Search the Kerry Blues Website

  • Sign In

    Forgot password?
  • or
  • Join Now

The inside scoop on all things Kerry!

  No


The Ideal Kerry Blue Terrier


© 1982 Edith Izant

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Edith Izant.


The official Standard for the Kerry Blue Terrier prescribes all that the ideal Kerry should be. The original American Standard was adapted from the Irish and English Standards. Some changes have been made through the years, the most recent having been approved by The American Kennel Club on September 15, 1959. [Updated again on November 10, 1992]

The Standard is a detailed description used by judges in determining the quality of the Kerrys entered in shows, and by breeders in selecting Kerrys for breeding stock and in deciding which dogs to offer for sale and how to establish prices for them. The Standard is important also to the average Kerry owner who wants a Kerry typical of the breed.

The current American Standard is printed below in [italics]. The comments following the various sections of the Standard are my opinions, based on many years of experience as an owner, as a breeder, and as a judge of the Kerry Blue in both conformation and obedience competition. If you are interested in the finer points of the breed, it will be helpful to you to attend shows and watch the Kerry judging, making careful observations of overall type and quality of dogs selected for awards.

Before discussing the Standard, it is important to stress the fact that a Kerry must look like a Kerry, This is a subtle yet most important criterion in judging. just as a Cairn should not have the taller legs of a West Highland White, a Kerry should not have the long legs of an Airedale or the short legs of a Scottie or the racy body of an Irish or the refined head of a Wire. A Kerry should have Kerry balance and Kerry type.

Correct Snipey, slightly domed skull, fly-away ears

Heavy-headed, cheeky, large light eye, large ear. Short head, bumpy domed top skull, hound ear, light eye.

The drawings included here will further an understanding of the terminology used in the Standard and of correct and incorrect structure.


HEAD-Long, but not exaggerated and in good proportion to the rest of the body. Well-balanced, with little apparent difference between the length of the skull and foreface. (20 points)

 SKULL-Flat, with very slight stop, of but moderate breadth between the ears, and narrowing very slightly to the eyes.

CHEEKS Clean and level, free from bumpiness.

EARS-V-shaped, small but not out of proportion to the size of the dog, of moderate thickness, carried forward close to the cheeks with the top of the folded ear slightly above the level of the skull. A "dead" ear houndlike in appearance is very undesirable.

FOREFACE-Jaws deep, strong and muscular. Foreface full and well made up, not falling away appreciably below the eyes but moderately chiseled out to relieve the foreface from wedginess.

NOSE Black, nostrils large and wide.

TEETH-Strong, white and either level or with the upper (incisors) teeth slightly overlapping the lower teeth. An undershot mouth should be strictly penalized.

EYES-Dark, small, not prominent, well placed and with a keen terrier expression. Anything approaching a yellow eye is very undesirable.

Ideal head, full face Ideal head, profile

The head should not be short and broad, but long and flat cheeked. The bumpiness in the cheeks which the Standard refers to is bumpiness caused by bone and/or muscle. 'Mere may be small bumps on the muzzle or throat where whiskers have been clipped. The Standard does not refer to such bumps. At the time this Standard was written,, most Kerrys had ears that were large and often were droopy and "houndlike," but today, ears usually are small, so we often see too-high, "flying" ears, which are even more foreign to good Kerry expression. In an undershot mouth, the lower teeth extend in front of the upper teeth. The Kerry, like most breeds, should have forty-two adult teeth. Small, black, almond-shaped eyes contribute greatly to the exciting look described as "keen terrier expression."

Ch. Tontine's Something Else

Ch. Tontine's Something Else, sire of twenty-eight champions. Owners, Ray and Marylou Perry. Note the strength of this typical Kerry foreface. This strong muzzle is what is under the whiskers, which have been clipped off to make the dog more comfortable.

NECK-Clean and moderately long, gradually widening to the shoulders upon which it should be well set and carried proudly. (5 points)

 SHOULDERS AND CHEST-Shoulders fine, long and sloping, well laid back and well knit. Chest deep and ofbut moderate breadth. (10 points)

The neck must appear long, and well laid back shoulders will enhance this appearance of length and also make the back look shorter. This gives the Kerry his look of elegant alertness. Shoulders that are too vertical are among the most prevalent faults in the breed. It should be possible to put a couple of fingers between the tips of the shoulder blades. If the shoulder blades are closer together, the Kerry is probably too narrow through the chest. If further apart, the shoulders will look too heavy or "loaded." One of the ugliest faults is a ewe neck, where straight, tight shoulders force the neck down and forward. Straight shoulders will often produce a dip in the topline just behind the upper point of the shoulder blade, and the lower point will interfere with the action of the front legs, shortening the stride.

