agility and is generally intelligent and inquisitive, but can at times be shy and independent.
Glen of Imaal Terrier
The Glen of Imaal Terrier (named for a valley in the Wicklow mountains, where it originated) is very much your typical terrier: spirited, rowdy, rambunctious, cocky, brave, and stubborn. Low to the ground with bowed legs and a shaggy, wiry coat, the breed originally served as all-around farm dog, using its excellent digging skills to go after all manner of small creatures and rodents. Like Irish Terriers, they are not well-suited to sharing a home with other small animals like cats or rabbits, unless they are well-socialized from a very young age. Unlike other terriers, however, the Glen of Imaal is not a frequent barker. It is one of the newest breeds of dog, recognized by the AKC in 2004, and one of the rarest Irish dog breeds in the US.
Kerry Blue Terrier
Great companions for those with allergies, the Kerry Blue Terriers have a non-shedding curly blue-gray coat. Their fur is black at birth, with the blue-gray color gradually coming in during their first two years. The breed was first spotted in County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland, hence their name. Kerry Blue Terriers are highly intelligent, devoted to their people and often gentle with children. Be forewarned, however; they are exceptionally energetic and need regular play and exercise. They are also happiest when they have a job to do, such as hunting or herding. They are even said to have a great sense of humor! The Kerry Blue (or Irish Blue) is the national terrier of Ireland and has become a symbol of the country.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has a special connection to St. Patrick’s Day, having first appeared in the Irish Kennel Club Championship show ring on March 17, 1937. The breed’s name comes from its characteristic silky, wheat-colored coat. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier began as a farm dog, performing tasks like herding, protecting livestock and keeping out vermin. Naturally energetic, the Wheaten has a warm, affectionate, outgoing personality and loves meeting and greeting new people. It is an athletic dog that excels in agility tasks and requires regular exercise. Like the Kerry Blue Terrier, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is also hypoallergenic. It gets along well with other dogs, but tends to dislike cats.
Although not recognized by any major kennel club, the Kerry Beagle may be one of the oldest of the Irish dogs (second only to the Irish Wolfhound). It is thought to be descended from the Celtic Hounds of the Middle Ages. The Kerry Beagle is a medium-sized hunting dog that is much taller than the popular modern Beagle (22-24 inches compared to 13-16 inches), and the connection between the two similarly named breeds is unknown. Kerry Beagles are still used by hunters today to hunt foxes and participate in drag hunts. They have also settled into life as family pets. Kerry Beagles often get along well with children and other dogs, and their athletic, energetic nature makes them a good fit for active adults.
Irish Wolfhound: DogFence N.I. & Ireland via Facebook
Irish Water Spaniel: Screenshot from a clip from the Animal Planet TV show “Dogs 101”
Glen of Imaal Terrier: Pixabay.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier: mariakbell via Getty Images/Canva Pro
This post was originally written in 2012 and updated in 2015, 2020 and 2021.