Meet the Breed: The Irish Terrier

As one of the trailblazing terrier breeds, this hardy and long-legged rarity is a sight to behold.

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"The Irishman" bounded out of the mists of the Emerald Isle approximately 200 years ago. Like the elusive pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow, his origins are impossible to pin down. But fath 'n' begorah, he was bred to work.

The first known references to terriers are in writings of the 1300s. When the feisty ratters were first developed, they were classed as a single breed. All shapes and sizes, colors and coats, terriers were used to rid homes and farm buildings of vermin and to go to ground and hold prey at bay while hunters dug it out. As various terriers increasingly specialized in quarry and terrain, they gradually differentiated in type.

The 19th century brought a decided demarcation among terriers as breeding programs developed reproducible types. In The Book of All Terriers, John T. Marvin attributes the first mention of a distinct terrier breed in 1815 to Sir Walter Scott, who mentions the Dandie Dinmont in his book Guy Mannering. Fourteen years later, in Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Dogs, Thomas Brown divides terriers into "the rough haired Scotch and the smooth English." Other dog writers of that era further break down these categories into several forebears of today's terrier breeds.

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Peggy   Corning, NY

9/6/2007 8:19:42 PM

Best dog on earth!!!!!!!!!!! Nice to read about them. I have owned this breed since 1980 but first fell in love with the breed as a child visiting Notre Dame for football games and seeing the Irish Terrier mascots!

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