There is little doubt that Wheaten Terriers have been around in Ireland for hundreds of years. As far back as 1785 there are records of numerous Wheatens in Co. Kerry. In Rawdon Lee's book “Modern Dogs” Mr.W.C . Bennett cites his bitch of 1864 as wheaten coloured with a very open coat and a long ,level head with little or no stop. He claimed to have had her strain for thirty years and that his family had bred this type of terrier for generations. The breed has not changed that much over the years in that they are easily recognisable from pictures of the past.
We can also see evidence of our love of Wheatens in paintings such as “The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child” Painted by Frederic William Burton when he was 25. Burton was born in Corofin Co. Clare and spent time in Co. Kerry and Connemara Co. Galway all of which are in the West Coast of Ireland where it is believed open coated Wheaten Terrier thrived. “The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child” was the most famous of his Western pictures, it depicte a scene of great tragedy, the impact of the drowning is clearly visible on the faces of all ages who have gathered upon hearing of the drowning and came to sympathize and mourn. It is believed Burton chose to have people of all ages to Illustrate the circle of life. Prominently in the painting is a Wheaten Terrier which shows us how important dogs were to the Irish and also that this type of dog was typical of the time period 1841.
Even though the Wheaten is generally accepted to be the oldest native terrier it was not officially recongised by the irish Kennel Club until 1937. In 1932 a Wheaten Terrier distinguished itself at a field trial to such an extent that several people were inspired to rescue the breed and bring it out of the shadows. Dr Gerard Pierse took up the wheaten cause in 1934, according to him the Wheaten developed in the west coast of Ireland as a general all purpose dog. Unfortunately proper records had not been kept and a lot of cross breeding meant that individuals varied greatly in type but all had true wheaten colour and a soft silky coat.
Dr. G.J.Pierse and Mr. P. Blake founded the “Softcoated Wheaten Terrier Club” they made several applications to the Irish Kennel Club for recognition which the finally received after they dropped the use of “Irish Wheaten Terrier” as the breeds name. in 1937 the Wheatens were invited to parade at St. Patricks day show. In 1938 a member of the committee Veterinary surgeon Mr.John D. Whitty had the honour of judging ten dogs at St. Patricks day show. His Critique makes interesting reading and can be found in Maureen Holmes book The Softcoated Wheaten Terrier. The chairman of the Irish Kennel Club Mr Henry B. Fottrell wrote in his review “The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers attracted interest as representatives of an old Irish breed. The ten exhibits were not very impressive but no doubt time will be needed for improvement in quality and numbers”
Wheatens first crossed the Irish sea to the UK in 1939 and 1940 but none of their progeny were registered . Mrs A. K. Vardey imported 3 in 1943 and with the help of Dr. Pierse convinced the Kennel Club to open a breed register . in 1955 the Softcoated Wheaten Club of Great Britian was formed. But they did not get Challenge Certificates for the breed until 1975 where Mrs. Hermione Warner Hill had the honor of judging them at Crufts.
In 2009 Ireland hosted the European Winners Show in the RDS. During this weekend the breed club show was held at the National Show Centre where the Irish Softcoated Wheaten Terriers had a record entry of 70 dogs and Mr. Joe Dean had the honour of judging them on this occasion. We regularly have twenty Wheatens at our shows with several passionate and dedicated owners.
The Irish Softcoated Wheaten Terrier club welcomes members from both home and aboard, we have several members who care deeply for the breed and without these people today and the pioneer of the past we would not have the beautiful dog that we have now.