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Irish Dog Breeds - Covering the canine spectrum

If you enjoy a warm winter’s night, by a comforting fire place and a glass of a favorite beverage, chances are there is a dog sitting or laying down in close proximity. And there is a good chance that its origins have Irish roots. Between the many areas which officially are considered to be Celtic (Irish, Scottish, English), there are more than a score of official breeds ready to become man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

While the 2014 North Texas Irish Festival pays its tribute to those wonderful animals, it’s good to distinguish between the many breeds, and some of the history behind their existence.

In Saint Patrick’s time, breeds like the water spaniel, wolfhound and beagle were for nobility; commoners had to contend with terriers. Today, Irish breeds, of all types (terriers included), have become very popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The list of Irish breeds includes:

The Irish Terrier looks like a cross between an Airedale and a wirehaired fox terrier, but it’s a true breed, around for some 2,000 years! Bushy eyebrows and a reddish-colored coat give them a Celtic look and protects them from all kinds of weather. The breed’s origin is thought to be from the black and tan terrier-type dogs of Britain and Ireland (the Kerry Blue and Irish Soft-haired Wheaten Terriers in Ireland or the Welsh, Lakeland and Scottish terriers in Great Britain). Irish terriers were the first terriers to be recognized by the English Kennel Club as a native Irish breed – before the end of the 19th century. Irish terriers are active dogs and need (and enjoy) consistent mental and physical challenges; they should be able to relax inside the house and be stimulated to full activity level very quickly. Good with people, they have a highly-developed sense of loyalty. Most Irish terriers love children and tolerate rough-housing to a certain extent. But they need lots of exercise, so don’t acquire one if you won’t walk them.

Everybody’s darlings, the Irish Setter (sotar rua, which literally means “red setter”), is a breed of gundog and family dog. The term “Irish Setter” is commonly used to encompass the show-bred dog recognized by the American Kennel Club, as well as the field-bred Red Setter. Known for flowing, silky, feathered coat and slim greyhound-like build, Irish Setters get along well with children, other dogs and any household pets. They thrive on constant human companionship and will enthusiastically greet visitors. Setters are also an active breed, requiring long, daily walks and off-leash running in open spaces. They do, however, tend to “play deaf,” so careful training on mastering the recall should be completed before allowing them off-leash. Irish Setters respond quickly to positive training and are highly intelligent; they like having a “job” to do. However, lack of activity can lead to a bored, destructive, even hyperactive animal; this is not a breed to be left alone in the backyard for long periods of time. They are widely used as therapy dogs in schools and hospitals.

The modern Red Setter is sMallar than its bench-bred cousin; show dogs often reach 70 pounds, but the working Red Setter is generally around 45 pounds. Its coat is less silky, the feathering is generally shorter, and the color is lighter (russet and fawn colors). The Red Setter often has patches of white on its face and chest, as the Irish Setter of olden days did.

The Irish Wolfhound (in Gaelic, called Cú Faoil) is a breed of domestic dog, specifically a sight hound, and is sometimes (incorrectly) regarded as the national dog breed of Ireland (no breed has ever been officially anointed with that title). The name originates from its original mission (wolf hunting with dogs), not from its shaggy looks. The breed was originally developed to hunt wolves, elk and red deer, and guard its owner’s home. But as time passed, it became a marvelous modern-day family pet. Irish Wolfhounds can be imposing due to their formidable size; they are the tallest of all AKC dog breeds (sporting, non-sporting, herding, hound, working, terrier, toy). Standing on their hind legs, wolfhounds can reach seven-feet tall.

Noted for its personal quirks and individualism, an Irish wolfhound is NOT a mindless animal. Despite its large size, it is rarely destructive in the house; really just gentle giants, generally placid and sweet-tempered. Wolfhounds create a strong bond with their family, but can become agitated or morose if left alone for long periods of time. The breed is very old; it may have been brought to Ireland as early as 7000 B.C.

The Kerry Beagle is one of the oldest Irish hounds, believed to be descendant from the Old Southern Hound or Celtic Hounds, with detailed pedigrees dating back as far as 1794. Originally bred as a scent hound used to track game, larger hounds were then sent in to do the actual hunting. This breed is still used today for hunting hare and takes part in drag trials. The Kerry is a medium-sized hound with a broad head, a short coat and long ears. Black and Tan is the more common color but the coat may be tan and white, blue mottled and tan or black. Its looks suggest speed and endurance. This breed of dog is a pack hound and strongly retains its hunting instinct. They do make very good pets and are good with children and other dogs. They just require a lot of exercise, regular twice to three times daily walks and free runs.

