Information about the Glen of Imaal Terrier

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a breed of dog of the terrier category and one of four Irish terrier breeds. It is sometimes called the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier or the Wicklow Terrier, and the name of the breed is often shortened by fanciers to just Glen.

The breed originates in the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, Ireland. The breed was recognized first by the Irish Kennel Club in 1934 and most recently by the American Kennel Club in 2004.

The breed came into existence during the reign of Elizabeth I, who hired French and Hessian mercenaries to put down civil unrest in Ireland. After the conflict, many of these soldiers settled in the Wicklow area. They brought with them their low-slung hounds, which they bred with the local terrier stock, developing the Glen of Imaal Terrier as a general working dog for herding and eradicating vermin such as foxes, badger, and otter. When hunting, Glens work “mute to ground,” silently digging out their quarry, as they are a strong dog and not a sounding terrier.

According to Irish lore, which is repeated by most description of the breed including the AKC’s, Glen of Imaal Terriers were also used as a turnspit dog to turn spits of meat over a fire for cooking. Actual evidence for this is scarce, and engravings of this sort of dog from the 19th century do not show much resemblance to the modern Glen.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is one of the rarest breeds of dog (in the U.S., registered animals number about a thousand) and the least-known Irish terrier breed.

Due to its short legs, the Glen of Imaal Terrier considered a dwarf breed. Its body is more substantial than might be expected from its height, particularly compared to other small terriers; a typical adult Glen weighs about 36 pounds and stands 14″ tall at the withers. The breed standards specify a height of 12″ to 14″ and a weight of “approximately” 35 pounds for males and “somewhat less” for females, with a length-to-height ratio of 5:3.

The breed has a medium-length double coat that is harsh on top and soft below. The coat may be wheaten, blue, or brindle in color. Like other terriers, the Glen of Imaal terrier does not moult, but needs to be groomed on a regular basis to keep the coat in good condition and free of matting. Grooming includes periodically “stripping” excess hair from the coat; this “dead” hair pulls out easily and painlessly with tools such as a stripping knife or a pumice stone.

Glens have a large head, with rose or half-prick ears; short, bowed legs; and a topline that rises from the shoulder to the tail. The shoulders, chest, and hips are sturdy and muscular, and feet are turned out. With three growing stages, a Glen can take up to four years to reach full maturity.

Wheaten Glen of Imaal puppies often have black highlights in their fur. Usually, but not always, the black fades as their adult coat grows in.

Historically, the breed’s tail was typically docked, leaving it just long enough to provide a good grip for pulling the dog out of a hole. Docking is still common in the United States, but is no longer the usual practice in most of Europe. In the UK, working terriers can still be shown with docked tails, but many countries ban docking for showing completely. In Ireland, docked dogs may be shown without restriction.

Generally very strong and healthy, Glens can live in excess of 15 years. A genetic test is available for progressive retinal atrophy, which results in blindness starting at about 6 years of age, and breeders are now using this test to evaluate potential breedings, though numbers affected are very low. Heart problems are virtually nonexistent, with only one recorded case. Skin allergies are occasionally seen and may be caused by diet or by allergies to flea or mite bites. After the age of 12 months, the breed generally does best on a low-protein diet.

Glen of Imaal terriers are energetic and tenacious, although on the docile and quiet side for a terrier. Bred to be mute to ground, they are disqualified from trials if they sound at the quarry. Their deep and authoritative bark is similar to that of a larger dog, making them an excellent burglar deterrent.

However, like other terrier breeds, these dogs can be stubborn; they are highly intelligent and require an owner with common sense to train them. They are typically fearless and loyal, and are superb with people, but can be aggressive if not properly trained, especially if provoked by other dogs.

As a working terrier, their main function is to silently draw badger or fox from the earth. They also can have an excellent nose and can be used to hunt vermin such as mink and rats. They can work well in water. They do have a high prey drive and need to be properly socialized with other animals, particularly pets that they might mistake for prey, such as cats and rabbits.