St. Patrick's Day is this weekend, and despite the traditions of many, it's not just a holiday for wearing green and getting drunk. It's also a day when people around the world celebrate Ireland and its culture. At PawNation, we're celebrating in our own way by shining a spotlight on nine dog breeds that originated from the beautiful country.
The Irish Setter is perhaps the most well-known and popular of all Irish dog breeds, and one of the most recognizable and beloved dog breeds overall. These sporting dogs were bred in Ireland originally as hunting companions, and even today they are well regarded for their pointing abilities and their keen sense of smell. Not surprisingly, Irish Setters have a lot of energy, and require large, open spaces. The bigger your yard, the better. They are also intelligent and need a lot of stimulation to keep them occupied. But they’ll reward all of that with an affable personality and extremely loyal companionship. (PawNation)
The Kerry Beagle is believed to be one of the oldest Irish dog breeds, introduced to the island by the Celts during the Middle Ages. Their popularity suffered a long, slow decline that almost led to their extinction, but they have rebounded and continue to grow in popularity today. They were first formally recognized by the Irish Kennel Club in 1991, but are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club. Developed over time into fantastic hunting hounds, Kerry Beagles are also extremely friendly and make excellent family dogs. Like other hunting breeds, they have a great deal of energy and require a lot of exercise, doing best with a lot of space in which to run around. (PetMD)
Like Irish Setters, Irish Terriers are well-known for their red coats. This wasn’t always the case, however. One of the oldest Terrier breeds in existence, Irish Terriers once could be found in shades of black, gray and tan. The red coloration was for all intents and purposes standardized in the 19th century. With their long legs and agility, Irish Terriers are even more energetic than other terriers, which potential owners should definitely consider before adopting. Their energy and intelligence makes the breed recommended for experienced dog owners. They are, however, fiercely loyal and make good family dogs, as long as they are well-trained. (PawNation)
KERRY BLUE TERRIER
The Kerry Blue Terrier is so named first for its origin in southwestern Ireland’s Ring of Kerry, and second for its striking blue-gray coat. A versatile breed, Kerry Blues are talented at hunting small prey like household vermin or birds, as well as being great water retrievers, and even as sheep or cow herders. Long popular in Ireland, the breed was exported to England and America only in the 1920s, but it quickly became popular, and was recognized by the AKC in 1924. (PawNation)
SOFT COATED WHEATEN TERRIER
Related to both the Irish Terrier and the Kerry Blue Terrier, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is among the oldest of dog breeds originating in Ireland. Once known as the “poor man’s dog,” the breed was frequently owned by peasants and farmers, working as herders or vermin hunters. Brought to the U.S. in 1946, the breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1973. Sweet-natured and playful, these dogs have a puppy-like demeanor that they retain into their adulthoods. They are intelligent, so they take to training well, and they are loyal and good with children, so they make terrific family dogs. (PawNation)
IRISH WATER SPANIEL
The Irish Water Spaniel is both a very old breed and a very rare one. As you might surmise from their name, these dogs make excellent water retrievers, but they are more often valued today for being excellent companion pets. They were popular show dogs in the U.S. and the U.K. in the late 1600s, and by the late 19th century, they were third most popular sporting dog. Today, they are seen much less often, but those who own them will attest to their positive nature. (PetMD)
GLEN OF IMAAL TERRIER
The small, ridiculously cute Glen of Imaal Terrier was bred for one very specific, unusual task: turnspitting. A turnspit was a large wheel that a dog would paddle to turn a spit over the hearth, because people wanted roasted meat and Ron Popeil hadn’t invented electric rotisseries yet. Nowadays, we don’t really have any use for turnspit dogs, but luckily for them, Glen of Imaal terriers pack enough personality in their tiny bodies for us to keep them around and in demand. (PawNation)
Famously the largest breed of dog in the world, Irish Wolfhounds tend to be gentle giants. A very old breed, precursors to the Irish Wolfhound originated in Greece, and are believed to have been imported to Ireland around 1500 B.C. They were bred even larger, turning into the dogs we’re familiar with today. Irish Wolfhounds grew legendary in Ireland, esteemed for their ability to fight wild animals for sport and in hunting, but also for their agreeable nature and nobility. Today, these gentle, calm dogs make wonderful family pets for those who can manage (literally) to fit one of them in their home. (PetMD)
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IRISH RED AND WHITE SETTER
Perhaps not surprisingly, the history of the Irish Red and White Setter is tied to that of the standard Irish Setter. Originally, Irish Setters were red and white. It wasn’t until around 1850 that Irish Setters with solid red coats, as we know them today, gained popularity. The Red and White Irish Setters almost went extinct until an effort to revive them in the 1920s. Naturally, this breed has a temperament similar to the Irish Setter. They are energetic and require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. Without it, they easily can become unruly. But with those needs fulfilled, and a strong hand for adequate training, these dogs make terrific companions and tremendous family dogs. (Dog Breed Info Center)