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12 Irish Dog Breeds You’ll Love

Ireland, a land rich with folklore, breathtaking landscapes, and spirited traditions, also boasts a remarkable canine heritage. Among its rolling hills and rugged coastlines, the Emerald Isle has given rise to some of the most charismatic and distinctive dog breeds in the world. 

From the towering majesty of the Irish Wolfhound to the spirited charm of the Kerry Blue Terrier, Irish dog breeds embody the diverse character of the island itself. In this article, we’ll explore 12 unique breeds, delving into their histories, personalities, and roles in Irish life. 

Whether you’re a dog lover, a culture enthusiast, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, or simply curious, join us on this canine journey to discover the enduring legacy of Ireland’s four-legged friends. Prepare to be charmed, enlightened, and maybe even a bit surprised by the diverse array of breeds that call Ireland home.

12 Irish Dog Breeds

1. Irish Setter

The Irish Setter, a symbol of elegance and energy, is a proud testament to Ireland’s rich canine heritage. Originally bred for hunting, specifically for setting or locating gamebirds, they have evolved from practical working dogs into one of the most beloved breeds worldwide. Their striking mahogany coat and graceful demeanor encapsulate the beauty and spirited character of the Irish landscape from which they hail.

Irish Setter
Irish Setter

Renowned for their friendly, outgoing nature, Irish Setters are the life of any gathering. They combine intelligence with unwavering loyalty and possess an innate joie de vivre, making them great companions, particularly for active families.


They are great family dogs and behave well in the company of children. Despite transitioning from rugged fields to more domestic settings, they retain their athletic prowess and require ample exercise to match their high energy levels.

2. Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier, affectionately known as the “Daredevil” of the Emerald Isle, encapsulates the spirited nature of its homeland. As one of the oldest terrier breeds, it boasts a rich Irish lineage, characterized by its fiery red coat and indomitable spirit. These dogs were bred in Ireland to be fearless hunters, adept at rooting out vermin and guarding their homes with tenacity and courage.

irish terrier
irish terrier

Beyond their rugged exterior lies a heart of gold. Irish Terriers are known for their loyalty, affection, and protective love for their families, making them great family pets. They embody the resilience and fortitude of the Irish people, with a playful disposition and an unwavering sense of duty. Despite their medium size, they possess the boldness of a much larger dog, making them esteemed watchdogs and cherished companions.

3. Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel, with its distinctive curly coat and rat-like tail, is a unique testament to Ireland’s canine diversity. Originating from the land of rolling green and surrounded by water, this breed is perfectly adapted to the wet Irish climate, thriving in both land and aquatic environments. Known as the clown of the spaniel family, they bring joy and laughter to any home with their playful and mischievous character.

Irish Water Spaniel guard dogs that don't shed
Irish Water Spaniel

Historically, these dogs have served as diligent hunters, skilled at retrieving game from water with their strong swimming abilities and water-repellent coats. This has made them invaluable companions to Irish hunters, navigating the country’s lakes and rivers with ease.

Their intelligence and trainable nature, combined with a loving, loyal disposition, make them excellent family pets. They can also be excellent pets for allergy sufferers.

4. Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound, a majestic figure steeped in legend and history, is a breed that encapsulates the spirit and essence of Ireland. Known for its towering height and noble demeanor, the Irish Wolfhound carries the legacy of ancient Ireland, where they were bred as hunting dogs capable of tackling large game such as wolves and elk. 

Irish Wolfhound white dog
Irish Wolfhound

Despite their imposing size, these gentle giants are known for their kind-hearted and calm nature. They possess a serene dignity and a patient, loving temperament, making them cherished companions. 

irish wolfhound white
irish wolfhound white

You might enjoy reading my article on Scottish dog breeds and dog breeds with big paws.

5. Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry Blue Terrier, native to the picturesque County Kerry in Ireland, is a breed that mirrors the rugged, mystic beauty of its homeland. With its distinct soft, blue-gray coat, this breed is immediately recognizable and deeply rooted in Irish culture. 

kerry blue terrier
kerry blue terrier

Historically, the Kerry Blue has been a versatile farm dog, proficient in tasks ranging from herding cattle to hunting small game and pests. The Kerry Blue Terrier’s spirited nature and intelligence make it a beloved companion and a keen competitor in dog sports. Despite their strong-willed personality, they are known for their loyalty and affection towards their families.

6. Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier

The Glen of Imaal Terrier, originating from the remote and rugged Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, Ireland, epitomizes the resilience and resourcefulness of its homeland. This Irish dog breed, less known than some of its compatriots, has a rich history deeply embedded in the fabric of Irish rural life and the Wicklow mountains.

Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier irish dog breeds

Initially bred to hunt fox and badger, and even to turn spits over fires, these terriers are a testament to the versatile and hardworking nature of dogs in rural settings. Compact and robust, the Glen of Imaal Terrier possesses a distinctive appearance with a rough wiry coat and a powerful build that belies its modest size.

