Contrary to popular belief, the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest and largest dog breed. This breed is known for their nickname as “gentle giants” of the dog world. Many Irish legands exist about the bravery of this breed in numerous famous battles.
The Irish Wolfhound’s name originated from its use as a wolf hunter, not their appearance. This is an ancient breed dating as far back as 391 AD, according to Roman records. Irish Wolfhound’s have been used in wars, guarding property and herds, and hunting elk, deer, boar and wolves. This breed was very respected and some wars were fought over them. Irish Wolfhound’s were considered very regal and were a common royal present. When the boar and wolves became extinct in Ireland the Irish Wolfhound also declined in population. Captain George Graham, a British army officer, started breeding Irish Wolfhound’s in the 19th century and was the able to restore the breed by introducing the Great Dane and Deerhound, into the ancient stock. The Irish Wolfhound was recognized by the AKC in 1897.
The Irish Wolfhound is a giant dog reaching 28-35 inches in height and weighing anywhere between 90-160 pounds. This breed can reach up to 7 feet tall when standing on their hind legs. They have a large head, with a long and slightly pointed muzzle. The Irish Wolfhound has small ears that lay back against the head when relaxed and semi-pricked when excited. They have long tails that hang down and have a slight curve at the end. The wiry, shaggy coat is rough to the touch along the head, body and legs and longer hair surrounds the eyes and jaw area. Coat colors can include gray, brindle, red, black, white or fawn, with gray being the most common.
The Irish Wolfhound is considered to be one of the most gentle, sweet tempered and easy going dog breeds to own. They are known for being excellent with children and other animals. This breed is easy to train and willing to learn and please. The Irish Wolfhound will gladly greet strangers and may not be the best watch dog, although their size alone can scare off strangers.
It can take up to two years before this breed is fully grown. As puppies they can be quite clumsy and slow moving until they grow into their massive bodies. A high quality food will be essential for ensuring the best development for these large dogs. It is important not to exercise this breed to strenuously as a young dog, because it is not good for their growth and development. Teaching this breed not to jump up and pull on a leash is very important while they are still young and not too strong.
The Irish Wolfhound is prone to cardiomyopathy, bone cancer, bloat, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), Von Willebrands and hip dysplasia. Average life span for this breed is 6-8 years.
Due to their massive size, the Irish Wolfhound is not suited for apartment life and will do best with a large yard. This breed needs to be part of the family and can become very depressed if kenneled all day or left outside for too long. Since they are sighthounds it is important to have them in a secured yard if unleashed. A daily walk or run will keep this dog content and happy.
The rough, medium-length coat of the Irish Wolfhound needs a regular brushing to keep it in good condition. This breed is considered an average shedder, shedding seasonally.
Famous Irish Wolfhound’s:
- Urian, owned by Anne Boleyn
- Cragwood, President Herbert Hoover
- Robert Kennedy purchased an Irish Wolfhound for his daughter
- Sting owns an Irish Wolfhound
- Olga, owned by Wim Toelke
- Edward Albee, has owned many Irish Wolfhounds
- Oscar, owned by Claudia Schiffer
- Conan O’Brien, owns an Irish Wolfhound
- Hunter, owned by Hans Clarin
- Ruff, owned by Roger Moore is an Irish Wolfhound mix
- Flynn, owned by Curd Jurgens
- Centaur Pendragon, owned by Rodolpho Valentino
- Crusader, owned by Chris de Burgh
- Roger Whittacker owned an Irish Wolfhound
- Jean Rochefort owned an Irish Wolfhound
- Ivan Rebroff owned an Irish Wolfhound
- Richard III, King of England, owned many Irish Wolfhounds
- Gelert, owned by Llewellyn the Great, Prince of Wales
- Henry VII, King of England, owned many Irish Wolfhounds
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