7 Popular Irish Dog Breeds + 2 You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

This St. Patrick’s Day we are celebrating the Irish dog breeds that many of us have come to know and love, as well as an old “new” breed that is starting to gain recognition. If you are looking for a loyal, intelligent, spirited, and hard-working dog (much like the Irish people!) then one of these Celtic breeds might just be for you.

1. Irish Wolfhound


This giant, wire-haired breed is easily recognizable, even by non-dog people. A member of the greyhound family, they are the world’s largest breed and were bred to hunt wolves and elk. Their ancestors date back to 600-900 A.D. and were only owned by Kings and noblemen, whom they accompanied into battle. While their ancestors may have been fierce on the battlefield, Irish Wolfhounds are known for kind temperaments and not their guard dog abilities. (http://www.iwclubofamerica.org/welcome.htm)

2. Irish Setter


This breed is known for their flowing, head-turning red coat. While they have a strong hunting instinct to this day, their fun-loving “rollicking” temperament makes them attractive companions to non-sportsmen too. As long as you give them something to do (they are intelligent and enjoy training), they can make a great companion. (http://www.irishsetterclub.org/index.html)

3. Irish Red and White Setter


Identical in almost every way to the Irish setter except for the white patches, it is believed that this rarer of the two breeds was actually the beginning of both. Through discriminating breeding, the red and white dog became an all red dog that was wildly popular, leaving red and white puppies less desirable. However, they are making a comeback as dog owners now fancy a “flashier” dog. They have the same intelligent, fun-loving temperament as their red counterparts. (http://www.irishredwhitesetterassociation.com/index.html)

4. Glen of Imaal Terrier


This rare breed is all terrier. Ready to chase game, they can be independent and hard to trust off leash. While they are full of spunk, this breed can also be a couch potato, settling for the company of his owner over a walk. They also tend to not be barky, unless they live with other reactive dogs. (http://www.glens.org/)

5. Irish Water Spaniel


Another rare breed, this spaniel is the epitome of a good game dog – intelligent, eager to please, and active. They were bred to retrieve game without fuss and they do it with a pleasing attitude. They love the entire family and do not bark excessively. (http://www.iwsca.org/)

6. Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier

Another breed that has its roots deep in Irish history, the Kerry Blue is a striking terrier that has gone from virtual obscurity to being one of the most competitive in the show ring in the last three decades. This terrier is said to have all the characteristics of the Irish themselves, including intelligence, humor, and a temper. (http://www.kerryblues.info/)

7. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Like the Kerry Blue Terrier, this is an old Irish breed and like the wolfhound by law they were only owned by the rich. Spunky and intelligent, this breed needs a family that is dog-savvy, as they can take advantage of the less skilled trainer. However, if you have the time and patience to train this strong-willed dog, he will be faithful in return. (http://www.scwtca.org/index.htm)

8. Irish Lurcher

Irish Lurcher

The Irish Lurcher is really more of a breed type than an actual breed. Lurchers come from Ireland and Great Britain and are usually the result of breeding two types of sighthounds (such as a greyhound and a deerhound) together. Fast and very reactive to any type of movement, they are known for their great love of people and sweet dispositions. (http://celticlurchers.com/aboutlurchers.htm)

9. Irish Toy Collie


While just gaining recognition, this “new” breed is really a very old type of dog, the result of combining small spitz breeds, the Shetland sheepdog, and other related herding breeds. The word Collie is Celtic for “useful dog,” which he most certainly is. This small breed (standing under 14”) is a good farm dog; exceptionally smart, sweet natured and active. (http://irishtoycollie.homestead.com/index.html)

About the Author

Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs.

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