9 Most Popular Native Irish Dog Breeds
Irish Dog Breeds

Emerald Isle, Ireland, is remarkably famous for its Guinness beer, antique castles, shamrock, Celtic cross, and Blarney Stone, and even for its Celtic folklore surrounding Cait Sidhe—a gigantic black cat with a white spot on her chest. But what about the dogs of Ireland? How many Irish dog breeds are there? How many Irish dog breeds do you know about?

Irish Dog Breeds

While there are not many Irish cat breeds—Manx is the sole Irish cat breed—there are many Irish dog breeds that have existed for centuries in the mountain and wilderness of Ireland. The Ireland Kennel Club (IKC) has listed 9 dogs as native Irish dog breeds. These 9 dogs are divided into three categories: Hounds, Gundogs, and Terriers.  

Breed Details
Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier Origin:1500s
Weight (in pounds): 12.5 to 14
Height (in inches): 32 to 40
Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
Features: Originally hunting dogs Easily get along with children but not with other dogs
Health Concerns: Predisposed to elbow and hip dysplasia and eye disorders
Irish Red and White Setter Origin: Roman Empire
Weight (in pounds): 35 to 50 (female), 42 to 60 (male)
Height (in inches): 22.5 to 24 (female) 24.5 to 26 (males)
Life Expectancy: 11 to 15 years
Features: Hunt for their owners and not for themselves Endangered breed Full of energy and ready to accompany you on hikes and runs
Health Concerns: Predisposed to hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, posterior polar cataracts, and immune disorders
Irish Red Setter Origin:1800s
Weight (in pounds): 60 pounds (female) 70 pounds (male)
Height (in inches): 25 (female) 27 (male)
Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Features: Excellent  family dog, get along with children, strangers, and other dogs, full of energy Always ready to play
Health Concerns: Bloating of the abdomen, dental issues, and ear infections
Irish Water Spaniel Origin:1100s
Weight (in pounds): 45 to 58 (female) 55 to 68 (male)
Height (in inches): 21 to 23 (female) 22 to 24 (male)
Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years
Features: Tallest and one of the oldest spaniel breeds, not the best choice for families with children or other pets
Health Concerns: Allergic to Ivermectin and sulfa antibiotics
Irish Wolfhound Origin: 391 AD
Weight (in pounds): 90 (female) 120 (male)
Height (in inches): Minimum 31 (males) 28 min (females)
Life Expectancy: 6 to 10 years
Features: Great hunter, great family dog but not if you have kids, other pets, or guests in the house
Health Concerns: Bloating of the abdomen, become a couch potato in case of lesser activity, never miss their annual vet visit
Irish Terrier Origin: 1870s 
Weight (in pounds): 25 (female) 27 (male)
Height (in inches): 18 inches
Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years
Features: Raciest member of the terrier group, get along with children but not much with strangers and other dogs
Health Concerns: Hyperkeratosis (cracked footpads), cystinuria (developing bladder stones).
Kerry Blue Terrier Origin: 1820s
Weight (in pounds): 33 to 40 (male)
Height (in inches): 17.5 to 19 (female) 18 to 19.5 (male) females are slightly shorter
Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Features: Friendly towards children but aggressive towards other dogs, famous for their coat changing color
Health Concerns: Prone to developing hip dysplasia, entropion, cataracts, and dry eye
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Origin: 1900
Weight (in pounds): 30 t0 35 (female) 35 to 40 (male)
Height (in inches): 17 to 18 (female) 18 to 19 (male)
Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years
Features: retain their puppy-like features well into the adulthood
Good with children, If they don’t get ample daily exercise, they may start digging
Health Concerns: Their stock should be screened for Addison disease, kidney ailments, renal dysplasia
Kerry Beagle Origin: 16th century
Weight (in pounds): 50 to 60 pounds
Height (in inches): 22 to 24
Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years
Features: Classified as a hound, come in varying mixes of tan, black, and white, friendly to children
Health Concerns: No known health problems specific to this breed

Native Irish Dog Breeds

Are you enamored of Irish heritage and want to adopt a dog—an Irish dog? Have you been looking for Irish dog breeds?

