The Irish Kennel Club. It’s History & Organization

Prior to the establishment of the Irish Kennel Club on January 20, 1922, all dog events in Ireland were overseen by the English Kennel Club. The first Chairman of the IKC was Justice Henry Hanna who expressed the founders’ challenges this way: “We made few friends, some enemies, and some would gladly have seen us go under. Our mistakes were proclaimed, sometimes not without exaggeration, and any little merit we had was given scanty recognition.” Still, Justice Hanna was proud of his elected committee members. “The delegates associated with me in the administration of the kennel government have shown themselves during this difficult period to be full of courage, ability, optimism and fidelity to the trust they had undertaken… Often the position of the Irish Kennel Club is misunderstood. Some fanciers regard it with the natural hostility of an Irishman to any government. It is forgotten that the democratic foundation of the Irish Kennel Club is the specialist clubs, without which it cannot legally exist. They control it. They are its constituencies from which the representative delegates are provided.”

The vision that the founders had in 1922 remains every bit as relevant today.

Justice Hanna retired in 1936 after his tenacious efforts to build a strong foundation for the IKC. He was succeeded by Henry Fottrell, who held office until 1978. The IKC’s current office, Fottrell House, is named in his honor. J.G. (Sonny) Plunkett held the chair until his death in 1987, followed by Bill O’Herlihy (son of Con O’Herlihy) and Tom Creamer. The title was changed to President in 1998, during Mr. Creamer’s tenure, and Mr. S. Delmar currently holds the position.

The work of the IKC is overseen by a Board of Directors, while voluntary committees enable the smooth running of the club in several key areas. These are the Field Trials Committee, the Green Star and Judges Committee, and the Agility, Obedience & Working Trials Committee. The Board of Directors Committee is elected by An Ard Chomhairle. It is the IKC’s central and final decision-making authority. The members of An Ard Chomhairle are representatives nominated by clubs affiliated with the IKC. It elects the officers of the club, the Board of Directors and the Field Trials, Judges and the Agility, Obedience & Working Trials Committees.

The Green Star and Judges Committee oversees the approval of judges.

Groups and Dog Show Classes

As an FCI country, Ireland organizes the breeds into 10 FCI Groups with the following class divisions:

  • Baby Puppy (dogs aged between four and six months). Dogs from this class can only be shown at Breed Club shows.
  • Puppy (dogs aged between six and 12 months).
  • Junior (dogs aged between 9 and 18 months).
  • Intermediate (dogs aged between 15 and 24 months).
  • Open (dogs over 15 months of age).
  • Champion (dogs that have gained a Champion title under IKC rules or those of another recognized kennel authority).
  • Veteran (dogs over eight years of age).


Exhibits are graded by the judge as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Sufficient, Cannot Be Judged or Disqualified. The Excellent grade is awarded to dogs or bitches that show the characteristics of the breed, are very well presented, have a well-balanced temperament, excellent structure, excellent posture, and move well around the ring. Very Good is awarded to dogs or bitches that show class, while Good is given to those with the main characteristics and features of their breed but with some faults also. Sufficient dogs or bitches correspond adequately to their breed characteristics but their physical condition may have room for improvement. Dogs or bitches that do not allow themselves to be examined, or that refuse to walk around the ring will be graded Cannot Be Judged. This grading also applies where a judge suspects a dog has undergone treatment to fix or improve a feature. Dogs or bitches that show aggression, dogs whose testicles have not descended, dogs that do not correspond to their breed standard or dogs with incorrect coat color, faulty jaws or teeth or other characteristic that could threaten their future health will be graded Disqualified.

Instead of Excellent, Very Good and Good, dogs in the Puppy class are graded either Very Promising or Promising, while the other grades of Sufficient, Cannot Be Judged or Disqualified apply as before. The judge will mark a grade card for each dog and give this to the exhibitor. The four best dogs to receive Excellent or Very Good grades in each class (or Very Promising in Puppy class) are then placed.

Green Stars

The dogs and bitches placing first in each class will then compete for a Green Star, a national certificate for that breed. Dogs competing for this award that have been graded Excellent but lost out on the Green Star may win a Reserve Green Star.

CACIB (Certificats d’Aptitude au Championnat International de Beaute)

The CACIB award is an international certificate for dogs from all breeds. Winners of the Intermediate, Open and Champion classes that have received an Excellent grade can compete for this award. There is also a Reserve CACIB award for dogs with an Excellent grade that missed out on the top CACIB award.

Best of…

Winners of the Green Star Bitch and Green Star Dog awards will then compete for Best of Breed, the winner of which will go on to compete in the main ring for Best in Group. The Group winners will then compete for Best in Show. The Best Puppy in Breed award is open to dogs and bitches in the Puppy class that have been awarded the grade of Very Promising and placed first in their class. The winner will then compete for Best Puppy in Group, and these winners will go on to compete for Best Puppy in Show.

Junior Diploma

If your dog is aged between six and 18 months, you can apply for a Junior Diploma award and title. To do so, you must first request a Junior Diploma card from the IKC. This card should be brought to each show so that the judge can sign for each place awarded. Championship and Open shows count toward the Junior Diploma. A dog must earn 12 points in total, made up of two class wins at Championship shows (two points each) and eight class wins at Open shows (one point each).

Junior Champion

This title can be earned if a dog has placed first in five Junior classes in its breed and was graded Excellent by judges at Championship shows. Owners can apply to the IKC for this certification with details of the shows at which the classes and correct grading were won. Once confirmation is received, the title can be added after the dog’s name.

Annual Champion

A dog can also win the title of Annual Champion in its breed. This is awarded to the dog or bitch that achieved the highest number of Green Stars over five in the course of a year. If there is a tie between two dogs, the award is given to the dog with the greater number of Best of Breed wins.

Irish Champion

For a dog to become an Irish Champion, it must have earned seven Green Stars from seven different judges in IKC Championship shows, and one of these stars must have been awarded after the age of 15 months. Even if a dog has already won seven Green Stars before the age of 15 months, it still has to win an additional star after this age to be declared an Irish Champion. Under the old points system, dogs having won 38 points must win one Green Star under the new system to be awarded the title of Champion. There are no additional points toward becoming an Irish Champion for Group wins.

Categories of Irish shows

Irish Kennel Club shows fall into several categories:

  • Limit Show (which you can enter on the day)
  • Breed Shows both Championship and Open (for a specific breed)
  • National All-Breed Shows both Championship and Open for all breeds
  • International All-Breed Championship Shows for all breeds recognized by the FCI International Canine Body
  • Group Shows both Championship and Open for Breeds Within the Specified Groups

All but Limit Shows must be entered before a closing date to enable a catalog of the show to be printed.

Junior Showmanship

The Junior Handlers Association holds events for young people aged from 10 to 17 years at all IKC-licensed shows throughout the year. Juniors compete for points, culminating in the Junior Handler of the Year Finals, from which is picked the Irish Representative to attend  the Crufts International Junior Handler Finals.

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