The 7 Most Famous Irish Dog Breeds

The 7 Most Famous Irish Dog Breeds

Author WDF Staff


If you ever had the chance to visit Ireland, you probably know how beautiful the “Emerald isle” is. Its green scenery looks like something out of a fairy tale or the most beautiful painting. The luck of the Irish is something known around the world, and the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, is celebrated across the globe.

When it comes to dogs, Irish dog breeds have a long and impressive history. Irish dog breeds come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiniest ratting Terriers to the largest Wolfhounds. Here are the most famous Irish dog breeds;

1. Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier’s exact date of origin is somewhat of a mystery. The first records of this Irish dog breed date back to the 1700s, but some historians believe these dogs are a lot older than that. It is believed this is one of the oldest Terrier breeds, and they played a part in creating many Terriers we know today.

irish terrier

This famous Irish breed was initially bred for the role of a watchdog and vermin controller. These days, Irish Terriers make fantastic family companions that have plenty of energy. They are an excellent fit for active families with kids. These dogs love adventures, and they will gladly accompany you wherever you want to go.

2. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Most Terriers are known for their active, somewhat crazy nature, but Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are not your average Terriers. These dogs are a lot more laid back, and they are known for their beautiful wheaten coats. This breed has the same ancestors as the Irish Terrier, and they even shared the same farming jobs. Wheatens were entrusted with keeping farms rat-free and alerting the owners of anything suspicious.

soft coated wheaten terrier

Modern-day Wheatens make fantastic family dogs. They are active but not as energetic as other members of the Terrier family. They are patient, and if trained, they can become excellent watchdogs. They have an alert nature, and it doesn’t take a lot of work to become great family protectors.

3. Irish Wolfhound

If you ever had the privilege of coming across an Irish Wolfhound, you probably noticed how impressive these dogs are. This giant Irish dog breed is one of the tallest breeds in existence, and they were originally bred to hunt wolves, elk, and boar. Not only are they large, but they are also ancient. Their existence dates back to 391 AD. These dogs were even gifted to the famous Roman consul Aurelius. He was given 7 Wolfhounds that were used for protection and hunting.

Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds today don’t do much hunting, and they prefer napping over running. They are still huge, but their hunting instincts are not nearly as sharp as they used to be. Like other giant dog breeds, the Irish Wolfhound has a tragically short lifespan, only 6 - 8 years.

4. Irish Setter

The Irish Setter is probably the most famous Irish dog breed. These dogs were bred for hunting, just like other members of the Setter family. These dogs became extremely popular in the US after the Walt Disney movie “Big Red.” It is an endearing story about an orphan boy and the Irish Setter called Big Red. All dog lovers should watch this Disney classic.

irish setter

Modern Irish Setters are more pets than hunters. However, some owners and breeders are keen on keeping the breed true to its original purpose. They are taking them back to their primary goal and are more focused on breeding hunting dogs than show dogs. Nevertheless, Irish Setters are great family dogs that will love spending time with their families.

5. Glen of Imaal Terrier

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a small Terrier breed from the valley in the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. At the breed’s beginning, they were largely underappreciated due to their small stature and inability to hunt larger prey. However, the Glen, as it is often called, found its purpose and became one of the best tiny working Terriers out there. 

glen of imaal terrier

The Glen of Imaal Terrier makes an active family pet that can be stubborn and independent. However, those that share a home with the Glen know how loving and affectionate these small dogs can be. They are gentle and active, so they thrive in active families who love taking them on hikes. However, this is not a dog that will get along with other pets like gerbils or bunnies.

6. Irish Red and White Setter

The Irish Red and White Setter is a working breed developed exclusively for hunting. They are closely related to the Irish Setter but compared to them, they are smaller, stockier, and more agile. These working Setters have keen hunting abilities, and that is precisely why many active hunters love these dogs.

Irish Red and White Setter

Even though their primary purpose was to be an active hunting companion, these dogs can be found filling the role of a family companion. However, like any other working breed, the Irish Red and White Setter is not meant to stay in an inactive family. These dogs require a great deal of activity, and they would make ideal companions to families with many hobbies.

7. Kerry Blue Terrier

If you ever wondered what a versatile working Terrier looks like, you can simply picture a Kerry Blue Terrier. This Irish dog breed is meant for versatile farm work, and there isn’t a job these dogs cannot do. They were vermin controllers, shepherds, herders, and hunters. Their popularity in the US exploded after the general public learned about their magnificent working characters and playful personality.

Kerry Blue Terrier

Modern-day Kerry Blue Terriers are slightly less active than their ancestors but don’t make the mistake of thinking they are docile and lazy. These dogs need to have their physical needs fulfilled; otherwise, they can become destructive and develop behavioral problems.

World Dog Finder team

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