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The Complete Guide to the Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry Blue Terrier is one of the nine officially recognised dog breeds from Ireland.

Not only is this breed very striking, it is also very intelligent and has been a useful dog around the farm for generations.

What I find particularly fascinating with this dog is its strong links to Irish nationalism and the establishment of the Irish Kennel Club.

Did you known that this dog breed almost most became the national dog of Ireland, but a strange twist of fate stopped that from happening?

Discover more about this breed in this really in depth guide, which covers the breed characteristics as well as the interesting history behind the Kerry Blue Terrier.

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What type of animal is a Kerry Blue?

A Kerry Blue is a breed of terrier that originally comes from Ireland.

Famed for the bluey hue of its soft, dense, wavy coat, this medium sized dog has a striking profile.

It was bred as a hunting dog, but was highly valued as an all-round resourceful farm dog in rural Ireland. 

This breed started to come to prominence towards the latter half of the 19th century and relatively quickly gathered a fancier following not only throughout Ireland, but also in the UK and the United States. 

Today, the Kerry Blue is considered a vulnerable native Irish breed by the Irish Kennel Club. 

The legendary Kerry Blue Terrier from Ireland.
The legendary Kerry Blue Terrier from Ireland. (Photo: Vkarlov via Canva)

What other names do Kerry Blue Terriers have?

Kerry Blue Terriers are sometimes known by other dog names as “Irish Blue Terriers”, “Kerry Blues” or even just  “Kerries” for short. In Irish, the Kerry Blue Terrier is known as Brocaire Gorm.

Thanks to its skill at hunting rabbits, this breed also earned its name as a “Blue Devil” or “Gray Ghost”. 

Sometimes the breed is incorrectly referred to as “Carrie Blue Terriers” or “Carrie Terriers”.

Need some inspiration for the name of your Kerry Blue Terrier? When not opt for an authentic Irish dog name?

We have lots of special names for male dogs, as well as great female dog names.

Kerry Blue Terriers
Kerry Blue Terriers (Photos: (l) slowmotiongli, (r) o_sa both via Canva)

Fun Facts about the Kerry Blue Terrier

  1. This blue dog breed is actually born black! Kerry Blue Terrier puppies are born with a black coat which only changes to the more recognisable blue gray color as they mature. 

  1. The rise of the Kerry Blue Terrier is intricately woven in to the Irish fight for independence from the British and the dog breed was seen as a mascot for the cause.
  2. In the 1920s, the Kerry Blue Terrier almost became the National Dog of Ireland.
  3. The Kerry Blue Terrier is an excellent hunter of small game, noted particularly for its skill in the difficult task of killing otters single-handedly in deep water.  
  4. Many fanciful, even romantic tales including foreign dogs shipwrecked off the Irish coast have been attributed to the Kerry Blue Terriers family history.
  5. The Irish writer Samuel Beckett was particularly fond of his family’s Kerry Blue Terriers and wrote frequently about dogs
  6. The single coat of the Kerry Blue Terrier is typically more suited to people with dog allergies.

Irish Dog Breeds

The Kerry Blue Terrier is one of four Irish terrier dog breeds from Ireland. The other three terrier breeds are:

Other dog breeds from Ireland include the giant Irish Wolfhound and Kerry Beagle hound.

There are also three gun dogs or sporting dogs which are the water-loving Irish Water Spaniel, the well known Irish Setter and the less well known Irish Red and White Setter.

Kerry Blue Terrier Breed Characteristics

How tall is a Kerry Blue Terrier?

Kerry Blue Terriers dogs are typically between 45-49 cm (18-19.5 inches), while bitches are usually slightly smaller in size (44-48 cm or 17-19 inches). Some individuals are bigger than the breed standard outlined above.

Profile of the Kerry Blue Terrier
Kerry Blue Terrier Profile (Photo: Capturelight via Canva)

What does a Kerry Blue Terrier weigh?

While several factors including age and gender will play a role in the weight of a dog, on average the Kerry Blue Terrier weight is about 15-18 kg (33 – 40 lbs) for male dogs.

What does a Kerry Blue Terrier look like?

