It is true that there are no snakes in Ireland – but it has more to do with the Ice Age than St. Patrick! Ireland was isolated from Europe by a rising sea level after the Ice Age, and some species of animals didn’t take the “greener” side of the water fence. Today, there are only 26 land mammal species that are considered native to Ireland.
Long after the Ice Age, several breeds of dogs and cats were developed in Ireland to serve specific needs. The Irish also have a great love for dogs and cats! According to the Irish Kennel Club, there are 9 native dogs of Ireland:
- Irish Wolfhound. This rough-coated sighthound is a giant among all dogs. He was bred for hunting and has a powerful gallop. But he thrives on human companionship and is a calm and dignified presence in the home (picture, left: Encanto Pet Clinic groomer Treva hangs out with Liam).
- Kerry Beagle. This breed is believed to date back to the 16th century and is considered a forerunner of the American Coonhound. Irish legend says these ancient dogs were on Noah’s Ark, and after landing on Galtymore in Tipperary, the dogs took off after a fox, never to be seen again.
- Irish Water Spaniel. The joyful gun dog was bred to retrieve land and water fowl. It is the largest of the spaniel breeds, and has a soft, curly, reddish coat. The dog’s tail is hairless, acting as a rudder in the water. It is still relatively unknown in the US, with less than 200 registrations with the AKC.
- Irish Setter. The beauty of this redhead is unmatched, and were originally red and white, described as “shower of hail” dogs. By 1812, the solid red types were preferred in Ireland. Elcho was the first Irish Setter to arrive in the United States in 1875 (Dublin Larkin shows off his colors in this picture!).
- Irish Red and White Setter. Those “shower of hail dogs” began to decline after 1812, and became nearly extinct until the 1920s. The sturdy gundogs began to experience a revival, and was recognized as a “new” breed by the AKC in 2006.
- Irish Terrier. The Irish Terrier is a sturdy breed that loves life – and is difficult to fence in! The plucky terrier is red, golden or wheaten, and he has been nicknamed “The Daredevil” for obvious reasons.
- Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier. Child-friendly but sometimes not so keen on other dogs, the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier is bred for badger hunting, with a long body and a coarse coat that repels burrs.
- Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. The fun-loving terrier is a farm dog and gets along well with other animals. He can be stubborn , however, if he does not agree with your command! His beautiful coat needs lots of consistent grooming, so be prepared. Of course, you can always bring him or her to Encanto Pet Clinic for grooming!
- Kerry Blue Terrier. The Kerry Blue Terrier’s striking feature is its fine, non-shedding bluish-grey coat. Legend states that a beautiful blue dog swam to the Kerry shore after a shipwreck; it was so lovely that it was mated with several Wheaten Terriers. Their offspring were the first Kerry Blue Terriers. Irish nationalist had a Kerry Blue named Convict 224, and pushed for the formation of the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club. It was so successful that the Irish Kennel Club was formed, with its first registered dog a Kerry Blue.
But what about cats? There are only two breeds known to originate in Ireland:
- The Manx. This ancient breed is believed to have descended from the Norwegian Forest Cats that were brought to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea by Vikings. They are tailless, probably due to a mutation that emerged among the island cats and quickly spread. The short haired Manx is known as an active, intelligent, “working” cat.
- Cymric Cat. In 1994, the Cymric was accepted by the Cat Fanciers Association as a division of the Manx. Both breeds originated on the Isle of Man, and both are tailless, but the Cymric is long-haired. Many believe it is a separate breed, as both the long- and short-haired varieties have lived on the island for centuries. Cymric cats are athletic, interactive and able to entertain themselves for long periods of time.
Dr. Tim Ireland and Tina Ireland along with the entire Encanto Pet Clinic staff want to help you with all your pets’ needs! Call to set up an appointment or talk to our knowledgeable staff about any concerns you have for your pets’ health.