Despite their tenacity and determination, Glens are known for their gentle temperament and patient nature, making them excellent companions.

7. Irish Red Setter and Irish White Setter

The Irish Red and White Setter, alongside its more commonly recognized cousin, the Irish Red Setter, is a quintessential Irish dog breed. Both emanate from the rich tapestry of Ireland’s canine lineage. Rooted deeply in the country’s hunting traditions, these setters were originally bred for their skills in bird setting, showcasing their keen senses and swift responsiveness in the lush Irish landscapes.

Irish Setter
Irish Setter

The Irish Red and White Setter, distinguished by its striking coat of white with red patches, predates the solid red variety and was nearly driven to extinction before dedicated breeders revived it. This breed embodies the historical essence of Irish sporting dogs, combining agility, intelligence, and a strong hunting instinct.

Conversely, the Irish Red Setter, known for its vibrant mahogany coat and graceful athleticism, has become an iconic symbol of Ireland, celebrated for its friendly, outgoing nature and undeniable elegance.

8. Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

With its distinctive silky, soft wheaten-colored coat, the adorable Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier originated as a versatile farm dog capable of herding, hunting, and guarding. Unlike other terriers, Irish soft coated Wheaten terriers were a peasant’s dog. 

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

Wheatens are beloved companions and family pets due to their exuberant personalities and eagerness to please. Wheatens are affectionate dogs. Despite their playful demeanor, they are strong and durable dogs.

9. Irish Lurcher

The Irish Lurcher is not a breed in the traditional sense but rather a type of dog that has been part of Irish history and culture for centuries. Lurchers are typically sighthound crosses, mostly Greyhounds, bred with other working dogs like Terriers or Herding breeds. This combination aims to produce a dog that possesses the speed and hunting prowess of the sighthound and the intelligence and versatility of working dogs.


In Ireland, Lurchers were historically the poacher’s companions, prized for their ability to hunt silently and provide food for families in times of need. Although not recognized as a standard breed, Irish Lurchers are celebrated for their loyalty, intelligence, and adaptability.

Today, while this Irish pup may no longer be used for poaching, Irish Lurchers are cherished as having a special connection with their families and are known for their gentle and affectionate nature.

10. Celtic Hounds

The Celtic Hound is more a symbol than a specific dog breed, deeply entrenched in Irish mythology and history. A single breed does not define these dogs but rather represents a variety of large, hunting dog types that were prevalent among the ancient Celts in Ireland. Irish literature and artifacts often depict Celtic Hounds, symbolizing hunting prowess, protection, and loyalty.

celtic hound

The symbolic Celtic Hound carries significant weight in Irish culture, embodying qualities like bravery, tenacity, and companionship. They were revered not just as hunters or guardians, but also as cherished companions, deeply woven into the fabric of daily life and spirituality. These mythical hounds are often associated with Celtic gods and heroes, reflecting their status as noble and mystical animals.

While the modern dog breeds we know today may not directly descend from these ancient hounds, the spirit and attributes of the Celtic Hound continue to influence the perception and values of Irish dog breeds, maintaining a revered place in Ireland’s cultural heritage.

11. Irish Toy Collie

The Irish Toy Collie, often seen as a smaller counterpart to the larger, well-known Collie breeds, is a distinct variety deeply rooted in Ireland’s pastoral traditions. Though not as widely recognized as other Irish breeds, the Irish Toy Collie embodies the same intelligent, gentle, and loyal nature that Collies are celebrated for, but in a more compact form suited to different living conditions.

Originating from Ireland, this rare breed was bred for their herding skills, agility, and companionship, retaining their larger relatives’ work ethic and versatility while being more adaptable to smaller living spaces. The friendly and affectionate demeanor of these small animals makes them excellent family pets

12. Kerry Beagle

The Kerry Beagle, one of Ireland’s oldest and most distinctive breeds, is a living link to the country’s rich history and hound tradition. Despite its name, the Kerry Beagle is not a small dog like the traditional beagle but rather a larger hound, renowned for its superb hunting abilities, particularly in pack hunting. Originating from County Kerry, this breed has been woven into Irish culture for centuries, with its lineage thought to trace back to the Celtic era.

kerry beagle

Known for its robust health, endurance, and melodious howl, the Kerry Beagle has played a central role in traditional Irish hunts. These high-energy dogs are typically used for tracking deer and other large game. Its strong sense of smell and tireless work ethic made it indispensable to hunters across Ireland’s rolling hills and rugged landscapes. They need plenty of exercise. 

The tapestry of dog breeds of Irish descent offers a unique glimpse into Ireland’s cultural history and natural landscape. From the majestic Irish Wolfhound to the playful Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, each breed embodies distinct characteristics and traits that reflect the diverse regions and traditions of Ireland. 

Whether through the Kerry Beagle’s rugged determination or the Irish Setter’s gentle nature, these breeds tell a story of a land steeped in history and natural beauty. 

If you’re looking for a puppy that is one of the native Irish breeds and the right dog for you make sure to check out the American Kennel Club guide to reputable breeders. 

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