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The Irish Terrier

The dare-devil Irish Terrier has most certainly made his home in our
bosom. There is no breed of dog more genuinely loved by those who
have sufficient experience and knowledge to make the comparison. Other
dogs have a larger share of innate wisdom, others are most
aesthetically beautiful, others more peaceable; but our rufous friend
has a way of winning into his owner's heart and making there an
abiding place which is all the more secure because it is gained by
sincere and undemonstrative devotion. Perhaps one likes him equally
for his faults as for his merits. His very failings are due to his
soldierly faithfulness and loyalty, to his too ardent vigilance in
guarding the threshold, to his officious belligerence towards other
canines who offend his sense of proprietorship in his master. His
particular stature may have some influence in his success as a chum.
He is just tall enough to rest his chin upon one's knee and look up
with all his soul into one's eyes. Whatever be the secret of his
attraction 'tis certain that he has the Hibernian art of compelling
affection and forgiveness, and that he makes one value him, not for
the beauty of his ruddy raiment, the straightness of his fore-legs,
the set of his eye and ear, the levelness of his back, or his ability
to win prizes, but rather for his true and trusty heart, that exacts
no return and seeks no recompense. He may be but an indifferent
specimen of his kind, taken in as a stranger at the gates; but when
at length the inevitable time arrives, as it does all too soon in
canine nature, one then discovers how surely one has been harbouring
an angel unawares.

Statistics would probably show that in numbers the Fox-terrier
justifies the reputation of being a more popular breed, and the
Scottish Terrier is no doubt a formidable competitor for public
esteem. It is safe, however, to say that the Irish Terrier shares
with these the distinction of being one of the three most popular
terriers in the British Isles.

This fact taken into consideration, it is interesting to reflect that
thirty years ago the Dare-Devil was virtually unknown in England.
Idstone, in his book on dogs, published in 1872 did not give a word
of mention to the breed, and dog shows had been instituted sixteen
years before a class was opened for the Irish Terrier. The dog
existed, of course, in its native land. It may indeed be almost
truthfully said to have existed as long as that country has been
an island.

About the year 1875, experts were in dispute over the Irish Terrier,
and many averred that his rough coat and length of hair on forehead
and muzzle were indubitable proof of Scotch blood. His very
expression, they said, was Scotch. But the argument was quelled by
more knowing disputants on the other side, who claimed that Ireland
had never been without her terrier, and that she owed no manner of
indebtedness to Scotland for a dog whose every hair was essentially

In the same year at a show held in Belfast a goodly number of the
breed were brought together, notable among them being Mr. D.
O'Connell's Slasher, a very good-looking wire-coated working terrier,
who is said to have excelled as a field and water dog. Slasher was
lint white in colour, and reputed to be descended from a pure white
strain. Two other terriers of the time were Mr. Morton's Fly (the
first Irish Terrier to gain a championship) and Mr. George Jamison's

The prominent Irish Terriers of the 'seventies varied considerably
in type. Stinger, who won the first prize at Lisburn in 1875, was
long-backed and short-legged, with a dark blue grizzle coloured back,
tan legs, and white turned-out feet. The dam of Mr. Burke's Killeney
Boy was a rough black and tan, a combination of colours which was
believed to accompany the best class of coats. Brindles were not
uncommon. Some were tall on the leg, some short; some were lanky and
others cobby; many were very small. There were classes given at a
Dublin show in 1874 for Irish Terriers under 9 lb. weight.

Jamison's Sport is an important dog historically, for various reasons.
He was undoubtedly more akin to our present type than any other Irish
Terrier of his time of which there is record. His dark ears were
uncropped at a period when cropping was general; his weight
approximated to our modern average. He was an all coloured red, and
his legs were of a length that would not now be seriously objected
to. But in his day he was not accepted as typical, and he was not
particularly successful in the show ring. The distinguished terrier
of his era was Burke's Killeney Boy, to whom, and to Mr. W. Graham's
bitch Erin, with whom he was mated, nearly all the pedigrees of the
best Irish Terriers of to-day date back. Erin was said to be superior
in all respects to any of her breed previous to 1880. In her first
litter by Killeney Boy were Play Boy, Pretty Lass, Poppy, Gerald,
Pagan II., and Peggy, every one of whom became famous. More than one
of these showed the black markings of their granddam, and their
progeny for several generations were apt to throw back to the
black-and-tan, grey, or brindle colouring. Play Boy and Poppy were
the best of Erin's first litter. The dog's beautiful ears, which were
left as Nature made them, were transmitted to his son Bogie Rattler,
who was sire of Bachelor and Benedict, the latter the most successful
stud dog of his time. Poppy had a rich red coat, and this colour
recurred with fair regularity in her descendants. Red, which had not
at first been greatly appreciated, came gradually to be the accepted
colour of an Irish Terrier's jacket. Occasionally it tended towards
flaxen; occasionally to a deep rich auburn; but the black and brindle
were so rigidly bred out that by the year 1890, or thereabout, they
very seldom recurred. Nowadays it is not often that any other colour
than red is seen in a litter of Irish Terriers, although a white patch
on the breast is frequent, as it is in all self-coloured breeds.

