The Kennel Club's Illustrated Breed Standards describes the Glen as a -
"Tough small dog (with) a mixture of the game and gentle about him. He appears on first impression to be a rather rough chap, and his harsh coat of blue, wheaten or brindle tends to confirm this, but he is in fact a good family companion, and not nearly as noisy as some small terriers."
A specialist in hunting badger, the terrier takes its name from the Glen of Imaal under the shadow of Lugnaquilla, in a region south east of Knockanarrigan in Co. Wicklow; Ireland.and this sheltered and undisturbed, tranquil part of the world is where this antique breed emanates from.
As with the three other Irish Terrier Breeds - the Kerry Blue, the Soft Coated Wheaten and the Irish Terrier - the Glen of Imaal Terrier was a dog that worked for its living around the cottage, doing what ever was required, watch dog for the cottager’s crops, herding stock or killing vermin, the trifling cost of his upkeep being well within the means of the poorest farmer. This tough terrier was not a pursuit dog but an earth worker used to draw fox, badger and otter.
It is believed that the breed was developed by the Lowland and Hessian troops brought to Ireland by the British in the 16th and 17th centuries, who later colonised the area in the Wicklow Mountains around Mullacer and Tinahely.
High though his reputation is, The Glen’s history and origins are sketchy.
There is a description of a breed show held in Dublin in 1876 where the description of one type of Irish Terrier was - ”long low and useful dogs were held up for admiration”. Not a bad potted description of a Glen of Imaal Terrier.
Reference works –
Shaw’s “Book of the Dog” (1890)
Rawden Lee’s “Modern Dogs”
Herbert Compton’s “The Twentieth Century Dog” (1904)
Tom Horner’s “Terriers of the World (1984)
Irish History .
With the advent of dog shows in the latter half of the 19th century, the breed began to emerge into the public eye.
They were recognised as show dogs in 1933 and the first classes for the breed were at the St. Patrick's Day show of that year.
In 1934, the Glen of Imaal Terrier was given full recognition by the Irish Kennel Club. It was the third of the four Irish terrier breeds to be so acknowledged.
The first Championship Show in England to have classes for the breed was National Terrier in 1982, forty-nine years after their original recognition!
Though recognised in 1933 as a pure breed, interest in the breed waned during the 1950s when Mr Paddy Brennan of Tinahely and Willie Kane of Rathfurnham are credited with its survival as a pure breed.
The original breed club in Ireland became defunct and the Glen of Imaal Terrier Owners and Breeders Association was founded in 1971. The first breed show was held in 1974 with an entry of 31 dogs.
The breed is now recognised by the Kennel Club of Great Britain, FCI, and several rare breed organisations throughout the world.
In April of 2004, the AKC Board of Directors approved petition for breed recognition and the Glen of Imaal Terrier was fully recognised and moved into the AKC's Terrier Group in October 2004.
In 2007 after a long campaign of petition to the Kennel Club of Great Britain, the Kennel Club graciously conferred Championship Certificate status on the Breed
Classified as a 'Vulnerable Native Breed' by the Kennel Club of Great Britain with fewer than 300 puppy registrations per year, this recently recognised and standardised breed is popular in the USA with some of the oldest Breed Clubs being affiliated to the breed.
The Irish History of The Glen of Imaal Terrier
History provides us with the answer of how the Glen of Imaal Terrier evolved in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland.
They are descended from the Irish Wolfhound.
In 1798 The Marquis of Huntly commanded a garrison of Highlanders camped near to the entrance to the Glen to prevent Dwyer and his men using the Black Banks to escape into Glenmalure.
Their mascot was an Irish Wolfhound. This dog roamed the Glen and mated with local hounds and terriers, resulting in the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier we know today.
The head is long like the Wolfhound and the powerful long body and the short bowed front legs made this dog ideal to protect sheep and other stock from predators such as the fox.
In colour the dog was wheaten, the wheaten of the gorse, and blue- the blue of the heather, allowing it to merge with the landscape. A 14” dog with a long back he was capable of killing all vermin. He was firstly a family dog and wonderful in protecting children, and a very keen worker with sheep. He also warned the rebels when the enemy approached; he was never a fighting dog. Most of the Glen of Imaal was a mountainous area but there were many prosperous farms in the area owned by the descendants of the Militia and the Highlanders. Among its duties was to combat the badger and the fox. It is a silent worker.
No one lives in the Glen to-day, it is owned by the state and is used as a practice range by the Irish Army.
In a nearby Glen when the Poulaphuca reservoir was built and the Glen was flooded, a small church was submerged. In that church was a stained glass window showing St. Patrick in the Glen of Imaal with a Glen of Imaal Terrier
Please note: St. Patrick pre-dated the Marquis of Huntly by some hundreds of years, but it is a charming story and no one really disputes the fact that Irish Wolfhound would be in the make up of the Glen of Imaal Terrier.
Terrier females are notoriously accommodating and experienced males extremely flexible.
The actual history of the Glen of Imaal Terrier is shrouded, just tantalising glimpses but this surely adds to the mystique of the Glen and in no way detracts from his glamour of shabby chic.
It is said that Michael Dwyer did own a Glen, but it was asleep, when he was surprised, captured and finally surrendered to the Militia.
Desperate to prevent Michael Dwyer becoming a martyr the English authorities deported him to Australia. Still a rebel, he was then deported to Tasmania, which is where the Australian authorities deported their criminals.
Another facet of the Glen of Imaal Terrier’s history could be that of a spit dog.
The general description of a spit dog was of a dog with short bowed legs, big head and a generally miserable expression. When it became generally accepted in Monasteries that using small children to turn the spit wheel was inhumane, dogs were used instead.
If you want to know any more about being owned by a Glen, any one already owned will be happy to talk to you. You'll probably be unable to shut them up!