Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

You could call the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier the breed that was almost forgotten. Not that it wasn't well known, and had been for more than 200 years. Wheatens abounded on farms throughout Ireland because at one time only the aristocracy was permitted by law to own hunting dogs. So the cotters had to settle for native terriers who earned their keep as the poor man's hunting dog, vermin killer, herder, watchdog, and family pet. But the farmers had no interest in such things as seeking official breed status or competing with their shaggy, wheaten-coloured terriers at dog shows.

Puppies were whelped and reared on the "survival of the fit'' principle which meant little human care. And thus a robust, healthy breed evolved. There was certainly no shortage of willing wheaten mates for the sole survivor of a shipwreck, a large blue dog who found a home in County Kerry. This cross was the start of the Irish terrier breed called the Kerry Blue which gained fame and popularity long before anyone noticed one of its progenitors-the wheaten. It is claimed that occasionally a light-coloured puppy would appear in a litter of dark-coated Kerries, attesting to its wheaten ancestry. The last such incident was reported in 1945.

The wheaten was not to remain unnoticed forever. In 1932 at a terrier match the breed attracted a group of fanciers who decided to do something for the shaggy dogs. A club was formed and the dog given the name of the Irish Wheaten Terrier. This was too similar to Irish Terrier, a breed already recognized, so it was changed to the present name. In 1937 the breed first appeared on exhibition in Ireland at a championship show and later that year the Soft-Coated Wheaten was placed on the list of native Irish breeds. In 1938 wheatens were permitted to compete at championship events as a distinct breed. At first the breed was shown in a completely natural state. Then, after several years of arguing the point, fanciers agreed to show wheatens in the now familiar scissored trim.

The breed was rather slow in gaining recognition outside its country of origin. In 1973 the American Kennel Club accepted the Soft-Coated wheaten and added its name to the official roster followed in 1975 by The Kennel Club in England and in 1978 by The Canadian Kennel Club

Image above: Am. Ch. Caraway Celebrate Life "Kovu" | No. 1 Wheaten in US 2005.

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