The four Irish Terrier breeds from Ireland, have a long history of proving themselves as working dogs. They were originally “jacks of all trades” and all descend from the same root stock. They were every Irish farmers right hand man and were used for vermin control, hunting, guard duties, farm work and for sporting activities at the local pub to earn their owner a little bit of extra money.
The Irish were limited to what dogs they could own during British rule and these large Terriers were created from a variety of different breeds, to be able to do a number of functions. It’s believed that they descend from crosses between terriers, early bull terrier types, small Irish Wolfhounds and even shepherd breeds. These crosses became localised and associated with different parts of Ireland and were the foundation for the four Irish Terrier breeds that we have today.
The Irish Terrier was created in the North of Ireland and was heavily influenced by Scotch Terriers taken to Belfast by Scottish immigrants. The Kerry Blue Terrier was well known to exist in Kerry and the modern version was created by adding small amounts of Bedlington Terrier blood in the early 1900’s. The Wheaten Terrier and Glen of Imaal Terrier are closely related and both types were known to appear in the same litters. The Glen of Imaal Terrier was the preferred type on the east coast of Ireland in the Wicklow Mountains and was named after a well known local Glen. The Wheaten Terrier was named after its coat type and colour and many consider it to be the original Terrier of Ireland.
In the 1920’s, the Irish Kennel Club created the Irish Trials as a way of testing a dogs working ability, Irish Terrier breeds had to prove themselves in the field before being able to become full Irish Kennel Club show Ch’s. The two tests created was the Teastas Mor (Big Certificate/Test) and the Teastas Beg (Litte Certificate/Test). The Teastas Beg was ratting and rabbit bushing whilst the Teastas Mor was considered the ultimate test, where a dog had to enter a man made shore and work in complete silence and darkness under very strict rules whilst being judged by 3 separate judges. These two tests were created as they were both just within the hunting laws at the time and all breeders began breeding their Terriers solely for these tests.