Kerry Blue Terrier: A Dog with a Big Presence

kerry blue terrier

Agile, active, and scrappy, with the quintessential terrier spirit and energy, the Kerry Blue terrier is undoubtedly a true terrier!

As one of the larger terrier breeds, this magnificent dog is much beloved in their native Ireland, where they are known as the Irish Blue terriers.

Distinguishable by its soft, dense slate blue-grey coat, this dog is well developed, muscular, has a powerful bone structure, and is a guaranteed head turner wherever they are seen.

Certainly, no pushover, the Kerry Blue, bred initially as a working dog, has a personality all of its own.

But as with all dog breeds, this dog comes with some challenges, which you need to be aware of if you are considering buying into this breed.

Having said that, let’s look at what makes the Kerry Blue terrier a great family companion.

Kerry Blue Terrier

About the Breed

kerry blue terrier breeders

Originally bred to be working dogs hunting small game, such as rats, foxes, otters, badgers, and rabbits, the muscular Irish Blue Terrier still retains that strong prey drive today.

In fact, this breed which is now spread out around the world is used for a variety of tasks, such as herding sheep and cattle and as companion and guard dogs.

Loyal and faithful Kerry Blues make great family pets and are happiest being with the people they love and participating in family activities.

They are known to be gentle with children, good-natured with people, and make a good watchdog to boot.

But be advised that this dog breed is downright mean to other dogs and can be prone to aggression, so early socialization and training are essential.

And although the Kerry Blue terrier is not as vocal as other dogs when it comes to barking, its utility terrier nature makes it prone to chasing, chewing and digging, so owners need to be extra vigilant.

Vital Stats

  • Height: 17.5 to 19.5 inches at the withers (shoulder)
  • Weight: 26-33 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Energy Level: High energy levels (they are terriers, after all)
  • Trainability: Independent streak but easily trainable at an early stage
  • Dog Type: Terrier work dog breeds
  • Shedding: Low shedding, so regular grooming is required
  • Breed Status: Distinctly uncommon breed

History of Kerry Blue Terrier

Rich in folklore and history, the true origins of the Irish Blue terrier are shrouded in mystery.

Some believe the romantic story of a blue-colored dog swimming ashore from a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland which mated with local Wheaten terriers producing the Kerry Blue.

While others believe Kerry Blue terriers were first observed in the mountains of County Kerry in Ireland, which led to the naming of the breed.

Another suggestion of the breed’s origins suggests that the Wheaten terrier was crossed with the Bedlington Terrier, with some Irish Wolfhound or Irish Terrier bloodlines thrown into the mix.

kerry blue dog

And there has even been mention made of the extinct Gadhar herding dog as another possible lineage making up the Kerry family tree.

But what is known is that the first literary reference to the breed was made as far back as 1847, when it was used as a working dog. 

In fact, aggressiveness was intentionally bred into Kerry Blues for early dog shows when the Irish Kennel Club required each entrant to pass ‘gameness’ tests, of which one of these tests included catching rabbits before being judged.

This, in turn, earned Kerry Blue the nickname “Blue Devil.”

Since then, conscientious breeders have worked hard to tone down the aggressive streak intentionally bred into the breed.

But the history of Kerry Blue doesn’t end there.

 National Dog of Ireland

In the early 1900s, Michael Collins, an Irish patriot who owned a Kerry Blue named Convict 224, introduced legislation to have the Irish Blue terrier recognized as the National Dog of Ireland.

Unfortunately, Collins was murdered before the legislation could be passed with interest in the initiative weaning after his death.

In fact, the first show of the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier is credited with bringing both those fighting for and against the Irish Republic together outside official curfew hours.

This event was so successful that it led directly to the foundation of the Irish Kennel Club, with the Kerry Blue terrier being the first dog breed it registered.

Kerry Blue Terrier Characteristics

kerry blue terriers

The Kerry Blue is all terrier: strong-willed, highly spirited, feisty, resourceful, alert, and always ready for action.

