Are you searching for your new best friend? These nine Irish pups are bred for hunting and shows but perfect for cuddles and fun.
The dogs of Ireland are a reflection of its people. They reflect its history, lifestyle and mythology, and are an integral part of our culture and heritage. From the hounds that were exclusively the dogs of kings, to the gun dogs favoured by the earls, and the terriers of the farmers and peasants, all fulfilled a vital role over the centuries in our social history and development.
They are recognised worldwide for their beauty and working abilities, and for such a small nation we have brought some exceptional breeds to the world of dogs.
Over the years, the promotion and protection of these native breeds has been the responsibility of a few dedicated individuals, families, and, since its foundation in 1922, the members of the Irish Kennel Club. As some are in danger of extinction, the Irish Kennel Club has requested that the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht award them ‘heritage status’ in an effort to ensure their future.
President, Irish Kennel Club
1. Irish Wolfhound
A sighthound, this breed was originally used as a dog of war and would pull men from horseback during battle. Later they were used for hunting wolves – from which the breed gets its name – wild boar and other large animals, as well as serving as a watchdog.
2. Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers
Wheaten Terriers were originally bred as an all-purpose farm dog. Wheatens had a range of uses on the farm, which included hunting vermin. They were also used to herd and protect livestock, as well as to hunt badgers and otters.
3. Kerry Beagle
The Kerry Beagle is a scent hound, developed primarily for the tracking of stag, but today is used for the tracking of hares, foxes and other small game.
4. The Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier
The Glen of Imaal Terrier was bred to hunt and eradicate vermin, such as rats, foxes, badgers and otters. A versatile breed, they were also used to herd sheep and cattle on farms, as well as for family companionship. The Glen was bred to work mute and is a silent and deadly hunter. As such, they are known as ‘strong dogs’, as opposed to ‘sounders’, who would alert the hunter by barking. The Glen would enter the den of a badger or fox and silently flush out prey, aided by the element of surprise.
5. Irish Water Spaniel
Although the Irish Water Spaniel has been primarily bred to retrieve wildfowl from water, it can be described as a dual-purpose hunting dog, working both water and land. The Water Spaniel will often point and will retrieve readily from heavy cover.
6. Irish Terrier
Terriers derive their name from the Latin terra meaning ‘earth’. The breed was originally used to dig into the earth to hunt foxes and otters, as well as to rid the farm of vermin.
7. Kerry Blue Terrier
The Kerry Blue Terrier was originally bred to control vermin. Aside from this, the breed also served as a general working dog on many Irish farms and managed a variety of jobs, such as protecting livestock and guarding property. Like all native terriers, the Kerry Blue excelled on Irish farms as an adaptable, multi-functional working breed.
Seeing a Kerry Blue in full show trim is a spectacular sight, and the coat is a key feature of the breed. Their coat comes in several shades of blue, but pups are born black, turning progressively blue/grey as they mature. The coat is soft, wavy and dense, with a texture comparable to human hair. Kerry Blues are non-shedding, and their coat will continue to grow if left untrimmed. Because of this, they are often recommended for people with allergies or asthma.
8. Irish Red and White Setter
The function of setters is to locate game, such as grouse, partridge, pheasant and snipe. Carrying its head high, trying to locate the scent of game in the air, the dog quarters the ground methodically and systematically. Once the game is located the dog adopts the characteristic ‘set’, by freezing on point in a lowered crouching position; its frame will be rigid and tense as it focuses on the hidden birds. This setting stance points the handler to exactly where the game is located. In short, the Irish Red and White Setter allows the hunter to find and pinpoint the exact location of birds.
9. Irish Red Setter
The Irish Red Setter is a gun dog, and searches for game silently and methodically. When the dog comes across prey it freezes, rather than giving chase. The setter gets its name from the distinctive crouch or ‘set’ it adopts when it encounters prey, which indicates to the hunter where the quarry is located. Once the prey is located the birds are then flushed out from the cover, allowing the hunters to get a clear shot. While trying to locate a scent, Irish Red Setters will systematically cover the ground with their head held high as they try to pick up the airborne scent of game birds.