In 391 CE, all Rome marveled at seven giant dogs from Ireland presented as a contribution to the city’s shows and games by consul Quintus Aurelius Symmachus. The consul’s thank-you note to his brother, who had procured the dogs, is thought to be the first written mention of what was to be called the Irish Wolfhound.
Over the centuries, the enormous Irish hounds populated a number of royal courts, including those of England’s Edward III, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I, as well as France’s Henry IV. The dogs were also presented as royal gifts to the courts of Sweden, Denmark, and Spain.
Unfortunately for the Wolfhounds, they did their job a little too well. By the 18th century, their numbers had decreased. They were no longer needed because they had hunted Britain and Ireland’s wolves to extinction. The Earl of Chesterfield complained in 1750 that, despite a two-year search, he had been unable to obtain any of the dogs because the breed had become so rare. Twenty years later, author Oliver Goldsmith wrote that the dogs were kept only as curiosities in the houses of gentlemen and noted “He is extremely beautiful and majestic in appearance, being the greatest of the dog kind to be seen in the world.”
The great dogs might have faded into the history books had it not been for the efforts of Captain George Graham. In 1862, he managed to obtain some of the few remaining Wolfhounds and crossed them with Scottish Deerhounds, the Tibetan Borzoi, a Pyrenean wolfhound, and a Great Dane. It took 23 years to restore the breed.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Irish Wolfhound in 1897. The breed ranks 79th among the dogs registered by the AKC, a respectable showing for a giant dog.
Irish wolfhounds have a heart as big as the rest of them. They are gentle, noble, sensitive and easygoing. Despite the fact that they can run at great speed, most of their actions around the house are in decidedly slow motion, and they are definitely not snap-to-it obedience prospects. They will eventually mind you, just at their own pace!
Just under the surface of their gentle exterior does lie the nature of a coursing hunter, so Irish wolfhound owners must be vigilant when outdoors. Like all sighthounds, Irish wolfhounds love to chase animals that are running away from them, and they can take their time responding to your calls to come back. Yet Irish wolfhounds are generally model citizens with other dogs, pets and children. Their great size is usually enough to scare away intruders; this is fortunate, as most Irish wolfhounds are pacifists and not great protection dogs.
Just like all dog breeds, the Irish Wolfhound can suffer from health problems. Some health issues that are common to this breed are bone cancer, cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, Von Willebrands, PRA and bloat .
To keep your Irish Wolfhound healthy, make sure to take your dog out for regular exercise and visit the veterinarian when needed.
When it comes to the dog’s care, its coat requires to be combed or brushed two times in a week and at times it is a good idea to trim its stray hair. Dead hair needs to be stripped twice a year. The hound loves stretching its legs and long walks, thus daily exercise is a must. Indoors the dog requires a lot of good space to stretch its body on a soft surface. Lying frequently on hard areas can cause the development of calluses.
The Irish Wolfhound is not recommended for apartment life. It is relatively inactive indoors and will do best with at least a large yard. This is a giant breed that needs some space. It may not fit well in a small or compact car.It needs to be part of the family and would be very unhappy in a kennel. Being a sighthound, it will chase and so need a secure, fenced area for exercise.
Training an Irish Wolfhound is quite easy, since this breed is intelligent and loves to please. Start training as early as possible, as you will find a puppy easier to handle. Start your training with leash control. The Irish Wolfhound likes to pull on the leash, so you need to teach your dog that this behavior is unacceptable. Leash training is especially important because as your dog grows bigger, it will have no problems dragging you along on its leash.
The best way to train an Irish Wolfhound is to be consistent and patient. When your dog follows a command, reward it with a treat, and when it does something wrong, firmly but positively correct the behavior.
Because the Irish Wolfhound is smart, it will quickly understand what is expected. You should continue to work with your dog, even when it starts to mature. As well, be sure to socialize your Irish Wolfhound with other dogs and people so that it does not become frightened.
This is one large dog and it needs a large area to play and exercise in. You’ll need to take your Irish Wolfhound out for a walk or run at least twice a day. You can incorporate your dog’s exercise routine into your workout routine if you like to ride a bike, run or rollerblade. This is where leash training comes in handy, so be sure to start this training from the time your dog is a puppy.
The Wolfhound has a rough coat that is especially wiry and long over the eyes and beneath the jaw. Extensive grooming is done to give the dog a perfect appearance in the show ring, but for a pet owner the coat is easy to maintain. There’s just a lot of dog to groom.
Brush or comb the shaggy, wiry coat once or twice a week to remove dead hair and prevent or remove any mats or tangles. The double coat sheds moderate amounts year-round but doesn’t go through a heavy annual or biannual shed. A bath is rarely necessary.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Irish Wolfhounds are gentle with children, but simply because of their large size they can accidentally knock toddlers down and scare or injure them. They’re best suited to homes with older children. Irish Wolfhounds are not ponies, and children cannot ride them. Your Wolfhound can be injured if children try to ride him.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
With early socialization and training, your Irish Wolfhound should get along well with other dogs. He may chase small animals such as cats unless brought up with them and taught not to. It’s vital to properly introduce him to other animals in the household and supervise their interactions. He’ll consider outdoor cats and other small animals fair game.
Is this breed right for you?
A large and loving breed, he does well with both children and other animals. Mostly inactive indoors, this dog is not suited for apartment life based on his size. In need of a large yard and living space, he does best when part of the family. A devoted and friendly pet, he has a sincere sense of loyalty to his owners. More likely to say hello to a stranger than to ward him off, most people are scared of him based on his size. A smart pup, he’ll love you unconditionally until his short life ends.
Welsh folklore tells the story of Gelert, a brave Wolfhound who protected his master’s son when a wolf broke into the house. When the father returns, he sees the dog with blood on his mouth and kills him in a rage. He then finds the baby, safe, next to the body of the dead wolf. A village named Beddgelert (Gelert’s Grave) commemorates the story.
A dream day in the life of an Irish Wolfhound
Waking up to sniff out the home, the Irish Wolfhound will lazily greet you awake with a swipe of his tongue. Going downstairs to check on the rest of the family, he may take a snooze again before breakfast. After a good meal, he’ll run outside for a bit to sniff out the yard for any new smells. After a nap in the sun, he’ll head back inside to hang out with the family. Watching the house while his owner is away at work, the Irish Wolfhound will only ask for a good petting before going to bed with you.