With people around the world celebrating their Irishness this month, it seems the perfect time to look at dogs who can boast of their Irish roots. Dogs have been by our side since Bran and Sceólang were besties with Finn Mac Cool. But do you know which breeds are native to Ireland? According to the Irish Kennel Club, there are nine.
While they are the ultimate gentle giants, these enormous dogs did indeed earn their name by taking down wolves. They are calm and affectionate by nature, but their loyalty and devotion to their humans does make them protective if a big bad wolf show up at the door.
Their energy level and head-turning beauty explain how they earned their starring role as the logo for Bus Eireann. They’re exceptionally fast dogs, and their friendly, playful nature makes them excellent family pets. They tend to get along well with children and other dogs.
Red and White Setter
They have all the playfulness and friendliness of a Red Setter in a slightly smaller package. Their distinctive markings really make them stand out, and they are popular gun dogs as well as wonderful family pets. With the right training, they are pure grace in motion as they point birds.
House angel, street devil, these copper-coloured terriers are super affectionate with their families but don’t play well with other dogs. A medium-sized dog, they don’t shed or drool much and they are fiercely protective watchdogs.
Glen of Imaal Terrier
Brave, scruffy, sturdy and totally adorable, these little dogs love a task as much as they love the reward. Their ancestors were hardworking farm dogs, and today they are happy to play with their toys and go for daily walks. Their colouring is either wheaten or blue/grey brindle.
Kerry Blue Terrier
Ranging from a soft grey to a deep slate blue, their distinctive coat is their claim to fame. But these energetic terriers are more than just a pretty face with a magnificent beard. They are protective watchdogs and loving family pets.
Recognised by the Irish Kennel Club but not the American Kennel Club, this rare dog is larger and leggier than other beagles. Technically, they aren’t beagles. Some claim their name derives from the Irish word beag, meaning small.
Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
These dogs exude joy. Playful, energetic and affectionate, they sport a beautiful soft, wavy coat that shimmers in the sun and does need regular brushing. They are classic terriers – muscular, stubborn and fiercely devoted to their family.
Irish Water Spaniel
With such a wet climate and an abundance of lakes, of course Ireland has a water spaniel. Taller than other spaniels with a curly coat, they could be mistaken for poodles if seen from far away. They don’t shed much, but they do play a lot.
For such a small island, Ireland is blessed with a wonderful array of native breeds. All of them have a long history as working dogs, which means that as modern pets they need plenty of exercise and play time. And they all do make good family pets. They share a tendency to work hard, play hard and love their family with pure devotion.
By Irene Hislop