Irish Wolfhounds are an ancient breed that dates all the way back to the Roman Empire of the late 4th century, if not significantly further. If you prefer BIG dogs that are extremely loyal and not overly rambunctious, the Irish Wolfhound might be the breed for you!
Originally, Irish Wolfhounds were exclusively owned by nobles and were transferred to Britain during that country's occupation of Ireland. Once there, the Wolfhounds were frequently given as a gift to important personages, foreign nobles, and other heads of states and were frequent companions to kings and other nobility.
Also known as the Wolf Dog, War Dog, and Irish Hound, in accordance with their proper name, this breed was originally bred to hunt wolves. They are considered sighthounds, but they've historically acted as guardians and military dogs.
Sadly, when wolves disappeared from Ireland in the 1700s, the Irish Wolfhound almost did as well. Thanks to the efforts of a British Army Captain (D.E. Graham), the breed was successfully revived. He developed the modern day Wolfhound by crossbreeding the few remaining Wolfhounds with the Great Dane, Mastiff, and Deer Hound.
A Towering Figure
The Irish Wolfhound is an extremely tall (30-32"), exceptionally muscular (105-120 lbs.) dog with a long head held high and a pointed muzzle. Standing on their hind legs, they can reach as high as 7 feet tall. Their noses and eyes are dark, and their ears are small and folded. Their coat is medium length, rough, and wiry around the eyes and under the chin with a wide range of colors, including: gray, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, and wheaten. Regular grooming will be required for this breed as they shed lightly.
Often compared to the Greyhound, their gentle spirit, patience, and intelligence makes this breed a pleasure to be around. They do well with children and are relatively easy to train. Although they were used as guardian dogs prior to there revival, they actually perform poorly at this task and tend to be friendly with strangers. However, they have been known to take a stand if their family is being threatened.
Irish Wolfhounds prefer to be with people and do not fair well when left alone for long periods of time. They require an owner with a consistent but gentle training approach. For a happy, healthy, well-rounded Wolfhound, early socialization with children, other dogs, and different environments is strongly encouraged.
Born to Run
This breed has a moderate activity level and are more prone to being active outside than inside. Given the sheer size of these dogs, exercise is important; they require a daily 30-minute walk once they're full grown.
Since they're sighthounds, a fenced-in yard is highly recommended. If they happen to catch sight of a small animal, there's a good chance that they'll bolt after it. Therefore, caution should be taken if your home has any other smaller pets. They also require space to run, ruling out urban apartment living as a viable option.
Irish Wolfhound typically live between 6 and 10 years. They've been known to suffer from bloat, cancer, eye problems, heart disease, hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, seizures, and von Willebrand’s disease.
Consider looking for an Irish Wolfhound through rescue organizations first. Every year, there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!
At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.
On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!
Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe