Everybody’s Irish?

posted on March 01, 2018 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

As March arrives, this means St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner.  On this one day, “everyone is Irish”.  Is this true for dogs too?  Some dogs, such as the Irish Wolfhound and the Irish Setter, clearly have an Irish background.  Other dogs clearly don’t, such as the Belgian Malinois, Portuguese Water Dog, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, English Springer Spaniel or English Cocker Spaniel.  So where do the top 10 dogs in the United States (as noted by the AKC) come from?

  1.  Labrador Retriever:  The modern lab likely originated in Canada, in Newfoundland and Labrador.  They were transported back to England, and were used by fisherman to help swim ropes ashore.
  2. German Shepherd Dog:  As the name suggests, German Shepherds originate in Germany.  Originally GSDs were bred to herd sheep, but their intelligence and trainability have lead to other roles in military and police work as well as assistance type jobs.
  3. Golden Retriever:  The golden retriever can trace it’s roots back to Scotland.  They may have some ties to Russian herding dogs, but have mainly been bred to be gun dogs.  However, they too are easily trainable and have found jobs as assistance pets, drug and bomb sniffing dogs, and as search and rescue dogs.
  4. Bulldog:  Bulldogs originate in England.  They were used in bull baiting, until this practice was outlawed in 1835.  Now their popularity is almost exclusively as companions.
  5. Beagle:  Beagles also originate in England.  They were bred to hunt rabbits, and are considered scent hounds.  They are often used as tracking and detection dogs.
  6. French Bulldog:  Frenchies have both English and French roots-the modern breed is a mix of English bulldogs and French terriers.  Because they often have breathing issues, Frenchies are not usually used as working dogs, but instead enjoy the life of luxury being pets.
  7. Poodle:  Standard poodles have a bit of contested history, with most people believing they have French origins, but there are some that think they have German ancestry.  Wherever they originated from, poodles were originally used as duck hunting dogs.  Their intelligence and excellent sense of smell has led to other uses such as truffle retrieval, assistance dogs, acting/circus performers, and herding and tracking.  Miniature poodles are able to do many of these same tasks, but toy poodles have been bred to mainly be companions.
  8. Rottweiler: Rottweilers originate from Germany.  Their German name translates to “butcher’s dog”.  This is because these dogs were used as herding dogs and to pull carts of meat to the market.  Today Rottweilers are most commonly found as companion dogs.
  9. Yorkshire Terrier:  Yorkies originated in Yorkshire, England, to be used to hunt rats in textile mills.  They are most commonly found as companions nowadays.
  10. Boxer:  Boxers originated in Germany.  They were originally used in hunting, and have found uses as message carriers by the military.  They are mostly kept as companions, though some are used as assistance dogs or police dogs.

As you can see, there are a variety of origins for the most common dogs in the US, but I think we can all agree that for one day each year, everyone is, indeed, Irish.

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