9 True Irish Dog Breeds That Will Capture Your Heart

Although there aren't too many, these native Irish dog breeds show that quality really does outshine quantity.

Published April 6, 2023

9 Irish Dog Breeds


The Emerald Isle boasts nine dog breeds developed directly on the island. Dogs have played a critical role in Irish history for centuries, and these native breeds are known for their loyalty, intelligence, and hard-working demeanor. These traits have made them popular not only in Ireland, but around the world. Whether you're looking for a companion or you just want to learn about the breeds developed in Ireland, we have you covered.

1. Irish Wolfhound


The Irish Wolfhound is an ancient breed that dates back to Ireland's earliest days. They were used primarily as hunting companions by nobility who owned large estates. Irish Wolfhounds are one of the tallest dog breeds in the world today and have been recognized by the American Kennel Club since 1886. The breed is gentle and friendly, and are good family pets.

2. Kerry Beagle


The Kerry Beagle was originally bred for hunting small game such as rabbits and hare. However, there are records of Kerry Beagles being used for hunting foxes during the 19th century. The Kerry Beagle is a small to medium-sized dog that is intelligent, affectionate, and friendly with their family members, but they may be reserved around strangers.

3. Irish Water Spaniel


The Irish Water Spaniel is a breed of gun dog that originated in Ireland. Like many Irish breed, they were developed for hunting and retrieving game, and members of the breed are not suited to apartment living because of their size and energy level. They are related to the Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, and other spaniel breeds. This breed is great for people with allergies due to their hypoallergenic coat.

4. Irish Red Setter


The Irish Red Setter was originally developed as an all-purpose gun dog for hunting. They have evolved into one of the most popular breeds in Ireland and the United Kingdom, where they compete in field sports and spend time as companions. The Irish Red Setter has an even temperament and is gentle with children, but this breed requires a significant amount of exercise with an active owner.

5. Irish Red and White Setter


The Irish Red and White Setter originated in Ireland as a gundog for hunting hare, pheasant, grouse, and woodcock. This breed almost went extinct due to the all-red variety being more popular. Today, they are most commonly found in family homes where their affectionate nature and loyalty are highly prized.

6. Kerry Blue Terrier


The Kerry Blue Terrier was developed in Ireland as a versatile working dog. It is one of the oldest breeds, dating back to the early 1700s. Their exact origins are unknown, but members of the breed are loyal, devoted to their family, and eager-to-please. The Kerry Blue is one of the few Irish dog breeds that are suitable for apartment life.

7. Irish Terrier


The Irish Terrier was bred to deal with small vermin like water rats and other rodents. This breed is loyal to their family, but can be hard-headed at times, necessitating an owner able to maintain consistency in training. Their exact origin is not clear, but the Irish Terrier is a bold, fearless breed who does best with active families.

8. Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier


The Glen of Imaal Terrier was developed in the 1600s. Although they were originally bred to hunt small vermin, they were often found working in kitchens, where they were known as "turnspit dogs" because of the hamster-wheel-like devices they powered to turn the meat over the fire. Unlike many other terrier breeds, they are mostly quiet. Glen of Imaals love to play with children, but also have an independent streak.

9. Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier


Although there isn't much information about when this breed was developed, it is known that they were bred to be farm dogs. They were reserved for peasants in the 17th century because the lower classes were not legally permitted to own hound dogs. They have a traditional stubborn terrier personality, but are well known to be friendly and loyal to their family.

Choosing an Irish Dog Breed


If you're considering adopting an Irish dog breed, choose one that best resonates with your activity level and family life. These dogs are as fiery, beautiful, and daring as the island where they were bred, but they also offer the love and companionship only a true child of Ireland can know.

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9 True Irish Dog Breeds That Will Capture Your Heart