History of the Kerry Blue Terrier...
As quoted from "The Kerry Blue Terrier
Handbook" Title: The Origin of
the Kerry Blue Terrier, by Arthur M. Hillery.
One legend says that in the days when only the nobility in Ireland was
permitted to hunt with the Irish Wolfhound, the peasantry developed the
Kerry Blue Terrier for the purpose of poaching. There has been some
speculation that the Irish Wolfhound was mated to the basic terrier
breed in Ireland to produce the Kerry. But was that basic terrier the
English Terrier, or the Irish Terrier, or the Soft Coated Wheaten
Terrier, or an earlier terrier? You will have to guess. Manifestly,
Irish peasants have, on occasion, used the Kerry Blue for poaching and
for many other tasks. Matings between Irish Wolfhounds and Kerries have
been known, so the disparity in size between the two breeds does not bar
Then there is the romantic legend of the Russian "Blue Dog" - a blue
terrier that swam ashore from a Russian ship wrecked in Tralee Bay and
was mated to local bitches to produce the Kerry Blue Terrier. Another
version identifies the ship as one of those in the Spanish Armada. Who
can say that this is the true origin - or that it is not?
Writing on dogs in Ireland a centruy ago, H. D. Richardson of Dublin,
famous writer and authority on dogs, does not mention Irish Terriers as
a breed, or
Soft Coated Wheaten Tereriers, nor Kerry Blues, as such. He does mention
what he calls the Harlequin Terrier, a true terrier and a game dog,
bluish slate in color, marked with darker blotches and patches, and
often with tan about the legs or muzzle. It seems obvious that the breed
he refers to is the Kerry Blue Terrier. I have seen in this country
several young Kerries with Irish breeding close-up that met this
description, and I saw a Kerry at a show within a year that could almost
qualilfy. The brownish tinge on the coats of puppies that promise to
turn a light blue is, of course, common.
It is my belief thata the Harlequin Terrier mentioned by Richardson and
the Kerry Blue Terrier are one and the same breed. It should be
remembered that when Kerry Blues were first shown in Ireland there was a
wide variance in size, with a range in height of 16 to 20 inches of dogs
show in a single class. Since the adoption of a standard for the breed,
selective breeding has clleared color and done much to establish
uniformity of size. The present excellence of the Kerry Blue Terrier is
a real tribute to the serious breeders in Ireland, England, Canada, the
United States - and all over the world - for having refined the breed
and brought it to a fair degree of conformity with the ideal Kerry
called for by the breed standard.
Probably this much can definitely be accepted as fact: That the Kerry
Blue Terrier, or Irish Blue Terrier, as he is called in Eire, has been
known for well over a hundred years; thata because of his gameness,
intelligence and adptability as a hunting dog, as a herd dog, and a
working dog, the Kerry Blue has every attribute and Irishman would seek
in a dog. It seems reasonable too believe that the Irish kept the strain
clear in this breed they admired so greatly. In fact, the Irish may have
been the first to conduct dog-breeding on a systematic plan. In the
Brehon laws, dating from the fifth century, there were enactments,
relating to ownership, breeding, and welfare of dogs. Kerries are not
now, and never were, very numberous in Ireland. They were found mostly
in the mountains of Kerry around Lake Killarney. But they were
appreciated for their rarity by those who know the Kerry Blue Terrier.
In Ireland, the Irish Blue Terrier was first shown as a breed around
1916. Their good qualities soon attracted attention and by the 1920s,
thirty to a class was common at the larger shows. Kerries were first
show in England at Cruft's
Show in 1922 and four Kerries were exhibited in the miscellaneous
classes at the Westminister Kennel Club Show in this Country that same
year. Two years later, in 1924, the breed was officially recognized and
put on a championship rating by the American Kennel Club.
At shows in Eire, Kerries were shown untrimmed and in the rough, with
coat merely tidied up a bit. Probably the greatest impetus was given too
the progress of the breed when they began to be trimmed as a terrier in
England, then in this country and in Canada. Thus came the modern Kerry
as we know. him.
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