Breed Type: Irish Wolfhound
Country of Origin:Ireland
Size: Extra Large
Also known as: Greyhound ofIreland, Irish Wolfdog, Great Hound of Ireland, Rough Greyhound, Irish Dog, Big Dog of Ireland, Irish Elkhound
Males: Height: 79 cm minimum Weight: 54 kg minimum
Females: Height: 71 cm minimum Weight: 48 kg minimum
Exercise Requirements: Low
Care Requirements: Low
Lifespan: 6-8 years
Best Suited as: Family Pet, Hunters of Large Game
The Irish Wolfhound is a large hound breed with a long and respected lineage. They have the distinction of being the world’s tallest dogs but don’t let size fool you. They are also one of the sweetest breeds of dogs around which is one of the reasons why they make excellent family dogs. Irish Wolfhounds take longer to reach full growth than do most dogs. They are enormous dogs and can weigh around 100 pounds at 6 months of age while still far from being full-grown. As is common with other extra large dog breeds, raising Irish Wolfhounds requires some special precautions including being careful not to take a young wolfhound through strenuous exercise while they are still growing. They have rapid cycles of growth throughout their young lives until fully matured and if exercised too intensely before grown, they can receive cartilage and joint damage that is irreversible. While some people might think Irish Wolfhounds would make great security and guard dogs because of their enormous size, that is simply not reality. With their extremely sweet and trusting natures, the hounds tend to love everyone who crosses their path, strangers or not. Owning an Irish Wolfhound does have its security benefits since their mere presence can be intimidating to any potential intruders who are not familiar with their temperament.
Irish Wolfhounds are huge dogs weighing in at a minimum of 54 kilograms for males and 48 kilograms minimum for females. There are no maximum norms for this breed – just minimum. The hounds are believed to be the tallest dog breed in the world. When standing upright like a human, these dogs are over usually over 7 feet tall. They are clearly strong as their appearance indicates with long, lean muscles, and they give off a dignified, stately presence that can be intimidating purely by size if nothing else. The tails of Irish Wolfhounds are long and uncropped. Not surprisingly, the tails are also remarkably strong. In fact, the most damage they can cause usually is contributed by their long, strong tails that can sweep things off furniture if wagging when they walk past. Their coat is medium in length with rough and wiry appearance and texture and is usually some shade of gray, black, white, red, or brindle. Their large ears are uncropped and usually laid back against their heads, but will perk up if they get excited or upset.
There are no truer descriptions of the Irish Wolfhound temperament than to describe them as the proverbial “gentle giants”. While their appearance is massive and intimidating, these hounds are very gentle with family and household pets and even strangers for the most part. Irish Wolfhounds might behave more aggressively to unknown dogs that enter their territory largely due to their natural hunting instincts. They develop extremely strong loyalty and attachment to their owners and family and always want to be included in any family activities. Even though their appearance may scare potential burglars, etc., their personality does little to reinforce that. Irish Wolfhounds usually believe everyone is a friend whether a stranger or not and expect plenty of stomach scratching and rubbing whenever desired.
Irish Wolfhounds may appear to be athletic because of their size and build, in reality they are rather lazy in regards to exercise and have to be encouraged to get the exercise they need to stretch their muscles and run a bit. Exercise is not something they specifically enjoy but since they are also rambunctious, getting adequate walks or playful activity is very important in order to limit boredom that may cause them to become a bit destructive.
While Irish Wolfhounds are known to be an ancient breed with a lineage far back in history, their exact ancestry is a topic of debate. Some believe these hounds are descendants of Middle Eastern dogs that were brought to the British Islesover 3,000 years ago and were then crossbred with mastiff breeds in the area. Other research has caused some to believe that the Irish Wolfhound descended from Irish Sheepdogs, Scottish Deerhounds, or both. But regardless of their ancestry, there are documented references to the breed dating all the way back to 391 A.D. The 391 A.D. timeframe refers to an incident where the Roman Consul was given several Irish Wolfhounds as gifts directly from Ireland which was quite an unusual gesture at the time.
