Unveiling the Treasures: 9 Native Irish Dog Breeds

Irish dog breeds
Irish Wolfhounds standing together in a meadow.

Last Updated on August 13, 2023 by Fumipets

Unveiling the Treasures: 9 Native Irish Dog Breeds


Ireland, a land rich in culture and history, is also home to a diverse array of native dog breeds that hold a special place in the hearts of dog enthusiasts worldwide.

From the robust Irish Wolfhound to the charming Kerry Blue Terrier, these breeds reflect the country’s heritage, resilience, and deep connection to its land.

This article delves into the captivating world of 9 Native Irish Dog Breeds, shedding light on their unique traits, historical significance, and the bond they share with the people and landscapes of Ireland.

Whether you’re an admirer of canine heritage or simply curious about the dogs that have graced the Emerald Isle for centuries, this exploration promises to uncover the treasures that make these breeds truly extraordinary.

Native Irish Dog Breeds

Ireland has bestowed the world with a number of native breeds, including hounds and terriers. Some of them, such as the Kerry blue and Irish red setter, have become well-known outside of the island. The Kerry beagle is a unique national treasure, among other breeds.

It is advisable for a purebred dog breed to register with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in order to get formal recognition in the United States. The AKC’s Vice President of Sport Services, Mari Beth O’Neill, explained the certification procedure to Daily Paws.

According to O’Neill, “We do a variety of things, including assisting new breeds in becoming recognized.” “I also collaborate with all of the parent clubs on the creation of a breed standard—their breed’s gold standard.”

The Irish Glen of Imaal terrier and the Irish red and white setter are two of the newest Irish breeds to be registered in the United States, and O’Neill personally contributed to their registration. The nine native Irish breeds that are now recognized include these two breeds in addition to seven others.

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Irish Setter

The Irish setter, also known as the Irish red setter, was bred from the Irish red and white setter in the 18th century to be a working dog that would assist its owner in hunting game (more on that later).

They still need two hours of daily exercise since they are enormous, energetic dogs. Therefore, Irish red setters are ideal for households with large fenced-in yards and plenty of room inside. Their magnificent and fluffy auburn coat has to be well brushed and groomed more than once a week in addition to physical exercise to prevent shedding.

The Irish setter is a smart, sociable, and active buddy for potential owners!

Irish Wolfhound

I present to you, your majesty, the Irish wolfhound. Okay, so it was a touch theatrical, but this breed has a regal background since King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I of England were fond of them. So much so that friendly kingdoms received these puppies as gifts.

Let’s be clear about one thing: these were not token presents. The Irish wolfhound, which normally weighs between 105 and 180 pounds, is one of the biggest dog breeds in the whole world. Despite their massive size, these canines have sweet, playful temperaments, making them everything from dominant.

Glen of Imaal Terrier

The history of the Glen of Imaal terrier had some difficult beginnings. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the terrier breed mostly went unrecognized while its hunting buddies (like the Irish setter, remember that red-headed beauty?) enjoyed the spotlight. The Glen did, however, adjust to difficult circumstances.

The Irish Glen developed into a trustworthy, adaptable friend through many generations of hard labor. It is ideal to have around the farm and in the house.

They were also employed to turn the spit…when meat was being cooked over a fire, according to O’Neill. “Of course, being a terrier, one of its functions was to help rid the premises of vermin,” he adds. What a distinctive quality for a puppy!

The Glen of Imaal terrier gained notoriety over the years for doing everything from assisting with supper to guarding loved ones, and it’s simple to see why.

Irish Red and White Setter

Irish Red and White Setters nearly didn’t get it through the early 20th century, so it’s wonderful to see them on this list. According to the Irish Kennel Club, the Irish setter, the pup’s progeny, has surpassed it in terms of popularity. What a swindle! (Or even “breed-treatment.

The 1920s saw an attempt to resuscitate the breed in response to this short period of mild absence, and the breed was resurrected in the 1940s. The red and white setter is a rare sight outside of Ireland nowadays and is bred mainly for field hunting game. However, the Irish setter has inherited the intelligence and friendliness of these dogs.

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Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

Three excellent terriers came to us from the Irish, but only the soft-coated wheaten terrier is renowned for its coat. Since more than 200 years ago, their existence has been verified, mostly via written allusions to “soft-coated dogs.”

The Irish soft-coated wheaten terrier is soft, as implied by its name. There is no fraudulent advertising allowed here. The good news for owners searching for a more low-allergen dog is that they are rather rarely shedders, despite the fact that their fluffy white coat necessitates a daily brushing. 

And if the breed “wheaten” sounds familiar, it’s possible that you’ve watched Sandra Bullock’s Ocean’s 8 movies. And after reading about these obedient, amiable terriers, you may want to start your own fan club!

Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish water spaniel has a long history in Ireland, dating back to the 1100s, and is also well-known in the United States. No, disregard it. Centuries! The Irish water spaniel was really one of the original nine breeds to be recognized by the AKC in 1878, according to the AKC. This dog has a reputation for being a fun-loving companion and an excellent swimmer.

Most of these [Irish] breeds have some of the gregariousness and fun-loving traits that the Irish are renowned for, according to O’Neill. “Everything, even at times clown-like behavior from the Irish water spaniel.”

Due to their low-allergen coat, Irish water spaniels are wonderful companions for allergy patients in addition to being a poolside companion and obvious comedian. Just make sure someone who is experienced with the breed gives their dark curly coat a weekly brush and frequent upkeep.

Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry blue terrier gained notoriety as an emblem of Irish freedom and patriotism due to its distinctive look.

This dog, named for its Irish heritage and blue coat, wasn’t always blue. In actuality, the terrier is born with black hair and a dominant coat-fading gene that causes the fur to change to the colors that the breed’s admirers like. The final product might range from pale blue-grey to charcoal.

Given that the Kerry blue’s stunning coat doesn’t shed, you should give this dog a thorough brushing two to three times each week to prevent matted hair.

Irish Terrier

For years, American dog enthusiasts have eagerly embraced the red coat of the Irish terrier. Their already outstanding reputation was “enhanced” when they were hired to perform a crucial function as messengers during World War I. That’s correct, these valiant canines zigzagged through conflicts to relay crucial messages to their proper locations.

The terrier is “fierce when the circumstances call for it,” according to the Irish Kennel Club, but he’s also intelligent and even kind-hearted. The Irish Kennel Club also highlights an early description of the Irish terrier as “the farmer’s friend, the gentleman’s favorite, and the poor man’s sentinel.”

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There is no doubt in my mind that you have a courageous buddy in this obedient terrier.

Kerry Beagle

Despite being one of the oldest Irish breeds, the Kerry beagle is quite uncommon. In truth, the breed has little to do with our pal the beagle. You may wonder, “How can you tell?”

The Kerry beagle, on the other hand, often has a tannish brown or black hue instead of the beagle’s signature tri-color pattern. The Kerry beagle is also a little bigger breed, usually weighing between 50 and 60 pounds.

Although you may only sometimes see this breed in your neighborhood, it is a well-known hunting partner for small game in its native country, which makes sense for a descendant of the fabled Celtic hound. Hounds love to hunt!

A Celebration of Irish Dog Breeds

Despite the fact that these breeds are Irish in origin, the majority are widely recognized outside of Ireland thanks to dog shows and, you guessed it, St. Patrick’s Day.

With the approaching celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, “AKC is, every year, thrilled to celebrate the Irish breeds,” O’Neill stated. We feature those breeds on our website every year, and we are often delighted to see them in St. Patrick’s Day parades around the nation.

There is an Irish dog breed for every personality, from the playful to the devoted and diligent.

Frequently Asked Questions 


What are some of the most iconic Native Irish Dog Breeds?

Some iconic Native Irish Dog Breeds include the Irish Wolfhound, Kerry Blue Terrier, Glen of Imaal Terrier, Irish Setter, and Irish Water Spaniel.

What role did Irish Wolfhounds historically play in Ireland?

Irish Wolfhounds were prized as war hounds and hunting companions by ancient Irish chieftains. They were also symbolic of status and honor.

What distinguishes the Kerry Blue Terrier from other terrier breeds?

The Kerry Blue Terrier stands out for its unique blue coat, versatile skills as a herder and retriever, and its friendly and loyal nature.

Which Native Irish Dog Breed has a distinctive “wheel of cheese” appearance?

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is known for its muscular build and arched back, giving it a unique appearance often likened to a “wheel of cheese.”

How did the Irish Water Spaniel get its name?

The Irish Water Spaniel earned its name due to its affinity for water. Their water-resistant curly coat and exceptional swimming abilities make them skilled water retrievers.

What is the historical significance of the Irish Red and White Setter?

The Irish Red and White Setter is considered a rare breed with deep historical roots in Ireland. It’s believed to be the older of the two Irish Setter breeds and was initially used for bird hunting.

Which Native Irish Dog Breed is known for its distinctive “wheaten” coat?

The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is recognized for its soft, silky, and wheaten-colored coat. They are playful and affectionate companions with a joyful disposition.

How does the Irish Terrier exemplify the spirit of Ireland?

The Irish Terrier is often referred to as the “Daredevil” due to its fearless nature. They were bred to be versatile working dogs and companions, embodying the spirit of Ireland’s people.

What is the temperament of the Connemara Irish Greyhound?

The Connemara Irish Greyhound, also known as the “Lurcher,” possesses a gentle and affectionate temperament. They were historically used for hunting and companionship.

How do these Native Irish Dog Breeds reflect the country’s culture and history?

These breeds are a living link to Ireland’s past, with each breed reflecting a unique aspect of the country’s culture, heritage, and the roles dogs played in Irish society over centuries.




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