The top 10 native Irish dog breeds

From terriers to collies, here are the top 10 Irish dog breeds native to Ireland.

Top 10 native Irish dog breeds

Irish people have kept dogs for centuries. Different Irish dog breeds are often trained to do specific jobs from hunting game to herding sheep or cattle.

Some are used as security against intruders or predatory animals in the wild, while many are enjoyed as companions in the home. Whatever the reason, Irish dog breeds play an important role for Ireland.

Each breed is hardy and intelligently designed to outwit prey or livestock and withstand the harsh Irish elements. Here are the 10 native Irish dog breeds we know and love. 

10. Irish Terrier

The Irish terrier is one of the top 10 native Irish dog breeds

Terriers are famous for their independent attitude and tough resilience with the Irish terrier no exception. This wiry agile dog has been around since the 1800s and its durability among Irish dog breeds only mirrors its determined personality.

The Irish Terrier is a great dog to have around the house. They have superb hunting skills and a strong drive to catch vermin so garden boundaries are vital.

Always ‘on guard’ the Irish Terrier will protect its master at all times. He is often noted as a ‘barker’ but with proper training will respond well to learned commands and make a great family pet.

9. Kerry Beagle

The Kerry Beagle is one of the top 10 native Irish dog breeds

The Kerry Beagle is very different from the traditional Beagle. Bred as a hunting dog, this Irish scent hound is built for endurance and speed. To this day the Kerry Beagle is used in hare and fox hunting for his unique ability to track prey.

They are a very intelligent breed and can be trained easily in agility. They are gentle dogs, great with children and ultra-loyal to their owner. It is thought the Kerry Beagle is one of Ireland’s oldest native canine breeds.

8. Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel is one of the top 10 native Irish dog breeds
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This Irish dog is the largest and one of the oldest breeds of spaniel. They were originally bred to retrieve water foul in marshland. Their hair is uniquely adaptable to being wet but needs a lot of grooming.

The Irish Water Spaniel thrives when with their owner most of the time. They crave human attention and make great family pets. Best not left alone for long, this big friendly giant is an attractive and intelligent breed.

7. Irish (Red) Setter

The Irish Setter is one of the top 10 native Irish dog breeds

This breed of Gundog is probably one of the more popular Irish dog breeds. Their stunning auburn coat gives them elegance and charm. They ooze personality and are high energy yet eager to please so very easy to train.

Irish Setters need a lot of exercise and space to run around. A house with a large garden or ideally close to a beach would be the perfect setting to pamper this pooch. And if dog shows are your thing this breed presents beautifully.

6. Irish Red and White Setter

The Irish Red and White Setter is one of the top 10 native Irish dog breeds

With much of the focus turned to his attractive ‘Red’ cousin, the Irish Red and White Setter have been threatened with extinction. But once discovered as loyal and reliable gundogs, they made a comeback and are now recognised as one of the independent Irish dog breeds.

A great family dog especially if you have a few kids you want to wear out, the Irish Red and White Setter will steal your heart. He might, however, drive you crazy while training as he will be more inclined to make up his own rules.

5. Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry Blue Terrier is one of the top 10 native Irish dog breeds

This gorgeous Irish dog is a bit of a ‘Jack of all trades’.  He was first bred to hunt smaller animals like rats, rabbits, badgers or even foxes but has progressed his skills over the years to herd sheep and cattle.

A stunning looking breed, the Kerry Blue can often be spotted at Crufts and other dog shows. They stand proud and loyal with their owner showing off their fancy blue coat and charming facial tufts.

4. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is native to Ireland

Another pure Terrier of the Irish dog breeds, the Soft Coated Wheaten has smoother and more flowing hair than his ‘Heavy’ coated American cousin.

Wheaties are super with children and don’t shed so are suitable for anyone with allergies. They love to be out and about with their pack and when it is time to relax they like to be surrounded by family too.

This loveable Irish breed just wants to be loved, doesn’t want to be alone and will be part of the family from day 1.

3. Wicklow Terrier

The Wickler Terrier is native to Ireland

Otherwise known as the Glen of Imaal Terrier or simply ‘Glen’, this breed originates from a remote part of Wicklow where they were bred to hunt foxes, badgers and rats. 

They are one of the cutest Irish dog breeds so very popular with families but despite their obvious appeal the Wicklow Terrier is one of the more independent Irish dog breeds and will need lots of training.

They are fun-loving and good-natured but need good exercise, a healthy diet, stimulation and regular grooming.

2. Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is native to Ireland
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This is one of the most iconic Irish dog breeds and has appeared in Irish folklore since the stories began. Primarily a sighthound, Irish Wolfhounds were used to hunt game as well as protecting their clan from wolves.

Wolfhounds can appear somewhat intimidating at times but are gentle giants underneath their enormous size and wiry coat. They have a strong prey instinct and can run as fast as Greyhounds so are best not to be homed with cats or smaller animals.

1. Irish Collie

The Irish Collie is native to Ireland

It has been suggested the Irish Collie is the oldest breed in Ireland. Records show they were bred by monks in the 6th Century AD to herd sheep and cattle. Shortly after, the Vikings came and scattered the monks across the Irish Sea to the safety of Scottish soil.

Naturally, the devoted owners took their dogs with them to tend their remaining flock, resulting in the Collie often being referred to as the ‘Scottish Border Collie’.

They are by far the most intelligent dog in the world, make the most loyal friends and work extremely hard despite the elements, living up to their title ‘Collie’ which derives from an ancient Irish word meaning ‘helper’.