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10 Interesting Irish Terrier Facts (Vet-Verified)

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

Irish terrier dog sitting in green bushes

10 Interesting Irish Terrier Facts (Vet-Verified)


Dr. Amanda Charles Photo


Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Irish Terriers, known as the “Daredevils” of the Emerald Isle, boast a typical terrier personality with a brave—but often stubborn—temperament. They’ve been used in Ireland as all-purpose farm dogs for centuries, particularly with ratting on farms, but they can also hunt, guard, and keep watch.

However, there may be some information about this dog that you don’t know. Here are 10 fascinating facts about Irish Terriers.

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The 10 Facts About Irish Terriers

1. They Weren’t Always Redheads

Early Irish Terriers weren’t just their signature ginger color. They came in black and tan, gray and brindle, and other colors. However, at the end of the 19th century, the solid red coat became a fixture of the breed.

Beautiful irish terrier puppy portrait outdoor_Mariya
Image Credit: Kuzema, Shutterstock

2. They’re Fast

Irish Terriers are no match for sighthounds like Greyhounds and Whippets, but they are one of the raciest members of the Terrier Group. Their long bodies and long legs make them swifter than many other terriers.

3. They’re One of the Oldest Terrier Breeds

Irish Terriers are believed to have been around since at least the 1870s, which makes it one of the oldest terrier breeds in the group.

4. They’re the Only Solid Red Terrier

Another distinction with the Irish Terrier is that they’re the only all-red terrier. Though other terriers can come in red, Irish Terriers have solid reds as a breed standard, including golden red, red wheaten, or wheaten.

irish terrier dog posing on a bench
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

5. They’re Extremely Loyal

Working on rural Irish farms for hundreds of years gave Irish Terriers a great way with people. They have a highly developed sense of loyalty to their families and usually get along well with children and new people.

6. They Have Unknown Origin

The exact origin of the Irish Terrier is unknown. They may have descended from black and tan terriers in the British Isles, such as the Wheaten or Kerry Blue Terrier, but there’s a possibility they share lineage with Irish Wolfhounds and other breeds.

7. They’ve Been Stars in Film and Literature

Irish Terriers have been featured in novels and movies for decades. They were the focus of two of Jack London’s books, Jerry of the Islands and Michael, Brother of Jerry, and possibly based on real dogs. Several films have featured Irish Terriers, including the 2007 film Firehouse Dog and the 2021 movie Finch.

Red Irish terrier
Image Credit: Elina Leon, Shutterstock

8. They’re a Collegiate Mascot

The University of Notre Dame had an Irish Terrier as the school mascot until the 1960s, when it was replaced by the Notre Dame Leprechaun. The terriers are still depicted in the limestone at Alumni Hall.

9. They Were Used as Messengers and Sentinels During WWI

The Irish Terrier’s intelligence and devotion was put to good use during World War I when they were used as messenger dogs to deliver critical communication and sentinels.

10. They’re Brilliant Escape Artists

Typical of terriers, Irish Terriers are brave, curious dogs with a high prey drive. They don’t usually bark excessively when something gets their attention, but they have been known to find creative ways to escape a fenced-in yard by digging or jumping.

Beautiful irish terrier puppy
Image Credit: Mariya Kuzema, Shutterstock

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Are Irish Terriers Good Family Pets?

Irish Terriers are fun, intelligent dogs that get along with family as long as they’re involved in daily activities. They are generally good with kids if appropriately socialized and trained from a young age. Interactions should be supervised though, and children also need to be taught how to interact with dogs appropriately.

The often feisty and mischievous personality of the Irish Terrier can mean they are a better pet for more experienced dog owners. They need consistent training, strong boundaries, and plenty of mental and physical stimulation to stay fit and prevent boredom.

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There’s more than meets the eye with the “red devil” Irish Terrier. While some of their early history is unknown, Irish Terriers have moved past their role as a multi-purpose farm dog in rural Ireland to become great all-around dogs, starring in movies, competing in canine sports, and acting as important messengers during WWI.

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Featured Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

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