AN HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

of the

KERRY BLUE TERRIER

 

The Kerry Blue Terrier is the largest of the Irish Terriers, sturdily built and comparatively heavy, being a muscular and athletic breed. It is believed that the breed is possibly descended from the now extinct sheep-herding dog of ancient Ireland known as the Gadhar. Three distinct types evolved from this early breed, certainly resulting from out-crosses to other breeds of the time, including what was probably the ancestor of todayís Portuguese Water Dog and the Poodle. These three types are now recognized as the red-brown hard-coated Irish Terrier, the light to medium golden Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, and the Kerry Blue Terrier distinct in itís soft, dense wavy blue-gray coat. Kerry Blues are born black and mature to the characteristic color, from deep slate blue to silver, but regardless of color, the texture of the coat is silky with luxurious waves. The color being produced by a dominant gene (G) is easily lost, and Kerry breeders are at great pains to preserve this unusual and attractive color type.

The Kerry Blue is a working/sporting terrier and even today if given opportunity and training is a first rate stock and hunting dog. In the not so dim past he excelled in badger work, as well as otter, stoats, rabbit or any other small game. Many have shown themselves to be outstanding game bird dogs, flushing and retrieving well to hand on land and water. Gladys Titcombís Ch. Hilarious of Gayterry distinguished herself in the show ring and the field as well, being the equal of any on upland fowl. The breed saw some use during World War II in Britain patrolling munitions factories as sentry dogs, a job for which they were perfectly suited, their gray coats all but invisible in dusk or dark. Their sense of territory being keen made them quick to alert their handlers to trespassers, and their ability to determine friend from foe made them sensible watch dogs, while their deep bark and fearless nature impressed wrongdoers to reconsider any rash action. These qualities are as evident in todayís Kerry Blue as in those earlier dogs, and valued as highly.

Early history of the breed while not being recorded in many cases, certainly dates back beyond formal recognition of the breed, Bennelson writing about them in 1808 reports of tales handed down through generations of Irish who owned them, extolling their prowess as hunters and skill at stock work. E.S. Montgomery, M.D. author of the COMPLETE KERRY BLUE TERRIER published in 1950 and updated for another volume in 1965 reported speaking to old Irish farmers who had owned or bred the blue-gray terrier and remembered as children other men who had owned the breed.

It was some time before the breed found itís way to the show ring, being first and always the "right-hand man" of the Irish farmer and hunter. The Irish Blue Terriers, as they were known in their early days, were exhibited first in Ireland around 1916. By the 1920ís their good looks and style were noticed, and a number of dogs began to be seen at the larger shows. Their first appearance at Crufts was in 1922 and in the same year four dogs were exhibited in the Miscellaneous class at Westminster in the United States. The breed was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club and granted permission to compete toward championship as the Kerry Blue Terrier in 1924. During this early development of the Kerry Blue as a show dog exhibitors began to "tidy up" the abundant but unruly coats, and this barbering resulted in the beginnings of the style of presentation we see today. In the mid 1960s the breed climbed to one of itís highest pinnacles as a show dog when Ch. Melbees Chances Are rose to top dog in the U.S. all breeds, under the handling of Ric Chashoudian. Chances Are distinguished himself as a sire as well, producing a lifetime total of 66 champions. It is a testament to the breedís overwhelming talent in the show ring that TWO Kerry BlueTerriers have received the honor of being chosen Supreme Champion at Crufts, one of which was the only American bred import of any breed to receive this prize.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the evolution of this breed was itís rapid improvement from a dog of relatively diverse type in size, coat and disposition to what is today a refined animal of distinct terrier type. Although possessing similarities to its "cousins" the Irish and Soft-Coated Wheaten, the Kerry Blue is a unique dog, athletic, intelligent, full of terrier fire and showmanship.

 

sources:

THE COMPLETE KERRY BLUE TERRIER by E.S. Montgomery, M.D.

copyright 1950 published by Milo Denlinger, Silver Springs Maryland

THE NEW COMPLETE KERRY BLUE TERRIER by E.S. Montgomery, M.D.

copyright 1965 published by Howell Book House, Inc.

Library of Congress Catalog Card #65-22176

DOGS IN BRITAIN by Clifford L.B. Hubbard

copyright 1948 published by MacMillan and Company, Ltd. London