A pair of Irish Wolfhounds
|Country of origin
|Classification and breed standards
||Group 10 Section 2 #160
||Group 4 (Hound)
||Group 2 (Hound)
||Sighthounds and Pariah Dogs
|Not recognized by any major kennel club
|This breed of dog is
The Irish Wolfhound is a breed of
bred to hunt. The name originates from its purpose rather than from its
appearance: To hunt
These dogs are the
with a swift pace and good sight. They have a rough coat (gray, brindle, red,
black, pure white, or fawn), a large arrow-shaped head, and a long, muscular
The Irish Wolfhound is usually known as the tallest dog in the world,
averaging up to 86 cm (34 inches) at the
fact that sometimes is its biggest disadvantage when attracting owners who have
no concern for its special needs. As with all breeds, the ideal and accepted
measurements vary somewhat from one standard to another, and there will always
be individuals whose size falls outside these standards. However, generally
breeders aim for a height averaging 32 to 34 inches (81 cm to 86 cm) in male
dogs, two to four inches (5 to 10 cm) less for bitches. Acceptable weight
minimums range from 105 lb (48 kg) for bitches to 120 lb (54 kg) for males.
In temperament, they are considered gentle and friendly, very calm in the
house, enjoying long sleeps but energetic when taken for walks. Despite their
great size and sometimes intimidating appearance, wolfhounds are sensitive and
should be corrected firmly but without anger. They should be socialized from a
young age so that they have a chance to gather experience. While historically
Wolfhounds should show a strong guarding instinct, most modern Irish Wolfhounds
are not temperamentally suited to be a guard dog.
Irish Guards mascot in parade dress
Wolfhounds should not receive additional supplements when a good dog chow is
used. It is generally accepted that they should be fed a large breed puppy food
until 18 months of age and then change to a large breed adult food.
By the age of 8 months, the dogs appear adult, and many owners start
stressing them too much. Outstretched limbs and irreparable damage are the
result. Wolfhounds need at least 18 months to be ready for
coursing, running as a sport, and other strenuous activities.
Heart disease and bone cancer are the leading cause of death and like all
gastric torsion (bloat) is always a possibility. Otherwise they are
generally a healthy dog with few if any breed specific illnesses. The average
lifespan is around 6 to 7 years, though breeders are doing their best to
increase this, with some animals now reaching 10 years or more.
The breed is very old, possibly from the
century BC or earlier, bred as war dogs by the ancient
Celts, who called
them Cú Faoil. The
Irish continued to breed them for this purpose, as well as to guard their
homes and protect their stock. Regular references of Irish Wolfhounds being used
in dog fights are found in many historical sagas -
favourite, Luath was slain by a southern chief's hound, Phorp.
While many modern texts state Irish wolfhounds were used for coursing deer,
contemporary pre-revival accounts such as Animated Nature (1796)
by Oliver Goldsmith are explicit that the original animal was a very poor
coursing dog. Their astonishing size, speed, and intelligence made them ideal
hunting animals for both wild boar and wolves, and many were exported for this
purpose. They were perhaps too ideal, as the wolf is now extinct in
Irish Wolfhound has been recorded as being exhibited in
Rome to some excitement, and mention is made that they so amazed and
terrified the Romans that it was seen fit to only transport them in cages. There
exists stories that in the arena, the original Wolfhound was the equal of a
During times of conflict with England, it was not uncommon for Wolfhounds to
be trained to take armored knights off of their horses. Thus allowing an
infantry man to move in and finish the kill if the Wolfhound has not done so
Due to a massive export into various countries as a gift for royalty and a
ban that allowed only royalty to own such a dog, the breed almost vanished in
the middle of the
century. Captain Graham rebred the Irish Wolfhound with the
Borzoi and other breeds; this saved the breed, but had the inevitable effect of
altering its appearance.
The ancient breed (often referred to as the Irish Wolfdogge in contemporary
accounts) was available in both a smooth and rough coated variety. Descriptions
of its appearance and demeanor, as well as the method of its use place it closer
to the flock guardians in appearance than the modern breed. The historical
variety was famed for its loyalty, discernment, grave nature and aggression. In
terms of temperament the modern breed has been greatly mellowed.
An Irish Wolfhound serves as the regimental mascot to the
England and accompanies the regiment in all of its parades.
The skulls of several Irish Wolfhounds were recovered in excavations of the
Emain Macha. These skulls are now in the possession of the Royal Irish
Academy. No reconstruction appears to have been done to establish the appearance
of these progenitors of the breed.
- Centaur Pendragon, pet of
The Irish Wolfhound is also the mascot for the London Irish Rugby team.
| Ibizan Hound
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| Irish Bull Terrier
| Irish Red and White Setter
| Irish Setter
| Irish Terrier
| Irish Water Spaniel
| Irish Wolfhound
| Istarski Ostrodlaki Gonic
| Italian Greyhound
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