Irish Terrier: Origin, History, Size, Temperament And Facts

The Irish Terrier is believed to be the oldest of all terrier breeds. They are native to Ireland although there are not many records of the breed date back to ancient times.

These little terriers were also used to guard and protect livestock and terrier types were written down in the Laws of Brehon date back to the Middle Ages.


The actual origins of the Irish terrier breed remain a mystery, there are some people who believe that they were created by crossing Irish Wolfhounds with black and tan terrier-type dogs that existed at the time. This theory is supported by the fact that Irish Terriers resemble a smaller version of the Irish Wolfhound.

Other people think that the breed was originally created in Cork, Southern Ireland, although another theory is that these lovely long-legged terriers were created by crossing Black and Tans with Wheaten Terriers.


Irish Terriers were once known as Irish Red Terriers, which would set them apart from other breeds. In 1875, the first dog was displayed at a dog show held in Ireland, after which the breed was the first of the Irish Terriers to be officially recognized by The Kennel Club.

In the late 19th century, breeders were attempting to breed various colors including brindle and black and tan. The ultimate goal is to have only “red-haired” Irish Terriers by the 20th century.

irish terrierAt the same time, the Kennel Club recognized a movement that was put in place to prevent terriers from having their ears “cropped off” and a ban was put in place. As such, no Irish Terrier puppies born after the end of December 1889 could have their ears cropped off.

The Irish Terrier Club, which was founded in 1879 and successfully promoted the breed until World War I with dogs that were priced high at the time. The breed’s popularity spread not only throughout England but also across the United States.

Irish Terriers were used as messengers during World War I when they were used to carry vital messages to the troops on the front lines showing that they were extremely brave and loyal.

After WWI and WWII, the number of breeds fell dangerously low, but with the efforts of various breed enthusiasts, Irish Terriers did not completely disappear and most of today’s dogs can trace their ancestry back to the terriers that these breeders saved from extinction.

However, the number of breeds remains low, with few well-behaved Irish Terrier puppies being bred and registered with The Kennel Club each year, despite the fact that they are charming dogs that get along with everyone and are very well behaved with the kids. As such, anyone wanting to share a home with an Irish Terrier would need to find a breeder and agree to be put on a waiting list because puppies are so rare.


Height: males 18 – 20 inches (both male and female)

Weight: males 25-35 pounds, females 24-26 pounds

Irish Terriers are longer than most terriers, which gives them a very elegant appearance. They boast of a lean coat and charmingly alert expression. Their heads are long, flat, and quite narrow between the ears, although even narrower towards a dog’s eyes.

Their stop can only be seen by looking at their profile. Their jaws are strong and their front faces are well chiseled. The lips are tight and black in color and their noses are also black.

irish terrier They have fairly small eyes and their ears are V-shaped, small, and well set on a dog’s head. They are quite thick to the touch and fall forward, lying close to a dog’s cheeks with the top of the ear neatly bent forward.

The hair on the ears of an Irish Terrier is darker and shorter than that of the rest of its body. They have a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth perfectly overlap the lower ones. Their necks are quite long and broad on a dog’s shoulders, allowing them to hold their heads high.

Dogs have a fringe on each side of the neck that almost reaches the corner of the ears. Their shoulders are long, well relaxed, and thin, as dogs have longer legs than many other terrier breeds. Their legs are straight, well-muscled, showing a good amount of bone.

They have deep, muscular chests and a nice strong, long, straight back. The loins are slightly arched and well-muscled, and the dogs have well arched and well-arched ribs that are deep rather than round.

The back legs are strong with powerful thighs and the hair is thick and crisp to the touch. Their feet are strong and quite round in shape, being on the smaller side with well-arched toes and strong black nails.

The tails are quite high and the dogs carry them gaily. They are well covered with hair but without fringes or feathers.

When it comes to their coat, the Irish Terrier boasts of having a wiry, rough, flat, and straight topcoat and a much softer and finer undercoat. The hair on their front faces is crisp and is slightly longer than the rest of the body. The hair on a dog’s paws is thick and much crunchier to the touch.

Accepted breed colors of this breed are:

  • Red
  • Wheaten red
  • Wheaten
  • Rust


The Irish Terrier is a fearless little dog and one that is often referred to as a bit “foolhardy and reckless.” However, with this, it is known that it is one of the softest terriers of all that exist.

Irish terriers are known to be exceptionally good with children and seem to have a real affinity for them. They are also known to be able to “read” an owner’s mood, which is another of their endearing traits and why they are such wonderful pets and companion dogs.

irish terrier They are intelligent and as such they must receive a lot of mental stimulation every day in order for them to be truly happy and well-rounded characters. If left alone for long periods of time they can become hyperactive and quite destructive around the house thanks to the fact that an Irish Terrier will quickly find new ways to have fun.

