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Often called the Irish Blue Terrier, the Kerry Blue, as the name suggests, has a distinctive steely coat colour and soft, woolly hair. It is a brave and versatile dog having been originally bred for a variety of jobs within the homestead.
The Kerry Blue is thought to originate from County Kerry, but some experts say it in fact descended from terrier types local to Tipperary in Southern Ireland. Irish folklore and legend says that a 'blue dog' swam ashore after surviving a ship wreck off the coast of Southern Ireland. The locals were so impressed by its distinctive blue coat, that they let it mate with all the female terriers in the vicinity giving rise to the founding offspring of the Kerry Blue breed. Another theory is that of a H D Richardson, a famous Irish author, who wrote about a prolific dog at the time (the turn of the 19th/20th century) being the 'Harlequin Terrier'. He describes this dog as slate in colour with lighter or darker patches and often with a tan muzzle. Many experts now believe that the author was referring to the forerunners for today's Kerry Blue Terriers, especially given that Kerry Blue pups are born with this reddish or black tinge before settling in adulthood into their steely coloured hue.
Whatever the true origins of the Kerry Blue it was, as with many breeds, bred to excel as a ratter and hunter. It was reportedly also such a brave dog that it was used for badger baiting. It was a multipurpose dog though, with good guarding ad herding instincts.
By the mid 1900's this dog had become so popular it started to be shown at exhibitions with larger shows soon following, including 'Crufts'.
Average height to withes: Males and females are between 18-19 inches, with males usually being larger.
Average weight: Males up to 18kg with females slightly less.
The stand out feature of this breed is of course it's singular and famed, slate coloured blue coat. Pups are usually born with either black or reddish-black hues through their coat which gives way to their settled adult colour at around 2 years of age. Not only is the coat a lovely colour, it is also beautifully soft. With no undercoat, its texture is said to resemble that of a fine head of human hair. The head is in proportion to the rest of the body, with a longish muzzle. The v shaped ears should fall forwards in line with the eyes which themselves should be dark. A light coloured eye is considered very undesirable for showing. The head widens down into the neck which in turn levels out onto a short, straight back leading into a tail carried erectly and proudly.
This is a powerful breed for it size and given its hunting heritage it is not surprising. It is capable of developing considerable muscle tone through its body but still has an elegant carriage and is not cumbersome in any way.
The Kerry Blue is a true terrier at heart, being intelligent and game. They are very adaptable dogs and have a very broad range of skills doing well at hunting, guarding, herding and canine sports such as agility and obedience. Because of this clever and flexible nature, they have developed into a high energy breed and need a considerable amount of stimulation both mental and physical. Being energetic and fun loving though, they do fit into a family situation with relative ease for a terrier. Caution must always be exercised however. That said, while they do quite well with children, the same cannot be said for other animals, more notably small furries and cats. They can be aggressive with other dogs on occasion, especially males with other males and fights may ensue. As with all dogs, early and sensitive socialisation is a must to ensure the dog remains as well balanced as possible.
They Kerry Blue must have firm leadership otherwise they can tend to be on the dominant side and so may not be best suited for completely novice owners. They must be part of a family whom it can devote itself to and lead an active, outdoor life. This is not a dog that likes to be cooped up! If the Kerry Blue does not have its needs met it can become quite destructive through sheer boredom, with its most notable negative behaviour being that of digging, whether it be in the garden, the carpet or the furniture.
All in all, this breed is quite an independent type of dog and strong willed, bordering on stubbornness when it wants but manages to stay charming by being fun loving verging on silly sometimes and being incredibly loyal.
Like many terrier, the Kerry Blue has a fairly long lifespan of up to 15 years. It is regarded as a healthy and robust breed which succumbs to few illnesses through the course of its life. However, the main issue arise with some eye problems. These are mainly issues such as cataracts and Entropion. Entropion is the inward rolling of the eyelid, usually the lower one, and found in both eyes. It causes vision loss and irritation, and generally occurs before a dog turns a year old. Corrective surgery when the dog reaches adulthood is an effective treatment. Other prolific eye conditions in this breed are Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca) and Pigmentary Keratitis. These are routinely seen in Kerry Blues and can occur at the same time, or individually. Dry Eye is caused when the eyes don't produce enough tears to stay moist. Your vet can perform tests to determine if this is the cause, which can be controlled with medication. Pigmentary Keratits is a condition that causes black spots on the cornea. It may ultimately cause blindness. Your vet can prescribe medication that will help keep the eyes moist and dissolve the pigment. Both of these eye conditions require life-long therapy and care.
The owner needs to invest a certain amount of time into a Kerry Blue, not only in terms of exercise (a least two good walks or runs daily) but also in terms of socialisation which needs to be continued into adulthood and also in grooming and coat care. Professional grooming is recommended for this dog as is daily attention at home to maintain the beautifully soft coat.