Historically, dogs in Ireland weren't pets but animals with a purpose, needed to perform essential jobs alongside people. Irish wolfhounds killed the wolves that threatened property and livestock, while Irish setters helped locate and "set" birds for hunters.
Historically, dogs in Ireland weren’t pets but animals with a purpose, needed to perform essential jobs alongside people.
Irish wolfhounds killed the wolves that threatened property and livestock, while Irish setters helped locate and “set” birds for hunters. Terriers burrowed into holes to catch vermin, their owners pulling them out by their docked tails.
Visitors to the weekend’s Dublin Irish Festival can meet several breeds of Irish dogs at the Celtic Canines area near the east entrance and see border collies in action during sheepherding demonstrations, taking place at the Greenfields Sports Area for the first time since 2010.
Some of the Celtic canines are familiar: The soft-coated wheaten terrier, once a farm dog, is now a common pet. Others, such as the Irish water spaniel and Glen of Imaal terrier, are among the rarer breeds in the United States.
About 40 dogs from Ohio and throughout the Midwest will visit the festival during the weekend, rotating every few hours to spare them from the heat and excessive petting.
Their owners will give a presentation every two hours to talk about breed characteristics and how a dog’s historical purpose can carry over to modern pets, said Jody Daulton, a North Side breeder of Glen of Imaal terriers.
Although “Glens” are sweet and laid-back, Daulton says, they need strong, commanding owners. She reminds prospective clients that, with the Glen’s short legs and large head and mouth, it was bred to kill badgers.
“The original purpose of the dog has a strong influence on how that dog is going to behave,” she said. “All of them have that (purpose) somewhere deep inside of them.”
Alan Miller owns border collies that fulfill that purpose daily as they round up sheep and cattle on his 160-acre farm in Bloomfield, Ky. In their first appearance at the Dublin Irish Festival, Miller’s dogs will herd sheep and ducks through an obstacle course as he narrates a series of demonstrations on Sunday.
During 400 years of breeding, the border collie instinct has been honed so that the dogs no longer act as predators to other animals. Instead, they have the assertiveness to herd a bull and the restraint to gently coerce the ducks.
The dogs are so responsive to Miller that he says he can adjust their speed and direction as easily as operating a remote-control toy. But he tries not to get in their way.
“A truly great handler allows the dog to work the sheep,” he said.