History of the Irish Terrier
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Family: Terrier

Place of Origin: Ireland

Date of Origin: 1700s

Life span: 12 – 15 years

Average size of Male: Height – 18 inches, Weight – 27 pounds

Original Function: Hunting Fox, Otter and other vermin

Primary current function: Vermin hunting

 

The Irish Terrier is considered one of the oldest terrier breeds. This ancient breed was originally bred not so much for their looks but for their working ability and gameness, their instinct to hunt makes them great vermin hunters. They were formally all different colours, black and tan, grey and brindle, wheaten of all shades and red, now being the prominent colour. This black and tan terrier evolved eventually into the breed we see today. They are an active and compactly sized dog that is suited for life in both rural and city environments. Its harsh red coat protects it from all kinds of weather. The breed developed in Ireland, where their qualities were hardiness, courage, hunter with a temperament to live closely alongside people. The solid red coat only became common in the latter part of the 19th century. The Irish terrier became very popular in England in the late 1800s, and it was stylish at that time to crop its ears. However, the Irish Terrier Club of England banned this practice in 1889. This eventually helped to abolish ear cropping for all show breeds in England. The popularity of the Irish terrier grew in America by the late 1920s, when this breed ranked 13th in the country. Regarded as the “raciest” breed among terriers, the Irish terrier showcases longer legs and a longer body than other members of the group, giving them a lithe, athletic yet sturdy appearance. The breed worked as a guard dog and a farm dog for many years in Ireland, and it was used in the trenches during World War I as a messenger dog, which bespeaks of its intelligent, courageous, and adventurous spirit. An uncommon breed, the Irish terrier is rarely seen in show today, and it is a unique, loyal companion and guardian of the home. Although becoming the fourth most popular breed in Ireland and Britain in the 1880s a decision was made by the Kennel Club in June 2003 that research would be undertaken to identify and confirm the relevant breeds and the extent and nature of their vulnerability. This research not only featured breeds of dog which are basically of British origin, but with the support of the Irish Kennel Club, the research also included native Irish Breeds. The work carried out concentrated on those breeds which achieve 300 or fewer registrations each year in the UK, and statistics were pulled together to identify the relevant breeds and the extent and nature of the their vulnerability, the Irish Terrier being one of them, although luckily their numbers are slowly rising every year.

Breed

With a longer graceful outline, the body and legs of this tall terrier exude power, strength, and speed. In fact, the well-proportioned body of the Irish terrier is a lesson in grace, agility, and character. It is strong and sturdy with an absence of clumsiness, and straight, long, and muscular front legs. The Irish terrier features a powerful jaw coupled with a flat skull. The bearded muzzle, long whiskers and bushy eyebrows add to its intense expression. The eyes are small and dark, mirroring its intelligent and fiery spirit. The breed’s ears are folded forward and form a V-shape, and often the hair here is shorter and darker than the rest of the fur. The wiry coat is generally a single colour of red, gold, or wheaten. The hair is dense or thick on the outside and usually features a soft lining of fur underneath. The tail, carried erect, is often docked to three-quarters of its original length.

Temperament

Assertive and bold yet friendly, the Irish terrier is often described as a “daredevil” because of its courageous nature and love of exploring. This breed is always ready and willing to play with children and may often act as a loyal protector. Known for its hot temper, the Irish terrier is frequently aggressive with other dogs and small animals, so it’s important to firmly train from the start. It should be kept on a leash when in public as it enjoys giving chase. While intelligent and considered trainable, this breed is generally strong-willed and independent. The Irish terrier can be a challenge to housetrain and is often reserved with strangers. Training and socialization with people should begin at an early age to help this dog become a fun-loving and loyal companion.

Maintenance

The dense wiry coat of the Irish terrier is not prone to shedding. It is easy to maintain by brushing and combing once or twice a week and shaping the coat approximately twice a year is suggested. Bathing is recommended only when necessary. As with any animal, regularly check the nails, teeth and ears. Adventurous and intelligent, the Irish terrier needs daily exercise. This breed can fare well in an apartment setting if it is not left alone for long periods of time and regular exercise is provided. The Irish terrier may bark incessantly or try to dig its way out of the yard if left alone for too long. Long walks on a leash, the opportunity to run in a fenced-in area, and active games played with its owner are wonderful ways to provide the type of exercise this dog needs. Remember to always keep firm control of the Irish terrier on a leash when walking outdoors to prevent skirmishes with other dogs. The key to a content, healthy Irish terrier is consistent and firm training from the beginning. This terrier lacks the hereditary problems found in many other breeds and is generally very healthy.