Description & History

The present day Irish Water Spaniel was first bred in Ireland in the early part of the nineteenth century by Mr Justin McCarthy. Before this there were different types of Water Spaniel in Ireland but they varied in conformation and colour. It was from a type of dog which came from southern Ireland - curly coated, long ears, low in the body and liver in colour - that Mr McCarthy is believed to have created this improved type of Irish Water Spaniel.

History shows the existence of water dogs similar to the Irish Water Spaniel for centuries before this development - art in various forms gives evidence of this fact. In Persian manuscripts dating back 4000 years there is reference to Water Dogs, also, in William Shakespear's Two Gentlemen of Verona. Launce describes his lady:

She has more qualities than a water spaniel,
Which is much in a bare Christian.
'Imprimis, she can fetch and carry',
Why, a horse can do no more: nay a
Horse cannot fetch, but only carry; therefore
She is better than a Jade.

In spite of this, the origin of the breed is not known, although it is presumed that there is an ancestral link between the breed and the Portuguese Water Dog. Their characteristics are similar - both breeds have a love of water, are proficient hunters and retrievers and are not unalike in appearance.

The Irish Water Spaniel is a versatile breed capable of hunting and retrieving efficiently from land and water. It is in its element retrieving snipe, wild duck and geese from marshy areas and lakes but is just as happy when called upon to retrieve woodcock and pheasant.

Although principally a working dog the Irish Water Spaniel is also a show and family dog. They make wonderful companions and enjoy and partake in all aspects of family life. Plenty of exercise is the order of the day. It is essential that their owners take pleasure in all their outdoor pursuits, if water is included in these pursuits so much the better!

Rosamund Walters.

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