Ireland is the native country of some of our most beloved dog breeds, including two hounds, three gundogs, and four terriers. As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, let’s take a look at the nine Irish dog breeds that have been immersed in cultures across the world and adored for their talents and sweet demeanors.
In the past, these working breeds utilized canine behaviors passed down from their ancestors to work alongside humans, hunting down prey with their keen eyesight and incredible sense of smell. Today, their predatory instincts remain intact. Although they no longer need to help humans source food, they enjoy utilizing their natural instincts to stay happy and healthy. They still enjoy running, following a scent, and the independence of a wide-open meadow.
- Irish Wolfhound
A calm and dignified breed, Irish Wolfhounds are loyal companions that are both muscular and graceful. They are the largest of the pure breed hounds, with a male Irish Wolfhound standing nearly three feet and weighing up to 180 pounds.
- Kerry Beagle
Despite their name, the Kerry Beagle isn’t related to the Beagle. They have drop ears that make them appear similar, but that is the only comparison to be made. Kerry Beagles are known for speed and endurance, making them great hunters. They are loyal, obedient, and great with kids, making them ideal family dogs.
The family of gundogs consists of retrievers, spaniels, pointers, and setters that were initially bred to help humans with hunting. Retrievers would retrieve fallen game, such as birds that were shot at long distances, and bring them back to their owners. Spaniels were expert hunters that would find game and expose it to their owners, while pointers and setters could locate game at longer distances and alert their owners by freezing in place until they were close enough. Today, gundogs still enjoy utilizing their instincts but are also great family dogs and loving companions.
- Irish Water Spaniel
The tallest spaniel, the Irish Water Spaniel is known for its signature crispy curled, waterproof coat and swimming expertise. The ancestors of this hardworking breed put in long hours in the field, although today, they are playful and loving family dogs.
- Irish Red Setter
The graceful, sweet-tempered Irish Red Setter is known for its signature red coat and long legs, making it one of the fastest sporting dogs. Their playful personalities, patience, and love for fetching tennis balls make them an excellent option for families with younger children.
- Irish Red & White Setter
Bred to hunt just like its fellow gundogs, the Irish Red & White Setter is an athletic bird dog that is slightly shorter and stockier than its closest relative, the Irish Setter. It’s notorious for its motionless stance when it has discovered game, with its stunning coat being easy to spot by its owner trailing behind.
Terriers were bred as natural predators and specialists in watching and killing small vermin with a single bite. Today, terriers will revert to their natural tendency to prey on household and yard vermin if they are bored, stressed, under-stimulated—and sometimes just for fun. They are fun and active dogs that are always up for an adventure, making them ideal for on-the-go families, exercise enthusiasts, and lovers of The Great Outdoors.
- Irish Terrier
This medium-sized, daring terrier with a fiery red coat is a workhorse outdoors and a sweet family dog at home. Intelligent and always wanting to please its owner, the Irish Setter benefits from obedience training at a young age to settle into a comfortable home environment.
- Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier
This gentle yet bold terrier is always ready to work despite its small frame standing just 14 inches high. The Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier is notoriously smart and loves people, but is not known for getting along well with other dogs. Therefore, they’re a great family dog when they’re the only dog getting the family’s attention.
- Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
An energetic Irish farm dog, the Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is a happy-go-lucky breed with a side of stubbornness typical of terriers. Muscular yet surprisingly soft-coated, this terrier is often dubbed “an iron fist in a velvet glove.”
- Kerry Blue Terrier
One of the largest terriers, the Kerry Blue Terrier features a one-of-a-kind blue coat in shades that range from deep slate to light blue-gray. They are known for their personalities stretching the spectrum, being animated and lively one minute, then cozied up with their owner on the couch the next minute.
If you own one of these Irish breeds, celebrate them alongside your corned beef and cabbage this St. Patrick’s Day. Contact your veterinarian for insight on personality, common medical ailments, and more if you’re interested in adopting one of these breeds.