They make excellent companion dogs due to their affectionate nature. But having said that, due to its strong-headedness, this breed of dog requires an equally strong-willed owner who they cannot walk all over and obedience training.

In fact, a Kerry Blue is not recommended for first-time owners.

This breed of dog is not only intelligent but packed full of personality and is equally at home relaxing on the couch next to you as they are working on a farm herding sheep.

They are active, so do require a great deal of exercise and adequate space in which to play.

But overall, the Blue terrier makes a great canine companion for owners looking for a breed with a bit of pep to them.

Kerry Blue Terrier Appearance

Distinguishable by their blue with a grey tint coat, V-shaped ears, long head, and mop of hair that falls over their eyes, the Kerry Blue is a breed that is guaranteed to turn heads.

So, with that said, let’s look at some of the Kerry Blue terriers defining characteristics. 


When fully grown, the Kerry Blue is between 17 to 19 inches in size, with adult males generally larger than their female counterparts.

dogs blue


In adulthood, the male Blue terrier should weigh about 40 pounds, while the female typically weighs proportionally less. And just like any other breed of dog, they should not be overfed, as carrying additional weight can cause severe health problems. 

kerry blue terrier puppy


Surprisingly soft to the hand, the Blue Kerry coat is wavy and dense with no undercoat and is non-shedding, leading many to refer to them as a hypoallergenic breed.

kerry blue terrier grooming


Perhaps one of the Kerry Blue Terrier’s most remarkable features is its coat’s color. A combination of blue and gray or gray and blue tint makes this breed of dog unmistakable.

In fact, Kerry Blue puppies are often born black and transition through a combination of dark blue, brown, and gray until they reach the unmistakable blue-grey color at about 18 months.

blue gray dog


The Kerry Blue terrier’s coloring is generally uniform throughout its body, with the exception of darker shading around its head, feet, tail, and muzzle. However, some dogs may also have small white markings.

Life Expectancy

With the right care and attention, these feisty terriers can live up to 12 or 15 years of age.

Kerry Blue Terrier Temperament

blue dog breed

True to their terrier roots Kerry Blues are energetic dogs who are skilled hunters with an inquisitive nature. In fact, they love nothing more than nosing around and exploring the great outdoors.

Intelligent and full of character, they enjoy being around people, although due to their guarding nature, they can be wary of strangers until won over.

As people-orientated dogs, they make affectionate and loyal companions, although sadly, and this bears repeating, they do not tolerate other family dogs and pets so well.

Kerry Blues are good pets for families with children as they are known for their playfulness and affectionate nature.

Kerry Blue Terrier Health and Care

Like all other breeds of dogs, the Kerry Blue Terrier is prone to certain health conditions. And it goes without saying that this dog, with its distinctive coat, requires more care than most.

puppy kerry blue terrier


Despite being a healthy breed of dog, it is recommended by the National Breed Club that breeders should carry out hip and eye evaluations and DNA testing to screen for hereditary diseases in their Kerry Blue terrier puppies.

So before purchasing or adopting a Kerry pup, ask for these health clearance certificates, which should be available from a responsible breeder.

Some other health conditions aside from hip dysplasia and eye problems that may affect the breed include Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy (PNA), which, although rare, is an inherited nerve disorder.

Additionally, Kerry Blues can also suffer from blood clotting disorders such as Factor XI deficiency and von Willebrand’s Disease, which in some cases, such as after surgery, may cause severe bleeding in the dog.

While other health issues to be aware of are skin cysts, ear canal infections, hypothyroidism, and cancer.


The Kerry Blue, with its distinctive blue-gray coat, requires above-average care in respect of grooming requirements to look its best.

Although this breed’s coat is considered non-shedding, it is high maintenance and needs regular brushing to avoid matting of the coat. Additionally, it is recommended that the dog is bathed and trimmed every four to six weeks.

In fact, many owners opt to hire professional groomers to trim the Kerry Blue, but as an uncommon breed, it can be difficult to secure a breeder with experience in the correct Kerry Blue trim.

big terrior

If you are unsure how to trim the dog, go online and head over to the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club, an excellent source for guides, videos, and charts on the subject.

