9 Popular Irish Dog Breeds

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Irish Red and White Terrier

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner! Now is a great time to show some recognition to all things Irish, including dog breeds.

There are nine breeds of dog that are native to Ireland:

1. Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier

A rare breed, the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier almost went extinct during World War II, but by the 1970s they were on the rise again thanks to dedicated breeders. Bred in an Irish rebellion against the British in 1570 in a remote valley in Ireland, the Glen of Imaal, these guys were put to work. They hunted vermin, foxes, and badgers, and were even in charge of cooking dinner – yes, you read that right! Legend has it that they were harnessed to a turnspit and walked in a hamster wheel-like contraption to cook meat evenly over a fire.

2. Irish Red and White Setter

The Irish Red and White Setter was first recognized by the AKC in 2009 and is the foundation breed for the Irish Setter. It is rumored that all recorded Red and White Setters are descendants of Judith Cunningham of Knockalla – a sickly female Irish Red and White Setter who helped restore the breed.

3. Irish Red Setter

This breed of dog matures much slower than other dog breeds making them one of the most stubborn around. Because of this, Irish Red Setters often hang onto their puppy energy well into adulthood. The first champion Irish Red Setter in the U.S., who was named Elcho, went on to sire 197 puppies! Late Beach Boy member, Carl Wilson, owned an Irish Red Setter named Shannon whose death inspired the hit single, “Shannon”, that went gold in the U.S. and Canada.

4. Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

This breed gets its name from the wheat color of his coat. Oddly enough, this color doesn’t come out until adulthood – they are typically born white, cream, or even black. The Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers were nicknamed the “poor man’s Wolfhound” because, by law, peasants weren’t permitted to own hounds, Beagles, or spaniels. The Wheaten Terrier was used by poor people to perform all farm duties, giving them versatility to this day as they often compete in agility, tracking, and herding competitions.

5. Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier has several nicknames, two of which are the Daredevil and the Red Devil. The Daredevil nickname comes from their feistiness when it comes to protecting their homes. The Red Devil stems from the color of their coat, Irish Terriers are the only solid red terrier. They make great runners because their legs and bodies are longer than any other terrier. During World War I, Irish Terriers were used as messenger dogs.

6. Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel is known as the clown of the spaniel family because of their boisterous personality. These guys have webbed feet that make them excellent swimmers and sporting dogs. They were even the third most popular sporting dog in the U.S. back in 1875. While nearly all dog breeds can be traced back, nobody is really sure what the Irish Water Spaniel is made up of, though there have been guesses of Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, and the English Water Spaniel (now extinct).

7. Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest dog breed in the world with heights ranging from 28 to 32 inches high! They were nearly extinct in the 1800s, but Captain George Augustus made it his mission to bring their numbers up. He cross-bred them with Scottish Deerhounds, Great Danes, and Mastiffs – this also contributes to their large size. Irish Wolfhounds are often used in fashion photography because they are photogenic, obedient, and quiet.

8. Kerry Beagle

This small breed is extremely active and needs lots of exercise to keep happy and well behaved – up to three hour-long exercise sessions in one day. It is one of the oldest Irish hounds, believed to date back to 1794. Because this breed was used for tracking, their hunting instincts are very strong. They must be leashed when out and about so they don’t get on a scent and disappear!

9. Kerry Blue

This breed sheds less than any other dog breed and is in the hypoallergenic category. They are born with black fur that fades into the blue-gray color that they’re known for. Two of their most identifying features are the folded ears and their long bangs. The bangs are quite functional for the Kerry Blues, protecting their eyes when they dig. In showing, a task for them is to retrieve a badger from a hole and the bangs keep their eyes safe from scratches.