By 1500 BC, large dogs became known in Ireland, brought to the land of the ancient Celts by seafaring Greeks. The first mention of the huge dog that would become the Irish Wolfound was found in Roman documents in A.D. 391. The biggest dog breed in the world has changed little since antiquity…
Irish Wolfhound PhotoThe Gaelic name for this gigantic dog is Cu Faoil, a term that describes bravery and steadfastness. Celtic Ireland a thousand years before the Christian era was a difficult and dangerous place. The Celtic clan chieftains needed not only a clever hunting dog, but one that could also courageously fight off wolves that endangered the Celts’ herds of sheep, goats and oxen. As a hunter, the Irish Wolfhound could pull down a full-grown elk; as a herd protector, he was not affraid to face off with a maurading wolf. Wolves became extinct in Ireland in the 18th century; the Irish often gifted foreign aristocrafts with a seven-pack of these giant dogs, thus introducing them to the rest of the world. The Irish famine of 1845 decimated the breed, but it was re-cultivated in 1869 and recognized by the AKC.
This enormous hound is about 32 inches high and can weigh up to 130 pounds. As a sighthound, he looks a bit like a rough-coated Greyhound in build but is much larger. Because of his size and build, he has the strength and endurance to run down and overpower large prey. Despite his size, he is both powerful and graceful with an easy stride and highly-held head.
The most unusual quality of the Irish Wolfhound is that, in spite of his huge, imposing appearance, he is gentle, mild-mannered and well-behaved. He is not an aggressive dog, although his stature will definitely deter an intruding stranger. He’s been described as calm, sensive, affectionate and loyal to his family. He is very good with children and patiently endures their determination to ride upon his long back. He does well with other pets and dogs. For a dog of his size, he is not particularly energetic or playful due to his mellow nature. He’s a fairly good watchdog, but has little protection instinct.
Training an Irish Wolfhound is challenging; he is independent and has a stubborn streak that makes him disinterested in obedience training. He’s not recommended for a first-time dog owner, and his mere size makes him unsuitable for apartment or city living. Being a social dog, he does not like to be left alone for long periods; a bored, lonely Wolfhound who becomes destructive can wreck havoc in a household that’s unsuitable for him! Today he is primary used in lure coursing trials, where his great size and long stride makes him a formidable contender. He is often seen at prestigious dog shows, where he always creates a sensation with his gigantic size and sweet disposition. In the right setting with the right owner, the Irish Wolfhound is a wonderful companion dog.
Unfortunately, because of his size he has a short life-span of about seven years. His major medical concerns are gastric tortion, elbow and hip dysplasia, and heart problems. Given his breeding in Ireland’s cold, damp climate, he does well in such environments, but hot, dry climates make him prone to heat stroke. He needs plenty of shade in his domain.
Even in rural environments, why choose such a huge breed? Once you get to know the gentle, loyal, and friendly disposition of the Irish Wolfhound, he is hard to resist!