Five Dog Breeds With the Luck of the Irish
By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President
When you think of Ireland, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? For many people, it’s clover or leprechauns or a pint of Guiness. But did you know that the country is also home to some of the smartest, hardest working dogs on earth?
For centuries, the Irish people have bred dogs to help them with herding, guarding and hunting in the hills and bogs of the Emerald Isle. More recently, these breeds have also managed to integrate themselves as wonderful companion animals for the modern-day lifestyle.
If any of these breeds strike your fancy, remember to first check with Petfinder, breed specific rescues or individual breed clubs for adoptable dogs. If none are available or you prefer to purchase from a breeder, do your research to make sure the breeder is reputable, does health and temperament testing, and truly cares about their dogs.
Irish Red Setter
Most people will recognize this breed immediately. With its luxurious red coat and sweet, friendly disposition, the Irish Red Setter has been a popular breed in the U.S. since it was first introduced here in the early 19th century.
The Irish Red Setter was first bred as a bird dog in Ireland in the 18th century. And although it is mainly considered a companion dog these days, it still has plenty of energy and drive. Potential owners should be prepared to exercise their dogs between one and two hours each day.
A generally healthy breed, Irish Red Setters can live between 12-14 years. Because of its long coat, it will need brushing two to three times per week to prevent mats and tangles.
The oldest of Ireland’s four terrier breeds, the Irish Terrier is a smart, loyal and affectionate companion. However, it’s also a rugged little dog with a reputation for bravery and tenacity. In fact, the Irish Terrier was regularly used as messenger dogs in the trenches during World War I.
An average-sized dog weighing around 25 pounds, the Irish Terrier is suitable for both city and country living. They require average amounts of daily exercise and also enjoy being presented with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. These hearty little dogs have a life span of between 13 – 15 years.
One of the world’s most ancient breeds, Irish Wolfhounds were being bred in Ireland as early as the first century AD. Prized by the nobility for hundreds of years, it was even illegal at one time for these majestic dogs to be owned by the average person. Driven almost to the point of extinction in the 17th century, they are now a living symbol of Irish culture.
Generally calm and friendly, Irish Wolfhounds have a strong desire for human companionship. This giant breed can weigh up to 180 pounds so owners should have a home that can accommodate their size. Because they were originally bred to hunt, they are energetic and require plenty of daily exercise.
Although prone to a few health problems, they are a generally healthy breed but their size means that the average life span is only 6 – 8 years.
Irish Kerry Blue Terrier
True to its name, the Irish Kerry Blue Terrier sports a bluish slate-colored coat. Although the breed has probably been around for a few centuries, it didn’t become popular in Ireland until the early 20th century. The Irish Nationalist leader, Michael Collins, even owned one he called Convict 224.
Bred to hunt small game, birds and rodents, the Irish Kerry Blue Terrier is outgoing, loyal and affectionate but also strong-willed and highly spirited. They have a good sense of humor and are said to have a “touch of the blarney.”
The breed’s soft and wavy coat requires regular grooming but does not shed. Generally healthy, they can live an average of 13 – 15 years.
Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
For over 200 years, the Wheaten was bred in Ireland to be an all-purpose farm dog. Their duties included herding, watching livestock, and vermin hunting. Today, these energetic, playful dogs excel at agility, obedience and tracking.
Friendly and happy, they are prone to jumping up to lick a person’s face, a behavior referred to as the “Wheaten greetin’” by enthusiasts. The breed often acts like a puppy its entire life.
A medium-sized dog, the Wheaten has a longish coat that requires weekly grooming. Relatively healthy, they can live anywhere from 12 – 15 years.
I’d like to hear from you! If you have questions you’d like me to address on this blog regarding pet health or behavior, send an email to email@example.com.