All About Irish Terriers

Learn more about this lively breed.
By: PawCulture Editors

About This Breed

The Irish Terrier originated in 18th century Ireland where it was bred to hunt small and large game and is a land a water retriever as well. This breed is one of the oldest of all the terrier breeds. They are still used as hunting dogs today, and are also used as patrol dogs in the military and on police teams.

Physical Characteristics

Irish Terriers are medium to large in size and have a compact, solid build. The head is long and the ears are semi erect. The face has the distinctive bushy eyebrows, mustache, and beard.


Commonly seen in red, wheat, gold wheat, and golden red.


Medium in length and short, thick and wiry in texture.

Personality and Temperament




The breed loves to play and work. They are upbeat and like to learn new things. They are loyal and brave and make good watchdogs.


Irish Terriers are known to be possessive of their toys and somewhat food aggressive. They do not do well with children, as they will snap at them if they perceive them as a threat. The breed will also chase small animals and they generally do not like cats.

*This is not a good breed for the first time dog owner.



The Irish Terrier will do well in the city or in the country, although an apartment situation would not be ideal.


Irish Terriers are known to be aggressive around new people.


Bladder stones are a condition commonly seen in the breed.

History and Background

As the name suggests, the Irish Terrier originated in Ireland. An old and a typical long-legged terrier breed, it is said to have descended from a wheat-colored terrier (perhaps a similar progenitor to the Soft Coated Wheaten Irish Terrier) and an old Black and Tan Terrier, breeds that were found in Ireland and employed for hunting vermin, fox, and otter. As it resembles the Irish Wolfhound, many people also believe that this terrier may partly share its ancestry with the breed.

The Irish Terrier has longer legs and a longer body than the other terriers, making it one of the raciest of the terrier group. Earlier Irish Terriers had different colors, including brindle, black and tan, and gray. But by the end of the 19th century, the solid red color was standardized among the breed.

In 1875, the first Irish Terrier was introduced to the public and by the 1880s it became the fourth most popular breed in England.  Although people at the time considered it stylish to crop the terrier’s ears, the Irish Terrier Club of England would ban the practice in 1889. This decision had far-reaching implications for dogs, as it led to the debate regarding ear cropping in dogs and finally to the complete abolition of cropped ears in all breeds of dogs displayed in England.

In the United States, this terrier became very popular in the early part of the 20th Century, gaining the 13th rank among all breeds of the 1920s. Today, it is regularly featured in dog show rings across the country.