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.

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