You could call the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier the
breed that was almost forgotten. Not that it wasn't well known,
and had been for more than 200 years. Wheatens abounded on farms
throughout Ireland because at one time only the aristocracy was
permitted by law to own hunting dogs. So the cotters had to settle
for native terriers who earned their keep as the poor man's hunting
dog, vermin killer, herder, watchdog, and family pet. But the farmers
had no interest in such things as seeking official breed status
or competing with their shaggy, wheaten-coloured terriers at dog
Puppies were whelped and reared on the "survival
of the fit'' principle which meant little human care. And thus a
robust, healthy breed evolved. There was certainly no shortage of
willing wheaten mates for the sole survivor of a shipwreck, a large
blue dog who found a home in County Kerry. This cross was the start
of the Irish terrier breed called the Kerry Blue which gained fame
and popularity long before anyone noticed one of its progenitors-the
wheaten. It is claimed that occasionally a light-coloured puppy
would appear in a litter of dark-coated Kerries, attesting to its
wheaten ancestry. The last such incident was reported in 1945.
The wheaten was not to remain unnoticed forever. In
1932 at a terrier match the breed attracted a group of fanciers
who decided to do something for the shaggy dogs. A club was formed
and the dog given the name of the Irish Wheaten Terrier. This was
too similar to Irish Terrier, a breed already recognized, so it
was changed to the present name. In 1937 the breed first appeared
on exhibition in Ireland at a championship show and later that year
the Soft-Coated Wheaten was placed on the list of native Irish breeds.
In 1938 wheatens were permitted to compete at championship events
as a distinct breed. At first the breed was shown in a completely
natural state. Then, after several years of arguing the point, fanciers
agreed to show wheatens in the now familiar scissored trim.
The breed was rather slow in gaining recognition outside
its country of origin. In 1973 the American Kennel Club accepted
the Soft-Coated wheaten and added its name to the official roster
followed in 1975 by The Kennel Club in England and in 1978 by The
Canadian Kennel Club
Image above: Am. Ch. Caraway Celebrate Life "Kovu" | No.
1 Wheaten in US 2005.