The Irish Water Spaniel is the largest and one of the oldest of spaniels; one of the rarer breeds with the AKC in terms of registrations. The modern breed was developed in Ireland in the 1830s, but the Irish Water Spaniel is a native Irish breed for more than 1,000 years. Possibly descended from the poodle and Irish setter, they are fairly large, curly-coated brown-purplish dogs with a hairless tail. They are extremely intelligent and inquisitive, although sometimes shy and independent. Irish water spaniels obviously love swimming and made their reputation retrieving ducks from very frigid waters. They make very good family dogs, usually excellent with respectful children and other pets. They also make good guard dogs – if properly trained to do so and will protect their human families. Not usually an aggressive dog, the Irish Water Spaniel does have a deep, fierce-sounding bark.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier, named for, the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, Ireland, is the least-known Irish terrier breed – one of four Irish terrier breeds. Sometimes called the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier or the Wicklow Terrier, the name is often shortened to just Glen. The Glen reportedly came into existence during the reign of Elizabeth I, who hired French and Hessian mercenaries to quell civil unrest in Ireland. Many soldiers settled in the Wicklow area, bringing with them their low-slung hounds, which they bred with the local terrier stock. A low-to-the-ground Corgi-type dog with bowed legs and a wiry, shaggy coat (like typical terriers), they are spirited, cocky, brave, stubborn and rambunctious. The Glen is expert at digging after any small creature and has a reputation as a silent, but deadly worker. Dog-on-dog aggression is not unusual for this breed.

The Kerry Blue Terrier is a breed of dog often called the Irish Blue Terrier in Ireland. Originally bred to control “vermin” including rats, rabbits, badgers, foxes, otters and hares, with time the Kerry Blue became a general working dog used for a variety of jobs, including cattle and sheep herding, and as a guard dog. Today, the Kerry has spread around the world as a companion and working dog – pugnacious, determined, loyal friends but formidable adversaries. First discovered in the mountains of Kerry in Ireland, thus the name of the breed, there is a romantic story of a blue dog swimming ashore from a shipwreck. The coat of this dog was so lovely it was mated with all the female Wheaten Terriers in Kerry, producing the Kerry Blue.

The soft coated Wheaten Terrier’s roots are strongly rooted in Ireland. Originally bred as a working dog to hunt game and guard home and stock, the Wheaton has evolved to be a much sought-after family pet. One of the main reasons for its popularity is the soft, infrequently-shedding nature of the breed’s coat. The SCWT club of America was formed (appropriately) on St. Patrick’s Day in 1962 and celebrated its 41st anniversary last year.

Celtic hounds were a breed of dogs in Gaelic Ireland described in Irish legend and may have corresponded to Greyhound, Scottish Deerhound, Irish Wolfhound, or a mix of all these breeds. They can be found in Celtic jewelry designs and paintings, as far back as the 17th century; symbolizing hunting, healing and the Otherworld in Celtic legends. Hounds were the traditional guardian animals of roads and crossways and believed to protect and guide lost souls in the Otherworld.

Many Irish myths and legends include mentions of hounds. The most famous involves the Celtic hero, Cuchulainn (The Hound of Ulster) or (The Hound of Culann), who killed a blacksmith’s Celtic hound in self-defense. When Culann the blacksmith asked who would now guard his shop, the young Cuchulainn offered to take the dog’s place thus gaining himself the title of “the hound of Culann.” The offer was turned down and Cuchulainn went on to become one of the greatest warrior legends of that era; still the nickname remained. In Welsh mythology, Gwyn ap Nudd was the ruler of Annwn (the Underworld) and escorted the souls of the dead there, leading a pack of supernatural hounds, called the Cŵn Annwn (Hounds of Annwn) (also Wild Hunt). Another well-known Welsh legend is that of Prince Llewellyn’s hound, Gelert, who was unjustly slain by his master after being wrongly accused of killing a child.

Animal Rescue

NTIF is proud to be one of the most pet friendly events in Dallas. Not only do we encourage visitors to bring their dogs to the park for a day out, but we also provide complimentary booth space to about 25 local pet adoption societies.

These may be organizations specializing in specific breeds or one of the many no-kill shelters in Dallas and the surrounding area.

Dog adoption and cat adoption saves lives.

Adopt a dog or adopt a cat and you'll have a friend for life! What is the difference between adopting a dog, adopting a cat, adopting a kitten or adopting a puppy versus getting dogs for sale, cats for sale, puppies for sale or kittens for sale from a dog breeder or a cat breeder? When someone is breeding puppies or breeding kittens, they are creating new dogs and cats who need homes. Some people are interested in a very specific breed of dog, cat, puppy or kitten and they think the only way to find that specific breed is to buy a dog for sale or buy a cat for sale from a puppy breeder or a kitten breeder.

Yet animal shelters are filled with dogs and cats who must find homes. So rather than buying a dog or puppy for sale from a dog breeder or buying a cat or kitten for sale from a cat breeder, we encourage people to adopt a dog, adopt a cat, adopt a puppy or adopt a kitten at their local animal shelter, SPCA, humane society or pet rescue group.

However, don't forget that there are many other kinds of animals that make wonderful pets. Rabbits, mice, fish all bring enjoymernt and teach responsibility to youngsters. We invite you to stop by the Pet Adoption area at the east end of Centennial Building and ask yourselves if you have room in your homes for one of the many animals available.

However, adoption is a serious matter, and involves a commitment, so think carefully and, if necessary, go home and talk it over before deciding.

Dog into the spirit of NTIF

Dog and other pet adoption societies are located in the Grand Building at Big Tex Circle.

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