Posts Tagged ‘Irish terrier’

chihuahua vs skunks

This photo, which was obviously staged, appears in Harold Elmer Anthony’s Mammals of America (1917).

The dog’s breed is listed as an “Irish terrier,”  but it looks like no Irish terrier I’ve ever heard of.

It looks a lot more like a Chihuahua, and it might be an early American Chihuahua.


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Mr. J. J. Pim's Irish terrier "Spuds."

This image comes from Hugh Dalziel’s British Dogs (1897 ed.)

All terriers were cropped as a rule until the practice was banned in 1899.

Yes. Britain has had an ear-cropping ban that has been around for over a century.

The law grandfathered in any dogs that were cropped within in ten years of the ban, but after that date, there was no more ear-cropping in Britain.



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Jack Russell working as a retriever:


“Get dat duck, boy!”


One of the most interesting asides to retriever history is the use of terrier crosses to use for retrievers.

Stonehenge (John Henry Walsh) writes about terrier crosses doing quite well as retrievers in The Dogs of Great Britain, America, and Other Countries (originally published in the 1880s):

The Terrier cross [that is used as a retriever] is either with the beagle or the pointer, the former being that which I have chiefly used with advantage, and the latter being recommended by Mr. Colquhoun in his “Lochs and Moors.” He gives a portrait of one used by himself, which he says was excellent in all respects; and, from so good a sportsman, the recommendation is deserving of all credit. This dog was about 22 inches high, with a little of the rough coat of the Scotch terrier, combined with the head and general shape of the pointer. The sort I have used is, I believe, descended from the smooth white English terrier and the true old beagle; the nose and style of hunting proclaiming the hound descent, and the voice and appearance showing the preponderance of the terrier cross. These dogs are small, scarcely ever exceeding 10 lbs. in weight, and with difficulty lifting a hare, so that they are not qualified to retrieve “fur” any great distance. They must, therefore, be followed when either a hare or pheasant is sought to be recovered.

They are mute in “questing,” and very quiet in their movements, readily keeping at heel, and backing the pointers steadily while they are “down charge,” for as long a time as may be required; and when they go to their game they make no noise, as is too often done by the regular retriever. They do not carry so well as the larger dog, but in all other respects they are his equal, or perhaps superior. Owing to their small size they are ad* missible to the house, and being constant companions are more easily kept under command; besides which, they live on the scraps of the house, while the large retriever must be kept tied up at the keeper’s, and costs a considerable sum to pay for his food (pg.167-68).

Hugh Dalziel’s British Dogs (also dates to the 1880’s) includes a description of Scottish and Skye terriers been used as retrievers:

Many gentlemen in the north of Scotland kept a pack of terriers for otter hunting, and some do so still; and many at the present day use them for rabbit hunting, at which sport no dog can equal them, as they never get too excited, and are always ready to obey the commands of their master. In close creeping ‘whins’ or ‘ furze’ they will go through the rabbit runs like ferrets, and Mr. Bunny is either obliged to bolt or be killed. They are capable of being trained to retrieve, and it is a very pretty thing to see one of these little dogs carrying a partridge, woodcock, or snipe. They will take to the water like an otter, and give excellent sport when flapper shooting. In fact, in my day I have seen a great many, and used a few of the so-called retrievers; but give me a well-broken Highland terrier [one of the ancestors of the Scottish terrier] in preference to any retriever I know, and if there is game to be had I should have little fear in losing a wounded bird or quadruped if it kept above ground.

Rawdon Lee describes using  terriers and terrier crosses as retrievers in his A History and Description of Modern Dogs (Sporting Division) (1894), which describes a different terrier cross the Colquhoun text:

John Colquhoun, in his ” Moor and the Loch,” descants in praiseworthy terms of his wildfowl retriever, that was a cross between a water spaniel and a terrier. In appearance not unlike a modern Airedale terrier, it was, doubtless, one of the most useful dogs ever bred, and in a boat would do better than a larger and curlier animal, as he would bring less water in with him when retrieving his master’s ducks. Such dogs are, however, liable to be hardmouthed; still, I have myself owned terriers, and have one now—an Irishman—that will carry an egg in a cup without breaking either, or a piece of tissue paper without soiling it in the least. But such dogs as these have taken naturally to their work, and no amount of training would persuade or teach them to do what they like to perform of their own accord (pg. 213).

In the Lee also describes a bull terrier named Sam in A History and Description of Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland (The Terriers) (1897):

The puppy was christened “Sam,” for a long time he was my constant companion, and became an adept at hunting rats by the riverside, a capital rabbiter, and as good a retriever as most dogs. He would perform sundry tricks, find money hidden away, and could be sent back a mile for anything—a glove, a stick—that had been left behind (27).