In addition to the early celebrities already named, Extreme
Carelessness, Michael, Brickbat, Poppy II., Moya Doolan, Straight
Tip, and Gaelic have taken their places in the records of the breed,
while yet more recent Irish Terriers who have achieved fame have been
Mrs. Butcher's Bawn Boy and Bawn Beauty, Mr. Wallace's Treasurer,
Mr. S. Wilson's Bolton Woods Mixer, Dr. Smyth's Sarah Kidd, and Mr.
C. J. Barnett's Breda Muddler.

Naturally in the case of a breed which has departed from its original
type, discussions were frequent before a standard of perfection for
the Irish Terrier was fixed. His size and weight, the length or
shortness of his limbs, the carriage of his tail, the form of his
skull and muzzle, the colour and texture of his coat were the subjects
of controversy. It was considered at one juncture that he was being
bred too big, and at another that he was being brought too much to
resemble a red wire-hair Fox-terrier. When once the black marking
on his body had been eliminated no one seems to have desired that
it should be restored. Red was acknowledged to be the one and only
colour for an Irish Terrier. But some held that the correct red should
be deep auburn, and others that wheaten colour was the tone to be
aimed at. A medium shade between the two extremes is now generally
preferred. As to size, it should be about midway between that of the
Airedale and the Fox-terrier, represented by a weight of from 22 to
27 lb.

The two breeds just mentioned are, as a rule, superior to the Irish
Terrier in front legs, and feet, but in the direction of these points
great improvements have recently been observable. The heads of our
Irish Terriers have also been brought nearer to a level of perfection,
chiselled to the desired degree of leanness, with the determined
expression so characteristic of the breed, and with the length,
squareness, and strength of muzzle which formerly were so difficult
to find. This squareness of head and jaw is an important point to
be considered when choosing an Irish Terrier.

Opinions differ in regard to slight details of this terrier's
conformation, but the official description, issued by the Irish
Terrier Club, supplies a guide upon which the uncertain novice may
implicitly depend:--

* * * * *

HEAD--Long; skull flat, and rather narrow between ears, getting
slightly narrower towards the eye; free from wrinkles; stop hardly
visible except in profile. The jaw must be strong and muscular, but
not too full in the cheek, and of a good punishing length. There
should be a slight falling away below the eye, so as not to have a
Greyhound appearance. Hair on face of same description as on body,
but short (about a quarter of an inch long), in appearance almost
smooth and straight; a slight beard is the only longish hair (and
it is only long in comparison with the rest) that is permissible,
and this is characteristic. TEETH--Should be strong and level.
LIPS--Not so tight as a Bull-terrier's, but well-fitting, showing
through the hair their black lining. NOSE--Must be black. EYES--A
dark hazel colour, small, not prominent, and full of life, fire, and
intelligence. EARS--Small and V-shaped, of moderate thickness, set
well on the head, and dropping forward closely to the cheek. The ear
must be free of fringe, and the hair thereon shorter and darker in
colour than the body. NECK--Should be of a fair length, and gradually
widening towards the shoulders, well carried, and free of throatiness.
There is generally a slight sort of frill visible at each side of
the neck, running nearly to the corner of the ear. SHOULDERS AND
CHEST--Shoulders must be fine, long, and sloping well into the back;
the chest deep and muscular, but neither full nor wide. BACK AND
LOIN--Body moderately long; back should be strong and straight, with
no appearance of slackness behind the shoulders; the loin broad and
powerful, and slightly arched; ribs fairly sprung, rather deep than
round, and well ribbed back. HIND-QUARTERS--Should be strong and
muscular, thighs powerful, hocks near ground, stifles moderately bent.
STERN--Generally docked; should be free of fringe or feather, but
well covered with rough hair, set on pretty high, carried gaily, but
not over the back or curled. FEET AND LEGS--Feet should be strong,
tolerably round, and moderately small; toes arched, and neither turned
out nor in; black toe nails most desirable. Legs moderately long,
well set from the shoulders, perfectly straight, with plenty of bone
and muscle; the elbows working freely clear of the sides; pasterns
short and straight, hardly noticeable. Both fore and hind legs should
be moved straight forward when travelling, the stifles not turned
outwards, the legs free of feather, and covered, like the head, with
as hard a texture of coat as body, but not so long. COAT--Hard and
wiry, free of softness or silkiness, not so long as to hide the
outlines of the body, particularly in the hind-quarters, straight
and flat, no shagginess, and free of lock or curl. COLOUR--Should
be whole-coloured, the most preferable being bright red, red,
wheaten, or yellow red. White sometimes appears on chest and feet;
it is more objectionable on the latter than on the chest, as a speck
of white on chest is frequently to be seen in all self-coloured
breeds. SIZE AND SYMMETRY--The most desirable weight in show condition
is, for a dog 24 lb., and for a bitch 22 lb. The dog must present
an active, lively, lithe, and wiry appearance; lots of substance,
at the same time free of clumsiness, as speed and endurance, as well
as power, are very essential. They must be neither cloddy or cobby,
but should be framed on the lines of speed, showing a graceful racing
outline. TEMPERAMENT--Dogs that are very game are usually surly or
snappish. The Irish Terrier as a breed is an exception, being
remarkably good-tempered, notably so with mankind, it being admitted,
however, that he is perhaps a little too ready to resent interference
on the part of other dogs. There is a heedless, reckless pluck about
the Irish Terrier which is characteristic, and, coupled with the
headlong dash, blind to all consequences, with which he rushes at
his adversary, has earned for the breed the proud epithet of The
Dare-Devils. When off-duty they are characterised by a quiet,
caress-inviting appearance, and when one sees them endearingly,
timidly pushing their heads into their masters' hands, it is difficult
to realise that on occasions, at the set on, they can prove they
have the courage of a lion, and will fight unto the last breath in
their bodies. They develop an extraordinary devotion to and have been
known to track their masters almost incredible distances.

