Giant size, sweet disposition, loving heart…Irish Wolfhounds are truly a sight to behold! Fall in love with these gentle giants!
One of the tallest dog-breeds, Irish Wolfhound derives his name from the purpose they were bred – wolf hunting with dogs. Despite their size, these huge dogs are an epitome of power, swiftness and keen sight.
Origin of Irish Wolfhounds in Ireland is dated back to 7000 BC. Mentioning of this breed as ‘Cu’ has been found in Irish literature and laws during the fifth century. The term ‘Cu’ is literally used to represent various meanings, such as hound, Irish hound, war dog, wolf dog, etc and prefixed on the names of famous Irish warriors. The breed was almost disappeared in certain period of time in history. But Captain DE Graham of the British Army has revived the bloodline of the breed – bringing up to the present day Irish Wolfhounds.
The magnificent looks…
Irish Wolfhounds are the largest and tallest of galloping breeds – they can actually reach the size of a small pony! Muscular and strong, these dogs are gracefully built. Look at an Irish Wolfhound while he is walking as his movement is so easy and active. Their head is long and so is their muzzle. They have small ears which prick when they are excited. Their legs are long but strong enough to carry their huge size. They are rough-coated and their tail is long with slight curve at the edge. They are found in various colours like grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey. The minimum height of male Irish Wolfhound is 32 inches while that of female is 30 inches and they weigh around 40-69 kg.
Irish Wolfhound is usually described as the gentle giant, full of love and loyalty. They are extremely patient, intelligent and of course sweet-tempered. Although, they are Sighthounds, their temperament is different a bit. When it comes to foreigners or strangers, Irish Wolfhounds are usually more open than let’s say a Greyhound or a Saluki. But we mustn’t forget that they are real Sighthounds, which means that we must socialise them from a very young age, otherwise they might become shy and reserved towards people. That’s the reason why they are not good watchdogs…people would be intimidated with their big size, but their friendliness towards strangers can act as a deterrent.
They are relatively easy to train and should be trained at a very young age to avoid the hassles of a giant disobedient dog. An 80-kilogram is simply not easy to be taught…!
Living with an Irish Wolfhound…
An Irish Wolfhound is a perfect family dog and perfect company to a child, as they are very patient and soft. But, it is not recommended to keep an Irish Wolfhound in a flat or house; they are hunting dogs, more importantly, they are Sighthounds, thus they need to be bounded to nature.
They are close to their family and can become bored if left for long periods of time. As all other dogs, they are the happiest if they have a dog as a company. This way they will not get bored, neither depressed.
An Irish Wolfhound puppy needs care and love, and it’s very important that one must not force them to move or exercise more than they are supposed to. In other words, an Irish Wolfhound puppy can move only as much as he wants to. The importance of this ‘unwritten rule’ lies in the fact that as all giant breeds, their joints and bones are more sensitive than in the case of small breeds. They do need walks and outings with their pet parents, but we must never overstrain them.
“The last variety and most wonderful of all that I shall mention is the great Irish Wolf dog, that may be considered as the first of the canine species… bred up to the houses of the great… he is extremely beautiful and majestic in appearance, being the greatest of the dog kind to be seen in the world….”
–Oliver Goldsmith, Animated Nature, 1770
Exercise – more muscle, more power
An adult Irish Wolfhound needs exercise in order to build the needed muscles for every day life. This gives him more power and makes him agile.
Balanced food – a must
Feeding is also very important when it comes to an Irish Wolfhound. Give him a well-balanced diet with vitamins, minerals and other components. They must never be too fat or obese as being obese may be fatal in long term.
They should not be bathed frequently – once in a month is enough! But they need regular grooming of their coat using different grooming knives like the Hauptner grooming knife. Also, in some areas, body scissors are needed. Since the use of these accessories is not so simple, it should be done by a professional handler or a groomer!
Their average life expectancy ranges from seven to nine years due to their big size. They might suffer from heart disease or cancer. Besides, there’s a common phenomenon named bursitis (typical in the case of young dogs, but not characteristic in the case of adult dogs). It is commonly caused by repetitive and excessive pressure and hits on the same spot, elbows are the most commonly affected, but sometimes may occur on the back as well. It’s neither dangerous, nor serious, but requires treatment. It’s pretty displeasing to the dog. The best treatment is to use crèmes and bandage with massage. Homeopathy treatment is also effective.
All in all, Irish Wolfhounds are excellent companion dogs – huge dogs with a heart of gold!
(Anna Szabó with her father Szabó Vilmos breed Irish Wolfhounds at Irish Cream Kennel in Zala, Hungary.)