The breed's origin is not known.
It is believed to have descended from the black and tan terrier-type dogs of Britain and Ireland, just like the Kerry Blue and Irish Soft-haired Wheaten Terriers in Ireland or the Welsh, Lakeland and Scottish Terriers in Great Britain. They are described by an old Irish writer as being the poor man's sentinel, the farmer's friend, and the gentleman's favourite being bred not so much for their looks as for their working qualities and gameness. They were formerly of all types and of all colours – black-and-tan, grey-and-brindle, wheaten of all shades, and red being predominant.
The proper selection process of the breed began only in the latter 19th century. They were shown now and then, sometimes in one class, sometimes in separate classes for dogs under and over 9 pounds. The first breed club was set up in Dublin in 1879. Irish Terriers were the first members of the terrier group to be recognised by the English Kennel Club as a native Irish Breed – this happened just before the end of the 19th century.
The Irish terrier has a record as a war dog and a combat messenger with Lt. Col. E H Richardson of the British War Dog School, writing about them in World War 1. He is quoted as saying that the Irish Terriers of the service more than did their part. They are highly sensitive, spirited dogs and those of us who respect and admire the finer qualities of mind will find them amply reflected in these terriers. They are extraordinarily intelligent, faithful and honest, and a man who has one of them as a companion will never lack a true friend.
Breed Standard – short version (Full Version available on the Kennel Club website)
Active, lively and wiry in appearance with lots of substance and a graceful racy outline. Good-tempered, notably with humans but can sometimes resent interference from other dogs. Ideal height – dogs 48cm (19 inch): bitches 46cm (18 inch). Head long; skull flat, and rather narrow between ears, narrowing towards eye; stop hardly visible except in profile. Jaw strong and muscular, but not too full in cheek, of good length with a black nose. Eyes dark, fairly small & not prominent.
Ears small, V-shaped, set well on head, and dropping forward closely to cheek. Top of folded ear well above level of skull. Jaws strong with regular scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Fair length of neck gradually widening to shoulders, with a slight fringe at each side of neck, running nearly to corner of ear. Shoulders fine, long and well laid back.
Legs moderately long, well set from shoulders, perfectly straight, with plenty of bone and muscle; elbows working freely clear of sides; pasterns hardly noticeable but short and straight, the forelegs moving straight forward when travelling. Chest is deep and muscular, body moderately long; back strong and straight, loin muscular and slightly arched; ribs fairly sprung and well ribbed back. Strong and muscular hindquarters, thighs powerful, hocks well let down, stifles moderately bent. Hindlegs move straight forward when travelling.
Strong, tolerably round feet, moderately small, toes arched, black toe nails. Tail set on pretty high, carried gaily but not over back or curled.. Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles Coat is harsh and wiry, having broken appearance, not soft or silky & not so long as to hide the outline of body particularly in hindquarters. At base of these stiff hairs is growth of finer and softer hair- the undercoat. Hair on foreface is crisp and only sufficiently long to impart appearance of additional strength. Hair on legs dense and crisp. ‘Whole-coloured’ coat, most preferable colours being red, red/wheaten, or yellow/red. Hyperkeratosis (Cracked Pad) is a very rare defect in Irish Terriers. The cases have reduced in recent years due to the responsible breeding.
There is now a simple DNA test available to check whether an Irish is clear or a carrier of the gene – please contact us for full information and details of the test.
Code of Ethics
All members of the Irish Terrier Association undertake to abide by the Kennel Club General Code of Ethics. Breach of these provisions may result in expulsion from Club membership and/or disciplinary action by the Kennel Club and/or reporting to the relevant authorities for legal action as appropriate.
- Will properly house, feed, water and exercise all dogs under their care and arrange for appropriate veterinary attention if and when required.
- Will agree without reservation that any veterinary surgeon performing an operation on any of their dogs which alters the natural conformation of the animal, may report such operation to the Kennel Club.
- Will agree that no healthy puppy will be culled. Puppies which may not conform to the Breed Standard will be placed in suitable homes.
- Will abide by all aspects of the Animal Welfare Act.
- Will not create demand for, nor supply, puppies that have been docked illegally.
- Will agree not to breed from a dog or bitch which could be in any way harmful to the dog or to the breed.
- Will not allow any of their dogs to roam at large or to cause a nuisance to neighbours or those carrying out official duties.
- Will ensure that their dogs wear properly tagged collars and will be kept leashed or under effective control when away from home.
- Will clean up after their dogs in public places or anywhere their dogs are being exhibited.
- Will only sell dogs where there is a reasonable expectation of a happy and healthy life and will help with the re-homing of a dog if the initial circumstances change.
- Will supply written details of all dietary requirements and give guidance concerning responsible ownership when placing dogs in a new home.
- Will ensure that all relevant Kennel Club documents are provided to the new owner when selling or transferring a dog and will agree, in writing, to forward any relevant documents at the earliest opportunity, if not immediately available.
- Will not sell any dog to commercial dog wholesalers, retail pet dealers or directly or indirectly allow dogs to be given as a prize or donation in a competition of any kind. Will not sell by sale or auction Kennel Club registration certificates as stand-alone items (not accompanying a dog).
- Will not knowingly misrepresent the characteristics of the breed nor falsely advertise dogs nor mislead any person regarding the health or quality of a dog.
- It is recommended that any sire or dam - that produces an offspring which is subsequently diagnosed with hyperkeratosis - are not used again in any breeding programme and also any siblings of the affected animal are again not used in any breeding programme, unless mated to a genetically clear dog. It is a requirement that all Kennel Club Assured Breeders have their breeding stock tested for Hyperkeratosis and recorded with the Kennel Club.