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Hound breeds: Irish Wolfhound

Wolfhound photo     The Irish Wolfhound is the largest and tallest of the AKC registered breeds. The breed has been known at various times as Irish Dogs, Big Dogs of Ireland, Greyhounds of Ireland, Wolfdogs of Ireland and Great Hounds of Ireland. The Irish Wolfhound is the most modern name. The original Wolfhound was used by the Celts for hunting wolves. The Romans later brought him to Ireland. By the year 391 A.D., he was known in Rome. Roman Consul Quintus Aurelius, who received seven of them as a gift, wrote the first known mention of the Wolfhound. In 1790 it was written of him: "The Irish Greyhound is the largest of dogkind and its appearance the most beautiful. He is about 3 feet high, somewhat like a Greyhound, but more robust. His aspect is mild, his disposition peaceable, yet his strength so great that in combat the Mastiff or Bulldog is far from being equal to him."
    The Wolfhound was an expert hunter of wolf and the gigantic Irish elk, which stood 6 feet at the shoulder. With the disappearance of these animals, the Irish Wolfhound became almost extinct. Around 1862, a Scot in the British army, Capt. George A. Graham, gathered what remaining Wolfhounds were to be found and restored the breed. He worked for 23 years, breeding and setting the standard for the future.
    In the 19th century, Scottish Deerhounds and Irish Wolfhounds were frequently considered to be the same breed, and the same dog might be entered in a dog show one day as a Deerhound and the next day as a Wolfhound. The Irish Wolfhound was accepted into AKC registry in 1950.

General description
The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest dog breed recognized by the AKC.

  • Height: males, 32 inches minimum; females, 30 inches minimum
  • Weight: males, 120 pounds minimum; females, 105 pounds minimum
  • Color: The colors are gray, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, or any other color that the Deerhound appears in.

    Grooming requirements
        The Irish Wolfhound needs to be brushed with a slicker brush and then a metal comb. The ears and top of head should be stripped with a stripping knife to remove any unruly hairs. The elbows can be thinned with thinning shears. The eyebrows and beard can be lightly neatened. They require brushing weekly. Bathing this breed is akin to washing a car. It is a big job and not for those who don't like getting wet. If you start your Irish Wolfhound off on a regular bathing schedule when he is young, the less problems you will have as he ages. You need to remember that a dog's body temperature is higher than yours, so if the water is cold to you, it's colder to him. Do not bathe your dog outside with the cold hose water. Especially with older Wolfhound, this can exacerbate joint or hip problems, and arthritis. If you do not have the means to bathe this dog at home, you will need to have him groomed at a grooming shop. This should be done every 12-16 weeks. The average cost for an Irish Wolfhound is $50.

    Health considerations
        Medical concerns for the Irish Wolfhound are hip dysplasia, bloat, and bone cancer. They have a tendency to get hygroma, fluid sacs on the elbows. This is caused by repeatedly plopping down on hard surfaces and can be avoided by providing good padding and blankets for sleeping areas.

    Breed characteristics and personality
         This is a short-lived dog. The average life expectancy is about seven or eight years, although there have been some superbly kept animals that have lived to 14 or more years. He is not suited for city living. He absolutely requires a fenced yard large enough to accommodate this galloping giant and the time for a lot of daily running exercise. The Wolfhound is totally unsuitable as a guard dog, watchdog or patrol dog. He can be so trusting that someone could easily invite him into their car, and he would go. Although alert, he is not suspicious or aggressive. He is very patient with children. He barks very little.
        The Wolfhound is a good, patient, generous, thoughtful and intelligent dog. He bonds strongly to his master. He is a devoted family member and fiercely loyal. He is a slow-maturing dog and takes up to three years to mature, mentally and physically. At maturity, despite his giant size, he is a calm presence in the family, dignified and responsive, providing no harshness of attitude. He is a sensitive dog who does not prosper under harsh treatment.
        The Irish Wolfhound is a pack animal and wants nothing more than to be with his family/pack. He is not suited to being tied up in the yard. This would only make him miserable. He needs to be a member of the family and is most comfortable on the couch, or in the doorway of the bedroom at night. Although very gentle with children, great care must be taken with small children and a Wolfhound puppy. A 50- to 100-pound playful, affectionate puppy can inadvertently do a lot of damage to a small child with a simple toss of his head. Toddlers should not be left alone with this giant dog because they could be knocked over. Even the tail of a Wolfhound can deliver a wallop if he is very happy. His quiet manners, gentle nature and comfortable sense of companionship make him a wonderful family dog.
        Special requirements: The exercise needs of a growing puppy are very different from an adult dog. So even though they appear big (as much as 100 pounds by six months), you don't want to take your puppy out for long daily walks and stress their growing bones until after they are six months of age. Prior to this, gentle walks with the puppy running or playing around you at his pace are quite sufficient. As the dog matures, physical activity will play a role in the dog's lifespan. Although content to lounge on the couch, these dogs need exercise. The more you do to exercise his heart, the more likely that heart will stay healthy enough to provide for his giant body to live longer. For adult hounds, regular, rigorous exercise is a must. Daily walks and vigorous free running are a necessity.

        The Wolfhound is used for hunting stags, wild boars, wolves, and coyotes. He is most prized as an excellent companion dog.

    Web links

  • AKC Irish Wolfhound page
  • Irish Wolfhound Club of Canada
  • The Irish Wolfhound FAQ Page
  • The Irish Wolfhound Web Ring

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