Well, look no further. Below, we are going to discuss the 9 native Irish dog breeds (8 of them have been recognized by the American Kennel Club as Irish dog breeds) that have been recognized by the IKC.

Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier

The Irish Glen of Imaal terrier is one of the most recent Irish dog breeds to get registered in the United States. They weigh around 32 to 40 pounds and have a height of around 12.5 to 14 inches. They have an average lifespan of around 10 to 15 years.

Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier dog breed is traced back to the 16th century. They originated in the Glen of Imaal—a remote glen in the mountains of Ireland. They were bred as working and hunting dogs, and along with the farmers of the Imaal of Glen, these terriers had to work hard.

They are small but very strong dogs. They were used for hunting down vermin, badgers, and foxes around the farms.

Irish Glen of Imaal terriers are small in size but have a big heart. They are protective of their family and easily get along with the children. However, they do not always get along well with other four-legged fellows.

Overall, the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier is an Irish dog breed, but they are predisposed to elbow and hip dysplasia and eye disorders, according to the AKC.

Irish Red and White Setter

Dating back to the days of the Roman Empire, Irish Red and White Setter is not as dazzling as their Red Irish Setter cousins. The latter soaked all the limelight, while the former were neglected as breeders focused only on Red Irish Setter dogs. During the First World War, Irish Red and White Setter came near to extinction, even in Ireland.

Had there been no involvement of some dedicated breeders, they would have gone extinct. Even as of 2015, there were only 64 Irish White and Red terriers registered with the IKC.

The average height of this breed is around 22.5 to 24 inches for females and 24.5 to 26 inches for its males. Where its females weigh around 35 to 50 pounds, their males weigh in-between 42 to 60 pounds. They have an average lifespan of roughly 11 to 15 years.

They are known for their hunting prowess and loyalty to their owners—they not only protect their owners but also hunt only for their owners and not for themselves. They make up a great pet for active dog owners who are going for morning runs and weekend hikes. If kept indoors for long, they would be requiring a lot of exercise to stay in shape.

Irish Red and White terrier is overall a healthy Irish dog breed but are predisposed to hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, hypothyroidism, posterior polar cataracts, and different immune system disorders.

Irish Setter

Irish Setter, also known as Irish Red Setter, as they have red—deep mahogany and rich chestnut color—coat. The Irish Setter breed is one of the most popular Irish dog breeds, not only in Ireland but also in the United States. The first Irish Setter arrived in the US in the late 19th century and was registered by the AKC in 1878. The US President, Richard Nixon, also had a red Irish Setter named King Timahoe.

They were bred as a gundog, used for locating gamebirds as they have a great sense of smell.

Weighing around 60 pounds, Irish Setter females have a height of 25 inches, and their male counterparts weigh around 70 pounds and are 27 inches tall. No wonder they are listed as one of the tall skinny dogs.  They have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. Irish red Setters mature very slowly. If you have a red Setter puppy, you may notice that it will stay in her puppy stage for a bit longer than puppies of other dog breeds.

They make a great pet for families with children, keeping other pets under the same roof as Irish red Setters easily get along with not only children but also other pets. They are also open to strangers. They have a high energy level and would always jump to play if you give them a sign. They would also like to be taken out for long walks.

Despite being an overall healthy Irish dog breed, Irish Setters are prone to several health issues. They could be experiencing bloating—a sudden swelling of the abdomen to a life-threatening level. Therefore, it is advised that owners of Irish red Setters should familiarize themselves with dog bloating, its signs, and what to do in case their dog is bloating. Their owners should also be careful about their Red Setter’s ears and teeth.

Vet’s Best Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste is one of the best toothpaste for dogs. It can be used for dogs of all ages—puppies as well as adult and senior dogs. This vet-approved dog toothpaste not only soothingly cleans your dog’s teeth but also freshens their breath.

Bonus: It comes with a brush—a dog toothbrush.

Irish Water Spaniel

Often mistaken for Poodles and called “the clown” of the spaniel family, Irish Water Spaniel is one of the oldest spaniel dog breeds. The evidence suggests that they existed as early as the 1100s. At that time, they were called Shannon Spaniels, Whip-Tail Spaniels, or Rat-Tail Spaniels (they have quite an interesting tail—like that of a rat).

