Irish Wolfhound Guide

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The tallest of the sighthounds, the Irish wolfhound resembles a rough-coated greyhound, although of more powerful build. Great size is especially valued in the breed. This combination of speed, power and size enables the Irish wolfhound to run down and overpower large prey. Despite its size, the breed should be gracefully built, its gait easy and active, and its head held proudly. The rough coat, which provides protection against the cold and damp, as well as its opponents' teeth, is especially wiry and long over the eyes and under the jaw.

Aptly known as the gentle giant, the Irish wolfhound is a soft-natured, easygoing breed. It is calm around the house, sensitive, patient, easygoing and sweet. Despite its great size, it is good with children, pets and other dogs. It is reserved with strangers and courageous when the need arises.


FAMILY sighthound, Southern (sighthound)


DATE OF ORIGIN ancient times

ORIGINAL FUNCTION coursing wolves and elk

TODAY'S FUNCTION lure coursing

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: >32 Weight: >120

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: >30 Weight: >105


Energy level Low energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Not very playful

Affection level Moderately affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Friendly

Ease of training Easy to train

Watchdog ability Medium

Protection ability Not very protective

Grooming needs Moderate maintenance

Cold tolerance High tolerance

Heat tolerance Low tolerance

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The Irish wolfhound enjoys a long walk and a chance to stretch its legs, so it needs daily exercise. At home it needs ample room to stretch out on a soft surface and should not be required to live in cramped quarters. It can develop callouses if allowed to lie on hard surfaces too often. Its coat needs to be brushed or combed once or twice weekly, plus occasional slight scissoring to neaten up straggly hairs. Dead hairs should be stripped twice a year.
• Major concerns: gastric torsion
• Minor concerns: cardiomyopathy, OCD, osteosarcoma, CHD
• Occasionally seen: none
• Suggested tests: (hip), (heart)
• Life span: 5 – 7 years
• Note: sensitive to anesthesia; prone to tail-tip injuries
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Dogs of great size are believed to have come to Ireland from Greece by 1500 B.C. In Ireland they became even more imposing, and gifts of these great dogs were made to Rome. The first definite mention of the Irish wolfhound occurred in Rome in A.D. 391. The breed gained fame for its imposing stature and ability in fighting wild animals in arena sports. It was so acclaimed in Ireland that it became the subject of many legends recounting its valor in battle and chase. All large hounds were once known as cu, a term implying bravery. The Irish name for the breed is cu faoil. Favored by Irish chieftains for the hunt, it gained its reputation as an unparalleled hunter of wolves and Irish elk. Illustrations of these dogs from the 17th century look very similar to modern Irish wolfhounds. The impressive hounds (often seven at a time) were traditionally given to foreign nobility. This practice, along with the extinction of the wolf in Ireland in the 18th century, contributed to the decline of the breed's numbers. By the 19th century, Irish wolfhounds were almost extinct in Ireland, and the famine of 1845 virtually decimated the breed. In 1869, Capt. G. A. Graham determined to resurrect the Irish wolfhound, a task he set about by crossing the few existing wolfhounds — in particular one named Bran, thought to be the last true wolfhound in Ireland — with such breeds as the Scottish deerhound as well as the Great Dane, the borzoi and even the Tibetan wolf dog. When first exhibited at a dog show in the 1870s, the reborn wolfhound created a sensation — the same reaction it inspires to this day when first seen. Its commanding appearance draws many admirers, but its popularity is tempered by the practicalities of keeping such a large dog.
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