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Irish wolfhound, an immense good-natured

Lobero irlandés, un inmenso bonachón

Lobo Azul |

The Irish wolfhound is considered the tallest dog among all known breeds. It is a friendly giant with a rough coat , who loves to run in open spaces and with a history that dates back to very ancient times.

  • Size : Giant.
  • Weight : Between 45kg and 100kg.
  • Hair type : Long, thick and hard.
  • Character : Balanced, sociable, intelligent, affectionate and active.
  • Health : Prone to health problems.
  • Life expectancy : Between 8 and 10 years.

This breed belongs to the group of hounds, canines that specialize in chasing other mammals. The Irish greyhound is the type of hound that uses sight and not smell when hunting. It perfectly complements its great vision with the speed and power it displays to gallop after its prey.

It does not owe its name because it looks like a wolf, but because in the past it served humans in its native Ireland as a hunter of wolves and other large animals such as elk and wild boar.

History of the Irish Wolfhound

The history of the Irish Wolfhound goes back thousands of years. There is evidence that the breed existed as early as 273 BC, but even earlier, in 600 BC, when the Celtic tribes Tectosages and Tolistobogii sacked Delphi, fighting with huge dogs at their side, according to survivors of the attack.

In the legends and stories of Celtic mythology it is mentioned as Cú Faoil , which has been translated as "hunting dog", "wolf dog" or "war dog". The is a prefix that was reserved to accompany the names of brave and loyal warriors.

irish wolfhound

Julius Caesar referred to the Irish wolfhound in his book “The Gallic War” in 391 AD, while Quintus Aurelius Symmachus received seven dogs as a gift to use in fights against wolves and bears in the Roman forums. The wolves caused a great commotion. “All Rome saw them with amazement,” Symmachus wrote in his letter of gratitude for the gift.

Saint Edmund Campion, in his “History of Ireland” (1571), related that the nobility used the Irish greyhound to hunt wolves in the mountains of Dublin and Wicklow.

For a time, only nobles were allowed to keep Irish wolfhounds . The number of copies they could possess was determined by the level of importance of the noble. Later, in Dublin, possession was restricted to only two copies per person.

The popularity of the Irish Wolfhound almost caused the breed to become extinct. The dog was an object of covet, and already in the 17th century it was a common practice to give it as a gift to royal houses and celebrities throughout Europe, which contributed to the decline in its numbers. The massive export of these dogs caused Oliver Cromwell , Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, to issue a decree to ensure that sufficient numbers of dogs were maintained to combat wolves.

Even so, the population continued to decline, to the point that by the 19th century the Irish wolfhound was almost extinct. The decrease in the number of wolves contributed to this, so the breeding and use of the greyhound was no longer necessary, and the famine that hit Ireland in 1845.

Captain George Augustus Graham is credited with saving the breed in 1869. He did so by crossing the few surviving specimens with the Scottish Deerhound, the Great Dane and the Mastiff to obtain the canid we know today. In 1870, the reborn dog was first shown in competition, and in 1885 Graham and other breeders founded the Irish Wolfhound Club .

Physical characteristics of the Irish wolfhound

It is so tall that, if it stands on two legs, it exceeds the height of a person. But, despite its large size, the Irish wolfhound is a slender animal . The male measures at least 80 centimeters at the withers, reaching up to 100 centimeters, while its minimum weight is 54 kilograms. The female has a minimum height at the withers of 75 centimeters, and a minimum weight of 47 kilograms.

The coat of this animal is short to medium, hard and strong. There are specimens of black, gray, white, beige, brindle and reddish.

This dog's ears are small and folded towards both sides of the head. It has a long, slightly pointed snout, and a long head and neck.

The Irish Greyhound has small, dark eyes, mostly black, although there are also some with dark brown eyes. The legs are long and robust and the feet are large and round. The back is quite long with the back and tail slightly arched. Regarding the chest, this breed is characterized by having a deep and muscular thorax, while the belly is narrow.

All of these traits make the Irish Wolfhound appear longer than it is tall , even making it perceived as smaller than specimens of other large breeds. But it is just a matter of perception, due to the constitution of his body, because in reality he is a giant among giants.

Irish Wolfhound Behavior

The adjective that best describes him is good-natured . It is a happy, sweet, calm, silent, docile dog capable of showing a lot of affection to its owners. It is usually an independent dog, and this is due to its hunter instinct, still present in the breed today, which dictates that it does not need to wait for orders and that it must make quick decisions.

He can socialize with other dogs, other pets and is tolerant with children. However, small dogs and cats can bring out the Irish wolfhound's ancestral hunting instinct, and this will cause it to chase them when they move, considering them as prey. That is why it is recommended that the wolfhound and small dogs and cats be socialized from a young age.

