Irish Terrier

An all-around breed, it was used to guard the home, to accompany its master everywhere, and to look after children. It is believed that the Irish terrier became so popular because of its devotion and importance to its family.


This has sometimes been called the Irish Red Terrier because, since the 1880s, its coat colour has become diagnostic of the breed. A versatile terrier, it has been used against rats, rabbits,foxes, otters and badgers.

Once described as ‘the poor man’s sentinel, the farmer’s friend and the gentleman’s favourite’, this is the oldest of the four Irish terrier breeds. It was first shown in 1870, but at this stage there was some variability in the dog’s appearance. Then two early champions called Killiney Boy and Erin appeared on the scene and effectively became the founders of the modern breed. One of their offspring, a bitch called Poppy, had a bright red coat and it is she who appears to have endowed the modern Irish Terrier with its characteristic colour. All her puppies displayed the same attractive hue and, by the end of the 19th century, all other colours had been eliminated from the breed.

The wiry-coated Irish Terrier’s development as a pedigree dog had been organized by a specialist breed club set up in Dublin as early as 1879, with a branch in London. Some English terrier specialists poured scorn on this Irish cousin of their beloved dogs, but the hostility soon faded, helped by the courageous role the dogs played as messengers in the carnage of the front lines of World War I.


It is a lanky dog for a terrier, built as much for speed as for digging, and easily capable of keeping up with the hounds.

Loyal to all members of its family, the Irish terrier accomplishes its tasks with determination and will face any difficulty to guard its family.

Brave and protective, this dog adapts to any environment, but male dogs may fight if kept together.


Squarely built, it has a rectangular head; button ears; and an erect docked tail. It is much lighter in weight than it looks. The double coat is wiry and dense. No locks or curls are permissible. Coloring includes all solid colors ranging from light red to wheaten. Small white patches on the chest are undesirable.

Health Matters

In general, Irish Terriers are healthy and hardy. Other than routine visits for inoculations, they will seldom require veterinary attention other than perhaps to repair accidental damage incurred during any confrontation.

General care

As with most other hard-coated terriers, the Irish Terrier’s topcoat requires hand stripping, usually in the spring and fall. This dog is easy to look after. Frequent plucking will enhance the coat color. Bathing is necessary only when other measures fail to keep the dog clean. Its pads should be kept free of corns.


This active breed needs a lot of exercise, preferably a combination of long walks on a lead and free running in a fenced area.

Puppies and Training

There are four to eight puppies in a litter. Some newborns have a few black hairs, but these will vanish before they mature. Firm handling of this dog is necessary, and small children will find it beyond control. If trained at an early age, it will become a family dog.

Gallery of Irish Terrier