The Irish Terrier is a medium-sized dog, built on rather more racy lines than the Fox or Airedale Terrier, standing 18 inches at the shoulder and weighing about 28 pounds.
For his size and weight, his reputation as a guard and fighting dog is really remarkable.
This “Daredevil of Canines” is without fear and “trails his coat” to dogs twice his size without any hesitation.
Unlike most really game dogs, the Irishman rarely attacks first, a characteristic which should be noted always when judging the breed.
He will pull himself on tiptoes at the approach of another dog, growl softly and walk with mincing steps around the newcomer, much in the same fashion as his old-time owners did on the village green, with shillelagh in hand and coat trailing on the ground.
Acceptance of the challenge results in rapid action in which the Irish man usually emerges victorious.
Despite his reputation as a fighter, he has never bitten a small child and the soft side of his nature has to be seen to be appreciated. His shaggy head is snuggled up against his master’s knee, and his expressive eyes tell a love story which cannot be rejected.
The Irish Terrier is essentially a family dog unless trained otherwise.
He is as much at home with the oldest or youngest member of the family and resents the presence of strangers rather more strongly than most breeds.
Foxes, cats, rats or other destroyers of gardens, never approach the Irish Terrier’s domain a second time. He is a real hunter and is ever on the alert to protect his home and people.
Many judges fail to recognize that the typical Irish Terrier is somewhat longer in the leg than the Fox Terrier and a little longer in the body and penalize really good ones’ for being “on the leg” or “long in couplings.”
The real Irish outline is one of grace and symmetry, combined with plenty of bone and substance.
Not Old Breed
The breed was first recognized about 145 years ago and, like all terriers of the day, their ears were cropped. It is to the credit of the Irish Terrier Club that it was the first dog breeders’ club to ban cropping.
The practice is illegal in Britain and Australia and our show controlling bodies will not permit such dogs to be exhibited, even though they come from countries where the operation is legal.
Cropping consists of cutting a portion of the outside of the ear away so that the remaining part stands upright.
The head is long and lean, with a flat skull and strong jaws. There is a slight falling away under the eyes, which are deep-set, dark in color, and look straight ahead.
Like all wire-coated terriers, eyebrows and “whiskers” give a finish to the head.
The ears are set high on the head and have more lift in them than other drop-eared terriers; the tip of the ear should point to the corner of the eye.
Eye placement and ear carriage are essentials if the expression is to be just right.
The neck is long, well arched and strong and set into obliquely placed shoulders. The front is rather narrow with plenty of depth in the brisket and chest.
Forelegs are straight, well boned, and feet should be round in shape with deep, well-cushioned pads.
Examination of the pads is important in selecting or judging Irish Terriers. Some have cracked pads which develop corns around the edges. These spread the feet, the toenails grow into fantastic shapes and the dog becomes crippled and unsound.
Such specimens should not be bred from or awarded prizes in any circumstances.
Harsh, Shaggy Coat
The body is of fair length, with a straight back and deep, fairly sprung ribs. A slight arch in loin is desirable and the docked tail is set on fairly high and carried gaily but not over the back.
The hindquarters should suggest plenty of strength, with plenty of lengths from hip to hock, well-turned stifles and short hocks.
The dogs should move freely, with feet turning neither inwards nor outwards.
The coat is rather shaggy unless kept trimmed, and may be any shade of red from wheaten to dark red, although a clear golden red is preferred.
It should be even all over and as harsh as possible in texture. While a straight coat is preferred, very hard coats sometimes develop a slight wave.
The undercoat is short, dense and oily to the touch. A certain amount of hair is left on the legs and chest to give the show a finish.