Kerry Blue Terrier Coat
The coat of the Kerry Blue Terrier comes in a range of blue grey colors. (Photo: AsyaPozniak via Canva)

The Kerry Blue is a medium sized, muscular dog with balanced movement and proportions

A well groomed Kerry Blue tends to make a striking appearance. Firstly you will notice a swanky beard on the face of the Kerry Blue, the longer hair here is a nod to the breed’s hunting past, when the hair may have acted to help protect the eyes and more vulnerable facial features from attacks from animals such as badgers. 

The Kerry Blue eyes are small, brown and ever watchful. Naturally, the Kerry Blue Terrier’s  v-shaped ears fall to the sides of the head. To achieve the desired folded look, show dogs typically have their ears glued for lengths of time as a puppy to train them into the desired ear carriage in the folded down position. 

A Kerry Blue Terrier puppy with its ears glued for the desired ear carriage
A Kerry Blue Terrier puppy with its ears glued for the desired ear carriage. (Photo: Lyubov Demus via Canva)

These dogs have well proportioned necks and strong backs that are not too long and definitely not low slung.

In terms of movement, these dogs are agile and sporty, as one would expect from such a hunting dog. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Coat

Soft, silky, wavy coats of Kerry Blue Terriers
Kerry Blue Terriers have soft, silky, wavy coats that require coats that require a lot of maintenance. (Photos: (l) Eriklam, (r) cynoclub both via Canva)

The dog Kerry Blue is famous for its coat. Soft with a “Marcel” wave structure and dense enough to repel water, the single coat of the Kerry Blue Terrier is wonderful to feel and touch.

In fact, the pleasing tactile nature of the Kerry Blue coat is one of the reasons why these terriers are used as therapy dogs.

The breed has a single coat with no undercoat. The characteristic rows of silky waves should not be curly or too tight according to the breed standard. 

To avoid getting matted, the coat of this dog needs a high amount of maintenance.

What color is a Kerry Blue Terrier?

Once the final color of the Kerry Blue Terrier’s coat appears by around 18 months. The blue Kerry terrier coat can be in a range of shades from bluey-silver and bluey-gray to darker slate blue colors. 

What do Kerry Blue Terrier puppies look like?

A Kerry Blue Terrier puppy with a black coat.
A Kerry Blue Terrier puppy with a black coat. (Photo: Lyubov Demus via Canva)

Kerry Blue Terrier puppies are born with black coats. As they mature, their coats gradually change color or “clear” to the bluey tones that give this dog its name. The entire process can take up to a year and a half. 

Some people have remarked about the striking similarities between Kerry Blue Terrier pups and Irish Wolfhound pups in their first few weeks.

While there is only limited genetic evidence to suggest that they may be in some way related, it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that some sort of crossing occurred at some stage in their distant past. 

What dogs are similar to the Kerry Blue Terrier?

Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a close relative of the Kerry Blue Terrier.
Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a close relative of the Kerry Blue Terrier. (Photo: slowmotiongli via Canva)

The Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is probably the closest related dog to the Kerry Blue Terrier.

They both share a common ancestry and were used in rural Ireland by the working farmers and not the wealthy gentry as practical working dogs. 

The Portuguese Water Dog also has some similarities to this breed.

This has given rise to the legend of one such dog surviving the sinking of a Portuguese fishing boat that sank off the Irish coast, which went on to sire many offspring in Ireland. 

Similar stories have been suggested with dogs surviving shipwrecks from the Spanish Armada ships or even a Russian vessel, but there is not much evidence to back up these claims.

Kerry Blue Terrier Maintenance

Owners of Kerry Blue Terriers must be prepared to invest time, energy and money in the care and upkeep of their not so low maintenance dog. 

As with all dogs, the Kerry Blue needs regular teeth brushing, nail clipping and their ears must be checked to ensure they are healthy. That is the easy part! 

Does a Kerry Blue Terrier need much grooming?

The Kerry Blue Terrier beard also needs to be washed and maintained on a regular basis.
The Kerry Blue Terrier beard also needs to be washed and maintained on a regular basis. (Photo: o_sa via Canva)

In order to keep the impressive wavy coat of the Kerry Blue in good condition, the coat practically needs daily brushing (at the very least, the coat should be brushed twice a week).

The dog does not shed hair, which has certain advantages (especially if living in a smaller home or apartment), but the trade off is that these dogs need a full grooming every 6-8 weeks

It can be costly to send the dog to a professional dog groomer each time, so it may be worth your while how to correctly groom your dog by yourself. 

