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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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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|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
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.