Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of all things Ireland, and highlights the culture and heritage of its people. While there is plenty of intriguing history and tradition wrapped up in this small island, many of its important stories can be told through the bloodlines of it’s breeds. Nine breeds have come from Ireland, and their stories are all interwoven with Ireland’s people, past and identity. These dogs were all bred and developed by Ireland’s people over a long time and have lived alongside Ireland’s inhabitants for centuries. Find out which breeds have a special connection to the Emerald Isle below.
The pride of Ireland, these long, lanky, regal hunters have a lengthy history that dates back to when the Roman empire occupied the Emerald Isle. For centuries the Irish Wolfhound protected the Irish people from wolves, and helped hunters chase down prey at blistering speeds. Despite their fearsome occupations, these imposing pups are now typically found relaxing by the hearth snuggled up as a loving family member. Although their original bloodline died out, with the help of modern breeding, they have been revived so to speak. With shaggy coats, a massive silhouette and a sheepish grin, modern day Irish Wolfhounds are a mark of Irish pride wherever they go.
Bred for farm-work and pest control these dogs have the fighting spirit of the Irish in their blood. Feisty and fierce when at work, yet loyal and gentle when at home. These lively energetic pups put a spring in the step of those around them. Even though Irish Terriers are small and compact they are bursting with energy. Much like the spirit of the Irish, their spirit can be distilled down to a few honorable qualities. They work hard, they play hard and their passion burns hotter than a shot of whiskey.
With a stunningly deep and richly colored coat the Red Setter is a beauty to look at. It certainly makes sense that this red coated beauty would come from the country with the highest density of redheads in the world. The Red Setter is a classic gundog and has a near ceaseless supply of energy. They look like a rippling blur of red when running through a field. As well as their aptitude for field work, they are remarkably affectionate in the home. With a color as deep as a red velvet cake with a sweet disposition to match, the Red Setter is a properly impressive pooch to befriend.
The Irish Water Spaniel is a pretty unique dog! From head to butt, they’ve got a curly cue coat that’s water resistant and ideal for diving into rivers when chasing fowl. However, once you move beyond their behind, their tail is completely hairless! This naturally hairless tail strikes a stark contrast protruding from their furry fluffy bodies. Generally, they sport a topknot of looser, longer shaggy hair. Their distinctive tail along with their pension for waterfowl hunting has earned them several outlandish nicknames including the “rattail dog”, “whiptail” and “Bog Dog.” They’re game for retrieving game, so these spaniels are ideal hunting companions for Irish fowl hunters. They are also whip smart so the nickname ‘whiptail’ tends to suit them in two regards. The Irish Water Spaniel is a dog unique to Ireland that puts on display the tenacious attitude of the Irish.
The Glen of Imaal Terrier is one of the rarest breeds alive today. It nearly died out but experienced a comeback in the twentieth century thanks to the dedication of Irish Breeders. Among the terrier breeds of Ireland, these courageous canines were originally bred to be working terriers. They are low to the ground with short muscular legs, but their torso is large and powerful. Against the fashion of many other canine hunters, the Imaal silently pursues it’s quarry. They are known for their patented sitting style, where they hoist their entire torso up from the ground resulting in a humorous seated posture resembling a sitting person. This is because their front legs aren’t long enough to reach the ground while they are seated square on their butts. These pups have a healthy prey drive for smaller animals but also love spending quality time with their family. The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a rare gem of a breed from the Emerald Isle.
A sweet-natured and happy go lucky friend to the farmer, these beautifully outfitted pups are eye catchers. They have silky and wavy coats, the color of golden wheat, hence their name. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was a true farm dog, bred to wear many hats. Dogged hunters, they worked relentlessly to rid properties of vermin, which led them to develop a virulent prey drive that still exists today. Wheatens also tended the flocks of farmers and made sure to herd them where they needed to go as well as drive off approaching predators looking for an easy snack. While Wheatens aren’t large enough to be guard dogs, they still served as fine watch dogs, warning their family of a stranger’s approach. And in a pinch, they helped during hunts, tracking down critters on land and in water. An all around incredible dog, this breed is a true friend of the Irish working class. Wheatens are companionable, intelligent and brave. While they do need a great deal of energy to take on all these tasks, compared to many terriers, they have a relatively greater capacity to “chill” which is rare for terriers.
Although it’s a bit misleading to call this breed a beagle, the Kerry Beagle is one of the oldest Irish breeds and provides a view into the exceptional breeding that Ireland has to offer. Americans will more readily recognize the Kerry Beagle as a kind of foxhound with its medium build, athleticism, and focused determination. Despite their intensity in the field these dogs tend to be quite family friendly as they do well with other dogs and children. The name Beagle is generally thought to derive from the Irish word “beag” meaning small. While this applies to the more Americanized Beagle, the Kerry Beagle of Ireland is certainly larger than the American Beagle. They are phenomenal trackers too, and have worked alongside hunters extensively. Although it could be up for debate, they very well might be the oldest Irish breed. It’s arguable that the Irish Wolfhound is the oldest breed but according to some, the Irish Wolfhound of today doesn’t have a direct bloodline to the Irish Wolfhounds of old, making the Kerry Beagle the oldest living Irish Breed.
This breed is one of the prides of the Irish Kennel Club and one of its most impressive exports. The gorgeous Kerry Blue Terrier is a medium sized terrier with a uniquely hued coat. It ranges from grey to black but always has a slight blue tinge around the edges that can be caught in certain lights. They have the traditional tenacious spirit, vivacity and versatility of a true terrier. They have been utilized by a variety of people for all sorts of jobs, from general farm work, to policing. In addition to their color, their name comes from their geographic origin in the county of Kerry in Ireland. These pups are incredible hunters and companions; fiercely intelligent, bright and pleasant. Any person could consider themselves lucky to own a Kerry Blue Terrier.
Stunningly gorgeous, the Red and White Setter is a truly bright and lively presence. These field dogs of medium size have endless energy and boundless potential. The Red and White Setter is incredibly friendly and companionable. They are eager to please and pleasant to pet. While they are quite trainable, it’s been noted that they don’t do well with negative reprimands and are much more suited to positive reinforcement. When treated more like a friend, they thrive. The Red and White Setter has a rich history on the Emerald Isle and they’ve been bred there for several centuries. Even though the red setter might be better known now, they were originally bred from the Red and White Setter, which has been around far longer.
Hopefully, now you know a bit more about the history of Ireland’s impressive array of dog breeds! Some of the world’s most beloved dog breeds have come out of Ireland and St. Paddy’s Day is a fun excuse to celebrate them! You can spread the joy of your favorite Irish breed with a fun shirt showing off your pup’s furry face! We’ve got St. Patrick’s Day designs for Irish dog breeds and more. Find your favorite design and sham-rock it during St. Patrick’s Day!
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