Ireland native terriers are much beloved in the Irish counties which spawned them, and each has its own “claim to fame.” The first terrier to be recognized by the English Kennel Club as a native Irish breed was the Irish Terrier, while the Kerry Blue’s history includes its status as a mascot of sorts for Irish patriots. Some believe the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier may be the oldest of the lot, but the Glen of Imaal isn’t a “new kid on the block,” either. It has roots in the bleak area of the Glen of Imaal and came down from dogs owned by farmers of the area, descendants of soldiers given land in the 16th and 17th centuries as payment for services rendered to the British Crown.
Sadly, each is considered a Vulnerable Native Breed. Because records are sketchy or non existent, it’s difficult to prove conclusively which of the four is the oldest breed, though the Irish Kennel Club seems to believe it’s a tossup between the Irish Terrier and the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.
Easier to establish is the order in which these breeds were recognized by the AKC. When asked to take a guess, most “dog people” easily remember the Irish Terrier, Kerry Blue, and SCWT, but curiously, many often forget about the terrier most recently recognized by the AKC, the Glen of Imaal Terrier. That recognition came in 2004 making it the last to get full acceptance. The Irish Kennel Club, however, gave it full rights in 1934. The next most recently recognized Irish terrier breed was the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier who became part of the AKC “family,” in 1973. Again, the Irish Kennel Club had already accepted the breed in 1937. In 1922, the AKC accepted the Kerry Blue Terrier, a dog that had already been described in 1847 by a writer who referred to a “bluish slate colored dog.” It made its first appearance at a benched show in 1913.
We have to go back to the late 19th century to find the first native Irish terrier breed recognized by the AKC, and of course that was the Irish Terrier who gained full AKC acceptance in 1885.
To review, and from oldest to newest, the order in which the terriers from Ireland were AKC recognized was the Irish Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, and finally, the Glen of Imaal Terrier.