Elbows pinched, toeing out. Out at elbows, toeing in. Too wide, loaded shoulders. Narrow, fine-boned. Correct.

LEGS AND FEET-Legs moderately long with plenty of bone and muscle. The forelegs should be straight from both front and side view, with the elbows hanging perpendicularly to the body and working clear of the sides in movement, the pasterns short, straight and hardly noticeable, Both forelegs and hind legs should move straight forward when traveling, the stifles turning neither in nor out. (10 points) Feetshould be strong, compact, fairly round and moderately small, with good depth of pad free from cracks, the toes arched, turned neither in nor out, with black toenails.

One of the most important characteristics contributing to correct Kerry type is the square, upstanding appearance. Loose, flat feet and weak pasterns often make a dog look unbalanced, higher at the croup than at the withers. While corns in the pads are not mentioned, they make it painful for the dog to walk and probably are inherited. Tberefore, a dog with corns should be avoided in breeding and penalized in judging. Corns may be associated with thin pads or flat feet. Corns can be removed surgically but may reappear. They are seldom seen in puppies.

Corect Crossing Elbowing out Winging

BODY-Back short, strong and straight (i.e. level), with no appearance of slackness. Loin short and powerful with a slight tuck-up, the ribs fairly well sprung, deep rather than round. (10 points)

The "back," as we think of it from the neck to the tail, actually consists of four parts: the withers at the base of the neck; the true back just behind the shoulders (about two and a quarter inches long); the loin (about four inches long); and the croup, just in front of the tail (about three inches long). 717he short-backed dog with properly laid back shoulders allowing him to reach in front, and good angulation in his hindquarters giving him powerful drive, can move well. If the body is too long, the Kerry often will roll his body.

HINDQUARTERS AND STERN-Hindquarters strong and muscular with full freedom of action, free from droop or crouch, the thighs long and powerful, stifles well bent and turned neither in nor out, hocks near the ground and, when viewed from behind, upright and parallel with each other, the dog standing well up on them. Tail should be set on high, of moderate length and carried gaily erect, the straighter the tail the better. (10 points)

The smooth, reaching, powerful movement of the Kerry Blue Terrier is an important indication that he is properly made. Ile front feet reach far forward, the wellangulated hindquarters propel him straight forward without roll in his body. The feet should stay low to the ground, with the pads of the hind feet visible as the Kerry moves away. Every part of the dog must work correctly and together. The shoulders cannot be upright nor the front reach too short to get the front feet out of the way of the back feet. The feet must be tight and arched, and cushioned with thick pads to take the shock of the stride.The long second thigh and low hocks are integral parts of good hindquarters.

Corect Narrow, fine-boned Cow hocked Open hocked

You should observe the Kerry from the side to see his smoothness, reach and drive, and level topline, and from the front and rear to see that his legs are moving straight forward. Excessive wideness, where it appears that the legs are four to six inches apart, often indicates lack of angulation in the hindquarters and produces a short, choppy gait. Narrow hips which make it appear that legs and hocks are rubbing together even when the Kerry is moving slowly, are not correct either. Some dogs move stiffly, not flexing the hocks. This results from "sickle hocks," where the lower part of the leg is placed under the body with no backward extension. With correct movement the dog will not lift the feet too high, and, as speed increases, the feet will move closer together, appearing to be single tracking. Overangulation results in weaving.

Correct Low on legs, large ears, short head

Straight front and rear, ewe-necked Short neck, straight shoulders, gay tail.

Long back, fine bone, bad feet, roached back Soft topline, bad tail set, high on hocks.

Dr. E. S. Montgomery, a noted Kerry breeder and judge and the author of books on Kerrys, says that a Kerry eighteen and a half inches to nineteen inches tall should have a front reach of from sixteen to eighteen inches. Casey Gardiner, in her book The Kerry Norm, includes the following measurements: ten and a quarter inches from the elbow to the ground; six inches from the tip of the hock to the ground; a "norm" of nineteen inches at the withers; ideal angle of the shoulder to the perpendicular, 45º; shoulder to upper arm, 90º; upper arm to lower arm, 135º (at the elbow); slope of the hip bone to the horizontal, 30º; hip to upper thigh, 90º; upper thigh to lower thigh, 90º (at stifle, knee); and lower thigh to hock, 125º. More recent studies indicate that the 45º shoulder angle may be a myth.

