The Breed History
This is one of the oldest terrier breeds, possibly two centuries old. They may be related to Airedale Terrier, Wheaten Terrier and the Irish Wolfhound. The wire-haired Black and Tan Terrier may have been the primary breed ancestor. Early records originated in County Cork, Ireland. AKC recognition occurred in 1885.
Breeding for Function
They served as a small game hunter, for vermin control, dry and wet retrieving, guard dog, war dog (messenger, sentinel), police dog, and were sometimes even used for large game hunting. Today, they are primarily found in family pet roles. Speed and agility are retained.
Height at Withers: 18" (45.5 cm)
Weight: female 25 lb (11 kg), male 27 lb (12 kg)
Coat: A rich red color, though it can be as light as wheaten (is the standard). Puppies are sometimes born with some black hair but as they mature, the normal red color takes over. The wiry dense hairs overlay a fine undercoat of soft, short, lighter hair. The coat is harshest over the topline. They require moderate grooming but bathing needs are minimal. The dog needs stripping once to twice yearly.
Longevity: 14-15 years
Points of Conformation: Though a terrier, the breed is more similar to the Irish wolfhound type in their overall lithe conformation than the typical stocky, short-legged terrier. The skull is long and narrow between the ears, they possess a minimal stop, and have a moderate beard and moustache which frame their large black nose. They have very bushy brows and the lips are black. Eyes are dark brown with an intense gaze, the ears are small and triangular in shape with moderate leather and the fold of the ear sits above skull level. The long neck is moderately muscled and not throaty. The thorax is deep and somewhat narrow. The topline is long and slightly arched only over the loin. The metatarsals and metacarpals are short, the tail is high set, and may be docked to three quarters of the length. Feet are compact, almost round, the nails dark and toes well arched. Limbs are long and straight boned, and not feathered. The gait is lively, animated and powerful.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed traits include: Loyal, high intelligence, high-spirited, fiery attitude, and always on guard. Adaptable, at home in city or rural environments, and enjoys children. Hardy; tolerates both warm and cold. They are playful and affectionate with family members, including children, but aggressive with other dogs and animals. Their tendency to have contempt of danger was the genesis to their nickname of "Red Devil". They may dig, and are considered only moderately trainable due to stubbornness. Early obedience and socialization are important for these dogs. They have moderate exercise needs. If off leash, they require a fenced enclosure.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Digital Hyperkeratosis (Corny Feet): An autosomal recessive disease of abnormal hardening and proliferation of the footpads. Affected dogs develop abnormal footpads around 6 months of age, which then fissure and crack, predisposing them to secondary infection.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. Too few Irish Terriers have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Irish Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Irish Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Muscular Dystrophy/Myopathy: A rare, fatal, X-linked muscular dystrophy affecting primarily male Irish Terriers. This is a dystrophin deficient form of muscular dystrophy. There is no genetic test for female carriers.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 6.1% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cystinuria/Cystine Bladder Stones: Irish Terriers have an increased risk for developing cystine bladder stones. Caused by an errorin cystine metabolism. Treat with surgical removal and life-long medical therapy. Unknown mode of inheritance in this breed.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Progressive degeneration of the retina, eventually causing blindness. Typical age of onset is between 2 to 5 years. Presumed autosomal recessive inheritance. Too few Irish Terriers have been CERF eye examined to determine an accurate frequency in the breed.
Distichiasis, Persistent Pupillary Membranes, and Cataracts are reported by CERF, but too few Irish Terriers have been CERF eye examined to determine an accurate frequency.
Cryptorchidism, Degenerative Myelopathy, Microphthalmia, and Uveodermatological Syndrome are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: none
Tests of Phenotype: Recommend patella evaluation, hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Irish Red Terrier
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 130 (182 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Irish Terrier Club of America: www.itca.info/
U.K. Irish Terrier Association: www.irishterrierassociation.co.uk
The Irish Terrier Association of Canada: www.dogbiz.com/itac/index.html
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