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“ THE Irish terrier is a cheap dog, is it not?” said a friend to me not long ago. “I do not know about its cheapness,” I replied ; “ but if you have a really good one it will bring a hundred pounds any time you desire to sell it.” And such is the fact. A first-class Irish terrier is worth almost as much as a fox terrier, and as a so-called marketable canine commodity ranks only after the latter, the collie, and the St. Bernard in value. He is a favourite dog, hence his worth.
His popularity has only come about during the past twenty years or so; dog shows have been his fortune, and the Irish Terrier Club has no doubt assisted him to his high position. It was as far back as about 1882 that I was judging dogs at Belfast, and was then very much struck with the extraordinary character possessed by sundry Irish terriers which were brought into the ring. These included Mr. J. N. R. Pim’s Erin, perhaps the best
all-round specimen of her race that ever lived, her progeny Poppy and Playboy, and there were several other typical terriers whose names do not occur to me. I became enamoured of the variety, prognosticating a popular future for them should they only breed fairly true to character and type, and be produced with ears that did not require cutting. And from the time, so far back as 1888, when the Irish Terrier Club determined to abolish “ cropping,” and persuaded the Kennel Club to do likewise, so far as this special dog was concerned, his popularity was assured, and his position in the latter respect is only second to the fox terrier.
The early volumes of the “Kennel Club Stud Book” do not contain special classes for Irish terriers, they being grouped with the wire-haired fox terriers. However, in 1876 they were honoured with a division to themselves, in which there were nineteen entries, five being owned by Mr. G. Jameson, of Newtownards. To prove how the variety has increased since then, attention need only be called to the two hundred and twenty names of Irish terriers that appear in the Stud Book, published in 1894, whilst in 1895 the figures reached 146; in 1902 the number had fallen to ninety-one, but this decrease may be in part owing to a change in the arrangements of the Stud Book, as the classes at the shows appear to be pretty much as well filled now as was the case half a dozen years ago. In 1878 and 1879 Birmingham arranged classes for Irish terriers, and in the latter year, when there were fifteen entries, the Messrs. Carey and William Graham were amongst the exhibitors in the two divisions provided.
Before the dates last named we look in vain for classes for Irish terriers at the leading shows out of Ireland. Such dogs were then, excepting by a few persons who knew them and kept them in their native country, considered mongrels, and so no doubt they would have continued had not their gameness and general excellence been suddenly discovered by the general public. That they are admirable companions cannot be denied, and one I kept in the house, a relative of champions, and by no means bad looking himself, was about as perfect a specimen of a dog of the London suburbs as can be imagined. But perhaps more of him later on, and any further remarks of my own shall be preceded by the opinions -Of one or two gentlemen who have given more attention to the Irish terrier than Icould possibly have done; but that they are more ardent admirers of him I will not allow.
Mr. W. Cotton, of Blessington, co. Wicklow, I who has bred and kept Irish terriers for a great
number of years, writes characteristically of their origin as follows:
“To Sir Walter Raleigh, through potato skins, the Irish cotter, and hardships, we owe the Irish terrier. When Ireland was more thickly inhabited, there were small parties of cotters grouped together; each had his cabbage and potato garden badly fenced, and each family spent the greater portion of their time round the turf hearth, watching the; murphies boil. The circle was incomplete, and liable to be disturbed in their beloved indolence, without a dog, which was hissed on when the neighbouring pig or goat invaded the boundary of the estate. A large dog required too much support; one with some spice of pluck was, however, required in order to enforce its authority. The combination of Pat, pig, and potatoes, was conducive of rats— and rats of sport and rivalry. As such terriers were» indiscriminately bred, and all ran wild, the dog with the most pluck exercised the largest influence on the breed.
“We can thus imagine the pups bearing the greatest resemblance to any particular champion were selected; hence in this respect the survival of the fittest. During the day, as described, these terriers lay at the fire, and at night, though the pig might be given a corner of the cabin, the terrier wasshown the outside of the door to guard the larder, which was the potato pit, look after the general safety of the estate, and to find a bed in the ditch or butt of the haycock. Generations of this treatment developed them into the ‘pine knots’ they are.
“Driving along the roads any hour of the night, this state of things you will find still to exist, and it is a matter of wonder how the inmates sleep and quite ignore the choruses of howls 0n moonlight nights. I believe myself that the Irish garrisons distributed over the country the bulldog, which was used for crossing. As many native fanciers say, to this day, there is nothing like a ‘crass’ of the bull, and I think the Irish terriers’ disposition largely :shows it. You find them still of all types, long in legs, and of all colours, red, black, blue brindle, and those with tan legs often have the best coats. I know at the present time brindles showing more of the modern type as regards length of leg and general conformation than the other colours.
“There is a glen, Imaal, in the VVicklow mountains that has always been, and still is, justly celebrated for its terriers. It would be hard to specify their colour in particular—the Wheaten in all shades to that of bright red. In Kerry I think the black blue is most prevalent; quite black very