The Irish Wolfhound is generally the largest of all dog breeds. The name of this dog is self explanatory as it was bred to undertake the dangerous task of hunting wolves with its human owners.
This is a breed of antiquity and is thought to have been in existence, in some type, since 7000BC. It has been documented in old Irish stories or Sagas from the 5th century and was thought to be a breed which would follow its master into battle, using its great size to its advantage. They were generally used as hunting dogs but also held their own in a guarding capacity of both people's livestock and property. During the time of the English conquest of Ireland, only nobility were allowed to own Wolfhounds and they were often given as gifts, such were their worth. By the 17th or 18th century the Wolfhound had reached the modern sizes and shape we know now and while they continued to be prized as hunters, they were more often prized as status symbols, but their numbers were in decline. They were bought back from the brink by a Captain George Graham in the late 1800's and in 1885, he, along with a band of fellow enthusiasts, founded the Irish Wolfhound Club and wrote the first breed standards for this extraordinary dog.
Average height to withers: The minimum height for males is 32 inches and females 30 inches.
Average weight: The average weight for males is around 54 kg and 47kg for females.
Apart from the great height of this dog, the weight and length should all be in proportion giving an overall well balanced and well muscled silhouette. For such a large dog, the movements are fluid and graceful. The head of this breed is large and imposing with a black nose, triangular shaped ears which lie close to the head. The back is long and straight which leads into a tail which is carried straight on slightly curled over the back. The long legs are well defined. The overall appearance of this dog could be described as 'shaggy' with its rough, hard hair which covers all its body without being excessively feathered anywhere but more of a covering on its head, eye groove area, ears and chin. The colours for this dog are grey, brindle, black, red, white or fawn.
The easy going Irish Wolfhound is very quiet by nature and often create a strong bonds with their family or owner which can lead to severe separation anxiety at times. Like many hounds, they can be aloof with people they do not know.
They are not usually territorial or aggressive with other dogs, in fact they can be very playful, and it is common for Irish Wolfhounds at play - course with another dog. While this is a typical hunting behaviour it is not usually pursued in an aggressive manner. They are exceptionally well mannered with children, but can be quite clumsy due to their great size, especially while still learning as a pup or young dog. They respond well to firm, but gentle, consistent leadership.
Irish Wolfhounds are known for their loyalty, affection, patience and devotion to their family, and while their size can be used in a guarding capacity, their gentle natures make them ideal family companion but when they or their family are in any perceived danger they display a fearless nature.
They do require regular daily walks and runs and love to play and be stimulated making them a good choice for a family with an active life and time to devote to their dog.
Like many large breeds, the Irish Wolfhound does not generally live past 10 years of age, indeed the average age is around 7 years old. Like many deep chested dogs Bloat can be an issue. Bloat is a medical emergency that can cause horrible pain and proves fatal in an estimated 40% of all cases. It is a gastric dilation of the stomach caused by an unusual accumulation of gas/liquid. This can be dangerous enough in its own right, but sometimes it leads to a second stage called volvulus, which is a stomach twisting or torsion. This shuts the stomach off from the rest of the body and prevents any of the accumulated gas or fluid within to escape. The stomach continues to expand, setting off a catastrophic series of events that in most cases can only be averted with emergency surgery.
The owner of a Wolfhound must take into account the expense of owning a larger breed of dog. From feeding, to vet bills, from insurance to sundries such as an extra big bed and bowls, things cost more when they are larger!