They were divided into land and water varieties. The Irish Water Spaniel breed was developed from the South Country Water Spaniel and the North Country Water Spaniel.

This breed is one of the tallest in spaniels and one of the nicest Irish dog breeds to have been registered with the AKC. Where their females are 21 to 23 inches tall with their weight ranging between 45 to 58 pounds, their male counterparts are 22 to 24 inches tall, weighing between 55 to 68 pounds. The average lifespan of Irish Water Spaniel is 12 to 13 years.

It is one of the most popular Irish dog breeds in the United States and was first recognized by the AKC in 1884. Despite being one of the most historic and popular Irish dog breeds, Irish Water Spaniels are quite rare—annually, fewer than 200 Irish Water Spaniel puppy or adult dogs are being registered with the AKC, according to the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America.

Irish Water Spaniel dogs are known for their swimming prowess—they excel at retrieving ducks, quail, pheasant, and grouse, etc. Their water-repellent coat and webbed paws make them great at swimming. They make a perfect choice for active dog parents. In addition, to accompany their owners on hikes and runs, Irish Water Spaniels would love to join you in the pool.

The first Irish Water Spaniel dog came to France in the 17th century when the English King, James I, gifted it to the king of France.

Irish Water Spaniels are healthy dogs, but their puppies need to be screened for several health conditions, such as thyroid disease, elbow and hip dysplasia, and different allergies. One should also keep in mind that they are highly allergic to Ivermectin—a deworming medication—and sulfa antibiotics. Before adopting an Irish Water Spaniel puppy, you should first have a discussion about the health concerns with the breeder and, of course, a vet.

Irish Wolfhound

As indicated by their name, Irish Wolfhounds originated from Ireland and were traditionally used for hunting wolves and big games like boars and deer. They were so good at hunting that by the late 8th century, the once overpopulated wolves in the countryside were near extinction. But with time, the wolves no longer presented a danger to the farmers. This meant that the Irish Wolfhounds had no purpose, so they also decreased in number—near extinction.

The Irish Wolfhound is probably one of the oldest Irish dog breeds—it was long established before the Roman Empire ventured into the British Isles. In 391, seven Irish wolfhounds went to Rome as a gift to the Roman Council. They are a great family dog but not if you have kids, strangers, or other pets around. They are also considered one of the best dog breeds for protection.

Given their chasing and hunting instincts, it is advised that they are kept leashed—while walking or hiking—and only be loosed in areas that are securely fenced.

But avoid using chains as it stresses their throat, which causes strangling and choking. Alternatively, per the vets’ and groomers’ recommendations, choose a martingale dog collar. These collars are designed so that when a dog tries to pull away, the collar tightens, but the pressure of pulling force is divided equally on his neck instead of causing strain on his throat. This prevents dogs from choking or strangling and keeps them tied up.

They fall among the list of tall dog breeds and the minimum height for their males is 31 inches and 28 inches for their females. Where their males weigh around 120 pounds, their females weigh around 90 pounds. They have a very short lifespan of only 6 to 10 years.

Like other large and deep-chested dog breeds, such as Irish Red Setter, Irish Wolfhounds often experience sudden life-threatening bloating of the abdomen. Responsible breeders screen Irish Wolfhound breeding stock for several health conditions, such as pneumonia, cardiac issues, and cancers. Their owners are also strongly advised to never miss their dog’s annual examination.

Irish Terrier

Daredevil of the Emerald Isle, having the motto “No fear,” Irish Terrier is the most courageous and dashing (it is the only all-red terrier) medium-sized dog among the Irish dog breeds. Like Irish red Setters, the red coat of Irish Terriers’ fascinated the dog lovers in America. Soon after the breed’s development in the 1870s in Ireland, the Irish Terrier puppies were imported to the US, and by 1885, the AKC had recognized Irish Terrier as a separate breed.

They have a longer body and longer legs, making them the raciest dog of the terrier family. They were used to deliver messages during the First World War. They were also used as mascots for the Notre Dame football team for a long time.

They have an average height of 18 inches and weigh between 25 to 27 inches. Their average life span is between 13 to 15 years. They make a great pet for families with children as they get along with young children, especially when raised with children. However, when it comes to strangers or other pets, they are not much welcoming.

