American Kennel Club Celebrates Irish Breeds in Spirit of St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, the American Kennel Club® (AKC) celebrates the...

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, the American Kennel Club® (AKC) celebrates the loveable breeds of Irish descent.  Notable Irish breeds include the Irish Setter and the Irish Water Spaniel, both of which share in AKC’s history. They were among the original nine breeds recognized by AKC at its inception in 1884.


Glen of Imaal Terrier

Glen of Imaal, which is a valley in the Wicklow mountains, is the region in Ireland after which this hardy breed is named.  Longer than tall and sporting a double coat of medium length, the “Glen” possesses great strength and conveys the impression of a dog of good substance.  This is a working terrier, who must have the agility, freedom of movement and endurance to do the work for which it was developed.  Like its Irish counterparts, the Glen is also courageous, and always ready to give chase.  When working, it is active, agile, silent and intent upon its game.  Otherwise, the Glen can be a docile companion for families with older children.

  • For more information visit the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America at:


Irish Setter

Green may be the color of the Irish, but deep mahogany is the color of this four-legged beauty.  The Irish Setter was among the original breeds recognized by AKC at its inception in 1884 and is part of the Sporting Group.  Irish Setters have rollicking personalities and require a good amount of exercise to satisfy their breed instincts; they are tough and tireless field retrievers.  They are also loving companion dogs who enjoy the company of children.  It takes about three years for this breed to fully mature into adulthood, so if you’re considering bringing an Irish Setter into your home, you should be prepared for an active, fun-loving dog. 


Irish Terrier

This breed was featured in the 2007 movie “Firehouse Dog,” where it was cast as a canine hero.  Not surprising, considering that Irish Terriers were used to transport messages between troops on the front lines in World War I. Their bravery and spirit make them incomparable pals, and they possess great tenacity.  Loyal and friendly, Irish Terriers hardily adapt to any situation, and they are deeply committed to their owners. Irish Terriers served as longtime mascots for the Notre Dame Football team, providing halftime entertainment for adoring crowds. The Irish Terrier was first recognized by the AKC in 1885.

  • For more information visit the Irish Terrier Club of America at:


Irish Water Spaniel

This breed was among the original 9 breeds recognized by AKC in 1884. It has been referred to as the “Shannon Spaniel,” the “Whip-Tail Spaniel,” and the “Rat-Tail Spaniel.”  Distinguishing characteristics are a topknot of long, loose curls and a body covered with a dense, crisply curled liver colored coat, contrasted by a smooth face and a smooth "rat" tail. This ancient breed is a natural water dog. Irish Water Spaniels are devoted to their family and cautious around strangers. They are impressive dogs and possess an endurance quality which makes them equally agile in the water and in the field.


Irish Wolfhound

While Irish literature refers to this ancient breed in many ways, including “Big Dogs of Ireland,” Irish Wolfhounds were documented in Rome in the year 391 A.D., where they were presented to the Roman Counsel as gifts, which “all Rome viewed with wonder.”  No wonder-- they are the largest and tallest of the galloping hounds.  Males should be a minimum of 32” tall and weigh 120 pounds; females should be a minimum of 30” tall and weigh 105 pounds.  This is a swift breed which hunts by sight, and needs an ample, fenced yard to accommodate its full gallop.  As in early times, Irish Wolfhounds possess an extraordinary social temperament, as well as the intelligence to separate friend, family and foe.


Kerry Blue Terrier

The “Kerry Blue” hails from the Irish county of the same name; he had been purebred in that section of Ireland for more than a hundred years.   Known for his superior working and hunting skills, the Kerry Blue is used for hunting small game and birds, and for retrieving from land as well as water.  Size doesn’t matter, for he is an unsurpassed watch dog and herder of flock.  In some instances in England, he has even been used for police work.  The breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1922, and came into the national spotlight when CH. Torums Scarf Michael won best in show at the 2002 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.

  • For more information visit the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club at:


Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

A truly Irish breed, the “Wheaten” has a special connection to St. Patrick’s Day, having first appeared in the show ring at the Irish Kennel Club Championship on March 17, 1937.  The name of this breed describes the characteristics of the coat—soft, silky, with a gentle wave, and of warm wheaten color. Underneath is a formidable dog that enjoys plenty of exercise every day.   Most Wheatens are natural greeters towards people, and extremely alert in their surroundings.  They are quick learners and love to travel with their owners.  The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was first recognized by the AKC in 1973.

  • For more information visit the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America at:


Irish Red & White Setter

The Irish Red & White Setter became an official AKC breed in January 2009. This breed is thought to have emerged at the end of the 17th Century in Ireland, and is red and white in color, as opposed to the solid red Irish Setter. The history of the breed is as mysterious as the myths and legends of the country of origin. Its original purpose was as a versatile hunting companion, providing food for the table, both fur and feather. As companions, they are loving, loyal and best suited for a very active family.


 For more information regarding these or any of AKC’s 170 breeds, visit

Get social with the AKC!  Join us on Facebook and Twitter.