Celebrating the Breeds of Ireland - Part 2
March 17, 2021
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know that the Emerald Isle not only gifted the world with great stout and smooth whiskey but also some great dog breeds?
In this second part of our blog series celebrating the breeds of Ireland, we meet two terriers, a setter and a sighthound!
The Irish Terrier is the first breed that comes to mind when I hear the term "long-legged Terrier." This flashy fellow was once known as the Irish Sporting Terrier as he would retrieve feathered game on top of his other jobs as a ratter and guard. An all-around farm dog, Irish Terriers were also loyal family pets and playful friends to the farmer's children.
The Irish Terrier is racy, agile, and incredibly animated. They are the life of the party and are always up for action, making them an ideal pet for active families. You will see this versatile breed excel in so many dog sports, including Agility and Earthdog. They are highly intelligent, so owners need to keep a step ahead of them. I find that Terriers rarely work for free, so you'll want to have plenty of healthy treats on hand when training.
The Irish Terrier is the only all-red Terrier, and their personality perfectly matches their fiery coat. The coat should be hard and wiry and requires regular stripping by an experienced Terrier Groomer.
Every inch a Terrier, the Irish Terrier loves activities, games, and challenges. They generally love children, with their curiosity and enthusiasm keeping them puppy-like for many years. Irish Terriers thrive in a home where they have lots to do and owners with a sense of humour.
The tallest of all the Canadian Kennel Club’s recognized dog breeds, the Irish Wolfhound is an impressive dog to behold. However, its history is a bit of a mystery. We do see large Wolfhounds in both Irish art and literature that predate Christianity. Initially kept to hunt both wolf and Irish elk, the Wolfhounds were owned only by royalty or nobility. These immense dogs also helped their country in times of war. They were kept only in Ireland for a long time but eventually were gifted to royalty in other countries.
As the elk and wolves began to disappear from Ireland, so did the Wolfhounds. In the 1800s, a Scottish Deerhound breeder named Captain Graham became interested in the "old Irish Wolfdog." In an effort to save the breed, Captain Graham collected as many Irish Hounds as he could find and bred in Deerhound, Borzoi, Tibetan Mastiff, and Great Dane blood. In 1885, he found the Irish Wolfhound Club to protect his breed, and a breed standard was created.
The Irish Wolfhound is celebrated as a loving, loyal, gentle giant. The ones I’ve met all seem to be very patient with little ones, both children and other dogs. Early and ongoing socialization is vital in a breed this large.
The Wolfhound has a rough coat that requires some brushing and the occasional hand-stripping to look tidy. They come in grey, black, fawn, red, brindle, and white.
Wolfhounds require space both indoors and outdoors. Like other sighthounds, the Wolfhound tends to be laidback indoors and active when allowed to run freely. Because their instinct is to chase, it's essential to keep them in a secure yard with a tall fence. By owning a Wolfhound, you will become famous in your neighborhood. My friend owned a pair of Wolfhounds, and not a day went by where a passerby didn't stop to ask about his massive dogs.
Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
The first thing I think of when the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier is brought up is the “Wheaten Greeting." This welcome refers to the exuberant greeting a Wheaten Terrier will give whether you've been gone several hours or a mere moment. Its loving temperament and enthusiasm are what have made this Irish breed a popular choice for families for many decades.
The Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier might look glamorous in the show ring, but the breed has a humble beginning. Starting out as an all-purpose farm dog, Soft-coated Wheaten hunted feathered game and vermin, herded livestock, and watched over the farmer's home. The tousled-looking Terrier didn't get much attention outside of farms until a Terrier match in 1932. That's when a group of fans decided to form a breed club.
Wheatens are very smart, inquisitive, and fun-loving dogs. They like to keep busy, so it's best to have them involved in dog sports that make them think, or else they might find their own fun (which might not match your idea of "fun"). They compete in tons of dog sports. It's not unusual to see them in Obedience, Rally, Agility (have you seen them bounce?), Earthdog, and more. They are extremely people-oriented and need socialization on top of firm, consistent training to let them shine their brightest. If raised with children who are good with dogs, Wheatens are exceptional with kids.
Their soft, wavy coat is stunning but requires dedication to keep it looking its best. Daily brushing and combing along with regular baths and trips to the groomer will keep your Wheaten looking great. And I should warn you: everyone you pass on your walks will want to pet your Wheaten. My friend has two, and there seems to be something about their teddy bear appearance that just brings strangers to their knees!
The handsome and extroverted Irish Setter is a striking lad to behold.
Prized for his fast-paced, good-nosed hunting skills, Irish Setters were first used by the Irish to hunt across their countryside in the 1800s. Setters are a small group of Sporting breeds that hunt by using their sense of smell. A setter tells the hunter that he’s found gamebirds by “setting” down on his stomach.
The Irish Setter eventually became more valued for his looks than his abilities, though. However, concerned fans of the breed were able to restore this breed into a dual field and show dog.
The Irish Setter is the life of any party! They are fast, energetic, and exuberant! Many remain "puppies" into their adult years and require calm, consistent training early on along with socialization to make them shine their brightest. Some are wary of strangers, but once you’ve made friends with an Irish Setter, you've got a friend for the long run. If raised with children who have good manners around dogs, they are very affectionate and make excellent family pets for active families.
Irish Setters thrive with lots of exercise. They love long walks and play sessions with their favourite people and do best with a large fenced-in area where they can run daily. Just make sure puppies don't overdo it while growing.
Their famous mahogany or chestnut red coat requires brushing and combing at least 3 times a week. Regular baths along with seasonal trips to a professional groomer are recommended to keep them looking sharp. With their long ears, Irish Setter’s ears should also be regularly checked for dirt or signs of infection.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the 8 Irish breeds that the Canadian Kennel Club recognizes. If you haven't read the first part of this blog series yet, be sure to check it out for great information on the Kerry Blue Terrier, the Irish Red and White Setter, the Glen of Imaal Terrier and the Irish Water Spaniel!
With their rich history, every one of these breeds was created for a purpose, and they shine with the spirit of Ireland. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
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.