Ireland Designates “Heritage Status” for Native Dog Breeds
Sean Delmar, president of the Irish Kennel Club and Kerry Blue Terrier breeder, has just achieved the holy grail of “heritage status” for the nine native Irish breeds.
JULY 16, 2019
I am pleased to announce that the 9 Irish Breeds have been granted National Heritage status by the Minister.
This is a wonderful step in the future protection and development of our amazing Irish Breeds and comes after many years of representations by those committed to Irish Breeds.
On behalf of The Irish Kennel Club I would like to specifically acknowledge the commitment of the following who put there heart and soul into making this a reality. Cathy Delmar, Eddie Burke, Vincent Flannelly.
Sean Delmar, President
“I thought there was a chance these breeds could go out of existence,” Delmar said. “I thought the Government should take some responsibility. We wanted to convince them these dog breeds are part of the patchwork quilt of the Irish people.”
This exciting success required a lot of initiatives over 10 years, Delmar noted. The small group of folks involved did demonstrations, paraded dogs at schools, had dogs on “chat shows” on TV.
“We built up a portfolio so we had something to show the government, not just an idea,” Delmar said. “We created a heritage weekend revolving around dogs. Even hawking with setters in the midland bogs. People learned a lot about Irish breeds. The general populace is now more aware.”
The Irish Kennel Club was only the national body that made the application. So much enthusiasm and work done was from a handful of devoted fanciers, Delmar said.
“Dogs developed because of working ability originally,” Delmar observed. “Ireland has the Irish Wolfhound and Kerry Beagle, Red setter, Red and white setter and Water spaniel. In the terrier group we have Kerry Blue, Irish, Glen of Imaal, Soft Coated Wheaten.”
Purebred dogs are history and art
Wolfhounds are one of the ancient symbols of Ireland along with the shamrock and harp. Kerry beagle are a hunting pack unique to Ireland. During the potato famine in Ireland, ships carrying refugees to the US, took Kerry beagles with them. Delmar expects these dogs could be found behind coonhounds in the US.
Romantic figures in Irish history hunted on horseback with hawks and setters, using nets before guns were invented.
Delmar’s telling of the rich tapestry of Irish history, includes Grace O’Malley — one of the earliest known female pirates, born around 1530 in Ireland and growing up to lead a 20-ship fleet. Her contribution to the development of the Irish Water Spaniel was the connection to her incursions on the Iberian Peninsula.
“We just undersell everything we do,” Delmar said. “We don’t spend enough time telling people that what you get with pedigree dogs is predictable qualities, predictable characteristics. Don’t get that in crossbreds. Can be great dogs. They might have one or two of the qualities. But it’s a lucky get. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.”