The moon is none the worse for having the dogs bark at her.
- Irish Proverb
Cead míle fáilte and welcome to our St. Patty’s Day blog post! To celebrate the holiday, let’s take a look at breeds that have originated from the Emerald Isle.
Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier
Wheaton Terriers are possibly on the of the oldest dogs of Ireland. Previously known as “the poor man’s dog”, they were used on farms for a variety of reasons, including protection and herding, but are at their best when doing their “terrier’ thing: hunting down vermin. Weighing in at about 30-45 lbs, they are a nice, solid dog. In my opinion, they are also one of the sweetest dogs in the Terrier group (ever heard of the “Wheaton Greetin”?).
Kerry Blue Terrier
Also known as the “Irish Blue Terrier”, Kerry Blues are a gorgeous, animated and lively dog weighing in at approximately 30-40 lbs. They originated in the 1700′s in County Kerry, Ireland, their namesake (as well as mine!). They tend to be little jesters, who, like most terriers, are very intelligent and like to show off. Typically friendly, they can be very courageous if needs be. They are a good all-around working dog, taking occupations from herding and companion animals, to “the verminator” on some farms.
Kerry Beagles were developed in, you guessed it, Kerry County, Ireland, as a scent hound. Typically weighing in at roughly 60 pounds, it is still used for hunting fox. Kerry Beagles almost died out, but fortunately, there are still people maintaining this lovely breed.
Also known as the “Irish Red Terrier”, this sprite little guy weighs in at under 30 lbs. They are always ready for some fun, and can be a great hiking companion, as they have endless energy. It is believed that these little sprites were one of the first terriers, and may be over 2000 years old!
Irish Water Spaniel
Justin McCarthy from Dublin, Ireland created this incredibly useful dog for retrieving on land and in (sometimes icy) waters. Intelligent, active and possessing an amazing stamina, this was the go-to dog for hunters. Unfortunately, they are rather rare now since the increasing popularity of Labradors has taken their place.
Not sure if this is a dog or a pony, as this breed is gigantic weighing as much as 150 lbs. and can be 7 ft tall on their hinds legs. Sweet (almost to a fault), they are the dogs who would apologize for apologizing too much. Gentle giants, they are more likely to let an intruder in and serve them coffee rather than raise an alarm. Originally bred for hunting wolves, as the name implies, they are a very, very old breed dating almost 2000 years. As far as I can see, there only flaw is their lifespan, which is an all-too-short 6-8 years.
Irish Red and White Setter/Irish Setter
Two separate breeds, but essentially the same dog excepting colors (red vs. red and white), both Setters remind me of nothing so much as frolic and mirth on steroids. Weighing in at up to 75 lbs., they are a very energetic breed and always looking for some fun. These guys definitely have a mind of their own, and they sometimes can be a free spirit. They excel at any type of hunting you throw at them, making them a very well-rounded gun dog. Red and White Setters were originally much more common than their Red counterparts, but then in the mid-19th century the Reds gained popularity, so much that the the Red and Whites almost became extinct! Fortunately, people have managed to preserve this wonderful variation for all to enjoy.
Glen of Imaal Terrier (Glen Terrier)
A very stately individual is the Glen Terrier. Small, compact and low to the ground, this little guy packs a lot of courage and poise in that short little body. They are intelligent and brave, and can be quite fierce when on the hunt. They are truly kingly little dogs. They derived their name from Glen of Imaal, in County Wicklow, Ireland. They have been used to kill foxes and badgers, as well as “turnspit” dogs (walking on a crude treadmill, they would turn meat on a spit for hours). To me, they personify 35 lbs of quiet dignity.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Fad saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bás in Éirinn!
Do you have a personal favorite? Do you happen to own one of these beauties? If so, let me know what your thoughts are on any of these breeds.
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