When Irish eyes are smiling, they might be the eyes of one of these nine iconic dogs of Ireland. Here’s what to know about them as you prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
¦ With a wiry topcoat and soft undercoat, short-legged Glen of Imaal terriers look a little scruffy, a little scrappy and full of fun. They hail from County Wicklow, hence their other name, Wicklow terrier. Glens love to chase furry critters; they were bred to hunt silently, but that doesn’t mean they don’t bark at all.
¦ If the dog with the glorious redand white coat were creating a profile for an online dating site, she’d express an interest in long walks or hikes, running, and rambunctious games with kids. The words tireless, enthusiastic, devoted and good-natured are frequently used to describe the Irish red-and-white setter, a two-tone cousin of the Irish setter. Fun facts: The IRWS and the Irish setter are separate breeds, and the IRWS is considered the older of the two.
¦ Rambunctious, rowdy, rollicking: the redhaired Irish setter has a reputation for rocket-launcher energy and a carefree attitude toward life. The stunning medium-length coat of mahogany or rich chestnut red attracts attention, but there’s more to this dog than looks. Joyful and boisterous, they love attention. A running Irish setter is the logo for Irish Bus, Ireland’s national bus company.
¦ Attitude marks the breed with the heart of a rogue, a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye. You may have first encountered him last year in the Tom Hanks movie “Finch,” a post-apocalyptic flick in which Irish terrier Seamus plays the titular character’s dog, Goodyear. Like so many breeds from Eire, Irish terriers sport a red coat, although it can also be red wheaten or wheaten-colored. They’re sometimes nicknamed D’Artagnan for their smooth style, as well as Daredevil, a nod to their utter contempt for danger.
¦ This curly-coated dog is often mistaken for a doodle, but he’s actually an Irish water spaniel, quirky and engaging with a “strong head and soft heart.” Active and outdoorsy, they are nicknamed the clown of the spaniels thanks to their inventive brain and fun-loving nature. Bred to hunt in marshy areas, they were originally known as “bog dogs,” and they still love water today. Inexperienced dog owners can find these complex thinkers challenging to live with.
¦ These giant dogs look as if they stepped out of a medieval tapestry, and indeed their original purpose was to run down wolves. They’re one of the tallest dog breeds, topping out at 32 to 35 inches. Although their size and name make them seem fierce, Irish wolfhounds have a quiet, gentle nature. Does that mean they won’t use their great height to swipe those rib-eye steaks off your counter? Not at all; they are unrepentant food thieves, but otherwise calm and dignified.
¦ Kerry beagles aren’t beagles — being longer and larger — but they are hounds and thought to be one of the older breeds in Ireland. How did they come to be? Legend claims that when Noah’s ark passed by Ireland, two blackand tan hounds caught the scent of a fox, leapt off the ark in pursuit and were never seen again. Speaking of disappearing, they nearly went extinct in the 19th century but were saved by the efforts of their fans.
¦ Blue beard? That might be your first thought when you see this midsize dog with soft, wavy blue-gray curls on his body and a long head distinguished by dark, intense eyes, a long beard and mustache, and abundant eyebrows. But he won’t be locking you in a room. Kerries would rather you come out and play. Born black, they develop a blue-gray coat by the time they’re 18 months old.
¦ Kiss your Wheaties! Not the cereal box, but soft-coated wheaten terriers, well described by their name. They’re known for seemingly having springs on their feet and a lively, affectionate personality. ¦