Celebrating the Breeds of Ireland - Part 1
March 12, 2021
Happy St. Patrick's Day! To help celebrate, this is the first of two entries dedicated entirely to the breeds of Ireland. As both of my parents are Irish immigrants, I am especially excited to showcase some of the gorgeous dogs of the Emerald Isle.
This week we will celebrate eight awesome dogs native to Ireland ranging from small but sturdy to the tallest dog breed recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club. The eight Irish breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club can be found in the Sporting, Terrier, and Hound Groups. * Each of these breeds was purposely created and bred for a specific job, helping Ireland's people across the country’s varied terrain, from forests to mountains and even bogs!
Kerry Blue Terrier
The striking Kerry Blue Terrier, developed in Ireland centuries ago, has been breeding true for over 150 years in County Kerry. The Kerry Blue is a multi-purpose farm dog who can do it all, from herding to hunting.
Kerries are born black, and their soft, wavy, dense, non-shedding coat gradually develops to the famous blue colour, usually by eighteen months of age. Their unique facial hair protected the Kerry if they went to ground while hunting badgers. Not only did their hair keep dirt from their eyes, but more often than not, the badger only got a mouth full of hair when fighting back. The gorgeous coat requires regular brushing and professional scissoring to maintain its good looks.
The Kerry Blue Terrier is incredibly intelligent and requires an owner who will keep its active mind and body in good shape. They are quick learners and enjoy many performance activities, as long as their teacher keeps the lessons interesting. They love being a part of a family but have a high prey drive, so small furry pets are best kept separate from a Kerry.
Irish Red and White Setter
The Irish Red and White is a breed with a real comeback story! Up until the 1870s, The Irish Red and White Setter enjoyed popularity among Irish hunters who prized them for “setting” – silently using their incredible sense of smell to locate quarry and then becoming motionless once found. But when dog shows began, the flashier, all red Irish Setter became favoured. The Red and White would have become extinct had it not been for the efforts of dedicated Irish hunters who made sure their beloved Setter never entirely disappeared. The Irish Red and White have been in Canada since the 1980s and have enjoyed a bit of popularity among active families who love its keen intelligence and affectionate nature.
The Red and White is slightly shorter and lighter than the Irish Setter. It also has a silky coat that requires less grooming than the Irish Setter’s. Both breeds have active minds, are eager to learn, and take well to early training.
The Irish Red and White Setter is a natural hunter who adapts easily to varying terrain. They are high-energy dogs who take direction well. An Irish Red and White deserves a home that gives them space to run along with owners who use his energy and intelligence for hunting and/or other performance events.
Glen of Imaal Terrier
Hailing from a remote mountainous region of Wicklow County, the spirited Glen of Imaal Terrier was an all-purpose farm dog. Their jobs included herding, killing vermin, and even turning the meat on the family spit using a contraption called the "dog wheel." One look at their mighty head, shoulders, and largemouth full of strong teeth will tell you the Glen is built perfectly for going into a den and pulling out whatever has scurried down.
Today the Glen is loved as a charming pet, although some still let their instincts shine, competing in events like Earthdog. Since they are very adaptable, the Glen is becoming seen more often in city condos. However, they are also happy in a suburban house or on a farm, provided their moderate exercise needs are met.
The Glen's coat is medium in length and harsh to the touch. Regular brushing and the occasional trip to the groomer will help maintain their outline. The coat can be blue, wheaten (ranging from a light wheaten to a golden red), or blue brindle.
Irish Water Spaniel
The largest of the spaniels, liver in colour, and often mistaken for a Standard Poodle, Irish Water Spaniel is both energetic and dashing!
The Irish Water Spaniel is an ancient breed and a natural water dog. While he and the Poodle might have some common ancestry way back, the Irish Water Spaniel breed has documentation dating the 1100s. At that time, these dogs found in the south of Ireland were called multiple names. From "Rat-tailed Spaniels," "Whip-tail Spaniels," and "Shannon Spaniels," "Irish Water Spaniels" was the name that eventually stuck.
Several features make an Irish Water Spaniel stick out. They have an awesome topknot of loose curls (total beach hair goals), a face with short and smooth hair, and tight liver ringlets on the neck, back, and sides. They also have a rat tail that tapers to a fine point covered with smooth hair at the end.
Although they can be wary of strangers, the Irish Water Spaniel thrives when as a loving and enthusiastic family pet when given regular opportunities to show off their retrieving and swimming skills.
These incredible breeds are just four of the eight Irish breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club. My next blog will feature the Irish Terrier, Irish Wolfhound, Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, and the Irish Setter.
Erin go bragh!
*The Irish Kennel Club also recognizes a 9th native breed that is not yet fully recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club – the Kerry Beagle.
The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.
Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.
Ian Lynch is a comedian, on-air personality and Canadian Kennel Club member.