Of course, there are many mentions of Airedale terriers as retrievers that are too numerous to mention. Airedales have a sort of multipurpose hunting dog quality to them that they have been use to hunt everything from quail to grizzly bears. The aforementioned Irish terrier, the Kerry blue,and the soft-coated wheaten terrier all have been used as retrievers. Kerry blues and the soft-coated wheaten terriers have some relationship to the poodle-type water dogs, either from the indigenous poodle-type of the British Isles or from Iberian water dogs that were left behind by the Spanish Armada  as it escaped off the coast of Ireland following its defeat by Queen Elizabeth I’s navy (a good story but one that is very difficult to prove.)

I know of at least one modern terrier, a Jack Russell, that lives to play fetch. He could have been trained to be a retriever, for he has much more instinct than my non-retrieving golden. He has a toy pheasant that he loves to carry, and because he is so easily trained, it wouldn’t take much for him to learn how to retrieve birds.

As some of these texts point out, using a smaller dogs as a retriever has advantages. However, only one modern retriever breed is of medium size. All the rest are large dogs that typically weigh in excess of 55 pounds. One wonders why these terrier-retrievers never made such a splash.

Perhaps it was the fact that wavy and flat-coated retrievers were so promoted by the doyens of the British dog fancy, most notably S.E. Shirley, the first president of the Kennel Club.

Perhaps it just became fashionable to have stylish, uniform brace or two of wavy or flat-coated retrievers working an estate shoot, and no one wanted to use some terrier or terrier mongrel for the task. It was probably fashion, rather than necessity, that stopped the terrier retriever.

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I’m sure that most of you are jumping to tell that it is the Cú Faoil.

But Ireland doesn’t have an official national dog.

However, it almost got one.

And it wasn’t an Irish wolfhound.

It was this dog:


Not the German shepherd. That’s not even the national dog of Germany. The national dog of the German Empire was the Great Dane (which is more appropriately called the German Mastiff.)

The Irish patriot Michael Collins (usually known as Mick Collins) loved this breed. It was through his patronage that the breed became popular among Irish revolutionaries, and Collins sponsored an act in Parliament (called an Act of Oireachtas) to make the Kerry blue the national dog. After Collins’s assassination, the issue was never revived. Ireland has no official national dog.

If it had been raised to national dog, it would have been the national dog for the Republic of Ireland, not northern Ireland.  Irish wolfhound and Irish red and white setters apparently had their last strongholds in the North. Indeed, it was a Presbyterian minister from Northern Ireland who saved the Irish red and white from extinction. I don’t know how well that would go over if someone moved to make that breed the national dog.


I should mention that I’ve read two wonderful accounts of the Kerry blue’s origins. The traditional account claims the dogs came from County Kerry, in the southwestern tip of Ireland. It is speculated that Portuguese sailors and possibly the escaping Spanish Armada may have dumped Iberian water dog on Ireland’s shores.

The other story says that they are not from County Kerry at all. This story goes that the dogs are from Carrick-on-Suir (Carraig na Siúire) in County Tipperary. It was originally called the Carrick blue terrier. Through some confusion, the dog got called a Kerry blue.

I don’t know which is true. The AKC and its breed club swear that the breed comes from Kerry, but you’ll often find the account that the Irish blue terrier comes from County Tipperary (which is now split into two separate administrative counties, in case you were wondering).

It may make sense to call this breed the Irish blue terrier, just to reflect the debatable status of its origins.

Like the other breeds of Irish terrier, this breed has more in common with the curs and feists of the US than the earth dogs of Great Britain. These were dogs of the small tenant farmers, who used them to kill rats, to hunt badgers, foxes, and otters, and to work sheep (which might be suggestive of Spanish water dog ancestry. A Spanish water dog is actually a herding breed that moonlights as a water dog).

Now, I might get pilloried for this, but I think the Irish blue terrier’s utility with the working people of Ireland gives it more of a claim to the national dog title than the wolfhound. The wolfhound was the dog of the nobility. After the Anglo-Normans conquered Ireland, the wolfhounds became their dogs, and the dogs were always the dogs of the nobility.

Of course, the Irish blue is one of three very similar terrier-type dogs from Ireland. There is the red Irish terrier, which has a wire-coat, and there is a wheaten terrier with a soft, low-shed coat that is not dissimilar to that of the Irish blue. These dogs are about the same size and have a common ancestry.

Whatever the national dog of Ireland should be, it is not currently the Irish wolfhound. The only proposed national dog has been the blue terrier, and no one has voted on it since the time of Mick Collins.


Of course, Irish wolfhounds have a kind of Finn McCool or St. Patrick status in Irish national mythology, and the terriers don’t have sort of romance associated with their names.

And if I’ve learned anything, romance always beats out history when these things are eventually decided.

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