The bold and adventurous Irish Terrier is considered the oldest breed of all Terriers, although its beginnings are something of a mystery. What we do know is that by the 17th century, Ireland enjoyed the Irish Terrier as a vermin hunter and guard dog on its many country farms. By the next century, the breed gained popularity in the show ring in Ireland, England, Scotland, and even across the ocean in the United States. Today, this wiry coated, medium sized dog has become a loyal, cheerful, and active family dog. Needing little in the way of grooming, this willful breed does require vigorous daily exercise, as well as early socialization and training.
Though the Irish Terrier is considered the oldest of all Terrier breeds, its ancestry is not well documented. The earliest recordings of this lively breed come from 17th century paintings. Believed to originate in Ireland, this Terrier may have been descended from the Black and Tan Terrier, or even the Irish Wolfhound. Some have even speculated that it may be a castoff from the lowland Scottish Terrier. Early dogs sported gray and brindle or black and tan coats. The red coat the breed is known for today only became common in the 19th century. The color change may have lent to its nickname of “Daredevil,” but more likely this is owing to its bold and courageous nature. This Terrier was used in Ireland for farm work, to hunt vermin, and as a guard dog. During World War I, this adventurous breed was employed as messengers and sentinels. The Irish Terrier gained popularity in late 1800s England, where it became the style to crop its ears. In 1875, Scotland records the first showing of this Terrier as a recognized breed. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Irish Terrier in 1885. Four years later in 1889, the Terrier Club of England banned the cropping of the breed’s ears, which eventually led to a ban for all show breeds in the country. The popularity of this spunky little dog continued to rise, and by the late 1920s, it was ranked the 13th most popular breed in the United States.
The Irish Terrier is regarded as the raciest Terrier, with longer legs and bodies than other Terrier breeds. This gives then a sturdy and athletic appearance. He is evenly proportioned with a longer back than other Terriers as well. The long and narrow head boasts a flat skull. A long whiskered, bearded muzzle hides a powerful jaw. Bushy eyebrows and small, dark eyes give this dog an intense expression. V-shaped ears are folded forward, and feature darker, shorter hair than the rest of this Terrier’s body. The tail is set high and is carried erect. Traditionally, the tail has a quarter of its length docked in the United States. The coat is composed of dense, wiry hair that is thick on the outside, and is often referred to as broken, that is, neither curly nor straight. Underneath this coat hides a soft lining of fur. The Irish Terrier is generally seen in a solid color of wheat, gold, or the most popular, red.
This is an easy breed to maintain, as the short coat needs only a weekly brushing. Though thick, the coat is not prone to shed. Stripping or clipping may be beneficial and is recommended two to four times a year. Stripping pulls out only the dead hairs. Clipping may be easier, but can leave the coat too soft to receive good marks in the show ring. An occasional bath is recommended only when needed. This Terrier has fast growing nails that should be clipped regularly to avoid splits and cracks. Regular maintenance for ears and teeth also keeps this dog looking its best. The Irish Terrier is an active and intelligent breed, and needs daily exercise to thrive. Though this dog can be happy in an apartment, he will need mental and physical stimulation to keep boredom and bad behavior away. A fenced in yard and leashed walks keep his roaming nature and chase instinct under control.