The Irish Wolfhound is an imposingly large member of the Hound Group. In fact, it is the tallest sighthound in existence. They have a combination of great speed, size, and power which helps them hunt and take down large prey. But don’t let their instinctive hunting abilities fool you — the Irish Wolfhound also makes a loving house pet. It is calm, easy-going, and affectionate towards its family members. They are wonderful around children and friendly towards strangers.
A Brief History Of The Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound has it roots in Ireland, dating back to the Ancient times. It is said that the large dogs came from Greece and into Ireland sometime around 1500 B.C. The size of the dog kept getting larger as the centuries went on.
Irish Wolfhounds were first documented around 391 A.D. in Rome as they were given to the Romans as gifts. The popularity of the Irish Wolfhound rose quickly when being put into the fighting ring, taking down large wild animals during sporting events in the arena. In fact, the dog became the subject of many legendary stories of valor and bravery during battle.
Over many centuries later the Irish Wolfhound diminished in numbers. The wolf was extinct in Ireland during the 18th century which caused less service to be needed by these imposing canines. Many of them were also given away to foreign nobility. When the 19th century came about, the breed was practically extinct.
Captain G.A. Graham was responsible for starting the process of resurrecting the Irish Wolfhound. In 1869, Mr. Graham went about crossing several Wolfhounds with other breeds, specifically the Scottish Wolfhound, Borzoi, and the Great Dane. The breeding practice was successful and today many families enjoy the Irish Wolfhound as a part of the household.
Upkeep Requirements For The Irish Wolfhound
This breed needs daily exercise but despite its large physical body, Irish Wolfhounds only need a few long walks on the leash each day to satisfy its activity requirements. They must have plenty of living space to be happy and stretch out, both indoors and outdoors. Living in a small apartment, or even a cramped house, is not suitable for these dogs.
Irish Wolfhounds have a high tolerance for cold temperatures. The ideal living situation for these dogs is to have access to a large yard during the day and sleep inside at night with the rest of the family. Grooming requirements call for a heavy brushing two to three times per week, with light trimming once per month to clean up uneven hairs.
The average lifespan of the Irish Wolfhound is between five and seven years. Major health concerns that run common in the breed are elbow dysplasia and gastric torsion. Minor health problems include CHD, OCD, osteosarcoma, and cardiomyopathy. Rarely seen is PRA, vWD, and megaesophagus. Veterinarians suggest that these dogs get specifically tested for cardiac and hip problems.
The Irish Wolfhound’s history is clouded in the past and in myth. Some think that this breed was transferred from the continent of Europe to Ireland by the Celts, and that they developed the breed. Experts say this was done as early as 2500 B.C. or as late as1500 B.C.
These were war dogs that ripped horsemen from their horses. The Irish Wolfhound also hunted Irish stags, deer, boar, and wolves. Irish stags were six feet high. They are extinct. The Irish Kings and the nobility could own these dogs. No one else was allowed to have them. There were numerous kings in archaic Ireland (150). They had kings and underling kings that were subject to the top five kings. These kings were allowed a certain number of these dogs according to their status.
Irish Sagas from 600 to 900 A.D mention cú faoil, which means Irish hound and war dog. Later, this breed was sent as gifts to European nobility causing the number in Ireland to decrease too much, and in 1652, a decree was made that stopped shipping them from Ireland. When the potato famine hit Ireland in 1845 and ’46, the Irish Wolfhound deceased in number.
Then Captain George Augustus Graham found dogs that exemplified the breed and bred them with
Glengarry Deerhounds and sometimes to Borzoi and Great Danes. He only bred dogs that were used to breed this type of dog originally. So, he brought the Irish Wolfhound back in larger numbers.
These are huge dogs that conjure the picture of a heavily muscled Greyhound. Some of them are as tall as a small pony. They have big heads and little ears, which lie near the head, unless it is excited. The neck is muscled and the chest deep. The abdomen recedes; it is the chest and abdomen combination that forms the distinct appearance. The paws are big and round. The rounded tail is held between the hind legs.
Is This Your Breed?
To own this dog, one needs a big yard, big vehicle, and some extensive exercise for the hound. The coat needs frequent brushing.
The coat is coarse, tufted, and wiry. It is bush-like over the eyes and under the jaw.
The colors are fawn, red, brindle, black, pure white, and gray.
The gait is easy and powerful.
They are laid back dogs, but when instinct kicks in they will chase prey. They course other dogs, meaning chasing by sight, when playing with them. Coursing is a hunting behavior and not related to being territorial. They are quiet dogs. Some Irish Wolfhounds are friendly to strangers. So, they aren’t necessarily good watch dogs, but their size could repel intruders. They like the companionship of their owners very much.
Usually, this breed is careful and benign around kids. They are intelligent and react well to firm, patient, considerate, and consistent training. They are independent, which comes from having been hunters that hunted at long distances, away from their owners.
These dogs are affable, patience, generous, thoughtful, and loyal.