9 Lovable Irish Dog Breeds You Should Know

Ireland is not only famous for its breathtaking landscapes, wildly popular music, and of course, anything relating to St. Patrick’s Day, but the Emerald Isle also has plenty of legendary dog breeds. Ireland has a long, proud history, and plenty of Celtic canines have helped the Irish people throughout the centuries.

There are numerous dogs with Irish ties, but some breeds have a deeper connection to the country than others. Below we highlight some notable dog breeds that call Ireland their home.

Are There Official Irish Dog Breeds?

Trying to determine which dogs breeds are Irish largely depends on who you ask. If you pose the question to an Irish pet parent with a Pug, they’ll likely tell you that their wrinkled fur baby calls the Republic of Éire home. While there are plenty of furry friends who have been adopted into Irish homes, there is a distinction between dog breeds that are popular in Ireland and ones whose ancestors truly hail from the rolling green mountains, woods, and bogs of Ireland.

According to the Irish Kennel Club, there are only nine types of dogs that are native to Ireland. The list has grown over time, with two of the breeds even being recognized by the American Kennel Club when the AKC first formed in 1884. Since then, the official group has expanded to include two hounds, four terriers, and three “gundogs,” a type of dog trained to find and retrieve game for hunters.

The 9 Official Types of Irish Dogs

Currently, these are the nine breeds the IKC recognize as native to the country:

Irish Setter

The Irish Setter is one of the oldest and most recognizable dog breeds that originate from Ireland. These dogs were one of the two native breeds initially recognized by the AKC in 1884 and became renowned for their solid red, mahogany, and chestnut colors.

The combination of their striking coats and athleticism made Irish Setters ideal hunting partners, as their handlers could easily spot them in the wild while they went after downed birds and other game. These big, lovable dogs are very outgoing and eager to please, making them ideal for both training and socializing.

  • Breed Size: Large (60-70 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 12-13 years
  • Grooming: Medium-length, silky coat that requires daily brushing.
  • Temperament: Affectionate, intelligent, and social.
  • Exercise: Walking and running encouraged – will become restless without activity.

Learn More About Irish Setters


Irish Red and White Setter

An Irish Red and White Setter, one of the native Irish dog breeds.

While the Irish Setter was an early member of the native Irish dog breeds, the Red and White Setter wasn’t officially recognized as a separate breed until much later despite appearing in Ireland before the all-red Irish Setter. Red and White Setters are one of the more rare Irish dog breeds, largely because they nearly went extinct during World War I. These dogs have since bounced back to be recognized as a native Irish breed in 1970 and as an official AKC breed in 2009.

Like its all-red counterpart, the Red and White Setter was bred to hunt birds. They are also easily spotted from a distance. The Red and White breed is not as big as traditional Irish Setters, but they’re very similar in terms of temperament and ability to get along with other dogs and young children.

  • Breed Size: Medium/Large (40-60 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 12-13 years
  • Grooming: Medium-length, silky coat that requires daily brushing.
  • Temperament: Intelligent, high-spirited, and independent.
  • Exercise: Walking and running encouraged – will become restless without activity.

Irish Water Spaniel

An Irish Water Spaniel, one of the native Irish dog breeds.

The Irish Water Spaniel is the other initial member of the native Irish dog club, with a history that dates back to the 1830s. This breed’s exact origins are unclear, but experts believe that Irish Water Spaniels were bred to help hunters retrieve waterfowl in the bogs and rivers of Ireland since they were excellent swimmers and responded well to training.

Irish Water Spaniels are easily recognizable due to their dark, tightly curled coat and thin, tapered “rat tail.” They also make excellent family dogs, as Irish Water Spaniels tend to be very playful and affectionate at home.

  • Breed Size: Medium/Large (45-65 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 12-14 years
  • Grooming: Curly, medium-length coat that needs regular brushing.
  • Temperament: Faithful, attentive, and protective.
  • Exercise: Require regular exercise, such as daily walks, swims or other activities.

Learn More About Irish Water Spaniels


Irish Wolfhound

An Irish Wolfhound, one of the native Irish dog breeds.

The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest type of dog recognized by the AKC and can weigh up to 180 pounds. While the sheer size of the Irish Wolfhound is impressive, the breed’s long history may be even more remarkable. Records of the Irish Wolfhound date back to ancient times, with artifacts showing or describing the breed playing part in Celtic invasions and being presented as gifts to the Roman Empire.

These days, the Irish Wolfhound is still as majestic as ever. They may not be the same big-game hunters who defended small villages from wolves, but they can still sprint up to 40 miles per hour when given the chance. Despite their massive size and strength, Irish Wolfhounds are extremely gentle, affectionate dogs and are very patient with children and guests.

  • Breed Size: Giant (105-125 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 11 years
  • Grooming: No special grooming needs.
  • Temperament: Intelligent, patient, and friendly.
  • Exercise: Lighter exercise needs – daily walks are adequate.

Learn More About Irish Wolfhounds


Kerry Beagle

A Kerry Beagle, one of the rarest native Irish dog breeds.