The beard of the Kerry Blue also needs to be washed regularly to remove trapped dirt and food, which may make it smell. 

Is the coat of a Kerry Blue Terrier hypoallergenic?

The single coat of the Kerry Blue Terrier does not shed and is considered to be hypoallergenic and mostly suitable for people with allergies. 

If you do suffer from allergies, it is always best to consult a veterinary specialist about what breeds of dog may be suitable to your requirements.

How long do Kerry Blue Terriers live for?

Kerry Blue Terriers are healthy dogs who can live to the good old age of about 16 years. Typically this breed has a life expectancy of somewhere between 12-16 years.

Are Kerry Blue Terriers healthy?

The breed is considered to be a healthy one, but there are some potential health problems that all owners should be aware of. 

Kerry Terriers can suffer from skin issues such as cysts, skin tumors and other forms of dermatitis.

Male Kerry Blue Terriers and older females are also prone to a rare congenital skin condition known as spiculosis, which has hard spiking hair follies, some of which may be in gown or become infected. 

Progressive neuronal abiotrophy (PNA), otherwise known as cortical abiotrophy (CCA) or cerebellar abiotrophy (CA) can occur in this dog breed.

Although it is rare, this genetic neurological disease, which typically starts to show itself before 16 weeks in Kerry Blue Terriers, is fatal.

Kerry Blue Terrier owners are advised that the dogs are checked for hip dysplasia and eye problems.

What do Kerry Blue Terriers eat?

Kerry Blue Terrier after drinking water
Be sure to leave plenty of fresh water out for your Kerry Blue Terrier. (Photo: Tashulia via Canva)

Kerry Blue Terriers require good quality dog food, typically divided into two portions a day when younger than a year and one meal a day when they are older. Dry food generally works best for this breed. 

The amount of food your dog will need can be influenced by different specific factors.

These include the sex of the animal, their age and the amount of activity that the animal receives as well. 

Clean, fresh water should always be available to ensure the dog does not dehydrate.

When giving treats as training rewards, be careful not to be overly generous or this could lead to your dog having problems with their weight

It is always best to get the opinion of a vet to make sure that your dog is getting the right amount of the correct food type.

Kerry Blue Terrier Exercise

Do Kerry Blue Terriers need a lot of exercise?

While Kerry Blue Terriers have lots of energy, they usually require an average amount of exercise of about an hour a day.

The best way to reach this daily target is through walks and games that help to stimulate their minds.

In comparison to similar other dogs, such as the Fox Terrier, Kerry Blue Terriers need slightly less exercise activity.

To ensure that the Kerry Blue Terrier does not dig or jump its way to freedom from a backyard, be sure that the fence is high enough and that the dog cannot dig beneath it.

These intelligent dogs can be clever escape artists, especially if they are bored!

Mentally stimulating canine sports that Kerry Blue Terriers excel at include agility trials, herding, obedience, barn hunt and dock diving.

A relaxing Kerry Blue Terrier
While they need lots of exercise, Kerry Blue Terriers also like to relax. (Photo: Marlonneke via Canva)

A well balanced dog that gets the necessary amount of exercise, will be happy to relax in the evenings with their owner and family and not cause a fuss.

Are Kerry Blue Terriers good off leash?

Kerry Blue Terriers should be kept on a leash when out and about.
Kerry Blue Terriers should be kept on a leash when out and about. (Photo: SergeyTikhomirov via Canva)

As with other hunting terriers with a strong prey drive, it is best to have your Kerry Blue on a leash at all times in public areas.

Any small animal that may catch the dog’s attention is at risk of being chased.

Due to the fact that this breed does not overly mix well with other dogs and may be aggressive, dog parks are not the best place to bring Kerry Blues

Do Kerry Blue Terriers like to swim?

Unlike many other terrier breeds, Kerry Blue Terriers do like to swim and are quite adept at this sport

In the past, Kerry Blue Terriers abilities of swimming and hunting were frequently put to the test to hunt otters. This was a task that they were apparently very good at doing.

Kerry Blue Terrier Training

Smart, quick to learn, moody and a bit sensitive to harsh criticism sums up the traits that people should keep in mind when training a Kerry Blue Terrier. 

These dogs are very trainable, but they also have their dog training challenges so require the right owner to keep them on track.

Persistence with training and consistency in training style and the commands make life easier for both the owner and the dog.

Training Kerry Blue Terriers from an early age is essential to ensure that the dog is well balanced and not unruly. Socialization with other dogs, as well as children from an early age also helps them to develop their character in a well rounded way.

A Kerry Blue Terrier playing in snow.
A Kerry Blue Terrier playing in snow. (Photo: Inna Giliarova via Canva)

These dogs tend to get bored easily. Repeating the same exercise over and over again will not bring you very far in relation to training progress, so it is good to keep training sessions innovative, short and fun.

Positive reinforcement is very important with this breed, as the dogs can respond negatively or even aggressively to overly harsh or strict punishment.

Investing in an obedience class with a trainer who has previously worked with terriers is also a worthwhile consideration.

Bonus Tip: Training dogs also means making sure that they are used to traveling in cars.

By starting early, you can get the Kerry Blue pups used to the motion which may help them from getting frequently car sick later in life.

Kerry Blue Terrier Dog Sports

Kerry Blue Terriers are known for their livestock herding skills.
Kerry Blue Terriers are known for their livestock herding skills. (Photo: AsyaPozniak via Canva)

Kerry Blue Terriers were bred as versatile farm animals. This can still be seen in the wide range of skills that they demonstrate in canine sports.  

As one of the very few terriers that is able to compete in herding trials, the Kerry Blue Terriers can perform well in these types of trials.

There are also a range of different types of obedience trials that these dogs are also good at. 

Earthdog trials are only suitable for smaller dogs, but there are similar alternatives such as barn hunt trials that are open to Kerry Blue Terriers.

These can appeal to the natural prey instincts, as well as agility and speed found in the Kerry Blue Terrier breed.

Do Kerry Blue Terriers bark a lot?

Without proper training from an early age, Kerry Blue Terriers are prone to barking very frequently. They are easily visually stimulated and always alert.

If you want to train them as a guard dog, you need to ensure that they only bark when there is a threat.

Not simply because they feel like it. Well trained Kerry Blue Terriers only bark when there is a reason to do so. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Temperament and Personality

Kerry Blue Terriers
Kerry Blue Terriers (Photo: (l) DevidDO, (r) Tashulia via Canva)

Kerry Blue Terriers are confident, spirited and have incredible drive.

They are loyal companions and generally good with children, but without the necessary training and socialization can be quite a handful

What are the main traits of a Kerry Blue?

Kerry Blue Terriers are energetic, high-spirited dogs, who are confident and have a strong independent streak.

As faithful companions, they will happily join you for a walk, run or even swim, but they will also curl up beside you and enjoy some relaxing time together. 

They can tend to be a bit scrappy with other dogs and have a strong prey drive, so small animals in the vicinity beware.  

They respond well to training, but can be sensitive to harsh criticism. It is best to use positive reinforcement training techniques with this breed.

As intelligence dogs, they thrive when training sessions are short and varied. 

Are Kerry Blue Terriers a good first dog?

A playful Kerry Blue Terrier in snow.
A playful Kerry Blue Terrier in snow. (Photo: Lyubov Demus via Canva)

Kerry Blue Terriers can be a bit of a challenge for first time dog owners.

Proper training from an early age is essential to make sure that a puppy develops into a well balanced and well behaved dog.

Owners need considerable amounts of patience and need to be familiar with the consistent training methods and positive reinforcement needed to achieve this. 

Additionally, the impressive coat of the Kerry Blue Terrier requires quite a lot of maintenance in order to appear in its prime condition.

While this maintenance regime is something a new owner can learn, it will take time, effort and money to do so. 

While Kerry Blue Terriers are gentle and loving with those close to them, they also have a more feisty side that needs to be kept under control.

Are Kerry Blue Terriers good with children?

Kerry Blue Terriers can be good playmates with older children who know how to respectfully play with dogs.

Each dog has a different personality and while most are very friendly and willing playmates, Kerry Blues sometimes need their own space and best not to go near them when they are eating for example. 

It is always necessary to ensure there is adult supervision when children and dogs are together. 

Are Kerry Blue Terriers good family dogs?

