Description & History

The Kerry Blue Terrier is the national dog of the Republic of Ireland.

The exact origin of the breed is hard to define but it is thought by some writers to lie in south-west Ireland, where for generations they worked on the farms and possibly shared their ancestry with other Irish breeds. All these breeds were working and sporting dogs. They shared many similarities before any of the distinct breeds emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

There is also a theory that the Kerry Blue, like the Irish Water Spaniel and the Poodle, share their ancestries with the Portuguese Water Dog. This theory is perhaps not quite so bizarre as it might first appear. All breeds share a love of water, are hunting dogs and have certain similarities in their coats.

In 1588 both Spanish and Portuguese ships which formed the Armada sailed from Cadiz for English waters in order to convoy the Spanish Infantry across the Channel to land on English soil. History records the failure of the operation. Spanish galleons sank in the Channel, others were blown off course, by severe gales, and were wrecked off the Irish coast. Survivors from the wreckage would have swum ashore, no difficult task for the Water Dogs from Portugal, especially as they were used to carry messages between ships at sea. It seems not improbable that the the ancestors of todays Kerry Blues could go back to the time of the Spanish Armada.

The breed's original colouring was possibly inherited from other indigenous breeds in Ireland. Later in the breed's history, strains of the Bedlington Terrier probably had an influence on the colouring and coat of the breed.

Kerry Blues lived and worked on the farms. Farmers relied on them for their ratting, herding, hunting and guarding abilities. The breed's love of water also and made it adept at otter-hunting before the sport was banned in the British Isles and Ireland.

The breed was known by various names such as the Irish Blue Terrier or the Blue Terrier until 1922 when the name "Kerry Blue" was established. It was recognised by the British Kennel Club in 1920.

An active breed which enjoys most outdoor activities and should therefore be exercised regularly.

Rosamund Walters.

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