Let's talk Kerry Blue Terriers

You might find it hard to resist that unique blue-hued coat and chipper countenance. Such are the endearing characteristics of the Kerry Blue Terrier, one of Ireland’s canine gems. The breed has long been a favourite in their home country, valued for their stick-to-it-iveness as well as their affability. A mind of their own means this is one smart breed, and a super addition to the human pack who will easily settle into life on the homefront but quickly jump into any adventure ahead.

Official name: Kerry Blue Terrier

Other names: Irish Blue Terrier

Origins: Ireland

Black and white portrait of a Kerry Blue Terrier
 Drooling tendencies  Very low Warm weather?  Medium
 Shedding level  Very low Suited to apartment living?   Medium
 Physical activity needs Moderate Kid-friendly?
 Medium
 Compatibility with other pets   Can stay alone?  Medium

We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

 
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Illustration of a Kerry Blue Terrier
Male
46 - 50 cm Height
15 - 18 kg Weight
Female
44 - 48 cm Height
13 - 16 kg Weight

 

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 months to 12 months
 Adult age  1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 10 years
 Senior age  From 10 years

Kerry Blue Terrier stood looking at the camera against blue skies

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Get to know the Kerry Blue Terrier

All you need to know about the breed

The Kerry Blue Terrier was originally bred on the farms of Ireland as a working dog put in charge of herding cows and sheep, and to root out vermin in their spare time. They are a Terrier, after all.

Their beginnings in the rural countryside gave way to some degree to the Kerry Blue Terrier becoming a show-ring favourite, with many winning Best in Show at top U.K. competitions. It’s that glamorous coat but also their cooperative demeanour that has won over judges and fans alike. Underneath that dense, deep blue-toned outer layer lies a medium-size, muscular body, a true working dog who is highly adaptable as well.

The Kerry Blue Terrier can be slightly headstrong but responds well to training, especially if it’s instilled early and from their owners, to whom they bond very highly. The breed can cause a ruckus with other dogs so make sure to socialise them early to control this facet of their character.

More of a family companion these days, the Kerry Blue Terrier is still often used as a watchdog, as a result of their drive and Terrier feistiness. That determined demeanour is hard to shake.

Kerry Blue Terrier looking to the side in front of a bush

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2 facts about Kerry Blue Terriers

1. Black and blue

The Kerry Blue Terrier is instantly recognisable for their hallmark blue coat. But how does it come about? Puppies are born black and finally gain the blue colour as of 18 months, when the dominant gene for coat fading transforms hair to either a blue-gray, deep slate, or even a light blue gray.

2. Not hypoallergenic, but….

… pretty close. Although no dog is 100% hypoallergenic, many allergy sufferers have turned to new cross-bred dogs to have as pets in order to lessen allergic reactions that can occur with the dander of some breeds. The Kerry Blue Terrier has a coat that doesn’t shed, making them a top choice for owners who may be sensitive - and they get the benefit of the cool blue colour to boot.

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History of the breed

The Kerry Blue Terrier has an illustrious history in their native country of Ireland and derives their name from County Kerry in the southwest. References to the breed occur first in the mid-1800s. Legend has it that black soft-coated dogs swam ashore from the remnants of the Spanish Armada off Ireland’s western coast who then mated with the Wheaten Terrier to produce the Kerry Blue Terrier breed.

In 1887, the first Kerry Blue Terrier competed in a dog show in Limerick as a Silver-Haired Irish Terrier. In 2000, a Kerry Blue Terrier named Mick won the prestigious Crufts show in England and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2003.

The AKC registered the Kerry Blue Terrier in 1922 but it was the founding of the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club in 1927 that cemented the breed’s popularity, and led to their being the first breed registered by the Irish Kennel Club.

Black and white portrait of a Kerry Blue Terrier

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Kerry Blue Terriers

1. Ears

Medium-sized ears, thin, carried forward or against head.

2. Body

Robust, well-proportioned body, fairly broad chest.

3. Coat

Soft, wavy, abundant coat, distinctive “blue” colour.

Close-up side view of Kerry Blue Terrier's eye

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Kerry Blue Terrier
Kerry Blue Terrier caught mid-air, bounding over grass

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Caring for your Kerry Blue Terrier

Grooming, training and exercise tips

The Kerry Blue Terrier turns heads with their thick, blue coat but its biggest plus? No shedding! Grooming your Kerry Blue Terrier will then need to be frequent - weekly, really - since their coat just continues to grow. A full grooming every six-to-eight weeks helps keep them looking their best. Trim their nails and clean those perky ears weekly, and brush teeth often to avoid dental problems. As a working dog, your Kerry Blue Terrier needs regular exercise - an hour a day on average. Daily walks work but this very affable breed enjoys playing outside tremendously - especially fetch - or going on a good jog. They excel in competitions, including obedience, herding, and dock diving. The Kerry Blue Terrier breed has a desire to please so will take commands well when training. Know that they can be headstrong so despite being amenable to their owner, repetition is key. The breed can be competitive with other dogs so puppy obedience classes are a great way to start your Kerry Blue Terrier on their well-socialised path.

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All about Kerry Blue Terriers

A Kerry Blue Schnauzer is a mixed breed, a cross between - you guessed it - the Kerry Blue Terrier and a Schnauzer. The Kerry Blue Schnauzer is a more recent hybrid dog, and can vary in size, like their Schnauzer forebear, to be miniature, standard, or giant. The coat can be medium or thick, and lean toward the blue hue of the Kerry Blue Terrier, or appear more of a gray tone like the Schnauzer.

Ireland’s best-kept secret, the Kerry Blue Terrier is not as common as some of their fellow Terriers, like the Jack Russell, Cairn, or Westie. The Irish Kennel Club reports the breed’s numbers in Ireland have dwindled since their registration in the 1920s, and now officially classifies them as a vulnerable native breed. The Kerry Blue Terrier was the first breed registered by the Irish Kennel Club.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/