Correct movement, proper angulation

Incorrect movement, long back; poor angulation; soft topline.

Corect Crossing Cow hocked Open hocked

COLOR-Thc correct mature color is any shade of blue gray or gray blue from deep slate to light blue gray, of a fairly uniform color throughout except that distinctly darker to black parts may appear on the muzzle, head, cars, tail and feet. (10 points) Kerry color, in its process of "clearing" from an apparent black at birth to the mature gray blue or blue gray, passes through one or more transitions-involving a very dark blue (darker than deep slate), shades or tinges of brown, and mixtures of these, together with a progressive infiltration of the correct mature color. Up to 18 months such deviations from the correct mature color are permissible without preference and without regard for uniformity. '17hereafter, deviation from it to any significant extent must be severely penalized. Solid black is never permissible in the show ring. Up to 18 months any doubt as to whether a dog is black or a very dark blue should be resolved in favor of the dog, particularly in the case of a puppy. Black on the muzzle, head, ears, tail and feet is permissible at any age.

That the word "blue" is in the name of the breed, and that solid black is a disqualification under the Standard, indicate the importance of color in the Kerry. While any shade of blue gray from deep slate to light blue gray is permissible, the almost white or silver colors are not preferred by fanciers because coats of these colors are often cottony in texture and lack wave, and they are slow growing and show discoloration more than other shades. The darker dogs will have heavier coats than dogs that attain mature color by six months or a year of age. Since the Standard calls for "a fairly uniform color throughout," a dark gray coat with "stripes" of lighter gray or brown, or one where the dark points permitted on muzzle, head, and ears extend to a completely black neck, should be penalized. Some judges feel that any Kerry entered in Open or Specials Only Classes should be gray blue, but if a dog is within the range from deep slate to light blue gray, a judge should not show preference, nor should a judge hesitate to disqualify a jet black Kerry. (Fanciers should remember that, to be polite, one never refers to a Kerry as black, but as "midnight blue"!)

COAT-Soft, dense and wavy, A harsh, wire or bristle coat should be severely penalized. In show trim the body should be well covered but tidy, with the head (except for the whiskers) and the ears and cheeks clear. (15 points)

To gain a more even trim, many handlers today are back-brushing the Kerry coat as it dries, but this often leaves the coat standing up too much (looking like that of a Bedlington or a Poodle) and without any waves. This is not correct. The body coat should be combed and brushed with the lie of the coat while damp, then trimmed to enhance the waves. The hair on the legs may be backbrushed so that it will be even when trimmed, but it too should be dampened slightly so that waves will come into the surface hair,

GENERAL CONFORMATION AND CHARACTER-The typical Kerry Blue Terrier should be upstanding, well knit and in good balance, showing a well developed and muscular body with definite terrier style and character throughout. A low-slung Kerry is not typical. (10 points)

Ch. Kilmarley Miss Showoff

Ch. Kilmarley Miss Showoff, C.D., at one year of age, illustrates good movement offleash.
It is naturalfor the head to be carried loweroffleash.

Ch. Elbrley's Erin Express

Ch. Elbrley's Erin Express, bred by Carol Postley, and owned by Hermine Munro. Erin Express is an example of excellent movement a-s seen from the side.

The adult Kerry Blue Terrier is an elegant dog who holds his head and neck high, alertly watching everything that is going on around him. His tail is up and wagging, and his solid body and smooth, powerful gait indicate his substance and soundness. He is a square dog, measuring from chest to rear almost the same as from withers to ground. He should be quiet but alert in the ring, not appearing anxious to start a fight, but giving the impression that if one started, he could finish it.

HEIGHT-Tbe ideal Kerry should be 18V2 inches at the withers for a dog, slightly less for a bitch. In judging Kerrys, a height of 18-19V2 inches for a dog, and 171/2-19 inches for a bitch should be given primary preference. Only where the comparative superiority of a specimen outside of the ranges noted clearly justifies it, should greater latitude be taken. In no case should it extend to a dog over 20 inches or under 17!/2 inches, or to a bitch over 191/2 inches or under 17 inches. The minimum limits do not apply to puppies.
WEIGHT-Tbe most desirable weight for a fully developed dog is from 33-40 pounds, bitches weighing proportionately less.

