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As you don green getups and toast to St. Patrick, take a minute to think of all the wonderful gifts that the Emerald Isle has given us.
Its native species includes the good-natured Connemara pony and the easygoing Galway sheep. And don’t forget the gorgeous Irish
dog breeds we now love on this side of the pond, from the
Irish Setter to the
Glen of Imaal Terrier.
Check out this gallery of our favorite Irish animals, and let us know which ones you're celebrating this St. Patrick's Day.
Nick Ridley, Animal Photography
You can spot this pretty canine a mile away, but did you know that the beautiful Irish Setter wasn't always a solid red dog? The earliest records of the breed (from about 400 years ago) refer to a red and white setting dog — two colors that are easy for hunters to see in the field. By the time dog shows came along in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, solid red setters became the fashion.
Galway sheep have been grazing in the fields of western Ireland since the late seventeenth century. With their easygoing demeanor and long life span, these sheep are a great addition to any flock.
St. Patrick might be celebrated for casting all the snakes out of Ireland, but he did leave one reptile behind — the common lizard. While the scaly creature can be found throughout the U.K., the common lizard is the only species of reptile that’s native to Ireland.
Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
The Glen of Imaal Terrier's name comes from an isolated valley in Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains, where the terrier originated. The dog's history begins in the 1570s, when Flemish mercenary soldiers came to the valley with their dogs, who eventually mated with the local Irish canines.
If not for dog shows, the Glen of Imaal Terrier would still probably remain hidden in the remote mountains. It wasn’t until 1934 that the Irish Kennel Club finally recognized the breed. And we are so lucky that they did!
Carl Morrow / Alamy
The Irish hare may look like a tiny little thing, but he's accomplished some pretty impressive feats — like surviving the most recent ice age. According to the Hare Preservation Trust, the species took refuge in an ice-free, tundra-like landscape in southern Ireland.
Nowadays, the russet brown-colored hare can be found in regions with tall plants and rich vegetation, which provide food and shelter that protect them from predators.
The Connemara pony is one of Ireland's equine gifts to the world. This is the largest of the pony breeds, standing at 12.2 to 14.2 hands high, according to the Connemara Pony Breeders Society of Ireland. They are known to be athletic animals with good-natured dispositions.
Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The unusual-looking Irish Water Spaniel is covered with red curls everywhere besides his "rat tail" and his smooth face. His coat is naturally oily to repel water and keep the skin underneath dry, even after the hunting dog has been in the water.
The dog who has the best claim to being the first modern Irish Water Spaniel was named Boatswain. He lived from 1834 to 1852, which was an incredibly long time for dogs back then!
This cow breed should be proud to be the only surviving domestic livestock native to Northern Ireland, according to the Irish Moiled Cattle Society. It's a red, medium-sized, hornless breed that's marked by a white line on its back, plus red ears and a red nose. Its name is derived from the Gaelic word maol, which means "brow of a hill" — referring to the cow's rounded head.
The Kerry bog pony has quite an apt moniker — the equine originates from the bogs of County Kerry in Southwest Ireland. At a mere 10 to 12 hands, the small pony is a light-footed breed that’s known for its unique gait.
According to the Kerry Bog Cooperative Society of Ireland, the Kerry bogs were once known as hobbies because Gaelic-speaking locals used to call out “hup, hup” as a way to call horses in from the farmyard.
Known for his striking blue coat, the Kerry Blue Terrier hails from Ireland’s County Kerry, where the breed was developed more than a century ago to do everything from herding sheep and cattle to hunting and retrieving small game and birds.
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