The Glen of Imaal Terrier was developed in the 1800s in one of Ireland’s most remote valley regions, which explains why the breed is largely unknown even among dog fanciers. It descended from three other terrier breeds native to Ireland: the Kerry Blue, the Soft Coated Wheaten and the Irish terriers. Because evolution of the Glen of Imaal was until recently geographically isolated, much is actually known about its development. Sometime around 1570, Queen Elizabeth hired Flemish and Lowland soldiers to quell uprisings in Ireland. She offered them land in the largely barren mountains of the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, Ireland, as payment for their allegiance. The soldiers settled in that isolated region and brought their dogs with them. Among these was a low-slung, rough-coated hound purportedly of French descent, which subsequently cross-bred with indigenous Irish hounds and terrier-types.
Eventually, the settlers began to develop a particular type of terrier that could perform more than the traditional terrier tasks of dispatching vermin and hunting fox and badger. They wanted a specialized dog that also could work a “turnspit,” which was a large treadmill-like wheel attached to a pulley that in turn was connected to a rotisserie-like device over a fire or hearth. The terrier was put into the wheel, and when he started trotting, the spit turned and dinner was cooked or butter was churned. The Glen of Imaal Terrier became the perfect ratting and working dog in this remote corner of the world.
When dog shows became fashionable in the early to mid-1800s, the breed gained wider recognition. By 1933, the Irish Kennel Club recognized the Glen of Imaal as a distinct breed, the third of Ireland’s four terrier breeds. The breed’s popularity waned during the World Wars, and by the 1950s precious few remained. A few fanciers did what they could to salvage the breed in its homeland, and by 1971, a new breed association was formed. Apparently, several Glens were brought to the United States in the 1930s with their immigrant owners. The breed finally gained a true following here in the early 1980s, when breed pioneers in Missouri imported foundation stock from Ireland, England and Finland. The Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America was founded shortly thereafter, and the breed became eligible for the American Kennel Club’s Miscellaneous class in September of 2001. Glens achieved full AKC registration and eligibility for membership in the Terrier Group in 2004.
The average life span of a Glen of Imaal Terrier is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include skin allergies and a degenerative eye disorder known as progressive retinal atrophy.