Large Greyhound type dogs appeared in Ireland at the same time as man arrived during the Neolithic period. They were used for protection and hunting. This is in the period before the Celts arrived which is the people that Irish Wolfhounds are most identified with.
Irish Wolfhounds were prolific wolf hunters. Wolves were seen as dangerous to livestock and had started to move into human occupied areas in Ireland in the1600s. The breed was given as gifts to the aristocracy and royalty in Ireland and abroad. Due to their tremendous success in hunting wolves the need for a hunting dog to manage the threat of wolves was reduced so the original purpose of the breed became less important and the breed numbers diminished rapidly. The breed was almost extinct by the end of 1700s. Re-vitalisation as a breed occurred from 1860 onwards.
A Captain Graham is largely regarded as saving the breed from extinction by careful breeding and successful outcrossing. They were rescued from a very small selection of dogs. The wolfhounds of today descend from about 6-8 pure-bred wolfhounds. The Scottish Deerhound is regarded as the Wolfhound’s sister race.
A first impression should see a huge majestic animal with a graceful and noble bearing. They should have a combination of grace and strength (a bit like a combination of sprinter and weightlifter!). The defining characteristic of the Irish wolfhound is its imposing height; it has the tallest breed standard of dogs. But a good wolfhound is more than just a tall dog. It is a sturdy, swift dog more than worthy of the “Gentle Giant” title. The average lifespan is 6-8 years. Although it is common for them to live to 10 to 11 years
They are very intelligent and learn quickly. They thrive in the company of their human or other canine friends. They require time and thought from rearing as a puppy through to adulthood and be taught good manners right from the start due to their size. They are affectionate and demonstrative with family and friends. They may sometimes seem aloof to strangers at first but will warm to someone once they have checked them out! They are not a dog for a novice dog owner, due to the care in puppyhood and obedience training.
They usually aren’t very good guard dogs, although their sheer size would scare any would be intruder with one big, deep throaty woof. They usually aren’t barkers but have been known to let out the odd melodious howl especially in response to sirens.
Eating, Drinking and Grooming
As adults, they don’t need huge amounts of food, as they have a relatively small stomachs but require considerable sustenance so twice a day as an adult is advisable. However puppies raised on dry complete diets should not be given high protein puppy diets as small and medium sized breeds are. This can cause a too rapid a growth rate leading to poor quality bone formation and joint problems. It’s important not to exercise your dog at least an hour before and after exercise due to the potential danger of stomach bloating and twisting which are serious veterinary emergencies.
They drink large amounts. Their beard can become dirty from food and wet from water so their muzzles need to be wiped regularly. Towels that are easy to hand are a must!
They have moderate grooming requirements with a double layer coat. The undercoat moults about twice a year so there will be lots of hair about at this time. A very good vacuum cleaner will be needed. Their outer coat is made up of longish rough hair which moults once a year.
Regular brushing (once a week) is important as it removes dead, loose hair and excess dirt. This can be a great time for the sharing of affection. If you start early it doesn’t become a chore for either of you.
The most common colour is Grey Brindle, where brindle is any striping in their coat. They can also be ‘red’, wheaten, cream, white or ‘black’ as well although this is a bit rarer. Solid coat colours in the lighter colours may also have flecked of dark in the coats due to the Agouti gene.
A male is usually 84-89 cm from the shoulder and there has been a record of 107cm set in the 1970s. A female will be about 76cm and can be as tall as 91cm. They can weigh between 45 to 65kg for a female and 60 to 95kg for a male. They have large high density bones and well developed muscle.
Due to their intelligence a ability to learn new skills very quickly you can do a variety of things with your wolfhound:
Coursing, racing, trailing (involves using a strong smelling ground trail. They have surprisingly good scenting abilities), agility and they make a mighty fine dancing dog.
It’s important not to over exercise them while they are still growing. It’s not advisable for puppies to use stairs either, as they can damage their legs. As adults they only need about 20-30 minute walk a day and make an excellent couch potato.
Stand Number: 714