Kerry Blue Terriers: The Ultimate Guide on This Irish Breed

Alert, people-oriented, and smart. What’s not to love about the Kerry Blue Terrier?

May 26, 2024By Jessica Montes
kerry blue terriers ultimate guide

When someone mentions Ireland, you might think of leprechauns, lush green scenery, gorgeous cliffside views, and friendly locals. However, dog enthusiasts might connect the Emerald Isle to an iconic pup– the Kerry Blue Terrier. This energetic breed, with its fluffy, curly coat and lively personality is an example of a loyal farm dog turned lovable companion. Keep reading for more information about their humble origins, personality, and everything in between!

These Dogs Are Irish Natives


Kerry Blue Terrier
Photo by: American Kennel Club

The story of the Kerry Blue Terrier begins on the rugged shores of County Kerry in southwestern Ireland. These pups were developed in the 18th century by Irish farmers and hunters for versatility. They needed a dog that could guard homes, provide companionship, and help with cattle herding. Most importantly, they needed resilient hunting dogs that could chase game on land, in burrows, and in water. Kerry Blue Terriers hunted everything from rats to rabbits to birds to waterfowl and even larger game like otters and foxes. The result of this breeding was a loyal canine that was ready to assist its owners in any way possible.

While the exact ancestry of the Kerry Blue Terrier remains a bit of a mystery, it's believed that they are descendants of several terrier breeds, including the Irish Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, and possibly even the Bedlington Terrier. This mix of breeds likely contributed to the Kerry Blue's unique appearance and personality.

These Dogs Sport a Trademark Appearance and Fur

Kerry Blue
Photo by: American Kennel Club

Kerry Blue Terriers are known for their striking physical features. Their dense, curly, and water-resistant coat gives them a teddy bear-like appearance. Although the breed standard praises fur in several blue shades (which gives them their breed name), they also come in slate, gray, and black varieties. Surprisingly, their fur pattern at birth can darken or lighten as they reach adulthood. Because of their ancestors, a Kerry Blue’s fur might look more brown or black as a puppy before changing into the trademark blue.

In addition, these terriers have distinctive facial hair. Starting at the bridge of their nose, they grow an impressive beard and mustache combination that hangs past the chin. The bushy, wavy fur gives them a composed, sophisticated look. To complete their face, their sensitive eyes sit below a set of arched brows, and floppy ears add a bit of curiosity.

Grooming Requirements of the Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Grooming
Photo by: Kerries Helping Kerries

Any owner of a curly-coated breed can attest that the woolly fur might be fun to touch, but it also requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best. Weekly brushing with a slicker brush will prevent matting and tangles while being gentle on their coils. A complete grooming routine also means occasional trimming to maintain the breed's signature silhouette and keep their beards neat. Many Kerry Blue owners take their dogs to professional groomers a few times a year to keep their coats in peak condition.

In addition to taking care of their coats, Kerry Blues also need regular nail trimming and ear and teeth cleaning for their overall health. You can find online guides and tutorials for at-home grooming, or ask your vet or groomer for tips on the proper tools and techniques to make the experience comfortable and painless for your pup.

A Stubborn but Loyal Dog Breed

Kerry Blue Terrier Dog
​​Photo by: World Animal Foundation

There is much more to Kerry Blue Terriers than their sophisticated mustaches. This breed has generous energy levels and enough enthusiasm for hours of playtime. Known for their intelligence and independence, these dogs are quick learners but may also have a stubborn streak, so consistent training and positive reinforcement are key. The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes them as “alert, smart, and people-oriented.”

Despite their independent nature, Kerry Blues are incredibly loyal, affectionate furry friends with personalities as big as their hearts. They form strong bonds with their families and enjoy being involved in all aspects of their owners’ daily routines. Kerry Blue Terriers thrive on attention and social interaction and are happiest when they feel included, whether playing fetch in the park or cuddling on the couch.

Exercise and Training: What to Know

Kerry Blue Frisbee
Photo by: MC Glasgow

As high-energy canines, Kerry Blue Terriers require plenty of exercise to keep them happy and healthy. The Irish Kennel Club recommends these pups receive at least one hour of daily physical activity. Daily walks, playtime in an open area, and interactive games are all great ways to burn off their excess energy and satisfy their mental stimulation needs.

Because their ancestors were dogs with jobs, this breed must have a role or activity assigned to them. Training sessions that keep their minds engaged and active will keep their primal callings content. Owners can consider training them in obedience commands, agility courses, or barn hunts that bring out their vermin-catching origins. Together, exercise and training will keep their minds sharp and reduce destructive behavior associated with boredom.

The Kerry Blue Terrier Is a Talented Swimmer

Kerry Blue Terrier Beach
Photo by: Kerries Helping Kerries

As with other curly-coated breeds, the dogs developed this physical trait to help them adapt to aquatic activities. Kerry Blue Terriers have a water-resistant coat that repels liquid and provides insulation whenever they are in cold waters. This keeps their bodies warmer and makes hunting in colder temperatures more comfortable. In addition, their duck-like webbed feet make it easier for them to paddle and maneuver in lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water.

When Kerry Blues aren’t on the job, they can unwind by going for a swim. This can keep them cool on a hot day, let them exercise and burn energy through playtime, and create bonds with water-loving owners. Their muscular bodies, stamina, coat, and feet make them excellent swimmers who can keep up. Yet, it’s worth noting that not all dogs are natural swimmers, and they have to build their confidence in water before the fun begins.

These Dogs Are Rare Outside of Ireland

Kerry Blue Fac
Photo by: KellsenBerg Kerry Blue Terriers

Although Kerry Blue Terriers are beloved Irish dogs, they remain rare in other parts of the world compared to some other breeds. One possible reason for this scarcity is their specialized grooming requirements and the commitment required to properly care for their coats. However, for those who are willing to put in the time and effort, the rewards of sharing your life with a Kerry Blue Terrier are immeasurable.

Another potential explanation is their humble origins. Unlike other breeds, like the Irish Wolfhound that was associated with the noble families, Kerry Blue Terriers were developed by farmers and the so-called lower class. The social connotations could have prevented these pups from receiving the recognition they deserve and slightly decreased their popularity and exportation to other countries.

Even though they aren’t as well-known, they are a furry package of intelligence, charm, and loyalty that makes them fantastic animal companions.

Health Concerns of the Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier Exercise
​​Photo by: Seongbin Im

Although the overall breed is considered healthy, they are not immune to all diseases and illnesses. Kerry Blue Terriers are prone to some common health conditions that include hip dysplasia, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and certain skin conditions. The United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club (USKBTC) recommends hip evaluations to ensure the “ball and socket” hip joints have normal mobility. USKBTC also encourages owners to schedule eye screenings to identify cases of vision deterioration early on.

Regular veterinary check-ups, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise can help mitigate the risk of these and other health concerns, ensuring that your Kerry Blue Terrier enjoys a long, happy, and healthy life by your side. When purchasing from a breeder, ask for copies of the DNA testing to ensure the dog does not have any inherited health conditions. If tests have not been completed, contact your vet for genetic and health testing.

Other Irish Dog Breeds


Irish Red Setter
Photo by: Eddi Laumanns

As mentioned throughout the article, Kerry Blue Terriers are one of several dog breeds that call Ireland home. Irish Wolfhounds and the Kerry Blue’s ancestors, Irish Terriers and Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, are native to the Emerald Isle. Another signature Irish breed is the Irish Red Setter, with its gorgeous, sleek, auburn coat and playful personality. They are incredible additions to families because of their friendliness with strangers and their ability to get along well with children and other pets.

Then, there is the Irish Water Spaniel that shares the Kerry Blue’s adorably curly coat. However, this is where many of their similarities end. While the latter were used to hunt and retrieve waterfowl, Irish Water Spaniels thrive in aquatic activities so much that the word is in their name. In addition, Irish Water Spaniels only come in a deep, chocolatey coat, and they do not have the Terrier’s awesome facial hair. Regardless of how similar or different these breeds are, they share a bond to the lush island that lets them flourish.

The Kerry Blue Terrier Has Multiple Nicknames

Kerry Blue Terrier Curly
​​Photo by: KellsenBerg Kerry Blue Terriers

How one refers to these pups depends on location and historical anecdotes. Outside of Ireland, they were given the names Irish Blue Terriers or Kerry Blue Terriers by dog registries such as The Kennel Club in England and the AKC in the United States. Owners and enthusiasts have shortened it to Kerry Blue or Kerry. Within Ireland, they are simply Blue Terriers or the Irish equivalent, Brocaire Gorm.

Another early nickname for this breed was derived from their stellar hunting skills. When the Irish Kennel Club first began hosting dog shows in the early 1920s, participants had to pass a trial that involved catching rabbits, otters, and badgers. Kerry Blue Terriers excelled in this test so much that they were dubbed “Blue Devils.” Lastly, while not an official alias, these pups are affectionately called “Velcro dogs” because of how closely they stick to their owners.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.