Irish Breeds

 Irish Breeds

By Terri Estes

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here is a tribute to the eight recognized American Kennel Club (AKC) dog breeds that originated in Ireland. The Irish have a long tradition of breeding hunting and farm dogs who also served as loyal companions and important members of their families. As a matter fact, the Irish have the largest proportion of dog owners in Europe.


This is a medium sized dog that stands around 26 inches at the shoulder with a flashy red coat and a big personality. They have high energy and are known for their sweet and lovable disposition. This breed matures slower than other breeds and can keep their “puppy energy” long after they may have fully developed physically. This dog will happily play fetch for hours and makes a great family addition.


This wiry coated, muscular hound is the giant of the dog world. Standing close to 3 feet at the shoulder, the Irish Wolfhound is the largest of the AKC breeds. If an Irish Wolfhound stands on his hind legs, they can be over seven feet tall! This dog’s size is the only intimidating quality that they portray. They are a calm, gentle soul.  Built like a greyhound, they can reach great speeds, but are also quite happy relaxing on the couch. This dog is truly a gentle giant.


This breed is considered one of the oldest of the terrier breeds.  Nicknamed “the daredevil of the Emerald Isle,” this medium sized dog stands about 18 inches at the shoulder and has a short wiry coat that is rust or red colored. Because of their intelligence and courage, these dogs were used to deliver messages to the front-line during World War I. This is a breed that loves to learn new tasks and are eager to please. They are known for their tenacity and great work ethic, but are also tenderhearted and loving at home.


The Kerry Blue is known for its show-stopping, stunning blue coat. This is a medium sized terrier standing at around 18 inches at the shoulder with a soft wavy coat that comes in shades of deep slate to light silvery-blue. All puppies are born black and will change to a shade of blue by 18 months of age. Named for the county of its origin, the Kerry Blue is a non-shedding dog, but the coat needs lots of brushing to keep it from getting tangled and matted. This coat type is found in no other breed of dog. They also sport a beard and some bushy eyebrows. This is an adventurous and independent dog. They are sometimes aggressive with other dogs and have a high prey drive, but are known to be gentle and patient with kids.


This breed is the tallest of the spaniels. Averaging around 23 inches at the shoulder, this breed has a crisply curled coat which is liver in color. The coat is waterproof, and the tail is tapered and hairless which gives them the nickname “Rat Tail Spaniel.” This hypoallergenic coat needs grooming often to keep it from getting matted. They have an exaggerated poof of hair on top of their head that gives them a comical look. That, along with their playful personality, have given them the reputation of being the clowns of the spaniel family. They have webbed feet and are excellent swimmers.  These dogs LOVE the water. They use their long tail as a rudder to help them navigate. This is a lively, good-natured breed and a great choice for active families.


The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is exactly what its name implies. A soft, silky, wavy coat that runs from a pale beige to a shimmering gold. It stands about 18 inches at the shoulder and has a sturdy, muscular build. This is a cheerful, energetic, extroverted dog. They thrive on human interaction and have a gentler disposition than some of the other terrier breeds. They do, however, have a high prey drive and have been known to chase everything from squirrels to cars so having a secure yard is a must when owning this breed. This is generally a very affectionate dog who loves everyone they meet.


This breed gets its name from a remote valley in Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains. It stands around 13 inches at the shoulder and is longer than it is tall. The Glen is a scruffy, no-frills kind of dog. Their coat is usually wheaten or blue brindle in color with a wiry texture. They are known for their docile disposition and are well suited for family life. A good stretch of the legs once a day should satisfy their exercise requirements.


The IRWS first achieved AKC recognition in 2009 but has been known in Ireland since the 17th century where they were prized field dogs. Standing at around 25 inches at the shoulder, these fun-loving pups are slightly shorter and stockier than their cousin the Irish Setter. It is believed that the Irish Setter derived from the IRWS.

Although these breeds originated in Ireland, many of them are very well known here in the United States. You can see most of them on display at many St. Patrick’s Day Parades around the country. From fun-loving, to loyal and hard-working, there is an Irish dog breed for everyone. Could one of these pups be the next addition to your family?

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