Although it is patient and friendly with children , it is recommended to supervise it when playing, especially if the children are very young, because an Irish Wolfhound could, unintentionally and due to its large size, be rough and cause harm.

Due to its big heart, the Irish Greyhound is an ideal dog to accompany families that live in the countryside or in places where there are large spaces available. Hunting wolves is not their main occupation today. Their tasks are limited to herding, warning about the presence of a threatening predator and, of course, providing company and loving their family. It adapts very well to rural life, but also to urban life, as long as it has enough space at its disposal.

This dog tends to create a very strong attachment bond with its owners, and is likely to cause damage if left alone for long periods of time. As long as it is accompanied, it is not a destructive dog.

Guard dog duties are not entirely compatible with the Irish Wolfhound, despite the fact that its appearance is imposing and intimidating . He doesn't shy away from strangers, but he doesn't confront them either, as he is too kind to do so. It is not a dog that shows too much interest in the tasks of defending spaces or properties. This means that guardian qualities are not among his strengths. Another thing is when his owners or himself are attacked, then his bravery and ferocity emerge.

Irish wolfhound care

The Irish Wolfhound is a calm dog , it is not overflowing with energy, it does not need to go running every day, but it does require a certain level of exercise, at least two hours a day, and above all it requires space.

Long walks will be enough for him to burn off his energy and keep his physical condition in good condition and his hound skills honed. Among the games that the Irish Wolfhound most enjoys are sniffing, tracking and chasing.


The coat of the Irish greyhound is hard and rough, so it will be enough to brush the coat twice a week to remove dead hair and prevent knots from forming.


Due to its large size , it is a dog with a huge appetite , more expensive to maintain than smaller breed dogs. It is recommended to provide 900 grams of dry food per day, which is low in protein. Due to their tendency to develop stomach problems, food should be given in several servings throughout the day. Food and water bowls should never be placed on the ground, they should be at a suitable height, and if possible well secured, so that you can reach them without problem. The effort to reach objects at low height could cause stomach torsion, a condition to which it is prone, and which could endanger the animal's life. It is not advisable to include cereals (corn, wheat, rice) or flours derived from them in your diet, due to the risk of causing allergies. It also does not need nutritional supplements, and it is not a dog that tends to be overweight.


The Irish Wolfhound requires space to develop. The lack of space could turn it into a destructive and even aggressive dog. You should have padded places at home for him to lie down on because, due to his thin build, he can develop calluses if he lies on hard surfaces for a long time.


It is a very intelligent dog, which is why it is relatively easy to train . Positive reinforcement through congratulations or a cookie works well with him. Firmness and affection are key to showing him who is the leader of the pack.

Irish Wolfhound Health

The Irish Wolfhound is a dog prone to developing serious diseases such as gastric torsion - common in all deep-chested dogs -, bone cancer, elbow and hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and heart problems. The most common causes of death are heart conditions and bone cancer.

Periodic checkups at the veterinarian are essential to prevent and detect in time any health problem that can be controlled with treatment. It is necessary to comply with the vaccination schedule and the deworming schedule recommended by the doctor.

With good nutrition, physical activity and care, the life expectancy of the furry dog ​​can be extended, since like all large dogs, the Irish Wolfhound does not live that many years, just 6 to 8 years on average.

Curiosities of the Irish Wolfhound

A dog so old that it has a lot of history to tell.

  • One of the most popular legends is the one that tells of the birth of the breed. Legend has it that an Irish princess was transformed into a dog by means of a spell. Her nephew Fionn mac Cumhaill managed to break the enchantment, but before that happened, the princess gave birth to two cubs: Bran and Sceolan, the first Irish wolfhounds, who even have a statue in the Irish town of Kildare.
  • Another legend says that King John of England gave a dog to his son Llewellyn, Prince of Wales. He called him Gelert. One day, the prince went out hunting and commissioned the wolfhound to take care of his son. When he returned he found the dog covered in blood, feared the worst and killed it. Shortly after, he realized his mistake when he saw his son playing near the body of a wolf that Gelert had killed to protect the little boy.
  • The Irish wolfhound reached the Rocky Mountains of the United States; it is said that a single specimen was able to eliminate forty wolves during one winter.
  • Illustrations from the 17th century show that the Irish greyhound of that time was very similar in appearance to the one we know today.
  • The Scottish novelist Walter Scott warned a friend that his dog, an Irish wolfhound, of course, would have no problem eating from his bowl without having to stand on his paws or climb onto a chair or table.

Having one of these specimens is a wonderful experience, although this does not mean that it is easy. If you have decided to have an Irish Wolfhound at home , make sure you can cover all of its needs and care for it as this breed deserves, the effort and affection will be highly rewarded.

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