Ireland: the Emerald Isle, the jewel of Europe. It's fitting that a country named for a precious stone would produce equally valuable canines. If you share your home with any of the dog breeds that came from Ireland, you're certain to agree that they're little jewels in their own right. Ireland is no small island, so it should come as no surprise that it is the country of origin for eight breeds.
Terriers are full of determination and spirit, qualities that endear the dogs to the Irish. A total of four breeds of terriers call Ireland home. They vary in size from small to medium. The Irish terrier's name is a dead-giveaway, a mid-sized working breed who is among the oldest of the terriers. Glen of Imaal terriers also have a name that gives nod to their origins. The little Glens are hunters with a unique talent: the American Kennel Club reports that they would turn a spit over the hearth, doing their part to help prepare dinner. Kerry blue and soft-coated wheaten terriers are the other two medium-sized pooches hailing from Ireland. They were both bred to help out on the farm, herding the livestock and hunting vermin, but the Kerry blue is also accomplished at hunting small game.
Rivaling the great Dane for height, the Irish wolf hound is a large, brawny dog who was bred to hunt Irish elk, wild boars and even wolves. In "Dogs: 101 Adorable Breeds," Racheael Hale writes that this regal breed was exclusively owned by nobility, which was just as well. These big dogs eat a lot, much more than a peasant could afford to feed them. Although they're impressive hunters, they are such friendly, loving dogs who they don't make for good watch or guard dogs. No matter. Not many people will give you grief with a big lug like an Irish wolf hound at your side.
Setters come in two breeds and two colors. Irish setters are a solid red color and actually derived from the bi-colored red and white setters. Both breeds are high-energy pooches, ones who are friendly and playful and make wonderful family dogs. The two types of setters are sporting dogs, but the Irish setters are considered to have a bit of an edge over their red and white cousins.
The hunting Irish water spaniel breed isn't at all what you expect in comparison to its setter relatives. First of all, water spaniels' color is a drab brownish-grey and, sporting a curly coat and a poufy topknot, they more closely resemble poodles than setters. The double coat of this sporting breed serves a purpose: it's water repellant. This, along with the breed's strong swimming skills, makes it the ideal retrieving dog, especially in the cold waters of Ireland's North Sea.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images