Although there is the usual mystery about the exact origin of the Irish Terrier, his excitable temperament, keen intelligence, pluck, and determination as well as his sociable and vivacious instinct clearly indicate that he is a worthy product of the country whose name he bears. In Ireland this breed is used for bolting foxes and for vermin and rabbit hunting. They have no superior as companions, and are game, all-around sporting propositions, ready to take an active part in anything resembling sport or pleasure. They are undoubtedly a very old breed of dogs, and present-day bench show winners are not unlike those depicted in the sporting scenes of half a century ago.
At the present time red is the most fashionable color. The wheaten color specimens that come out from time to time as a rule have softer coats than the reds. The Irish Terrier as a breed have an expression peculiar to themselves, and a good one is sometimes referred to as having the map of Ireland on his face, the chiseling of the head being a little stronger than either the Airedale or the Fox Terrier, without being at all coarse; their eyes should be hazel rather than very dark.
In selecting Irish Terrier puppies look for a long, level head, a strong muzzle, a rather narrow skull, dark eyes; small, neat V-shaped ears; short back, narrow shoulders, straight forelegs with plenty of bone, and strong, well-knit feet. The coat should be hard to the touch and not too long. The puppies that are dark in color and have the shortest coats usually develop the best, and a little white on the chest is no real detriment.
The following is the standard and scale of points: HEAD.-Long; skull flat, and rather narrow between the ears, getting slightly narrower toward the eye; free from wrinkles; stop hardly visible except in profile. The jaw must be strong and muscular, but not too full in the cheek, and of a good punishing length. There should be a slight falling away below the eye, so as not to have a Greyhound appearance. Hair on face of same description as on body, but short (about a quarter of an inch long), in appearance almost smooth and straight; a slight beard is the only longish hair (and it is only long in comparison with the rest) that is permissible, and that is characteristic.
TEETH.-Should be strong and level.
Lips.-Not so tight as a Bull Terrier’s, but well fitting, showing through the hair their black lining.
NOSE.-Must be black.
EYES.-A dark hazel color, small, not prominent, and full of life, fire, and intelligence.
EARS.-Small and V-shaped, of moderate thickness, set well on the head, and dropping forward closely to the cheek. The ear must be free of fringe, and the hair thereon shorter and darker in color than the body.
NECK.-Should be of a fair length, and gradually widening toward the shoulders, well carried, and free of throatiness. There is generally a slight sort of frill visible at each side of the neck, running nearly to the corner of the ear.
SHOULDERS AND CHEST.-Shoulders must be fine, long, and sloping well into the back; the chest deep and muscular, but neither full nor wide.
BACK AND LOIN.-Body moderately long; back should be strong and straight, with no appearance of slackness behind the shoulders; the loin broad and powerful and slightly arched; ribs fairly sprung, rather deep than round, and well-ribbed back. HINDQUARTERS.-Should be strong and muscular,
thighs powerful, hocks near ground, stifles moderately bent.
STERN.-Generally docked; should be free of fringe or feather, but well covered with rough hair; set on pretty high, carried gaily, but not over the back or curled.
FEET AND LEGS.-Feet should be strong, tolerably round, and moderately small; toes arched, and neither turned out nor in; black toenails most desirable. Legs moderately long, well set from the shoulders, perfectly straight, with plenty of bone and muscle; the elbows working freely clear of the sides; pasterns short and straight, hardly noticeable. Both fore and hind legs should be moved straight forward when traveling, the stifles not turned outwards, the legs free of feather, and covered, like the head, with as hard a texture of coat as body, but not so long.
COAT.-Hard and wiry, free of softness or silkiness, not so long as to hide the outlines of the body, particularly in the hindquarters; straight and flat, no shagginess, and free of lock or curl.
COLOR.-Should be “whole-colored,” the most preferable being bright red, red, wheaten, or yellowred. White sometimes appears on chest and feet; it is more objectionable on the latter than on the chest, as a speck of white on chest is frequently to be seen in all self-colored breeds.
SIZE AND SYMMETRY.-The most desirable weight in show condition is: for a dog, 24 pounds, and for a bitch, 22 pounds. The dog must present an active, lively, lithe, and wiry appearance; lots of substance, at the same time free of clumsiness, as speed and endurance as well as power are very essential. They must be neither “cloddy nor cobby,” but should be framed on the “lines of speed,” showing a graceful “racing outline.”
TEMPERAMENT.-Dogs that are very game are usually surly or snappish. The Irish Terrier as a breed is an exception, being remarkably goodtempered, notably so with mankind, it being admitted, however, that he is perhaps a little too ready to resent interference on the part of other dogs. There is a heedless, reckless pluck about the Irish Terrier which is characteristic, and, coupled with the headlong dash, blind to consequences, with which he rushes at his adversary, has earned for the breed the proud epithet of “the dare devils.” When “off duty” they are characterized by a quiet, caress-inviting appearance, and when one sees them endearingly, timidly pushing their heads into their masters’ hands it is difficult to realize that on occasions, at the “set on,” they can prove they have the courage of a lion and will fight unto the last breath in their bodies. They develop an extraordinary devotion to, and have been known to track their masters almost incredible distances.
SCALE OF POINTS.-Head, ears, and expression, 20; legs and feet, 15; neck, 5; shoulders and chest, 10; back and loin, 5; hindquarters and stern, 10; coat, 15; color, 10; size and symmetry, 10. Total, 100.
White nails, toes, and feet, minus 10; much white on chest, minus 10; dark shadings on face, minus 5; mouth undershot or cankered, minus 10; coat shaggy, curly, or soft, minus 10; uneven in color, minus 5. Total, 50.