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The Kerry Blue

 

The Kerry Blue Terrier


Introduction
The Kerry Blue Terrier of today is not much different from his
predecessor, but just who that predecessor was is anybody's guess. The
breed has been known in Ireland for at least 150 years, but its origins
are as mysterious as the ancestry of breeds developed centuries
earlier.
As typical in Ireland, legends abound; high on the list is the tale
that the peasants developed the breed because noblemen restricted
ownership of the Irish Wolfhound to the upper classes. The gentry
hunted with the giant hounds, and the countrymen poached with their
Kerries.
Yet another version has it that a Russian ship wrecked in Ireland's
Tralee Bay and a blue dog swam ashore. Breeding of this dog with local
terriers produced the Kerry Blue. Another account identifies the ship
as belonging to the Spanish Armada. It is further said that the Kerry
Blue Terrier may have been bred from the Irish Terrier and the
Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier or from an earlier terrier and the Irish
Wolfhound.
In any case, the Kerry Blue was found mostly in the mountains of County
Kerry around Lake Killarney. He was first and foremost a working dog,
used for hunting small game and birds, retrieving from land and water,
and for herding sheep and cattle. He has even been trained as a police
dog in England. Today, he is a formidable watchdog and gentle
companion.
It was first shown as the Irish Blue Terrier in Ireland in 1916; in
England it became the Kerry Blue Terrier and was shown at Cruft's for
the first time in 1922. The dog came to the US about the same time;
four Kerries were shown at the Westminster Kennel Club show in the
miscellaneous class that year. Trimming the dog for the show ring in
England gave the breed popular appeal.


Temperament and behavior
The Kerry Blue Terrier is elegant, intelligent, and adaptable to most
situations whether hunting, herding, working, or companionship. He has
an outgoing, people-oriented temperament, and like other terriers, can
be scrappy with other dogs. Puppies should be whelped and raised in the
breeder's home and given much individual attention and care for
socialization with people and littermates. Puppies are generally kept
by the breeder until 10-12 weeks of age to allow for this
socialization.
The well-bred Kerry Blue Terrier loves children and adults and is an
excellent playmate and guardian for older children. However, as with
most terriers, children must be taught to respect the dog, to treat it
gently. The Kerry wants to be with his people and will make sure that
everyone gets some of his love and attention. He wants to know where
you're at and what you're doing every minute which can take some
getting used to. He is fun-loving and full-of-life, and he is
mischievous with a great sense of humor. There is truly a bit of
blarney and the leprechaun in the Kerry Blue!


Physical appearance
The Kerry Blue is of a size to be comfortable living in a house or
apartment and does not need an excessive amount of exercise. The
compact and sturdy mature Kerry Blue measures 17.5-19.5 inches at the
shoulders and weighs from 33-40 pounds. Males are a bit larger than
females.
The breed is clean and is easily housetrained. He has a beautiful,
soft, dense, and wavy non-shedding coat with no doggy odor. He is thus
ideal for families suffering from allergies aggravated by errant dog
hairs. For the show ring, the Kerry coat is usually washed and allowed
to air dry. It is then brushed, combed, and scissored. Many pet owners
use electric clippers to shorten grooming time.
Kerry Blues are born black. They should start to change color anywhere
from six to 18 months of age. The ultimate shade may be anywhere from a
light silver blue to dark slate blue. Show dogs must show a definite
color change  by 18 months.
This is a hardy dog with few genetic problems. Buyers should ask about
eye certifications and hip x-rays and be aware that some Kerries are
subject to tumors of various types. With love and care, Kerries have
been known to live longer than many other breeds; 15 years is not
uncommon.
The Kerry Blue is ranked 95th of the 137 breeds registered by the
American Kennel Club. Owners registered 514 dogs in 1993, almost even
with the 519 registrations in 1992; breeders produced 121 litters, down
from 97 in 1992. (These numbers contrast with the 124,899 Labrador
Retriever registered; Labs were top dogs for the last three years.) The
safeguard of today's Kerry Blue lies in the fact that they are loved,
nurtured, and closely watched by the breeders who raise them.
A Kerry Blue Terrier is not for everyone, but those of us who are
fortunate enough to be owned by one (or more) will say "Once a Kerry
lover, always a Kerry lover." Or, as  the Irish might say, "May the
wind be always at your back and a Kerry at the end of your lead."

-- By Robert Beuter --