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The Kerry Blue Terrier is a breed of dog named after County Kerry in South West Ireland. In its motherland the it is often called the Irish Blue Terrier. Over time the Kerry became a general working dog used for a variety of jobs including herding cattle and sheep and as a guard dog. It was, however, primarily developed for controlling "vermin" including rats, rabbits, badgers, foxes, otters and hares and dog fighting. Today the Kerry has spread around the world as a companion and working dog. Despite a Kerry Blue winning Crufts - the most important UK dog show - in 2000, it remains an unfashionable breed. Not as threatened as some of the other terrier breeds (Skye Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier) but still distinctly uncommon.

The Kerry Blue terrier was first observed in the mountains of County Kerry in Ireland, hence the name of the breed. There is a romantic story of a blue dog swimming ashore from a shipwreck: the coat of this dog was so lovely that it was mated with all the female Wheaten Terriers in Kerry (or in all Ireland according to some), producing the Kerry Blue. Perhaps this story is not entirely myth as the Portuguese Water Dog is often suggested as part of the Kerry's make up. Others suggest the Kerry was produced by the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier crossed with the Bedlington Terrier with (or without) some Irish Wolfhound or Irish Terrier blood. The extinct Gadhar herding dog is also mentioned as another possible branch of the Kerry's family tree. One certain fact is the breed became very popular as an all-around farm dog in rural Ireland. The Kerry Blue is known to be a good swimmer and one of the few breeds used for hunting otter in deep water. They are well known for their stubbornness. If you are planning on getting a Kerry Blue, make sure you are ready for it. They are easier to train if you can show them it is in their best interest to do what you ask (using treats and affection).

National Dog of Ireland
With the development of dog shows in the late 19th and early 20th century the breed became standardised and tidied up for the show ring. It was closely associated with Irish nationalism with the nationalist leader Michael Collins owning a famous Kerry Blue named Convict 225. Indeed Collins made an attempt to have the Kerry blue adopted as the national dog of Ireland.

It should be stated, however, that the love of dogs crossed political divides. The first show of the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier club took place outside official curfew hours and was entered by those fighting for and against an Ireland Republic. The Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club was so successful it led directly to the foundation of the Irish Kennel Club. A Kerry blue was the first dog registered with the Irish Kennel Club.

Some characteristics of the Kerry Blue Terrier include a long head, flat skull, deep chest, and a soft wavy to curly coat that comes in several shades of blue (the term for "gray" in dog coats). Puppies are born black; the blue appears gradually as the puppy grows older, usually up to 2 years of age. The ideal Kerry should be :

Weight: Mature dog 15-16.8 kg (33-37 lbs)
Bitches proportionately less, 15.9 kg (35 lbs) is the most desirable weight to aim for.
Ideal height: Dogs 46-48 cms (18-19 ins) at shoulder
Bitches slightly less.

The Kerry Blue Terrier doesn't shed but the Kerry owner will pay his dues as coat care is extensive. The coat is close to the structure of human hair, similar to that of the Poodle or Maltese, which makes the Kerry an option for some people with pet hair allergies. It should be remembered that allergies are sometimes caused by tiny flakes of the animals' skin rather than the hair itself. If you have a dust allergy (household dust is composed mainly of flakes of human skin!) be very careful in considering any pet.

The coat is soft and wavy but of one layer and not the common terrier structure of a soft undercoat below a harsh outer coat. It never stops growing and so requires regular brushing to prevent matting (at least once a week, daily is better!) and trimming every six to ten weeks. In the past it was the matting of the coat that protected the working Kerries from rain, cold, water and mud. Todays trimmed and groomed pet Kerry should not be kept outside all the time and should be dried immediately when back at home.

Kerry Blue Terriers are strong-headed and highly spirited. They have always been loyal and affectionate towards their owners and very gentle towards children but were often considered downright mean toward other animals including other dogs. In the early days of competitive dog showing the Irish Kennel Club required Kerries had to pass a "gameness" test, known as Teastas Mor certification, before they were deemed worthy of being judged. These tests included catching rabbits and bringing a badger to bay in its set. They were not nicknamed "Blue Devils" for nothing!

Modern breeders have attempted to retain high spirits whilst breeding out aggression. They have achieved a great deal but the Kerry can still be dog aggressive and vocal so socialization from puppy-hood is an absolute necessity to prevent future problems and veterinary bills.

Together with the Airedale Terrier, the Kerry is one of the best-suited terriers for work. They are fast, strong, and intelligent. They do well in obedience, dog agility, sheep herding, and tracking. They have been used as police dogs in Ireland.

As a long-legged breed, the activity level of the Kerry Blue Terrier ranges from moderate to high. They require an active, skilled owner who can provide them with early socialization and obedience training. Kerries require exercise daily; such as walks, jogs, agility-training, or other day care activities to keep them busy and occupied. Combine this with the grooming needs and you have a dog that requires considerable time spent on it. Kerries are not for everyone but in the right home they are a good family companion.

Kerries are fairly healthy, however there are some genetic disorders that are prevalent in the breed. They are prone to eye problems such as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eyes), cataracts, and entropion. They sometimes get cysts or cancerous growths in their skin, but these are rarely malignant. Hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, cryptorchidism have also been reported. Progressive neuronal abiotrophy (PNA) is also seen. This condition is also referred to as Cerebellar cortical abiotrophy (CCA) or Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA). PNA is a disease of the nervous system, in which the cerebellum loses its ability to coordinate movement. PNA is believed to be genetic, but there is no test available that can detect carriers. PNA is degenerative, with affected dogs beginning to be visibly uncoordinated and unable to stand or move without stumbling at around one year of age. There is no known cure for PNA, and affected dogs will have very poor quality of life, often not able to even sit up or eat as the disease progresses, and should be humanely destroyed.

Another health issue that is skin related is that of spiculosis. This is a skin disorder that produces abnormally thick hairs that are also called thorns, spikes or bristles. These cause pain and need to be removed by hand or when necessary surgically.

Further Information
  Books - Kerry Blue Terrier Pet Love

Last Update: 13/02/08 10:31 Views: 5273

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