Image source – wikimedia/commons

Unlike the rest of the dogs on this list, the Kerry Beagle is the only native Irish breed not recognized by the AKC. It’s also more of a scent hound than a traditional Beagle – in fact, the Kerry Beagle is an excellent hunter that breeders used to help develop the American Coonhound. Experts believe that the name of the breed comes from “beag,” the Irish word for small.

The main reason why the Kerry Beagle isn’t commonly known is because it’s an extremely rare Irish breed. Their numbers declined in the 1800s and there are very few who live outside of Ireland. Pet parents find Kerry Beagles to be affectionate dogs who also make for excellent watchdogs – just be aware that these historic hunters prefer larger areas where they can run and roam.

  • Breed Size: Medium/Large (50-60 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 10-14 years
  • Grooming: Short coats that require less frequent brushing.
  • Temperament: Alert, playful, and obedient.
  • Exercise: Highly active – needs longer periods of physical and mental stimulation.

Irish Terrier

An Irish Terrier, one of the native Irish dog breeds.

One of the more iconic Irish dog breeds, the Irish Terrier hails from Cork – Ireland’s second-largest city. While Irish Terriers started off hunting vermin and small game, these quick, sturdy dogs were also used as messengers in World War I.

There are several different types of terriers, but the Irish Terrier is the only one with an all-red coat. The breed originally came in a variety of tans and grays before developing its reddish fur toward the end of the 19th century. Irish Terriers are great companions for active families, although their fiery nature can make them difficult to train for first-time pet parents.

  • Breed Size: Small/Medium (25-27 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 12-15 years
  • Grooming: Wiry, medium-length coat that requires normal brushing.
  • Temperament: Energetic, loyal, and courageous.
  • Exercise: High energy – requires multiple walks and other mental and physical activities.

Learn More About Irish Terriers


Kerry Blue Terrier

A Kerry Blue Terrier, one of the native Irish dog breeds.

Kerry Blue Terriers are mostly known for their soft wavy coat, striking silhouette, and long beard. These dogs are born with a black coat that typically fades to some form of dark gray, blue, or silver coloring. Kerry Blues do not shed, which makes them great dogs for people with allergies. Their lack of shedding does require extra grooming.

For how noble Kerry Blue Terriers appear, their origins trace back to being humble farming dogs who would help hunt pests and other small animals. These hardworking canines have maintained their resilient nature, making them a good fit for active children. They will require consistency and patience to train.

  • Breed Size: Medium (33-40 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 14-plus years
  • Grooming: Require regular brushing, along with full grooming sessions every six to eight weeks.
  • Temperament: Fun-loving, smart, and strong-willed.
  • Exercise: Normal exercise needed – daily walks are fine.

Learn More About Kerry Blue Terriers


Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

An Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, one of the native Irish dog breeds.

While all the native Irish breeds deserve plenty of love, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has a coincidental tie to St. Patrick’s Day. The breed was commonly used as a hunter and all-around farm dog much like terriers from the country. Despite their long history, the IKC first recognized them as a breed in 1937. This later recognition was a happy accident for the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier – they were able to make their first appearance in the IKC Championship on March 17, 1938.

Like the Kerry Blue Terrier, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is beloved for its striking, wavy coat. They shed much less than other dogs, but fur buildup can cause problems without extra grooming. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are naturally affectionate dogs and are good with children thus them great family pets and watchdogs.

  • Breed Size: Medium (30-40 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 14 years
  • Grooming: Requires daily brushing and multiple professional grooming sessions each year.
  • Temperament: Outgoing, energetic, and sensitive.
  • Exercise: Moderate exercise – requires regular walks and play time.

Learn More About Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers


Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier

An Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier, one of the native Irish dog breeds.

One of the most recent additions to the native breeds of Ireland, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is named after a specific valley found in the Wicklow Mountains. Like every other terrier from Ireland, the Glen of Imaal excelled at ridding farms and other places of pests and other small game. Despite their short height and long stature, these adorable dogs were even tough enough to defeat 40-pound badgers with ease.

While the Glen of Imaal Terrier started out as a fierce hunter, they’re more known as cuddly companion dogs these days. These dogs are highly adaptable to change and are open to children, other dogs, and strangers. The Glen of Imaal Terrier’s weather-resistant coat does require some extra grooming and care, but their docile nature should make nail trimming and cleaning relatively easy.

  • Breed Size: Medium (34-36 lbs.)
  • Life Span: 13-14 years
  • Grooming: Requires weekly brushing and a couple of professional grooming sessions each year.
  • Temperament: Affectionate, gentle, relaxed.
  • Exercise: Moderate exercise.

Learn More About Irish Glen of Imaal Terriers


Celebrating Our Favorite Irish Dogs, Native or Not

There may only be nine official breeds of Irish dogs, but that doesn’t mean other furry friends can’t get into the spirit of the Emerald Isle. An Irish dog can celebrate their history whether they’re one of the nine native Irish breeds or just simply Irish at heart.

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