Kerry Blue Terrier

Breed At A Glance


Determined, vivacious and protective, good with people but not other dogs

Life Expectancy
13-15 years

Average Height
17-20 inches

Average Weight
33-40 lbs

Coat Color
Blue-gray, gray-blue, light blue-gray, or deep slate

Coat Length/Texture
Wavy and dense coat, soft and silky to the touch (requires extensive grooming)

Shedding Propensity
Little or not at all

Also known as Irish Blue Terrier

General Temperament

As a playful and boisterous breed, the Kerry Blue Terrier ranks as one of the ideal breeds for the active family. They are loving towards family members and friends, and are great companions for energetic children who will give the dog plenty of playtime. With proper training, the perceptive and vigorous Kerry Blue Terrier excels at obedience, agility, herding, retrieving and tracking, and they are commonly used as law enforcement and military dogs.

Although they do not bark excessively, the Kerry Blue Terrier is protective of it’s family and will bark to announce the arrival of strangers. But this mild-mannered dog is not likely to attack humans unless strongly provoked. On the other hand, this breed does tend to be dog-aggressive, so early socialization with other canines during puppyhood is essential to minimize this tendency in adulthood.

Training the willing Kerry Blue Terrier is easy compared to many other breeds, as long as the training is variable; this dog can become stubborn and distracted if it gets bored. Kerry Blues need a firm and engaged owner who will provide a variety of adequate stimulation during regular training sessions.

Modern Kerry Blue Terriers can be as happy in an apartment as they are in a suburban setting. Although they enjoy physical activity, they are not a breed that requires a tremendous amount of exercise: a daily walk will do to keep them happy and healthy.

Breed History

The Kerry Blue Terrier, also known as the Irish Blue Terrier, found it’s origins around the 18th century in County Kerry, Ireland. It’s ancestry is somewhat cloudy, although it is thought that the Portuguese Water Dog, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Irish Wolfhounds, and/or Irish Terriers (among others) may have contributed to the breed’s bloodline. The Kerry Blue Terrier has been used for hundreds of years as an all-around hunting, retrieving, and herding breed, capable of fulfilling the various needs of the Irish farmer. Since they existed primarily as a working breed, they did not take part in dog shows until the early 1920’s.

The Kerry Blue Terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1924.

Body Structure and Composition

The most noticeable physical attribute of the Kerry Blue Terrier is it’s characteristic wedge-shaped head, with no identifiable “stop” (the angle that punctuates the separation between the forehead and the muzzle in most other breeds) and long whiskers that accentuate the chin. The v-shaped ears are carried folded over forward close to the skull. This breed has a well-built and muscular body with a long neck that leads down to a level back. The forelegs are exceptionally straight, and the hind legs are long and powerful. The tail should be as straight at possible, and is sometimes docked in the U.S. (although tail docked has been banned in many other countries).

Medical Information

Although they are generally considered to be a healthy and hardy breed, poorly-bred Kerry Blue Terriers are prone to a number of hereditary problems. Kerrativitis Sicca (also known as “dry eye”), cataracts and Entropion (inward-turning eyelids) can be a problem for this breed. Additionally, some lines can encounter a variety of skin conditions. Benign cysts or tumors just below the skin are common, as are keratoses (corns) on the nose or pads of the feet. Some can lack full dentition or have uneven bites.

A more heartbreaking disease that affects the Kerry Blue Terrier is Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy (PNA), also referred to as “cerebellar cortical atrophy” or “postnatal cerebellar cortical degeneration.” It develops when the neurons located in the cerebellum known as Purkinje cells begin to die off, affecting balance and coordination. At it’s onset, symptoms of PNA include limb stiffness and head tremors, followed by stumbling and an inability to stand by one year of age. There is no current genetic screening available for this disease, nor is there a cure.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) provides certification of breeding stock to help prevent the spread of several hereditary diseases, including some that can affect the Kerry Blue Terrier with significance. One of these conditions, Hip Dysplasia, occurs when the head of the thigh bone no longer fits into the cup provided by the hip socket, causing lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Kerry Blues can also have luxating patellas, also known as “slipped stifle” or “trick knee,” a situation that sometimes requires surgery to correct. Hypothyroidism is also common in this breed, resulting in an underactivity of the thyroid gland, with symptoms including decreased appetite or weight gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy.

Crytorchidism and Pseudohermaphroditism have also been known to exist in the Kerry Blue Terrier. Crytorchidism is commonly known as undescended testicles, and can be unilateral (one undescended) or bilateral (both undescended). This is not a health concern for the dog, but individuals with this problem should not be bred. Pseudohermaphroditism describes an individual having the gonads of one sex and the external genitalia resembling those of the opposite sex (or ambiguous in appearance).

Kerry Blue Terriers need professional grooming approximately every six weeks, and should be brushed by their owner weekly. Additionally, special attention should be paid to the whiskers, which can become quite dirty. This breed sheds little to no hair, and unlike other breeds, can be bathed weekly without fear of drying out the skin or damaging the coat.

Anecdotal Information

One legend regarding this breed describes a blue dog swimming ashore from a shipwreck just off the coat of Ireland. This dog’s coat was so lovely that it was mated with all the female Wheaten Terriers in County Kerry, producing the Kerry Blue Terrier.

The Kerry Blue Terrier is a relatively uncommon breed in the United States, ranking only 114th out of 157 breeds according to 2007 registration statistics supplied by the American Kennel Club.

Irish nationalist leader Michael Collins owned a Kerry Blue Terrier named “Convict 225.”

The Kerry Blue Terrier was the first dog registered with the Irish Kennel Club.

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