Kerry Blue Terriers enjoy fun and games like fetch.
Kerry Blue Terriers enjoy fun and games like fetch. (Photo: AsyaPozniak via Canva)

Given the right setting, Kerry Blue Terriers make superb family pets.

However, they do require clear rules that need to be set in place early in life and are best suited to families with slightly older children, who have time to exercise and engage with the dog.

As Kerry Blues don’t tend to get on well with other dogs or small pets, this is also a consideration in determining if a Kerry Blue is the right pet for you.

Are Kerry Blue Terriers good service dogs?

Well training Kerry Blue Terriers are versatile to a wide range of tasks, including the role of a service dog.

In fact, this breed is often popular as a therapy dog due to its soft, dense silky coat which is perfect for stroking or cuddling.

Do Kerry Blue Terriers like to cuddle?

Kerry Blue Terriers are very affectionate with their owners and families.
Kerry Blue Terriers are very affectionate with their owners and families. (Photo: cynoclub via Canva)

After a long day with the right amount of both physical and mental stimulation, Kerry Blue Terriers are happy to relax and enjoy some quiet time.

They will gladly curl up at your feet or if you let them, accompany you on the sofa. 

Are Kerry Blue Terriers good with other dogs?

Generally speaking, Kerry Blue Terriers are not very good with other dogs.

For a large part of the 19th and early 20th century, this breed was used in blood sports as fighting dogs (like Bull Terriers for example).

There is a tendency to be aggressive, particularly when animals of the same sex are together. 

Two Kerry Blue Terriers
Kerry Blue Terriers must be socialised from an early age to be comfortable with dogs. Generally, they not very good with other dogs. (Photo: slowmotiongli via Canva)

When sparring Kerry Blue Terriers at dog shows to judge their temperament, care should always be taken to ensure that the handlers do not allow the dogs to get too close.

The experience can be a little challenging for a novice handler. 

Are Kerry Blue Terriers aggressive?

Typically, Kerry Blue Terrier aggression is not directed towards owners (once they are not harshly treated).

In terms of aggressiveness towards kids, this is not usually an issue once the dog is socialized from an early age to be familiar with children and the usual rumpus of family life. 

With regards to aggression towards other dogs, this can be an issue for Kerry Blue Terriers, who tend to be a dominant breed.

Other household pets such as cats, rabbits and small animals should be kept away from Kerry Blue Terriers as they fall into the category of prey for Kerry Blue Terriers.

Can you leave Kerry Blue Terrier alone?

Kerry Blue Terriers are always alert and enjoy the company of their owner.
Kerry Blue Terriers are always alert and enjoy the company of their owner. (Photo: AsyaPozniak via Canva)

If left alone, the Kerry Blue Terrier tends to become destructive and bark more frequently.

They may also excessively dig or try to escape from an outside yard. These dogs thrive in the close company of their faithful companion so best to not leave them alone all that long or often

Do Kerry Blue Terriers have a strong prey drive?

The strong prey drive found in Kerry Blue Terriers mean that they are always alert and ready to chase small sized animals that it catches a glimpse of.

For this reason it is alway advisable to keep the Kerry Blue Terrier on a leash when in a public setting to avoid your dog taking off after the nearest squirrel, rabbit or other game. 

Are Kerry Blue Terriers rare?

Kerry Blue Terriers are considered to be a rare native breed in Ireland as there are less than 300 new registration per year. 

In the United States, the American Kennel Club ranked its popularity at 134 of 199 breeds in 2021.

There are many individuals around the world who are dedicated to promoting and preserving this unique Irish breed.

Kerry Blue Terrier Clubs are found in many countries and have small, but very devoted members who take part in regular events. 

This breed is not as vulnerable as the other Irish dog breed, the Glen of Imaal Terrier for example or the Scottish Dandie Dinmont Terrier. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Clubs

Rows of curls can be seen on the coat of this Kerry Blue Terrier
Rows of curls can be seen on the coat of this Kerry Blue Terrier (Photo: SergeyTikhomirov via Canva)

Interest in the Kerry Blue Terrier breed started to increase towards the end of the 19th century.

The early 20th century saw the foundation of several of the more prominent Kerry Blue Terrier Breed Clubs, not least of all the Dublin Kerry Blue Terrier Club which earned its place in Irish history as you will read below. 

