On the Irish holiday of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s only proper to celebrate the dogs of the Emerald Aisle. The Irish are mad for their canines; not only does modern Ireland have one of the highest rates of dog ownership in all of Europe, it also has some of the oldest records of standardized dog breeding in the world.
Ancient Irish Law from the 5th Century BC – Brehon Law – actually included guidelines for the breeding, ownership and care of madra, the Irish word for dog.
The Irish – ancient to modern – favored intelligent, energetic, and hardy working dogs, for everything from hunting, retrieving and herding to guarding and fighting in wars. Julius Caesar wrote about how fearsome ancestors of today’s Irish wolfhounds made his warriors tremble. Hundreds of Irish Terriers worked the trenches at the frontlines of WWI, employed as plucky message-carriers. Ancient lore says that Irish Water Spaniels are descended from a Celtic spirit, the fearsome sea monster, dobhar-chú.
Many of the original native Irish dogs have died out over the centuries, but nine breeds remain. We raise a glass to all of them this month: