The terrier appeal knows no bounds. Small but spirited, these hardy little souls never fail to put a smile on your face, and each breed has an intriguing past to boot. The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is no exception, and there’s much more to know about Wheatens beyond their endearing features and loveable natures.
In this post, we’ll share seven interesting Wheaten Terrier facts to help you get to know your soft, fringed friend a little better.
The 7 Interesting Wheaten Terrier Facts
1. Wheatens Are Dark as Puppies
“Wheaten” describes a pale beige color, and this is—as the breed’s name suggests—one of the hallmark Wheaten Terrier traits. However, Wheatens are not born beige but are a darker color until they reach adulthood, when the coat lightens out. Wheaten puppies’ coats are often a brownish shade with black tipping.
2. Wheatens Are Irish
Wheatens hail from Ireland where they were developed around 200 years ago as working farm dogs. The breeds most closely related are the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Terrier, though it’s possible that Wheatens could also be connected to the much larger Irish Wolfhound.
Wheatens were valued by farmers for their versatility—they were used for herding, guarding, hunting small game, vermin elimination, and as gundogs.
3. Wheatens Used to Be Called the “Poor Man’s Wolfhound”
Hundreds of years ago, an Irish law dictated that peasants weren’t allowed to keep certain breeds that were commonly owned by the upper classes, like hound dogs, Beagles and Spaniels. Farmers were restricted to types of dogs that cost no more than 5 pounds, and this is how the Wheaten, a popular and hardy farm dog, came to be known as the “poor man’s Wolfhound”.
4. Folklore Points to an Armada Ancestor
According to one tale, a dog that swam ashore after an Armada ship sank in 1588 and was bred with local Irish terriers is responsible for producing the Wheaten.
5. Wheatens Can Be Seen in 19th-Century Art
“The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child” was painted by Irishman Frederic William Burton in 1841. In it, you can see a dog said to be a Wheaten Terrier at the feet of a woman cradling a drowned child. The painting is iconic in many ways, not least in the manner in which it depicts the Irish peasantry (with whom the Wheaten was closely linked) bound together in tragic circumstances.
6. Krista the Wheaten Is a Diving Extraordinaire
In 2016, a plucky Wheaten Terrier called Krista competed in the 2016 national championships and very nearly finished in the top 10 out of 30 or so dogs. In the preliminary events the week before, Krista came first in one swim and third in two others.
Among her competitors (many of which were much larger dogs) were Labrador Retrievers—dogs renowned for their swimming ability. According to reports, Krista was the first Wheaten to take part in competitive diving.
7. Wheatens Have Great Personalities
Of course, every dog is an individual, and much depends on socialization, but Wheaten Terriers are renowned for their unshakeable devotion and affectionate, merry natures. All the typical terrier traits—bags of energy, hardiness, and a healthy dose of stubbornness—are also present.
Are Wheatens Good Family Dogs?
Wheaten Terriers are known for being good family dogs simply because they’re often very loving and outgoing. They tend to get along well with children and are fairly sociable with strangers, too. All that said, socialization is the key to ensuring a dog of any breed becomes a well-rounded family companion.
Without socialization and training, dogs can develop challenging behaviors (examples include jumping up on people and playing too roughly) that can become ingrained if not addressed, so it’s wise to start this process as soon as you bring your Wheaten home. As with most terriers they are energetic and enthusiastic, but can have a strong prey drive.
Though they were once considered the “poor man’s dog”, in modern times, Wheatens have leaped and cuddled their way into people’s hearts from all walks of life. They currently rank at number 66 out of 200 on the American Kennel Club’s breed popularity ranking, ahead of Cairn Terriers, Russell Terriers, Wire Fox Terriers, and many more terrier breeds.