Know Your Breed: Irish Terrier

It’s believed that the Irish Terrier has been around for over 2 000 years, making it one of the oldest Terrier breeds alive today. During that time, this energetic and rugged little dog has had a number of jobs; from hunting small animals and tracking, to police work and even delivering messages during World War I.

Nowadays this little firecracker is at home in the suburbs and loved by families for its ability to entertain and keep kids busy. It’s also quite the daredevil and is renowned for its spunky attitude.


The Irish Terrier is a medium-sized dog with both males and females reaching an average height of 43cm. Males are slightly heavier and weigh in at 15kg, with females weighing around 13kg.

These Terriers are characterised by their wiry red coat and floppy ears, which come in a much darker shade. They also have very bushy eyebrows and traditionally had their tails docked. This is no longer considered a breed standard due to tail docking being illegal in many countries, including South Africa.


These dogs are full of energy and enjoy being mentally and physically stimulated. They also love being around their families and make the perfect companion for active children. Their energetic personality can make them a bit of a handful, but they are very intelligent and can be trained quite easily.

Irish Terriers tend to not get along with other dogs and, because of their well-developed hunting instinct, should be monitored closely when in contact with smaller, non-canine animals. They also need stern leadership from their owner and will assume control if they sense meekness.

At Home

Irish Terriers are quite a clean breed and very rarely shed hair, which makes them great for people with allergies. They’re quite energetic and will need a daily long, brisk walk.

They do surprisingly well in apartments, provided that they are sufficiently exercised. These dogs are diggers and will probably do best in a home with a bit of a yard.


Irish Terriers are quite healthy and are known for not suffering from major disorders. Their smaller size means hip dysplasia is not an issue, while their good proportions minimise any eye or breathing problems.

Irish Terriers have a life expectancy of between 12 – 15 years.



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