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Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry Blue Terrier is a breed of dog mistakenly thought to be of County Kerry in South West Ireland; it is actually from Tipperary. In its motherland it is often called the Irish Blue Terrier.

Comment "I have recently been lucky enough to have a Kerry in my life. She is loyal, fun and mischievous and protective...."

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Over time the Kerry became a general working dog used for a variety of jobs, including herding cattle and sheep and as a guard dog. It was, however, primarily developed for controlling "vermin" including rats, rabbits, badgers, foxes, otters and hares. Today the Kerry has spread around the world as a companion and working dog. Despite a Kerry Blue winning Crufts - the most important UK dog show - in 2000, it remains an uncommon breed. Not as threatened as some of the other terrier breeds (Skye Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier), it is still distinctly uncommon.

Appearance

Some characteristics of the Kerry Blue Terrier include a long head, flat skull, deep chest, and a soft wavy to curly coat that comes in several shades of blue (from blue-black to light slate grey). The coat is considered to have more "color" or to be more "blue" when it carries more of the grey/blue color (or the lighter the coat is). Puppies are born black; the blue appears gradually as the puppy grows older, usually up to 2 years of age. All kennel clubs have statements in their standard similar to that of the American Kennel Club: "Black on the muzzle, head, ears, tail and feet is permissible at any age." This indicates the presence of the melanistic mask gene. The ideal Kerry should be 18˝ inches at the withers for a male, slightly less for the female. The most desirable weight for a fully developed male is from 33 to 40 pounds, females weighing proportionately less.

Kerry Blue Terrier (Pet Love) from Amazon.co.uk

Coat

The coat is the key feature of the Kerry. It is soft and wavy with no undercoat. The texture is similar to that of fine human hair and like human hair is not shed but continues to grow throughout the year. This means the Kerry Blue requires very regular grooming (at least once per week) and clipping an average of every 6 weeks. As they do not lose their hair, a home can stay much cleaner. Kerrys have little to no scent; they do not have that dog smell. In fact, their scent is almost pleasant.

Temperament

Kerry Blue Terriers are strong-headed and highly spirited. They have always been loyal and affectionate towards their owners and very gentle towards children. In the early days of competitive dog showing the Irish Kennel Club required Kerries to pass a "gameness" test, known as Teastas Mor certification, before they were deemed worthy of being judged. These tests included catching rabbits and bringing a badger to bay in its set. They are fast, strong, and intelligent. They do well in obedience, dog agility, sheep herding, and tracking. They have been used as police dogs in Ireland. Modern breeders have attempted to retain high spirits while breeding out aggression.

As a long-legged breed, the activity level of the Kerry Blue Terrier ranges from moderate to high. They require an active, skilled owner who can provide them with early socialization and obedience training. Kerries require daily exercise.

Herding

Due to the breed's historic role as an all-purpose farm dog the Kerry Blue Terrier can compete in herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at non-competitive herding tests. Kerry Blue Terriers exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.

Health

Kerries are fairly healthy, however there are some genetic disorders that are prevalent in the breed. They are prone to eye problems such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eyes), cataracts, and entropion. They sometimes get cysts or cancerous growths in their skin, but these are rarely malignant. Hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and cryptorchidism have also been reported. Another skin-related health issue is spiculosis. This is a skin disorder that produces abnormally thick hairs that are also called thorns, spikes, or bristles.

Progressive neuronal abiotrophy (PNA) is also seen. This condition is also referred to as canine multiple system degeneration (CMSD), cerebellar cortical abiotrophy (CCA) or cerebellar abiotrophy (CA). This is a progressive movement disorder that begins with cerebellar ataxia between 10 and 14 weeks of age. After 6 months of age, affected dogs develop difficulty initiating movements and fall frequently. The gene responsible has been mapped to canine chromosome 1.

History

The Kerry Blue terrier was first observed in the mountains of County Kerry in Ireland, hence the name of the breed. There is a romantic story of a blue dog swimming ashore from a shipwreck: the coat of this dog was so lovely that it was mated with all the female Wheaten Terriers in Kerry (or in all Ireland according to some), producing the Kerry Blue. Perhaps this story is not entirely myth as the Portuguese Water Dog is often suggested as part of the Kerry's make up. Others suggest the Kerry was produced by the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier crossed with the Bedlington Terrier with (or without) some Irish Wolfhound or Irish Terrier blood. The extinct Gadhar herding dog is also mentioned as another possible branch of the Kerry's family tree. One certain fact is the breed became very popular as an all-around farm dog in rural Ireland.

National Dog of Ireland

With the development of dog shows in the late 19th and early 20th century the breed became standardised and tidied up for the show ring. It was closely associated with Irish nationalism with the nationalist leader Michael Collins owning a famous Kerry Blue named Convict 225. Indeed Collins made an attempt to have the Kerry Blue adopted as the national dog of Ireland.

It should be stated, however, that the love of dogs crossed political divides. The first show of the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier club took place outside official curfew hours and was entered by those fighting for and against an Ireland Republic. The Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club was so successful it led directly to the foundation of the Irish Kennel Club. A Kerry Blue was the first dog registered with the Irish Kennel Club.

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References and Notes

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Comments

I have recently been lucky enough to have a Kerry in my life. She is loyal, fun and mischievous and protective over her home as has already been said. She needs plenty exercise, mental stimulation and grooming but we both enjoy every minute and the reward of love she gives is priceless. We also visited Co. Kerry & didn't see another KBT, many of the Irish didn't know what breed she was!
Having had Rough Collie's in the past I thought we could never find a better family dog.  However, with a young grandson who has multiple allergies we did our research and chose a Kerry Blue Terrier.  This was the best decision we have ever made and we now have a dog and a bitch.

These beautiful dogs have changed our lives, they are the most wonderful companions, and yes they do need to be managed but with early socialising and training they are an absolute joy.  

We paid a visit to Ireland last year and it was amazing how many people approached us because of the Kerries and yet we never saw another Kerry Blue in all the time we were there.  Such a pity.

I agree. I have always had Kerry Blue Terriers and they are a wonderful companion.  They are very active but they will reward you with their character.  I would not recommend this as your first dog ever, but once you are prepared to groom and exercise them you will have a great, family, guard dog, companion, and best friend.

Kerry Blue Terrier.  They are a great dog. Very loyal and devoted to their owner and family.  They are classed as a watchdog but anyone like me who have had them will confirm they are a natural guard dog. An intruder wouldn't even get in, no way.  Very good with children and they are very faithful.  Need firm handling and early  training for a problem free friend.

 

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