Ch. Gered's Honey Bun

Ch. Gered's Honey Bun. Bred, owned, and handled by Gerry Loebe. Honey Bun was Best of Breed at Westminster in 1955, and Best-in-Show at her first show as a puppy.

Ideal Kerry

Ideal front Ideal rear

Solid black. Dewelaws on hind legs.

Height is the most controversial subject in the breed. There have always been variations in size, but a trend toward medium size. When first judged in Ireland in 1916, Kerrys ranged from sixteen and a half inches tall to the size of an Old English Sheepdog, then about twenty-two inches, and the judges recommended choosing the middle size. When the English wrote their Standard for the Kerry, they said none should be over twenty-one inches. Height can be deceptive, especially in a class of all tall entries. Many of the males today are from twenty to twenty-one inches or even more, and many of the bitches are from eighteen and a half to nineteen and a half inches or more. An acceptable height for a male Kerry today would be nineteen to nineteen and a half inches, and for a bitch, eighteen to eighteen and a half inches. In the Bitch Classes, however, since the bitches must be feminine, one from seventeen and a half to eighteen inches with proper substance can still win, and a Kerry of correct size can still win in the Group.

Ch. Carholme Charles

American, English, Canadian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Bermudian Ch. Carholme Charles, by English Ch. Wulfteda Rhiwlas Digger out of English Ch. Underbridge Unesco. Bred by M. Baynard and J . Manning. Winner of four Best-in-Show awards and numerous Group awards, Carholme Charles also sired some fifty champions.

Ch. Tontine's Something Else

American and Mexican Ch. Tontine's Something Else, above, bred, owned, and handled by Ray and Lou Perry. Sire, Ch. Maylew's Main Event; dam, Ch. Donagayl's Shannon Sprite. A Best-in-Show winner, Something Else is the sire of nine champion get.

While condition is not mentioned in the Standard, the Kerry must be in good condition. The Kerry is a substantial dog. His ribs should be well covered by a firm layer of flesh. His hindquarters should be well muscled and firm, He needs a large yard in which to run, and his owner should take him for walks or throw a ball for him to chase. If the owner rides a bicycle while exercising the Kerry, the dog should be led alternately on either side of the bike and not too close to it, or the dog tends to lean away from the bike and develops a strange way of moving.

Food should be given at regular times and in ample amounts, and hard biscuits should be provided for the Kerry to chew to clean his teeth.

The Kerry must be kept clean. The yard should be all grass or should have a paved or gravel run. If it has a gravel run, the gravel should be so deep that the Kerry cannot dig down to the dirt. There should be a pad for the dog to lie on so he will not rub off the chest hair or get calluses on his elbows.

There is no perfect dog, but when observing the dog with showmanship, or charisma, there is a tendency to overlook minor faults. In the show ring, it is important to have a dog who makes the most of himself, so for Kerrys, association with people from an early age is important.

Milord Vom Figaro

Milord Vom Figaro, from International, CSSR, French Ch. Hippy vom Figaro out of CSSR Ch. Granemore Glenanne. Owned by Alexander S. Ivanov and Dr. A. 1. Kozlowsky, Moscow. Milord's dam goes back to English and American Ch. Granemore's Slieve Gullion and American and Canadian Ch. Kerrywoods Expectation.

The gang at Elbrley

The gang at Elbrley: Carol Postley's dogs showing what good temperament and obedience training will do. Front row, cats Little Cat and Frosty. Back row, left to right, are Shepherd Destino's Escapade; Kerry Ch. Elbrley's Razzel Dazzel, C.DX, T.D.; Ch. Elbrley's Vandyke, C.D.X.; Ch. Elbrley's Tom Fool; Elbrley's Obliging Lady; Kilmarley Townshend's Tara; Elbrley's Odds On Favorit; and Shepherd Fur Person, C.D.

Share This Article

Question of the Week

Previous Questions of the Week Ideas

Today is October 22, 2016

In this month in 1958:

Ch. Vixen's Show-Off won his 70th Group 1. He was the winner of the Quaker Oats Award for 1954, topping every dog of every breed in the US with 38 Groups in that year.

About Us

The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation is a nonprofit charity dedicated to promoting the welfare of the Kerry Blue Terrier breed in the areas of education, rescue and health & genetics. Learn More.


Join Our Email Newsletter List.

Contact Info


P. O. Box 1495
Solvang, CA 93464

Box 109
11420 - 142 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5M 1V1


Corrections? Feedback?

Contact the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation