History and Development
Records of the Irish Terrier’s background are sparse. Early Greek writers mention a terrier of Great Britain which had apparently been cultivated for many generations and which was not found elsewhere in Europe, and there is direct evidence that a breed of “wire-haired” black and tan terriers existed in Britain over 200 years ago and were used for (ox and otter hunting and for destroying vermin.
The Welsh Terrier fanciers claim this terrier as the progenitor of their breed. Such terriers were also found in the Westmorland hills, but these were shorter on the leg, and have since been accepted as Lakeland Terriers. This old wire-haired black and tan terrier also was concerned in the origin of the Irish Terrier; and there were around Cork and Ballymena in Ireland, a larger strain of wheaten terrier, w inch also played a pan, a much racier type with longer legs and all one color.
The confirmation of these early breed influences was seen among the early show Irish Terriers, when litters commonly contained some black and tan puppies. At the Dublin show in 1874, there were classes for both large and small Irish Terriers – over 9 lbs. and under 9 lbs. – all pointers to the fact that these terrier ancestors were primary contributors to the breed type of today’s Irish Terrier.
The advent of dog shows saw the commencement of the first specialist club for the breed, which was formed in 1879. The following year the members pioneered against the cropping of ears, which campaign we know spread to a number of other breeds, and eventually the practice was banned, but it took ten years before the Kennel Club decreed that there should be no cropping of the ears of any breed in the British Isles. The following years brought the height of the Irish Terrier’s popularity, with large show entries, and high prices were paid for the top winning dogs and bitches.
The Irish Terrier is a good breed for a novice owner to take up, whether as a show dog or as a companion. As an exhibition dog there is no other breed of terrier in which competition is so open or where the novice has so good a chance of winning. The established breeders are delighted to welcome all newcomers and give them as much help and advice as possible.
Irish Terrier: Color
Whole colored red, red wheaten or golden; a small patch of white on chest is permissible but not desirable.
Irish Terrier: Care
The Irish Terrier must be trimmed smartly for showing, and even those which are kept as pets need stripping several times a year. However considerable damage can be done to its coat if it is clipped with shears or cut with scissors. This is the cause of the coat losing color and also becoming soft and silky. The wire hair should be trimmed with fingers and thumb or with a trimming tool that is not sharp and which will not cut the hair. Most breeders are prepared to help with advice m this matter. The Terrier Deeds good grooming regularly and it will then keep clean.
It is a very hardy dog, healthy and easy to feed; an adult requires only one meat and biscuit meal per day, and a dry hard dog biscuit to gnaw at.
Irish Terrier: Character
Irish Terriers have outstanding loyalty and very good memories. They are always very willing and responsive to training, and try hard to please. They are great sporting Terriers and quite a number have been trained to the gun and many have taken obedience training with success. They are naturally ideal as pets as they are very good with children, and make excellent guard dogs. They enjoy traveling in cars.
Irish Terrier: Standards
The Irish Terrier should be alert, quick and keen. Character is indicated by the expression of the eyes and by the carriage of ears and tail.
The head should be long, the skull flat and narrow between the ears. Strong punishing foreface, small, keen, dark eyes and small V-shaped ears, set well on the skull, pointing to the eyes. The skull should be the same length as the foreface, with little stop. The neck should be long and set into a well-sloping shoulder. The front narrow with a deep chest and a moderately long body. The loin should be firm and strong with tail set on top. The legs should be moderately long with good round bone and the feet round and compact. The hindquarters should be strong and well developed with good bend of stifle so that the Terrier moves soundly. Teeth should be level, not overshot or undershot. Nose black. The coat is very important. The desired texture on the body is crisp and wiry. On the foreface and legs (furnishings) it should be a little longer, but still coarse and wiry. Any soft or linty hair is undesirable.
The picture required is that of quality, giving a clear impression of a racy Terrier and not that of a red Fox Terrier or small Airedale.
The question of size has always varied, going up and down, but judging by weight alone is, of course, unsatisfactory. What is important is to maintain a clear picture of type and quality with a good, gay temperament showing that spark of fire.
The A.K.C. Standard calls for a dog to be 27 lbs., a bitch 25 lbs. Height at shoulder should be approximately 18″.
Selections from the book: “The World Encyclopedia of Dogs” (1971)