A Brief Breed History

Irish History

The native Terrier Breeds of Ireland are:

  • Glen Of Imaal Terrier,
  • Irish Terrier,
  • Kerry Blue Terrier,
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier.

1785 - According to Maureen Holmes (one of the early Irish fanciers of the breed), Wheatens were first recorded in County Kerry, Ireland.

Aran Fisherman's Drowned Child

1841 - An example of what is considered to be a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is shown on an engraving by F W Burton (1841), called The Aran Fisherman's Drowned Child (click on the image to enlarge).

1932 - With the breed nearing extinction a group of enthusiasts in Ireland tried to obtain recognition by the Irish Kennel Club (IKC). Unfortunately indiscriminate interbreeding took place in the early days and occasionally Wheaten pups cropped up in Kerry Blue litters and vice-versa.

1934 – With the guidance of Dr. G Pierse, a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club was formed in Ireland in July of this year, with the main priority to establish breed type by the use of only pure-bred Wheatens in future breeding. Further applications were submitted to the IKC for recognition of the breed and for affiliation of the Club, but initially these were turned down.

1937 – In August the breed was finally accepted and placed on the Irish Kennel Club’s official list of recognized breeds. The International Canine Federation was notified to that effect.

1937/1938 - A registry for the breed was opened and if breeding records were not available, a group of four gentlemen were officially appointed by the IKC to examine the dogs and decide whether the dog fitted the breed points (Breed Standard). A small number of dogs were then registered at the IKC, some as old as six years.

Numbers slowly increased, but in some cases there were no details of breeding or ancestors recorded. This practice of certification was discontinued when an accomplished number of breed champions had been achieved.

Also at this time Wheatens scored top honours at the Championship Hunting Competitions as well as being placed first in many of the Badger Trials of the Association. There also appeared the first ever Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Champions awarded under the rules of the Irish Kennel Club.

All Wheatens worldwide originate from this handful of registered and in some cases unregistered, Irish born dogs.

Breed beginnings in the UK:

The first Wheatens imported from Ireland and officially registered at The Kennel Club which are significant in the development of the breed, are as follows:

March 1943 - Diana of Deolali, bred by Dr. G J Pierse and owned by Dr T Murray and Sandra, bred by Mr W Flanagan and owned by Mrs A K Vardy, were the first females registered at The Kennel Club.

Peter & Sandra

April 1943 - The first male Irish dog registered at The Kennel Club was Cheerful Peter, born June 1942. He was bred by Mr P J Keating in Ireland and imported by Mrs A K Vardy who lived in Sheffield.



Mournside McCoul

August 1945 - Silver Spearhead of Holmenocks, a male born 1943 and bred by Mrs M Holmes (Holmenocks), was registered in the UK as Mourneside McCoul. He was co-owned by Mrs. D C Long and Lady Kitty Ritson.





September 1945 - Firecrest, a male born 1942, bred by Mr J F Leen and originally owned by Maureen Holmes, was sold to Mrs D C Long and registered in the UK as Mourneside Firecrest.

In October 1945 ownership changed to Lady Kitty Ritson and Mrs. D C Long.

In June 1947 he was transferred to Miss F Barlow-Massicks (Glenguard affix) and became known as Glenguard Mourneside Firecrest.

February 1946 - Erris Lady, bred by Mr M Cosgrove and born in 1941 was imported and registered in the UK to Miss F Barlow-Massicks as Glenguard Erris Lady. Earlier matings had taken place in Ireland, prior to importation to the UK.

With the expansion of the breed in the UK, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of Great Britain was formed in 1955 and recognised at The Kennel Club a year later.

Coat Type:

There are two types of coat; the ‘Irish coat’ this is finer and more sparse and takes longer to mature and the ‘heavy coat’ (could be referred to as a ‘full’ coat).

Many Irish fanciers do not approve of this type of coat, although it is well documented that Irish coated Wheatens’ can produce full coats and vice versa.

Have a look at the Gallery for coat type comparisons.

Hereditary Diseases:

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in the UK, deaths of puppies and older dogs were reported as affected, or having died, of kidney failure. Sweden also reported deaths of puppies and older dogs at that time from similar problems.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s research and accurate record keeping helped to determine the cause of these early deaths. These were diagnosed as either Renal Failure (RF) and Renal Dysplasia (RD).

North America also had deaths of puppies and older dogs with RD or RF. In the 1980's there were some dogs which died later in life which presented slightly different symptoms, this resulted in the diagnosis of the protein losing diseases; Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE) and Protein Losing Nephropathy (PLN).

See also pages on hereditary diseases.

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