Everyone’s a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day — even our pups! While there are a number of dogs with ties to the land of rolling green hills, there are officially only nine Irish dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. We’ve rounded up some essential facts about these lucky pups, whom we’d love to paw-ty with all year long!
1. Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
The history of this breed is not well known, but it is thought to be the oldest of the four Irish Terrier breeds. Its distinct, soft fluffy coat sets it apart from other terriers. These happy dogs are often energetic and playful. They’re also very devoted, but retain just a bit of the typical Terrier stubbornness.
2. Glen of Imaal Terrier
One of the smallest of the Irish dogs, the Glen of Imaal Terrier isn’t to be underestimated. These hard-working and muscular pups are both gentle and bold. They have a calm disposition, but are still energetic, fun companions.
3. Irish Water Spaniel
These fluffy dogs are brave and athletic, able to withstand all seasons. And, they’re hypoallergenic! Their curly hair and “rat tails” give them a distinctive appearance similar to the Portuguese water dog or poodle. They’re also the tallest of the spaniel breeds, standing at around two feet tall.
4. Irish Terrier
These dogs have well-balanced bodies, but tend to have daredevil personalities. Another ginger-coated breed, these dogs have been around the longest of any Irish terrier breed. They enthusiastically pursue new adventures, and sometimes trouble too, but they make great protectors.
5. Kerry Beagle
One of the oldest of the Irish dog breeds, the Kerry Beagle is less like the traditional Beagle, and more like a hound dog. These dogs were referred to as “Gadhar” in old Irish texts dating back to the first Celtic settlements of Ireland. Though originally used as hunting dogs, Kerry Beagles make great family pets, as they get along well with children and other dogs.
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6. Irish Wolfhound
These massive and often messy-looking canines are some of the sweetest dogs out there. The tallest of all dog breeds, these dogs love a good jaunt, and can cover quite a bit of ground with one leap. They are very mild-mannered and were originally bred to be used as sight dogs.
7. Red and White Setter
Though the Red Setter was recognized first by the AKC, the Red and White Setter was likely the first variation of the breed in Ireland. These excellent hunting dogs almost dwindled out of existence after the second World War, but they’ve bounded back and are now common in the U.S. and Europe.
8. Kerry Blue Terrier
These dogs are great farm dogs, and were originally bred to catch mice and other rodents. Lively and humorous, they embody the flair of the Irish spirit. Coat color is very important for the Kerry Blue Terrier, as they are born black, and their color slowly fades to a gray blue.
9. Irish Red Setter
The most well-known Irish breed is the Setter, a descendent of English dogs that was recognized as a breed in the 1800’s. Its distinctive—and classically Irish—auburn and ginger coat is hard to miss. These dogs are very smart, hard-working, and energetic.
Most of these Irish dogs were originally hunting and farming dogs, which means they all have a great work ethic and often love to get in exercise or adventure time. They each make great companions in their own way, and who knows, they may even bring you a bit of luck, too. Sláinte!
Whether you have a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier or a Kerry Beagle, we have a FoamCare shampoo perfect for your dog’s coat! Learn more below.
Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine. She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.