In addition, another area that requires constant care is the ears of Kerry Blue terriers. As due to their excessively hairy ear canals, they are prone to chronic ear infections.

A weekly examination of the dog’s ears is recommended to check for redness, bad odor, swelling, or discharge. Other physical symptoms of ear infection include head shaking and ear scratching by the dog.

Other grooming habits required for the Kerry Blue terrier is the brushing the teeth two to three times a week to remove tartar buildup and bacteria and trimming their nails once or twice a month if required.

Kerry Blue Terrier Food And Diet

 With their muscular and compact bodies, the Kerry Blue terrier, as a medium-sized dog, has the same nutritional requirements similar to dog breeds of that size.

And as an active dog breed, Kerry Blues requires regular meals and a steady diet of high-quality meat and vegetables to meet all their nutritional requirements.

And generally speaking, to prevent obesity, the amount of dry dog food they consume should be in proportion to their activity level.

Therefore, as an adult dog, the Kerry Blue terrier should be fed one and a half to two cups of high-quality dog food daily. While a Kerry Blue puppy by six months of age will require two meals a day.

And Kerry Blues, just like some other dogs, may suffer from allergies, so a dog food formula that is free of fillers is recommended.

Space Requirements for Kerries

As a breed bred to be agile, powerful, athletic, and chase, the Kerry Blue requires space and lots of it. 

The ideal is a high secure fence around the yard for the dog to play in when outside.

So if a potential owner has neither the appropriate space nor inclination to exercise the dog consistently, then the Kerry Blue may not be the right dog breed for them.

Kerry Blue Terrier Training and Exercise

kerry blue terrier excercise

As mentioned previously, the Kerry Blue needs plenty of exercise, but with its predisposition towards being aggressive with other dogs, proper socialization and training are essential.

Early socialization as a pup to different people, other dogs, sounds, sights, and experiences is vital to ensure the dog grows up well-rounded and socialized.

In fact, the Kerry Blue will make an ideal jogging or hiking partner but needs to be kept on a leash at all times. As not only are they apt to pick a fight with other dogs they are also likely to chase after a small game they perceive as prey.

The Blue terrier dog breed is smart and intelligent and requires physical and mental stimulation. And it is, for this reason, they enjoy activities they were initially bred for, such as dog sports, herding training, and a barn hunt.

Although a quick study with a willingness to please, this breed requires plenty of patience and firmness when being trained due to their disposition of being strong-headed and strong-willed.

Suitable Accessories for Kerry Blue Terrier

It goes without saying that one of the most important accessories for this breed of dog with its distinctive coat is a shampoo and conditioner that contains the correct ingredients to maintain and nourish the Kerry Blues coat.

Note that human shampoo is not recommended as it does not contain the right pH balance.

Kerry blue puppy

And, of course, the correct grooming equipment, such as grooming mitts and brushes for daily brushing of the dog’s coat, are essential tools.

Additionally, a sturdy collar made from leather or nylon with a quick-release clasp for safety will also be required.

While another option that is fast gaining popularity is the Halo GPS wireless fence collar with a training program designed by well-known dog behaviorist specialist Cesar Milan and the Fi collar that acts both as a location and activity tracker.

Similarly, due to this breed of dog being muscular and athletic, a dog harness is a good option for exercising the Kerry Blue terrier.

In fact, most veterinarians recommend using a harness as they come equipped with safety locks, are comfortable, and enable firmer control over the dog.

And lastly, as Kerry Blues have a tendency towards chewing, an elevated dog bed made from durable PVC-coated fabric over a steel frame should do the trick.

 Fun Facts of Kerry Blue Terrier

Did you know that despite winning Crufts, the prestigious UK dog show in 2000, the Kerry Blue terrier is still considered a distinctly uncommon and ‘unfashionable’ breed?

Here are some more fun facts about this sturdy, feisty terrier.

Murky Origins

One train of thought about the dog’s origins is that Kerry Blue was developed by the peasant folk of Ireland in answer to the nobles protecting their grounds by using Irish Wolfhounds.

