Who let the Celtic Canines out? Our Celtic Canine area is home to a virtual family reunion of several dog breeds native to Ireland. Throughout the weekend, some of the Midwest’s top breeders conduct grooming and training demonstrations and share the history of various Irish dogs. Festival guests are able to see and pet Irish breeds including the Irish Wolfhound, Irish Setter, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Irish Terrier, Glen of Imaal Terrier and Kerry Blue Terrier. Only working animals are permitted on Festival grounds.
Glen of Imaal TerrierThe Glen of Imaal Terrier is a rough-and-ready working terrier that is the least known of the four terrier breeds native to Ireland. Longer than tall and sporting a harsh coat of medium length, the Glen is very much a big dog on short legs. The Glen is the only terrier breed of Ireland not defined by a single color. Acceptable colors for the breed are various shades of wheaten, blue and brindle. Initially bred to rid the home and farm of vermin and hunt badger and fox, these rugged dogs also had a unique task for which they were expressly designed to perform – they were turnspit dogs. The turnspit was a large wheel which, when paddled by the dog, would turn a spit over the hearth — a canine propelled rotisserie. Today’s Glens are very much the same as the Glens that worked the lowlands of County Wicklow 100 years ago, with very little refinement or influence by fashion.
Irish SetterOne of the most distinctive Sporting breeds, the mahogany red Irish Setter is an active, aristocratic bird dog. Originally bred to be red and white, the solid red color appeared in Ireland the 19th century and became a mark of quality and superior sporting ability. Over two feet tall at the shoulder, the Irish is known for his style, powerful movement and clown-like personality. The Irish Setter became popular in the 18th century throughout Ireland and the British Isles. Developed from a mix of Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Terrier, English Setter, Spaniel, Pointer, and a dash of Gordon Setter, the breed was originally used to “set” game, crouching low near the birds so that the hunters could walk up and throw a net over bird and dog. When firearms were introduced, the Irish adapted into a gun dog that pointed, flushed and hunted in an upright stance.
Irish TerrierThe Irish Terrier sports a beautiful red coat, an alert expression and trim outline with piercing eyes that reflect a rare intelligence. He is a gallant picture of authentic terrier type and character. The breed is good tempered, spirited and game. The breed’s coat is short and wiry in texture. His origin has been much debated, but there is indisputable evidence that he is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds. Early Irish Terriers came in a variety of colors, including black and tan, gray, and brindle. It was only near the end of the 19th century that the solid red color become a fixture of the breed. In World War I the Irish Terrier was used as a messenger and sentinel.
Irish Water SpanielThe clown of the spaniel family, the Irish Water Spaniel will think of creative ways to accomplish even the slightest of tasks. Strong and intelligent, the tallest spaniel breed possesses several unique characteristics – its liver-colored curly coat and signature “rat tail.” The water-repellant double coat consists of dense, tight ringlets with a topknot of long, loose curls and a smooth face. The “rat” tail is thick and covered with curls at the base, tapering to a fine point covered with short, smooth hair. A dog of ancient lineage, there is evidence of Irish Water Spaniel-type remains going back as far as the 7th and 8th centuries AD. In the late 1100’s, dogs found in southern Ireland below the River Shannon were called Shannon Spaniels, Rat-Tail Spaniels or Whip-Tail Spaniels, among other things. Records document the “Water Spagnel” with “long, rough, curled hair and a tail somewhat bare and naked.” Today’s IWS is a true dual-purpose hunting dog, as qualified with upland game as with waterfowl.
Irish WolfhoundAn Irish Wolfhound must be “of great size and commanding appearance.” He has a large, muscular greyhound-like shape, and he is the tallest of dogs, but not the heaviest. A superb athlete and an endurance runner, an old Irish proverb describes him perfectly: “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.” The breed’s recognized colors are gray, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn and others. One of the earliest recorded references to Irish Wolfhounds is in Roman records dating to 391 A.D. Often used as royal gifts, they hunted with their masters, fought beside them in battle, guarded their castles, played with their children, and lay quietly by the fire as family friends. They were fierce hunters of wolves and the oversized Irish elk, so good that their prey disappeared from Ireland and the hounds fell upon hard times. By the 19th Century there were few IWs left in Ireland.
Kerry Blue TerrierIntelligent and game, the Kerry Blue Terrier is truly an all-purpose dog. Originally bred to hunt and retrieve, Kerries can be found today in the show, obedience, agility, herding and earthdog rings. The Kerry’s trademark soft, wavy coat can range from deep slate gray blue to light blue gray. Kerry Blues are born black and, if correct, possess the dominant gene for coat fading. They will fade and acquire their adult color by 18 months. A native of County Kerry, Ireland, the Kerry Blue Terrier was used as an all-round working and utility terrier, responsible for hunting small game and birds, retrieving from land and water, and herding sheep and cattle. It is thought that the peasantry of Ireland developed the Kerry as an answer to the nobility using Irish Wolfhounds. The Kerry was used to help the peasantry to silently hunt the noble hunting grounds.
Soft Coated Wheaten TerrierAs its name implies, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is prized for its coat, which is soft, silky, with a gentle wave, and of warm wheaten color. Underneath, however, is a formidable dog that leaves no doubt as to his terrier origins. Square and medium-sized, he is happy, steady, self-confident and alert to his surroundings. Known for more than 200 years in Ireland, the “Wheaten” shares common ancestry with the Kerry Blue and the Irish Terrier, but was not owned by the landed gentry. They were the poor man’s dog, an all-purpose farm dog, given to patrolling the borders of small farms, ridding them of vermin, herding sheep and hunting with his master.
Irish Red and White SetterDespite its name, the Irish Red and White Setter is a distinct breed, not just a different colored version of the Irish Setter. Bred primarily for the field, they should be strong, powerful and athletic, with a keen and intelligent attitude. The coat’s base color is white with solid red patches. Known in Ireland since the 17th century, the Red and White is thought to be the older of the two Irish Setters. However, due to the overwhelming popularity of its solid red cousin, and separate breeding of the two breeds, the Irish Red and White Setter was nearly extinct by the end of the 19th century. During the 1920s, efforts were made to revive the Irish Red and White Setter and by the 1940s, the breed began to reemerge in Ireland.
© The American Kennel Club, Inc.