Irish Wolfhound

Don’t let this dog’s commanding appearance fool you, the Irish Wolfhound is a gentle giant with a sweet side that many overlook.

A history rich with accolades, the world according to an Irish Wolfhound has dramatically changed since their early days.

They were known as great battlers and fierce hunters, the Wolf we know today is a much more docile breed.

So what is it about this breed that people love so much?

Here is what you need to know about the Irish Wolfhound.

History

The Irish Wolfhound is one of the oldest breeds in the world. Their history is proud, which begins many centuries ago, in what may be one of the more courageous dog breed stories of all time.

If one is to believe in the “ancient woodcuts,” then the Irish Wolfhound was around the 270 BC era, where they were used to help warriors fight and win wars. It is said that scriptures illustrating large dogs, which many believe to be the “Big Dog of Ireland,” was right by the side of nobles and chieftains. 

Whether the Wolfhound goes that far back is disputable, however, the one thing certain about the breed is why they were bred. This dog was bred for specifically fighting and hunting. According to many historic accounts, the Irish Wolfhound would fight against bears, bore, and lions. And at times, they would drag foes off  horses to help their humans.

The Greyhound of Ireland has found a home in many nations among many important men throughout time. In 1596, Spanish poet, Lope de Vega, paid homage to the breed in a sonnet.

Father Edmund Hogan in 1897 wrote famously in a monograph, that the Irish Wolfhound was sent as a highly prized gift to famous men all around the world including, Roman Consults, Kings of England, Scotland, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Poland. They were owned by Persian Shahs, Turks, Emperors, and great Moguls. Hogan believed that the Irish were definitely with Hounds as far back as the 1500’s.  This gave the breed one of the most sought after hunting dog titles during that time, but they were also considered a great companion as well.

Even still, the Great Hound of Ireland wasn’t only a hunting dog during that time, they were used a guards and companions for many noble people as well. It was said that ownership of these dogs were restricted to Kings or nobles. 

Famous folklore hero, Finn MacCumhaill was said to have owned 500 Irish Wolfhounds. 

It was the mid 1800’s, however, when the breed saw a much more limited role in society as times were changing with less hostility, that brought them to a near extinction. Thanks to a few men, namely, Captain George Augustus Graham,  who couldn’t live in a world if it didn’t have an Irish Wolfhound living in it, that he began actively breeding the dog with Great Danes, Scottish Deerhounds, English Mastiffs and Borzois, that shaped the dog we know today.

Matter of fact, it was Graham who created the breed standard for the Irish Wolfhound in 1885. Ever since, the breed has flourished among Europe and in the United States.

This breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1897 as a large breed in the Hound Group, and today they are listed as the 73rd most important breed in the world. It wouldn’t take long for the breed to get their own club, as the Irish Wolfhound Club of America established itself back in 1926, a year after the breed was registered by the United Kingdom Kennel Club.

Size

The American Kennel Club calls the Irish Wolfhound “the tallest of all AKC breeds.” Indeed, classified in the large sized group, a male can reach a height of 32 inches, while a female could reach a height of 30 inches on average. 

The Club states their breed standard weight for the Wolfhound of Ireland at 120 pounds for a male, and 105 pound for females.

Personality/Temperament

At first glance, you may think the Irish Wolfhound with its imposing physical stature may be unfriendly and aggressive. You would be greatly wrong. This breed is one of the most friendly breeds for a dog of its size.

If they socialized early on, the Wolf will be a friendly fellow pet with other animals. You may want to keep your eye on them around very small animals like mice, birds, or rabbits. They are also sweethearts with children, and very tolerant with them as well. Moreover, they feed for human companionship and do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. 

Speaking of home, this breed isn’t suited for apartment living as you can imagine. The Irish Wolfhound will need plenty of space to play around and be comfortable. A nice backyard, where they can run around would make this dog feel at home even more.

The Irish Wolfhound is considered to be a piece of cake to train. One of the more intelligent breeds, who doesn’t have a hard time picking up obedience training. 

They will have their moments of galloping. Bursts of athleticism can be found in this dog at times. They do want to exercise or walk daily, but they aren’t hyperactive either. To add to that, many Wolfhound owners have glowingly remarked about a clam and docile dog at times.

Health

If you’re looking for a dog that will give you a long run for your money, the Irish Wolfhound on average won’t and only lives six to eight years.

You should always buy from a reputable breeder, and do yourself a favor by getting the proper paperwork and health documentation to reduce your chances of a unhealthy pup. Also, because this breed inherits unhealthy traits in their middle ages, you will want to schedule routine visits to the vet’s office.

One of the bigger problems affecting the Irish Wolfhound is Dilated Cardiomyopathy. This heart complications tends to show more in larger breeds. As mentioned above, this is a disease that affects most breeds in their middle ages. This disease is when the heart’s muscles aren’t contracting properly, which leads to poor circulation as the blow flow to the heart is decreased. Wolfhounds are considered to be at high risk for this disease.

Portosystemic Shunt is a developmental disorder, that affects the organs due to toxins in the blood. This is found in younger Irish Wolfhounds, so it is best to get your puppies screened around the eight to ten week stage to avoid further complications.

Rear end weakness, Hygromas, von Willebrand’s Disease, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, bone cancer, and joint tissue issue are things to keep an eye on regarding your Wolfhound.

Care

Temperament wise, a small child is fine around this breed, however, due to their imposing size on average, you should watch a kid around them. They could easily injure a child by accident or knock them over. 

They don’t bark a lot or drool, and they are relatively a clean dog to care for. You won’t need a great deal of patience trying to train them early on, just as long as you’re constructive in your approach. They are quick learners, who are eager to learn. Early socialization will make this breed a much more gentle giant than a fiery beast.

If you are gone for long periods of time, or live in a small space, you may want to reconsider getting a dog of this caliber. They need room to move and stretch.

Daily exercises and walks for about 40 minutes to an hour are suggested. You may consider allowing them to gallop, this is when the dog retains their natural behavior and runs around like its on a hunt. Someone with a bigger backyard is more key for this tradition.

They can be destructive when bored, and that’s not a good thing for your furniture or interior. Give them plenty of attention, allow them to be affectionate, and routine mental stimulation to prevent them from going “stir-crazy.”

Feeding

A dog of this size is going to need some calories especially when they are burning them off in copious amounts as a puppy. 

For instance, an Irish Wolfhound that is 140 pounds needs around 2900 calories per day. This will depend on the metabolism, activity rate, and whether or not your dog is spayed and neutered.

A diet of fat and protein is essential just as much for puppies as it is for adults. On average, five percent fat per meal will generally cut it for an adult , where a puppy may need around 8 percent. As far as proteins, you should strive for 22 percent per serving for your puppies and 18 percent for an adult.

You can feed the Irish Wolfhound top-rated large breed puppy food until it reaches 90 percent of their adult body size.

Puppies will require 3-4 meals a day until they do reach that target adult size.

As always, you should keep fresh drinking water around for your Irish Wolfhound.

Coat

According to the American Kennel Club, the Irish Wolfhound has 13 colors for a coat. They do not have marking that are accepted by breed standard.

You can find the Wolfhound in the following accepted coat colors:

  • Gray
  • Silver
  • Wheaten
  • Brindle
  • Cream
  • Red and Brindle
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Wheaten and Brindle
  • Red and Wheaten
  • Gray and Brindle
  • White

This breed has a medium length coat that is hard and wiry on the outer, and soft on the undercoat. Their dual coat has heped them deal with wet weather elements throughout history.

You should expect to do some regular brushing , perhaps two or three times per week as they do shed year round. The good news is, however, the Irish Wolfhound doesn’t “blow coat,” according to the Irish Wolfhound Club of America. 

Fun Irish Wolfhound Facts

  • Along with the Leonberger, Great Dane, and Tibetan Mastiff amongst the tallest dog breeds in the world.
  • When they fully stand, there are reported instances of an Irish Wolfhound being as tall as seven feet.
  • Famous Italian actor, Rudolph Valentino owned a Greyhound of Ireland.
  • Julius Caesar was said to have mentioned the breed during his Gallic war treatise. 
  • When the Wolfhound was near extinct during the 1600’s, the Irish Parliament recognizing how important the breed was to them decided to pass an order prohibiting people from the exporting the dog.

Closing Words

Nobody will ever doubt how important a breed of dog the Irish Wolfhound is to Ireland. As they shouldn’t. Quite literally a hero during the Celtic war era, the Great Dog of Ireland proved in history that they were brave, noble, and loyal warriors in their own respect.

Today, the Wolfhound proves themselves differently. They are a smart, sweet, loving and faithful companions, that make for a wonderful addition to the home. Don’t let the history and size of this breed kid you, this dog is nothing but an affectionate gentle giant.

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