* * * * *

It is difficult to refer to particular Irish Terriers of to-day
without making invidious distinctions. There are so many excellent
examples of the breed that a list even of those who have gained
championship honours would be formidable. But one would hardly
hesitate to head the list with the name of Paymaster, a dog of rare
and almost superlative quality and true Irish Terrier character.
Paymaster is the property of Miss Lilian Paull, of Weston-super-Mare,
who bred him from her beautiful bitch Erasmic, from Breda Muddler,
the sire of many of the best. Side by side with Paymaster, Mr. F.
Clifton's Mile End Barrister might be placed. It would need a council
of perfection, indeed, to decide which is the better dog of the two.
Very high in the list, also, would come Mr. Henry Ridley's Redeemer
and Mr. Breakell's Killarney Sport. And among bitches one would name
certainly Mr. Gregg's Belfast Erin, Mr. Clifton's Charwoman, Mr.
Everill's Erminie, and Mr. J. S. McComb's Beeston Betty. These are
but half a dozen, but they represent the highest level of excellence
that has yet been achieved by scientific breeding in Irish Terrier

Breeding up to the standard of excellence necessary in competition
in dog shows has doubtless been the agent which has brought the Irish
Terrier to its present condition of perfection, and it is the means
by which the general dog owning public is most surely educated to
a practical knowledge of what is a desirable and what an undesirable
dog to possess. But, after all, success in the show ring is not the
one and only thing to be aimed at, and the Irish Terrier is not to
be regarded merely as the possible winner of prizes. He is above all
things a dog for man's companionship, and in this capacity he takes
a favoured place. He has the great advantage of being equally suitable
for town and country life. In the home he requires no pampering; he
has a good, hardy constitution, and when once he has got over the
ills incidental to puppyhood--worms and distemper--he needs only to
be judiciously fed, kept reasonably clean, and to have his fill of
active exercise. If he is taught to be obedient and of gentlemanly
habit, there is no better house dog. He is naturally intelligent and
easily trained. Although he is always ready to take his own part,
he is not quarrelsome, but remarkably good-tempered and a safe
associate of children. Perhaps with his boisterous spirits he is prone
sometimes to be over-zealous in the pursuit of trespassing tabbies
and in assailing the ankles of intruding butcher boys and officious
postmen. These characteristics come from his sense of duty, which is
strongly developed, and careful training will make him discriminative
in his assaults.

Very justly is he classed among the sporting dogs. He is a born
sportsman, and of his pluck it were superfluous to speak. Fear is
unknown to him. In this characteristic as in all others, he is truly
a son of Erin.

Next: The Welsh Terrier

Previous: The Bedlington Terrier

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