Irish Wolfhounds were used to not only help protect the hunting grounds but to see off poachers, and the Kerry Blue was used to help the peasant folk silently hunt on the noble’s hunting grounds without alerting the Irish Wolfhounds.

First Appearance in the US

As such, no one is sure how the Kerry Blue terrier first came to the US. But in 1922, this breed of terrier was exhibited for the first time at the Westminister Kennel Club Show in the US. 

And two years later, in 1924, the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. While in 1926, a group of fanciers of the Kerry Blue met in New York, and so the Kerry Blue Terrier Club of America came into being.

Relationship With Kids

grooming kerry blue terrier

Despite being strong-willed and feisty, the Kerry Blue Terrier is very much a people dog.

In fact, they love to be a part of family activities with family members and are known to have a strong affinity for children.

They are playful and can make good playmates for older children who have been taught to be respectful of dogs.

But having said that, a close eye needs to be kept on them, especially around much younger children and toddlers who may squeeze their ears or antagonize them. 

Kerry Blues are terriers, after all, and like many terriers, they may not tolerate this kind of nonsense and may be quick to react to teasing by growling or snapping. 

 Rescue Groups for Adoption

blue coat dog

Sadly, despite being a rarer breed of dog, many Kerry Blue terriers find themselves in animal shelters or rescue groups up for adoption.

Usually, this is because pet owners have bought them without a clear understanding of the breed’s requirements.

And worth reiterating is that the Kerry Blue requires more time and maintenance than most other dog breeds due to its grooming and exercise requirements.

They also require space and plenty of it as well as enough exercise.

But if your heart is set on this magnificent dog breed, then head on over to The United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club, where you can source rescue groups with dogs up for adoption or registered breeders.


Are Kerry Blue Terriers Rare?

The Kerry Blue is a rarer breed of dog, so puppies may take a while to source. There are, however, a few breeders in the US who should be able to answer any questions you have regarding the pup’s parentage, health, and history.

On average, you can expect to pay up to $2,000 for a Kerry Blue pup.

Is This Dog Breed Good to Keep in Apartments?

No. A Kerry Blue as an active dog requires a securely fenced garden.

This breed of dog is so agile it can jump, squeeze through or dig under fencing that is not secure enough if in pursuit of the quarry that has caught its eye.

What Is the Difference Between a Kerry Blue and an Irish Terrier?

While both breeds originated in Ireland, there are some subtle differences between the two breeds.

Irish terriers are considered more relaxed and family-friendly than their cousin, the Kerry Blue terrier. 

What Is the Frequency of Getting Bitten by a Kerry Blue Terrier?

There is a low chance of the Kerry Blue terrier dog biting somebody as they are generally calm and stable.

But as always, it’s important not to anger a dog or have it around strangers until thoroughly socialized.


Feisty and funny, loyal and loving. This is the Kerry Blue Terrier who, with the right care and attention, will fast become a cherished family pet.

And while they have quite the reputation for provoking fights with other dogs when possible, with the correct socialization from a young age, this great breed of dog is more intent on pleasing their human owners than being aggressive.

As with all dogs, never buy a Kerry Blue puppy from a puppy mill or an irresponsible breeder.

 In fact, if you have your heart set on this breed of dog, look for a reputable breeder who can advise you on your pup’s temperament.

And above all, if in a position to do so, adopt and don’t shop!

Related Guide:
Sue owns three rescues: Sherman, an Olde English Bulldogge cross Boerboel, Maddison, an Africanis, and Boris, an American Staffordshire Terrier. Having owned horses, dogs, cats, and even an African grey parrot over the years, Sue is a passionate advocate for animal rights and welfare, having experienced firsthand the trauma some of her rescues had been exposed to. As a freelance journalist and content writer for over 20 years, her goal has been to craft informative articles on responsible pet ownership and care, both in print and online. When not behind her computer, Sue can be found taking long walks on the beach with her dogs or hanging out in the garden with them.

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