• Dogs of IRELAND

    October 26th, 2011Laura P (Editor)Dogs Of The World

    Every November, The Kennel Club hosts Discover Dogs at Earls Court in London. This is an opportunity for dog lovers to attend seminars and demonstrations, socialise, do some shopping, and, most importantly, meet and greet almost 200 different breeds of pedigree dog.

    In association with his event, and the Discover Dogs stands at Crufts in March, Dogs In The News aims to give you a brief preview of some of the dogs you might meet with our new “Dogs of the World” series. Today, Irish dogs get the spotlight:

    There are 8 Irish breeds officially recognised by The Kennel Club, and 5 of them are on the Vulnerable Native Breeds (VNB) list – dog breeds which originated in the UK or the Republic of Ireland and now register less than 300 puppies a year.

    Irish dogs can largely be divided into two categories; the scruffy working Terriers which lived with peasant farmers and the Gundogs and Hounds which were kept by the nobility.

    The most instantly recognisable to most people is the Irish Setter, with its magnificent mahogany coat and handsome Gundog profile. The Irish is the oldest of the four Setters recognised by the KC, and has a mischievous, playful personality. An Irish Setter has come Best In Show at Crufts four times, most recently in 1999.

    We have a gallery of Irish Setter pictures here.


    His less well known cousin is the Irish Red & White Setter – the first of our VNBs. Almost identical to the Irish Setter, his coat is white with glamorous red patches instead of a solid colour. In 2010, the Red & White Setter registered 1043 less puppies than the standard Irish Setter – if you haven’t yet met this charming breed, stop by the breed stand at Discover Dogs to learn more.

    Still in the Gundog group, we then come to the distinctive looking Irish Water Spaniel, with his naturally hairless tail. The IWS is also a VNB, which is a shame as his quirky character and curly coat would make him an excellent pet in many homes. Similar to the Poodle and the Portuguese Water Dog (made famous by President Obama), this dog was originally bred as a wildfowling dog, working on the marshes, bogs and estuaries of Ireland.


    The last large dog on the list is a very large dog indeed; the towering Irish Wolfhound. This sighthound is the tallest breed of dog in the world, and were exclusively owned by the nobility of Ireland. They were used, as their name suggests, for hunting wolves, but also as guard dogs and status symbols.

    Moving on to the more humble end of this spectrum, we have the first of our Terriers, the Kerry Blue. Republican Michael Collins once attempted to make this dog the national symbol of Ireland. Born a black, the puppies gradually turn the distinctive grey-blue colour as they mature. The Kerry Blue is also a VNB, and the breed won Best In Show at Crufts in 2000.

    Similar in size we have the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, a true working man’s dog, with a scruffy coat and a friendly personality to match. The SCW is a success story of sorts; he is one of few breeds to be taken off the VNB list due to rising number. He is growing in popularity due to his character and great qualities as a pet.  These dogs are unique because they can be exhibited in four different coat varieties: Traditional Irish, Heavy Irish, English, and American.  Show owners of these breeds can get very heated in a debate over which is best!

    Then there’s the Irish Terrier, a red coated fellow with plenty of charm. (You may recognise him from the Pets At Home advert.) Rough and ready, these dogs were primarily bred based on working ability rather than looks and have been described as “the poor man’s sentinel, the farmer’s friend, and the gentleman’s favourite… a thorough vermin killer.”  I have to admit that this cheeky chappy is a personal favourite of mine.

    Finally, we come to the Glen of Imaal Terrier, so rare that only 61 puppies were registered in 2010. Considered to be one of the most vulnerable dog breeds on the planet, it was only recognised by the American Kennel Club in 2004. Aside from their rarity, they are cute little fellows, who apparently have a habit of sitting up on their bottoms like human babies!

    We hope you have enjoyed our little tour of the dogs of the Emerald Isle. Don’t forget you can visit all these breeds and over 192 more at Discover Dogs at Earls Court in November and at Crufts in March each year. 

    Next in the series: Dogs of Scotland, part 1

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  • Lovely article! We have owned, over the years, an Irish Setter, a Kerry Blue Terrier, and numerous Wheatens. They all brought joy into our home, and those who are gone-particularly Darcy, a beautiful Kerry Blue-are greatly missed and remembered with love. Our Soft-Coated Wheaten “Hero” is, at age 7, finally over the puppy stage!!! 🙂
    I have never seen a Glen of Imaal except in photos-they are rare in the US as well!

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