Here are some of the biggest Kerry Blue Terrier Clubs from around the world: 

Kerry Blue Terriers for Sale

If you have decided that a Kerry Blue Terrier is the right dog for you, then the next step should be to find trustworthy breeders in your vicinity to contact for more information. 

Travel in person to collect your new puppy. This allows you to visit the facilities and see the Kerry Blue Terrier kennels where the puppies were raised.

Be vigorous with your questioning to make sure that the Kerry Blue puppies are healthy and well socialized.

A good breeder will not just want to make a Kerry Blue Terrier sale, they will want to make sure that a puppy is well suited to its owners for a lifelong placement.

Have patience until you find the right dog for you and your family. 

TIP: When you are looking for Kerry Blue Terrier puppies for sale near me, don’t forget to use all the resources available to you.

Your local veterinarian may be a good person to contact as they may also be able to provide some useful information and breed contacts.

Kerry Blue Terrier Breeders

Well groomed Kerry Blue Terriers
Well groomed Kerry Blue Terriers (Photos: (l) VKarlov, (r) Ihar Halavach via Canva)

Make sure that you only search for reputable dealers, when looking for a Kerry Blue Terrier for sale. These can be found via some of the national dog club sites. These are some of the main ones:

The American Kennel Club has a designated Kerry Blue Terrier Puppies for Sale page which is regularly updated. 

For those based in the UK, The Kennel Club is a good place to start looking for Kerry Blue Terriers for sale. 

Kerry Blue Terriers breeders in Ireland and Northern Ireland can be found on the website of the Irish Kennel Club.

The Canadian Kennel Club provides a searchable list of Kerry Blue Terrier breeders throughout the country. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Breeders in Australia can be found via the Dogs Australia website. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Puppy Price

Kerry Blue Terrier puppies are not cheap.

The exact Kerry Blue Terrier price will vary considerably depending on where you live, whether you are looking to buy a male or female puppy, if there are any champions in the bloodline or whether you want a Kerry Blue as a pet or as a show dog. 

You should expect to roughly pay at least US$1500, typically more for a better pedigree. 

Kerry Blue Terriers in Need and Kerry Blue Terrier Adoption and Rescue 

There are also cases when a Kerry Blue Terrier needs to be rehomed, fostered or adopted.

The national Kerry Blue Terrier Clubs are usually the best place to check if there are any dogs locally that you might be able to help in such circumstances, (or where you can turn to if you need help rehoming a Kerry Blue). 

The United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club has a lot of information on Kerry Blue Terrier rescues available on their website, as does the UK Kerry Blue Terrier Association.

Even if you are not based in either of these countries, these are good advice dog resources to check out. 

The History of the Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terriers are loyal, faithful companions.
Kerry Blue Terriers are loyal, faithful companions. (Photo: o_sa via Canva)

As with all of the 9 breeds of Irish dog, the exact origins are shrouded in the depths of history. Interestingly, there are two dog breeds Kerry is associated with, the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Kerry Beagle.

Many fanciful tales have been created around the origin of the Kerry Blue Terrier.

One reason for this is that the dog breed became such an important mascot for Irish Independence that it was romanticized possibly more than the other breeds which had strong connections to the British.

What is known is that the Kerry Blue Terrier was very much the working dog of the people.

It was a medium sized dog, which would have been allowed on tenant farms (larger dogs would have been confined to the wealthier classes).

Kerry Blue Terrier Origin

Far-fetched tales of single dogs surviving shipwrecks on the west coast of Ireland and fathering a new breed of dog are the focus of Kerry Blue origin tales.

Some say that the ship may have been part of the Spanish Armada or a fishing vessel from Portugal or even Russia

As pointed out by Daivd Blake Knox in his highly recommendable book (The Curious History of Irish Dogs), dogs were rarely kept on ships and those that were typically not terriers.

However, this does not completely rule out the possibility of some kind of terrier Kerry shipwreck landing ever having occurred. 

Additionally, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the time when the infamous pirate Queen Grace O’Malley graced the shores of Ireland with her fleet, sea trade with the coastal areas in Spain and Portugal was a thriving and profitable enterprise.

It may have been possible that some foreign blood was introduced to the Irish dog breed via such a means. 

Alternatively, the Kerry Blue may have been a result of some isolated, as well as selected breeding for a particular type of farm animal that would suit the needs of the farmers.

