by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 6, 2009)
There was a time when it was thought that the Irish Terrier was a breed peculiar to the Emerald Isle. There is ample proof, however, that, like the Scottish and Welsh Terriers, it goes back to that good old ancestor of most Terriers, the wire-haired black and tan sporting dog of the Great Britain that existed over two centuries ago. The Irish Terrier's relationship to the Welsh Terrier is certain, but the fact remains that it was developed and kept in Ireland for many generations. Old Irish manuscripts refer to the Irish Sporting Terrier, where it was described as the poor man's sentinel, the farmer's friend, and the gentleman's favorite.
Early Irish Terriers were bred, like all the early Terriers, for their working qualities and hunting ability, rather than for appearance. The color range was wide and varied . . . black and tan, grey and brindle, wheaten of all shades, red being predominant. Size, too, did not matter if the dog was game and sturdy. In 1872, 1873, and 1874, when the Irish Terrier first gained attention, type was still a matter of opinion. At the Dublin Show in 1874, prizes were offered for Irish Terriers under 9 lbs. weight and over 9 lbs, weight. At the 1875 show a pure-bred "white" Irish Terrier won the class.
One of the proud boasts of the Irish Terrier fanciers is that the breed proved very successful as war dogs during both World Wars. Serving as messengers and sentinels with a spirit and disregard for danger that was outstanding, they attained fame and high praise for their work.
The most desirable weight in show condition is twenty-seven pounds for the male and twenty-five pounds for the female. The height at the shoulder should be approximately eighteen inches. The Irish Terrier must be active, lithe, and wiry in movement, with great animation. He should be sturdy and strong in substance and bone-structure, but at the same time free from clumsiness, for speed, power, and endurance are most essential.
The Irish Terrier is of good temper, most affectionate, and absolutely loyal to mankind. Tender and forbearing with those he loves, this rugged, stout-hearted Terrier will guard his master, his mistress, children in his charge, or their possessions, with unflinching courage and with utter contempt of danger or hurt. His life is one continuous and eager offering of loyal and faithful companionship, and devoted, loving service. He is ever on guard, and stands between his house and all that threatens.
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