The Irish have the distinction of being the
only all-red terrier, and originated, as the name suggests, in Ireland.
But how the breed was created is another matter. Dog historians
are very unsure in this regard. Its ancestry seems to be linked
to that of the Welsh Terrier for it is suggested that both descend
from a type of wire-haired black and tan terrier which had been
known in Britain since the 17th century. To confirm this is the
fact that some black and tan puppies frequently occurred in early
litters of Irish Terriers.
When the breed was first introduced fanciers
claimed all manner of virtues for the Irishman. And while some exaggeration
may have existed in these claims, it is true that the breed is a
superb ratter and guard dog which, despite its vermin killing instinct,
is also a soft-mouthed retriever of game. In truth it is a breed
deserving of its earlier name, the "Irish Sporting Terrier."
Most dog historians begin their accounts of
the breed with its introduction to the public at a dog show held
in Dublin in 1875. Classes were offered for dogs over and under
nine pounds and it is written that the event drew an entry of fifty
terriers of all colours and sizes, with and without cropped ears.
This heterogeneous gathering caused such a stir among breed fanciers
they formed a specialty club and draughted the first breed standard,
which remains virtually unchanged today.
The public was quick to take a liking to the
Irish Terrier, and within a very few years the breed ranked among
the three most popular terrier breeds in Britain. But this was not
to last. Commencing in the 1920s, the demand for Irish Terriers
moved steadily downward. One breed enthusiast, Gordon Selfridge,
owner of one of London's largest department stores, tried to revive
interest in the breed by staging an Irish Terrier exhibition in
one of his store's departments. Another Irish Terrier supporter,
the Duke of Atholl, opened the exhibition; attendants were dressed
in Irish national costume and souvenir programmes were given to
all visitors. While this gesture did little to restore the Irish
Terrier's popularity, it remains a colourful part of the breed's
The Irish Terrier was first registered in Canada
in the years 1888-1889.