Size, strength and physical presence are the hallmarks of the Irish Wolfhound. One of the largest dog breeds, it is really a gentle giant. The coat is rough and somewhat shaggy in appearance, and is particularly heavy around the neck area and over the eyes. The coat can be gray, white, black, red or brindle with white markings acceptable. The dog is powerful with thick legs and neck, and appears very solid and substantial. The tail is long and turned up just slightly at the end. The eyes are bright and intelligent looking and the ears fold over and are carried flat against the head when the dog is not attending to something.
Temperament of an Irish Wolfhound
Although the Irish Wolfhound is large, it is not typically used as a guard or watchdogs. They are simply too friendly and seem to welcome everyone into their area. The breed is excellent with children and is not timid or fearful of children’s loud noises or sudden movements. As a general rule they are very accepting of other pets including dogs, cats and even livestock. They are generally easy to train but do require a consistent and early training routine as their large size makes them more challenging to train as they mature. The breed is not fully grown or mature until two years of age, and may go through a period where they are quite awkward and almost clumsy as they grow.
Grooming & Shedding of an Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound is an average shedder, but because they are such a large dog they may appear to shed much more than smaller breeds. The coat requires regular two or three times per week grooming with a stiff bristle brush or pin brush to keep it looking great. At least once a year stripping or plucking of long or dead hairs should be done to keep the coat looking shiny and healthy. Generally the breed is not trimmed or clipped as companion dogs and never as show dogs.
History of the Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound is an ancient breed of dog likely descending from a now extinct breed known as the Cu Faoil dog. The breed was likely brought to Ireland in about 1500 BC from Greece and there evolved into the massive hunting and protection dog it was originally bred for. The Romans highly regarded the Irish Wolfhound, and it quickly became the gift of choice between Irish nobility and Roman leaders. It was against the law for anyone not of nobility in Ireland to own on of these legendary hunting dogs. The Irish famine of 1845 almost completely eradicated the breed, but a military man named Captain George Graham began breeding a few remaining Irish Wolfhounds with Scottish Deerhounds and Great Danes to provide breeding stock to rebuild the breed.
Health Issues with an Irish Wolfhound
Major Concerns: bloat (gastric torsion)
Minor Concerns: canine hip dysplasia, cardiomyopathy, OCD (growth), osteosarcoma
Occasionally seen: progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), von Willebrand’s Disease