Evidence of such a dog started to appear around the mid 19th century, but the breed was largely kept a secret until the early 20th century. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Working Dog

Kerry Blue Terriers are traditionally working dogs and enjoy mental as well as physical exercise.
Kerry Blue Terriers are traditionally working dogs and enjoy mental as well as physical exercise. (Photo: Inna Giliarova via Canva)

As a resourceful farm dog, Kerry Blue Terriers were expected to help out in a wide variety of tasks.

These include herding livestock such as cattle or sheep and guarding the animals against predators and other threats

In terms of earning its keep, Kerry Blue would have been used to hunt small game for the table, such as rabbits (by often poaching on the wealthy landowners land). 

Other game would have included otters, which were hunted on both dry land and water by the Kerry Blue Terrier and badgers, who would have been flush from their setts by the dog.

Kerry Blue Terrier would also have been used to retrieve game, as well as killing rodents in the farmhouse and farm buildings which was one of their main tasks.  

The terrier Kerry Blue breed has a reputation for toughness, gameness and also aggression and were used in dog fights up until the 20th century. 

As a multi-tasking dog with a trainable, yet independent spirit this dog became a firm favorite with rural Irish families so much so that it became embroiled in the War of Indepence in Ireland in the early 20th century.

Kerry Blue Dog Shows

A Kerry Blue Terrier at a dog show event.
A Kerry Blue Terrier at a dog show event. (Photo: Ihalavach via Canva)

There is some discrepancy about the first dog show with Kerry Blue Terriers, but there is evidence to suggest that it may have been a dog show in Cork, Ireland in 1913, which had only five entries.

Most of these dogs would have been fighting dogs (the shown breeds Kerry Blue varied in size and lacked standardization). 

By late 1910s, the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club had formed (it was only in the 1920s that the name Kerry Blue Terrier became more widespread).

What was particularly interesting about this club is that it was filled with Irish nationalists, who saw traits in the Kerry Blue Terrier (such as its feisty, courageous nature and strong Irish connection) that they believed represented the struggle of Ireland and the Irish to gain independence from Britain

The club held a dog show in October 1920 which was an act of rebellion.

Not only was it illegal to hold a dog show without prior license from the British Kennel Club, it occurred after curfew and one of the country’s biggest fugitives with a bounty on his head, the Irish Nationalist Michael Collins, was also in attendance to show his dog “Convict 224”. 

The success of the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club went on to trigger the establishment of the Irish Kennel Club

Plans by Michael Collins were under way at the time of his death to have the Kerry Blue Terrier recognised as the national dog of Ireland.

While this did not happen officially, the dog breed became more popular and well known in the years after his death

Kerry Blue Terrier Breed Recognition

The Irish Kennel Club recognized the Kerry Blue Terrier in 1922, as did the British Kennel Club. The American Kennel Club did likewise a few short years later in 1925

Since then the blue terrier Kerry is known for has increased in popularity as knowledge of the breed spread around the world.


Kerry Blue Terriers Today

A Kerry Blue Terrier with long hair.
A Kerry Blue Terrier with long hair. (Photo: cynoclub via Canva)

As this detailed Kerry Blue Terrier Guide has outlined, this breed is shrouded in legend, deeply connected with Irish history and is an intelligent hunting dog that has also become a favored family pet for many around the world. 

Kerry Blue Terriers are classified as a vulnerable native Irish dog breed, so continued efforts to protect and promote this breed are necessary. 

For owners and fans of Kerry Blue Terriers, there are plenty of gifts available ranging from miniature Kerry Blue Terrier ornaments and decorations, to calendars, stationary and everything in between. 

Native Irish Dog Breeds

An Irish Terrier
An Irish Terrier (Photo: Ksenia Raykova via Canva)

In total there are 9 officially recognised dog breeds from Ireland:

To learn more about these fascinating breeds of dog, as well as their facts and history take a look at our in depth articles about each breed. If you would prefer an overview, this is the guide to Irish Dog Breeds for you. 

We also have plenty of information about Irish Doodles that might also interest you!

Check out our best Irish pet names or Irish cat names if you need some more inspiration for a unique moniker!

Please note that this article is only for general information purposes about the Kerry Blue Terrier breed and should not be used as a substitute for health, medical and pet care advice from veterinary specialists.