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Get to Know the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier: His Irish Eyes Are Smiling!

This breed has humble beginnings as general farm dogs, but they were expert hunters of tough quarry like fox and badger.

Caroline Coile  |  Nov 2nd 2015


The Peter Pan of Terriers, this perpetual puppy is known for his cheery disposition and knack for mischief! He comes from a modest background — maybe that’s why he’s so down to earth! But he has an interesting past and a promising future.

More interesting things about the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

  • The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier may be confused with the Kerry Blue Terrier, Schnauzer, or Bouvier des Flandres, but the Wheaten is always some shade of tan.
  • He’s an unusual Terrier in that his coat is soft, rather than wiry like most other Terriers. He is also much less feisty than other Terriers, tending to get along fairly well with other dogs.
  • Terriers as a group get short shrift when it comes to early history. While the Romans prized their Hounds, Mastiffs, and even lapdogs, the Terriers were distinct also-rans.
  • In the Middle Ages in Britain, only the landed gentry were allowed to own any hound or land spaniel. But if you were poor, you could own a Terrier.
  • In later years, some people referred to Wheatens as “the poor man’s Wolfhound.”
  • In Ireland, Terriers were used as general farm dogs, protecting the homestead, working cattle, exterminating vermin, and hunting tough quarry like fox and badger.
  • The early history is scarce because most historians focused on the breeds of the nobility rather than the Irish common folk. Most of these breeds were soft coated and wheaten colored. The Soft Coated Wheaten, the Irish, and the Kerry Blue Terriers probably all share this common background (and the Wheaten is very likely behind the Glen of Imaal Terrier).
  • The Soft Coated Wheaten was established as a breed by the 1800s, but was not officially recognized until 1937 in its native Ireland. At that time, 18 males and 19 females became the official foundation of the breed.
  • For many years, Wheatens had to prove themselves in both the show ring and the field — hunting badgers, rats, and rabbits — to become an Irish champion.
  • The first Wheatens came to the United States in the 1940s.
  • The AKC recognized the breed in 1973.
  • Since competing at the Westminster Dog Show since 1974, only one Wheaten has placed in the group there, in 1989. However, the dog placed first!
  • Many owners still use their Wheatens for hunting birds and mammals.
  • In North America, the tail is typically docked. It is left long throughout many other parts of the world. The ears are kept natural.
  • The Wheaten is the 48th most popular AKC breed, up from 62nd five years ago.
  • Owners include Tori Spelling and Jerry Douglas. And Candy Spelling (widow of Aaron Spelling) had her Wheaten, Madison, pick her real estate agent when selling her $150 million mansion. She had her security bring the dog into the room each time a prospective agent arrived. If Madison didn’t like them, they were sent away.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier