Irish Wolfhound

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Irish Wolfhound Facts

  • Breed Type: Purebred
  • Size: Large
  • Lifespan: 6 – 10 years
  • Temperament: Dignified, Generous, Loyal, Patient, Sweet-Tempered, Thoughtful
  • Colors: Black, Brindle, Fawn, Grey, Red, White
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Related Dog Breeds:

Irish Wolfhound drawing by Dog Breeds List

You probably know that the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all dog breeds. But just how tall is tall? Full-grown, this dog can reach 7-feet (when standing on his hind legs)!

Which is pretty impressive, right? I mean…that’s like having your very own (shaggy) Shaq!

But considering his size, it’s obvious this breed isn’t meant for everyone.

Sure, he can be lazy in adulthood, but the puppy stage is a whole different story. Especially since it’s a stage that lasts around two years.

And especially since these dogs make for some BIG puppies.

Like, 100-pounds-at-only-six months-old sorta big.

Think you could keep something like that under control? I know I probably couldn’t…

History

Evidence of the Irish Wolfhound traces back to 273 B.C. when they were said to arrive in Greece with the Celts.

Statues, jewelry, and paintings were discovered by historians that depict these giant dogs in great detail.

Julius Caeser even mentions them in one of his writings on the “Gallic Wars”. In 391 A.D., Roman consul Aurelius claimed that “all Rome viewed with wonder” the seven Irish Wolfhounds he received as a gift.

Throughout their rich history, Irish Wolfhounds have been used for war and hunting.

In the 17th century, Irish Wolfhounds were so popular that they were often exported out of Ireland.

As a result, the breed almost went extinct there!

However, an order was issued in 1652 that banned the exportation of Irish Wolfhounds from Ireland.

These hounds almost faced complete extinction again after they hunted the wolf population in Ireland into extinction. Captain George Graham managed to save the breed back by cross-breeding some of the remaining hounds with Deerhounds, Borzois, Mastiffs, and Great Danes.

Are Irish Wolfhounds Good Family Dogs?

Irish Wolfhounds can get along with anyone, whether they are a human or another dog, thanks to their naturally calm, dignified disposition.

That being said…their huge (sometimes clumsy) bodies, make them prone to accidentally destroying rooms and objects across the household.

Especially during their adolescent years.

If you are a family that owns a lot of antiques and valuable decorations, you may want to think twice before getting an Irish Wolfhound. Their notoriously short lifespan may also be a turn-off.

Irish Wolfhounds are best-suited for suburban or country homes that offer plenty of room for them to stretch their long limbs.

While they are safe around children, it is important to teach your little ones to be gentle with them as they are actually quite fragile.

Compared to other breeds, the Irish Wolfhound is a bit high-maintenance and requires a more careful eye when monitoring their health. Therefore, families who already have their hands full with their children may not be ready to add an Irish Wolfhound.

Care

Irish Wolfhounds require a healthy amount of socialization while they are young to prevent them from developing fear or anxiety around other humans or animals.

While they are large dogs that can weigh up to 180 pounds, they are actually quite delicate.

Therefore, extra care must be taken when exercising them to avoid injury.

Nutrition

Irish Wolfhounds require a proper balance of protein and fat in their diet to help them build strong muscles and maintain energy.

Because they are limited in their ability to digest plant products, they can not afford to have a high amount of fiber in their diet.

We recommend feeding your Irish Wolfhound twice a day, in 4-8 cup servings.

A range, rather than an exact number, is given due to the fact that not all dogs will require the same food portion sizes due to their differing sizes and activity levels.

Grooming

Irish Wolfhounds should be groomed twice a week and bathed once every 6-8 weeks.

It may be necessary to trim their stray hair occasionally.

Dead hair should be stripped twice a year.

Owners also need to check their hound’s teeth, nails, and ears during regular grooming sessions.

Exercise

Irish Wolfhound puppies are prone to developing skeletal disorders due to their fast growth. In fact, experts advise against walking your puppy before they are six months old.

While they should be allowed to play and learn new commands just like any other dog, they need to be given enough time to rest and recuperate from their play time.

As they grow into adults, they will need to be exercised for at least 20 minutes at a time twice a day.

You should avoid exercising them an hour before or two hours after you feed them due to the risk of bloat.

Training

Just like any other dog breed, you should give your Irish Wolfhound the gift of obedience training and socialization as early as possible.

Other gifts only you can give your Wolfhound?

Patience and positive reinforcement.

Patience is an absolute must when training these gentle giants, as they are notoriously stubborn and slow to learn.

Positive reinforcement is key to successfully training your Irish Wolfhound, while negative reinforcement such as screaming or hitting should be avoided at all costs.

Irish Wolfhound Health Issues

Irish Wolfhounds are prone to serious health problems, including:

  • Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, also referred to as bloat.
  • Portosystemic Shunt (PSS), a liver disorder where the liver is deprived of blood needed to help it function.
  • Cancer.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart condition where the heart becomes so large and thin that it can no longer properly pump blood to the rest of the body.
  • Wobbler Syndrome, a neurological condition that prevents your dog from being able to feel his feet.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease, a blood clotting disorder.
  • Cataracts.

Before bringing an Irish Wolfhound home, require that your breeder provide a family history of the litter as well as proof that they performed screening for diseases on the parents.

19 Irish Wolfhound Pros and Cons (Plus Some Fun Facts)

1. Poets Love Writing About Them

One famous line from a poem describes Irish Wolfhounds as “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked”.

In a poem written by Mrs. Catherine Philips around 1660, the Irish Wolfhound is described as being:

“More nobleness of form and mind

Than in the lion we can find:

Yea, this heroic beast doth seem

In majesty to rival him”.

– Mrs. Catherine Philips

Due to the Irish Wolfhound’s majestic demeanor and regal disposition, it is no wonder that so many poets found inspiration from them in their work.

2. Irish Wolfhounds are the Tallest Dogs in the World

The average height of an Irish Wolfhound ranges from 34 to 35 inches at the shoulder in males and 32 to 34 inches in females, beating out the average height for Great Danes.

If one were to stand on its hind legs, it would easily tower over its human master.

3. However, Their Tall-ness Does Not Make Them the Heaviest Dogs

The distinction for heaviest dog breed actually goes to the English mastiff, which can weigh up to 230 lbs.

Irish Wolfhounds, on the other hand, weigh an average of 115 to 180 pounds.

4. They Used to be War Dogs and Hunters

Men used to train Irish Wolfhounds to pull their enemies from their horses during battle.

According to legend, a High King of Ireland named Cormac mac Airt managed an army of 300 Irish Wolfhounds. Sometimes, armies would even go to war for these dogs because they were so highly valued.

When they weren’t helping with their master’s war efforts, they could also be spotted hunting wolves, wild boar, deer, and Irish elk.

Another legend claims that bands of Scottish people and tribes from Northern Britain would use the hounds in massive stag hunts, where up to 200 would be killed.

5. Blue Irish Wolfhounds Used to be Put Down

Blue Irish Wolfhounds are considered impermissible and are put down at birth or when the color becomes discernible.

That being said, completely “blue” Irish Wolfhounds don’t exist. Rather, a color paling effect that dilutes a wolfhound’s natural pigment in its coat, skin, and eyes will be observed.

Because there is a wide range of coat colors that are considered normal in Irish Wolfhounds, it can be difficult to discern “blue” Wolfhounds from coat color alone.

The only way to confidently discern whether an Irish Wolfhound is blue or not is by checking for a change in eye color in the hound after they are 8 weeks old.    

6. They are Actually Pretty Good with Children

Due to their easy-going personality and laidback nature, Irish Wolfhounds can be trusted around children.

Of course, common-sense should be employed when letting your children hang out with the tallest dogs in the world. :-)

Do not leave young children alone with dogs, as even the most gentle of dogs can accidentally knock a small child over.

7. They Make Terrible Guard Dogs

Irish Wolfhounds are too sociable and serene to be good guard dogs.

However, potential burglars likely do not know this! One look at the Irish Wolfhound’s intimidating stature may be enough to deter them from attempting to break in.

Irish Wolfhounds are also known for their loyalty and devotion to their families.

So while guarding may not come naturally to them, this does not mean that they won’t protect family members if they sense they are in danger.

8. The Regimental Mascot of the Irish Guards is an Irish Wolfhound

6-year-old Domhnall, who hails from Northern Ireland, became the regiment’s mascot in 2013.

Since his appointment, he greets Prince William and Duchess Kate every St. Patrick’s Day in London.

Unfortunately, controversy surrounds Domhnall’s working conditions.

Back in 2018, soldiers who worked along Domhnall complained that he was being worked to his death bed. According to them, he should have been retired a while ago. Someone even spray-painted “Justice 4 Domhnall” on the walls of the barracks in Hounslow, West London.

9. Herbert Hoover and JFK Owned Irish Wolfhounds

Cragwood Padraic gave Herbert Hoover’s wife an Irish Wolfhound after they moved into the White House. They named their wolfhound Patrick.

President John F. Kennedy received an Irish Wolfhound named “Wolf” from family friends in Ireland.

10. Highborn

At one point in history, only members of the nobility were allowed to own Irish Wolfhounds.

11. There is a Legend About a Famous Irish Wolfhound Named Gelert

Once upon a time, a young prince named Llewelyn went hunting. His hound, Gelert, usually accompanied him on these trips, but he was absent that day.

When the Prince of Wales arrived home, he found Gelert covered in blood.

Alarmed, he checked his son’s crib, only to find it empty and covered with blood. Anguished, Llewelyn stabbed his Irish Wolfhound in the heart. The hound’s dying howl was then answered by a baby’s cry.

When Llewelyn left to inspect the source of the sound, he found his child in another room unharmed and surrounded by the bodies of several wolves that Gelert had killed.

The prince felt so guilty over what he had done, that he was said to never have smiled again after that.

12. Irish Wolfhound Bally Shannon is Another Famous Figure of the Breed

Bally Shannon was one of the many dogs being used to transfer messages between zones and assist in search and rescue efforts during World War 1.

In 1916, Bally Shannon’s British officer took him to France to work as a dog-of-war. His missions included:

  • Accompanying wiring parties into No-Man’s-Land.
  • Carrying reels of barbed wire to protect the trenches
  • Transporting wounded soldiers to safety.

According to reports, he successfully dragged 10 wounded men to safety. When a single shell shattered his master’s arm and wounded Bally, the faithful hound stayed by his master’s side while he recovered in the hospital.

Bally Shannon almost perished on his way back home when a torpedo hit the ship he was being transported on.

Bally Shannon, his master, and two other men were able to escape the ship.

However, an injured Bally was forced to swim around the wreckage holding the men as it could not hold his weight. After the crew was rescued and taken to New York, Bally managed to survive and become a celebrity among admirers.

13. Irish Wolfhounds and Scottish Deerhounds are Often Confused for One Another

At first glance, the two breeds are difficult to distinguish:

Both have large, commanding builds covered with coarse hair and are both lean like greyhounds. They even share similar histories, as they were both used for hunting.

However, there are several defining physical characteristics that can help people distinguish between the two breeds:

  • The Irish Wolfhound is taller than the Scottish Deerhounds.
  • It is also more muscular in the neck, forequarters, legs, and hindquarters.
  • Irish Wolfhounds also have slightly longer and curvier tails.
  • The AKC breed standards for Irish Wolfhound ears are that they are “small and Greyhound-like in carriage”, while the Deerhound’s are to be “set on high, folded back…though raised above the head in excitement without losing the fold, and even in some cases semi-erect”.

14. Oliver Cromwell Prohibited the Exportation of Irish Wolfhounds

During the mid-17th century, Oliver Cromwell published a declaration prohibiting the exportation of Irish Wolfhounds.

He also encouraged locals to breed high numbers of the Irish Wolfhound to help them hunt wolves to help prevent them from going extinct.

15. Anne Boleyn was Said to Have an Irish Wolfhound

According to legend, Anne Bolyen’s loyal Irish Wolfhound was executed alongside her.

Another myth claims that her beloved wolfhound hid under her skirts during her execution.

However, there are no historical records proving these claims, so they are likely fabricated.

16. The Hound of Aughrim is Another Famous Irish Wolfhound

The hound of Aughrim was said to have courageously run into battle alongside his beloved owner, an Irish knight.

When his owner was killed, the hound stood by his side for six months.

He would only leave his side occasionally to search for food. When soldiers approached the body to collect it, the dog attacked them.

Unfortunately, he was subsequently shot and killed.

17. The Irish Wolfhound’s Name in Ireland is Cu Faoil

Cu Faoil, which is pronounced “koo fil”, is the Irish name for this popular hound.

“Cu” translates to “hound” while “faoil” means wolf.

The term “cu” also implies bravery, strength, speed, and courage.

18. An Irish Wolfhound Named Aibe Indirectly Started a War in the 12th Century

A manuscript from the 12th-century mentions a man named Mesrodia, who was the King of Leinsternien, and his Irish Wolfhound Aibe.

Aibe was so valued, that the King of Connacht attempted to buy him with six thousand crows.

The King of Ulster also attempted to purchase the Irish Wolfhound with a similar offer.

Eventually, the kings took to the sword in order to obtain the dog for themselves. History does not say who won that battle.

19. They Come in a Multitude of Colors

Acceptable coat colors for Irish Wolfhounds include:

  • Gray
  • Brindle
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
  • Faun

Irish Wolfhounds cannot have too much spotting, or else they will not be considered purebred.