Irish Terriers are predisposed to several health issues such as hyperkeratosis (cracked footpads) and cystinuria (developing bladder stones). Before bringing an Irish Terrier puppy or adult dog to your home, you should first inquire the breeder about these two health issues. They should also be regularly taken for vet visits and checked for ear infections and dental issues.  

Kerry Blue Terrier

Don’t get confused by its name. Kerry Blue Terrier does not come into this world in a blue coat but rather a black coat. Yes, you read that right—they are born with a black coat that fades over time (they have a coat-fading dominant gene). After the fading out, their coat color is somewhere between charcoal to blue-grey, hence their name. During the Irish independence movement, Kerry Blue Terrier became an icon for Irish nationalism and was often used as a mascot during the Irish independence struggle.

They were bred in the 1820s in the county Kerry of Ireland, from where they derive their name. They were used for hunting and retrieving small games and birds, both from water and land. The most famous and accomplished of the Kerry Blue Terrier was Mick, who won Best in Show not only in the AKC National Championship but also in Crufts Dog Show, and the Westminster Kennel Club.

These are medium-sized dogs standing 17.5 to 19.5 inches tall and weighing around 33 to 40 pounds. They have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. Irish Blue Terrier makes for a great family dog—with early socialization, they become children’s friends. But do not expect them to buddy up with other dogs—they are aggressive to other dogs.

They are full of energy and make good watchdog as they are quite vocal—immediately alerting their owners on seeing an intruder. They are overall healthy dogs, but they are prone to developing hip dysplasia, entropion, cataracts, and dry eye (check out dog eye infection).

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

These Irish Wheaten terriers are cheerful, loving, gentle, and lively dogs. They are very playful and full of energy—always looking to do something. Traditionally, they were bred as farm dogs, performing duties like herding and guarding chickens. They were recognized by the IKC in 1937 and by the AKC in 1973.

Their wheaten coat attracts a lot of dirt, which they would bring home with them. Therefore, they need a lot of grooming. They need daily grooming sessions—starting removing dirt and loosing hair with a slicker brush, followed by combing with a medium and fine-toothed metal comb. If you feel a mat, you should try to remove it with the comb, but if you fail to pull it apart, you should use your fingers—never a scissor.

If you don’t have the above-mentioned combs, worry not. Check out this Internet’s Best Fine Toothed Pet Comb and Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush. Using these combs daily on your dog’s coat, you won’t have to worry about their coat getting damaged, provided you are giving your Irish Wheaten Terrier a regular bath.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are medium-sized dogs, having heights ranging from 17 to 19 inches. They weigh around 30 to 40 pounds and have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. This medium-sized Irish dog breed is perfect for families with children as they easily buddy up with children.

They make a perfect choice for those dog lovers who are crazy about puppies as they retain their puppy-like features well into adulthood. However, you should keep in mind that they are high-energy dogs, requiring a lot of daily exercise. Without that, they may grow obese or develop compulsive disorders like digging. Despite being domesticated for a long time, they have still kept their chasing and hunting instincts, so you should always keep them on leash—only let them loose in areas that are securely fenced.

They are healthy dogs, but their breeders should screen their stock for serious health conditions, such as Addison disease, kidney ailments, renal dysplasia, etc.

Kerry Beagle

Not an average beagle, Irish Kerry Beagle is classified as a hound. They are believed to be one of the oldest Irish dog breeds—originally introduced by Celts in Ireland, somewhere in the 16th century. So far, they have not yet been recognized by the AKC. The IKC, however, recognized them in 1991.

Kerry Beagles have an average height of 22 to 24 inches and weigh around 60 pounds. They have an average life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. They come in various colors: tan and black, tan and white, and tan, white and black.

Irish Kerry Beagles are a good family dog, interacting and getting along with children, but you should never forget that they are born hunters. You should never set them free in public.

There are no known health problems specific to Irish Kerry Beagles. Cheers!

So, which Irish dog is your favorite from the above-mentioned Irish dog breeds? Maybe the Irish Red Setter? Or the Irish Wolfhound? Or is it Irish Water Spaniel? Let us know on our social media pages!

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