Ireland is a country with a rich history, we all know that. However, it’s not just the history of the buildings, land, and people that individuals today like to learn about. For a dog lover or a veterinarian, Ireland is the birth place of some of the oldest and most beautiful dog breeds in the world. We are so proud of this legacy that some of these breeds even appear in Irish Literature (quite frequently).
If this is your cup of tea, we put together a list that includes the top five most interesting Irish Dog Breeds. Each of them is unique, as they have distinct personalities, and this makes learning about them fascinating.
#1: The Setters
When Irish dogs are mentions, typically Setters are the first dogs to come to mind. There are two setter breeds that come from Ireland:
- The Irish Setter
- The Red and White Setter.
The Irish Setter
This is the more known of the two breeds as it has a distinct mahogany fur colour and was often used as a gundog. The breed was recognized as an Irish dog breed in the 18th century.
Irish setters have fun, active personalities and need to be exercised often. They love birds and are wonderful around children. They don’t reach adulthood until 3 years old, so they need room to run around and burn off their abundant energy. They do require grooming, so make sure to have a good pair of dog grooming clippers at home.
The Red and White Setter
While it is the older of the two and was also used as a gundog, it is less famous than the Irish Setter. This also allowed it to be recognized as an Irish breed at a later date. Even more, because people preferred the beautiful colour of the Irish setter, Red and White setters almost died out.
In terms of personality and training, they can be a bit more difficult to train but they have similar personalities to their cousin: they are fun, playful, and loyal dogs.
#2: The Irish Water Spaniel
The Irish Water Spaniel is considered to be one of the oldest Irish breeds but its exact genetic makeup is unknown. Some believe it could be a mixture of breeds that include the Poodle, Portuguese water dog, Barbet, and the English water spaniel. However, this is pure speculation as the original breeder kept no breeding documents.
This dog breed is rare to find, but it’s hard to miss when you see it. They have loose, dense curls that are liver-coloured. Irish water spaniels love the water and chasing ducks. Some individuals claim they are better-fitted for experienced dog owners, but they have a friendly personality that is perfect for everyone.
Like Setters, Irish Water Spaniels are highly energetic. They are known for having a “clownish” behaviour and due to their mischievous streak they can be difficult to train at times. However, they do like to please their owners.
Keep in mind that they do require a bit of grooming. They need to be brushed two to three times a week to prevent their fur from matting. Brushing their fur helps distribute their coat’s natural oils, which removes dirt and debris.
#3: Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Water Spaniel may be one of the oldest Irish breeds, but the Irish Wolfhound is probably the oldest of them all. Documents of the wolfhound can be found as early as the 5th century and they are heavily present in Irish literature.
They are also one of the tallest dog breeds. Males grow as tall as 34 inches and females grow as tall as 30 inches. Because of their long legs, their run is often referred to as a gallop. Originally, Irish Wolfhounds were bred to hunt wolves and were owned by Irish Nobility.
Irish Wolfhounds have distinct, individual personalities. In general, they are intelligent dogs that are incredibly loyal. Although, the strong bonds they create with families can cause them to be destructive when left alone for too long. This also makes it difficult to find them a new home (if the need arises).
#4: The Irish Terrier
Irish terriers have an interesting history: during World War I, they were used to transport messages between troops. Therefore, they are known as brave and loyal dogs. However, Irish Terriers were first bred to hunt vermin, which made them extremely popular in Ireland. They also make great guard dogs as Terriers are intelligent, have a strong-willed personality and can learn easily.
Training them can be tough, despite their intelligence. Therefore, you should always start training and socializing Irish Terriers at an early age. Some terriers become avid barkers, due to their strong protective instincts. However, acknowledging their bark and immediately giving them a new command can help curb excessive barking.
If you have kids and want to adopt an Irish terrier, consider adopting a young terrier. Irish terriers can be great around kids if they have been exposed to them at an early age. Some experts still warn that Terriers should always be supervised around young children.
Along with the Irish Terrier, there are three other terrier breeds native to Ireland. These breeds include the Glen of Imaale Terrier, the Kerry Blue Terrier, and the Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier.
#5: The Kerry Beagle
The Kerry Beagle is yet another breed considered to be one of Irish’s oldest. The Irish Wolfhound is still considered to be the oldest, but the Kerry Beagle is a worthy rival. It was introduced to Ireland by the Celts and, despite its name, is a medium-sized hound.
It’s possible that this dog is a descendant from the Gadhar, a dog found in ancient Irish texts. There is even an Irish legend claiming that two black and tan hounds leaped off Noah’s ark after smelling a fox’s scent and were never seen again.
Irish immigrants brought the Kerry Beagle to America and, as a result, many consider the Kerry Beagle an ancestor to the Coonhound.
Typically, Kerry Beagles are black and tan, with a broad head, short coat, and long ears. However, sometimes they are tan and white or blue-grey, tan, and black. The Kerry Beagle is known for its speed and endurance, which makes it a great hunting dog.
Kerry Beagles are great family pets. They are good with children and other dogs. However, they have a lot of energy and require frequent exercise. It’s recommended to walk them two to three times a day, as well as provide them with a place to run around.
Anna Smith resides in beautiful Santa Monica, CA, where she works as a Pet Nutrition Expert in a leading retail pet store. She is responsible for nutritional strategies for different breeds and development of new products on the market in compliance with Association of American Feed Control Officials. Anna’s passions are education about proven methods and best practices in the industry and her dog Max, who is always well-fed. She also helps curate contents for DogsAholic.com