They are resourceful and exceptionally good at “problem-solving,” which means they can get into a bit of mischief when the mood takes them, especially if they aren’t given enough exercise and boredom sets in.

Irish terriers are naturally very protective of their families and property, which means that they make excellent watchdogs and will quickly inform an owner when there are strangers or when something is happening that makes these little terriers nervous.

Because they are so protective, puppies need to be well socialized from a young enough age that this particular trait can be gently controlled otherwise it could become a real problem later in a dog’s life.

Early socialization also helps these terriers accept being around other dogs they know. When not properly socialized, Irish Terriers can be a bit aggressive when around other dogs.

Interesting Facts About Irish Terrier

Are Irish terriers a good option for first-time owners?

Irish Terriers are a good choice for first-time dog owners, as long as they have time to dedicate themselves to an energetic canine companion who has a low boredom threshold. They are particularly good with young children and older people, although playtime can be a bit boisterous at times.

Do Irish terriers have a high prey drive?

Although Irish Terriers are very social by nature, they have a high prey drive and would gladly chase after any animal or pet that tries to run away from them. As such, care should always be taken as to where and when an Irish Terrier can slip off the leash, most especially when in close proximity to wildlife or livestock.

Do Irish terriers like to play?

Irish Terriers have a very playful side to their nature and they love to entertain and have fun. They are known to be a bit mischievous when the mood takes them and being so smart they quickly learn what an owner likes and how to get their way when the mood takes them.

One of their greatest joys is digging and this can be furniture, rugs, or outside in a garden, an Irish Terrier enjoys digging up flower beds and lawns.

What about adaptability

Irish Terriers are highly adaptable dogs and as long as they are given enough daily physical exercise combined with so much mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored, they are just as happy living in an apartment in the city as if they were living in a house in the country, keeping in mind that garden fences must be extremely secure to keep an Irish Terrier safe.

Can Irish terriers be left alone?

Although Irish Terriers form strong ties to their families, they are fairly independent characters by nature and as such are not known to suffer from anxiety. That said, they have a very low boredom threshold, meaning that if left to their own devices for too long, an Irish Terrier will quickly find novel ways to amuse themselves, which could include being destructive around the home and barking incessantly to draw attention.

Do Irish terriers bark a lot?

Some Irish Terriers like the sound of their own voices a little too much, which is something that should be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young, being careful not to scare them, which could end up making them timid and shy. Others will only bark when strangers are present or when something they don’t like is happening around them.

Do Irish terriers like water?

Most Irish Terriers love to swim and dive into the water whenever they can, especially in hot weather. However, if someone has a dog that does not like water should never force them in because it would just end up scaring him.

With that said, care should always be taken when taking an Irish Terrier off the leash anywhere near more dangerous waterways in case a dog decides to jump in and then needs to be rescued because it cannot get out of the water on its own.

Are Irish terriers good watchdogs?

Irish terriers are natural watchdogs, which is a trait that is deeply ingrained in their psyche. As such, they don’t need to be “taught” to guard and protect, which could end up making an Irish Terrier more dominant and aggressive, which is something to be avoided at all costs. That said, an Irish Setter would be quick to alert an owner when strangers are around, but rarely would a dog do so aggressively.

Pros and cons of owning an Irish terrier

irish terrier


  • Irish Terriers are loving and loyal pets and family companions.
  • They are resourceful and pick things up quickly without having to be taught.
  • They are smart and learn new things very quickly.
  • Irish Terriers are playful by nature and love to be praised.
  • They do not shed their coat and need a moderate amount of grooming.
  • They are very good with children of all ages.
  • Irish Terriers are known to be a healthy breed.
  • They are a good choice for first-time dog owners, as long as they have time to
    dedicate yourself to an active canine companion
  • They are naturally alert watchdogs


  • Irish Terriers are not known to be “naturally” obedient, as they are independent by nature.
  • They have a low boredom threshold and can be destructive if left alone for a long time.
  • Irish Terriers need a lot of daily physical exercise and mental stimulation.
  • They have a great prey drive and enjoy chasing anything that moves.
  • They have a reputation for being scrappy other dogs.
  • Irish Terriers have a bit of a stubborn streak.
  • They love to dig, which includes rugs, furniture, lawns, and flower beds.
  • Irish terriers are known to be ” Excessive barkers.”
  • Finding a well-behaved puppy can be challenging and they are often expensive for this reason.