Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Soft Coated Wheaten TerrierSoft Coated Wheaten TerrierA game terrier with 'an open coat' has been in existence in the South and South Western parts of Ireland since the earliest settlements[1]. Today, although Soft Coated Wheaten is playful and has boundless energy, he is quite easy to train. These features, combined with his non-shedding, honey coloured silken coat makes him an ideal companion for modern society.

History of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier 1841Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier 1841

Ancient Irish people lived by Brehons Laws which date back to 600 AD.These laws were developed from customs which had been passed on orally from one generation to the next and administered by people called the Brehons. In other words, the Emerald Isle once had its own unique judicial system which survived until the 1600's when it was superseded by English common law. Archaeological evidence proves that the terrier type dogs used for killing vermin described in these Laws were open coated, tallish terriers, probably the forerunners of today's Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier[4].

This is confirmed by portion of this wonderful 1841 painting by Frederick William Burton of a fisherman's drowned child. Like the Irish Terrier and the Kerry Blue, it is believed that the predecessors of what we know today as the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier have been owned by Irish peasants for centuries, using them as general farm dogs, cattle herders, vermin killers and generally protecting small, badly fenced plots of land[2].

Soft Coat with two-day-old pupsSoft Coat with two-day-old pups

By the 1800's, the Soft Coated Terrier was more closely allied with the forerunner of the Kerry Blue. This became more evident in 1920 when the Kerry Blue became a pure breed in its own right. Today, when one looks at Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppies, they are born dark chocolate to red with dark masks on their faces which usually lightens as the coat matures. Some dark shading may be present on the ears and around the mouth, even as an adult.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier becomes a Pure Breed

Soft Coated Wheaten TerrierSoft Coated Wheaten Terrier

In 1932, a Wheaten Terrier attracted so much attention by its performance at a Field Day for Terriers, some onlookers decided to campaign to have it recognised as a Pure Breed by the Irish Kennel Club which, by then had separated from the Kennel Club of England. A Committee was set up and a scale of points drawn up. Like the Kerry Blue, after much argument about its name, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was agreed upon and accepted by that Committee. Despite the Soft Coated Wheaten probably being historically older than the Kerry Blue, it would be 1937 before it finally became recognised as a pure breed.

History of Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers in Australia

If any Soft Coated Wheatens or Kerry Blues arrived with our early settlers as documented in the history of the Irish Terrier, there is no record of any such arrivals. Australia's first Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier arrived in NSW in 1979. This was a bitch Ch Maddalo Senorita Poquito by Eng Ch Finchwood Wellington who went to Brian Drowse and Graham Kerr. These were followed by some American imports with which they bred under the Anubis prefix[5a].

The Kerry Blue and Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Today

At a glance the Kerry Blue and Soft Coated Terrier may look the same breed with just a different coat and colour. But decades of selective breeding to a Breed Standard has now made each of these quite distinct. With their basic construction typical of the long legged terriers, their specific breed characteristics are summarised in the table below:

Kerry Blue Soft Coated Wheaten
Body Proportions Short coupled, indicating a shorter bodied dog than the Soft Coated Wheaten Measuring from withers to base of tail the same or slightly less than withers to ground
Kerry Blue TerrierKerry Blue Terrier Soft Coated Wheaten TerrierSoft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Temperament Disciplined gameness that makes a showy, impressive dog but must be taught socializing skills especially with other dogs Good tempered and easy to adapt to social situations with both humans and other dogs
Size With an ideal height of 46-48 cms (18-19 ins) and weight of 15-17 kg (33-37 lbs), the Kerry is slightly smaller than the Soft Coated Wheaten With an ideal height of 46-49 cms (18-19.5 ins) and weight of 16-20.5 kg (35-45 lbs), the Soft Coated is slightly larger than the Kerry Blue
Kerry Blue TerrierKerry Blue Terrier Soft Coated Wheaten TerrierSoft Coated Wheaten Terrier


Skull long and lean with slight stop Skull moderately long with medium width, muzzle not longer than skull and well defined stop and parallel head planes
Ears Forward carriage like button ears but set not too high Thin leathers folding level with skull with side placement so the front edge lies close to cheek
Eyes Small to medium and dark as possible Medium size and dark hazel set under strong brows
Mouth Normal scissors bite with gums and roof of mouth black Normal scissors bite and black tight lips
Kerry Blue TerrierKerry Blue Terrier Soft Coated Wheaten TerrierSoft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Coat and Colour The Kerry is a blue coloured dog with a soft silky plentiful coat that stands off from the body lending itself to trimming and shaping The Soft Coat is a good clear wheaten coloured dog with a soft silky wavy coat that should not stand off from the body but should flow and fall naturally in waves and not be excessively trimmed
Pigmentation Black nose, gums, roof of mouth and nails Black lips, eye rims, nose and nails


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References and Further Reading

[1] Maureen Holmes 'The Softcoated Wheaten Terrier' Self published 1990 Printed by Racmo, Meppel ISBN 90-9004200-8 Chapter One 'In Obscurity' Page 1

[2] Mr W J Cotten in Rawdon B. Lee's, "Modern Dogs" of Great Britain and Ireland (Third Edition) London:Horace Cox, "Field" Office, Windsor House, Bream's Buildings, E.C. 1903 Chapter IX, Pages 229 - 230

[3] Wyn Newson,, 'The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia' The Kerry Blue Terrier published by OzDog Newspaper 1997, 'The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier' Page 279

[4] 'The Native Dogs of Ireland' published by the Irish Kennel Club, Dublin ISBN 0-9509998-1-4 The Soft Coated Terrier Page 79