Eventually, Irish Wolfhounds became known for their superior hunting skills are were considered valuable for that reason. They became experts in dealing with wolves bent on destruction and they all became quite adept at hunting the Irish elks which were considerably larger than regular elks known in other countries. The Irish Wolfhounds became so good at hunting Irish wolves that they actually hunted them to extinction by the late 1700’s.
Between no longer being needed to hunt Irish wolves and elks because they became extinct and exportation to other countries, the Irish Wolfhound almost became extinct itself – especially after the Great Irish Famine also destroyed many more of the breed. They were saved from extinction by a Scotsman who was actually a part of the British Army and decided it was his mission to save the Irish Wolfhound from extinction and he was able to do so finding as many of the few remaining ones as he could find and then crossbreeding them with other giant breeds. Those who are experts in dog breeding debate whether he actually saved the Irish Wolfhound breed or simply created a new breed through the crossbreeding, but all agree the Irish Wolfhounds of today are magnificent creatures.
Care and Grooming:
Irish Wolfhounds require little grooming needs other than regular brushing and combing of their wiry coat about once a week. They also need their coats to be hand plucked or stripped once or twice a year to remove the extra hair and keep their coat healthy. Grooming does little to make their coats appear better kept as the disorderly, messy hair is one of their innate physical characteristics.
In general these hounds are clean animals are usually only need a handful of baths a year unless they get muddy or dirty from environmental conditions. As their large ears do fold and thus restrict airflow, they need to be cleaned regularly to remove excess wax buildup while also checking for signs of infection at the same time. It is good to brush the teeth of Irish Wolfhounds about once a week for tooth and gum health as well as for bad breath control. If they are unable to get enough exercise outdoors to wear down their nails naturally, they should be trimmed about every 4 weeks.
Similar to other giant breeds, the lifespan for Irish Wolfhounds is low. They usually only live for between 6-8 years while smaller purebreds generally live between 10-13 years. The Irish Wolfhound carries considerable risk for genetic disease potential including a serious stomach problem similar to bloating that can kill them within hours. They are also more prone to heart disorders, eye problems, skin issues, and hip dysplasia along with several other issues.
Suitability as a Pet:
Irish Wolfhounds’ gentle nature makes them a good candidate for family pets in general because they won’t be aggressive towards children. However, their large size and rambunctious personality make them unsuitable for being around small children who can easily be knocked down accidentally by the clumsy, expansive movements of the wolfhound. Once children are big enough to be at risk for injury if knocked down, Irish Wolfhounds interact beautifully with children and love to romp and play with them. They are very patient with being climbed on and “manhandled” by children of any age so the only risk is due to size and accidental bumping.
The size, clumsiness, and hyperactive characteristics make these dogs ill-suited to apartment living where the situation turns to a “bull-in-a-China-shop” scenario when there is not enough space for them to move around easily. Anything not glues down in that situation is at risk for being knocked over including tables, chairs, knickknacks, drinks, lamps, etc. which makes apartments the last place that works well for having an Irish Wolfhound. Other than the size of the home environment, wolfhounds adapt to just about any living situation simply needing space to move around the home and short walks or romping activities daily.
For such gentle creatures, Irish Wolfhounds are surprisingly difficult to train because they do prefer to do whatever they want to without much consideration to what others want them to do. Training sessions often bring out their tendency to be stubborn and if the owners are inexperienced with such training challenges, they will be hard put to train a wolfhound to cooperate. Not only that, but their size alone makes it imperative that they are well trained which has to include overall consistency and boundary-enforcement. Irish Wolfhounds are considered to be puppies until they reach 2 years of age or beyond but even as puppies they are huge so training should begin immediately once they become a member of the family and should remain consistent throughout.
Irish Wolfhound Organisations in Australia
Irish Wolfhound Club of South Australia
Irish Wolfhound Organisations in the UK
UK Irish Wolfhound Rescue Trust
Did we miss your organisation? Let us know. Contact Us