These proud dogs are the largest of all the hound breeds and although the Irish Wolfhound boasts an impressive size, they are known to be real gentle giants. They are renowned for their calm, relaxed natures and for their turn of speed. With this said, although the Irish Wolfhound is tall and large, they are perfectly balanced dogs boasting a harsh, rough coat that suits their overall appearance to a tee. Anyone wanting to share a home with one of these impressive dogs, might well need to accept being put on a waiting list, because not many Irish Wolfhound puppies are registered with the Kennel Club every year which means they can be hard to come by.
It is estimated that Irish Wolfhounds have been around since 7000 BC which makes them one of the most ancient breeds on the planet. They were once bred and used to hunt wolves, boar, elk and often used as guard dogs. Another theory is that when the Celts landed in Greece in 275 BC, they found dogs that resembled greyhounds which they then took with them when they invaded many other parts of Europe. It is thought that these dogs were then crossed to others with mastiff type breeds being the candidates used to create even larger and bigger dogs.
The Romans came across these dogs when their armies first invaded Britain, but there are tales of a large hound being around in Ireland way back in 200 BC right through to 200 AD. Written records exist from the 5th century of dogs similar to the wolfhound being bred and sold for profit with many of the hounds being taken out of the country and others being offered as gifts to the royals in other lands.
By the 15th and 16th centuries, hounds were commonly used to hunt wolves with Oliver Cromwell banning the export of them from Britain because of the wolf problem throughout the country. It is thought that the last wolf was killed in Ireland in 1780 after which time the number of Wolfhounds went into decline and these majestic dogs nearly vanished off the face of the earth altogether.
Luckily, by the end of the next century, the Wolfhound started to make a comeback, albeit very slowly when people began crossing them with other hounds and dogs including the Deerhound and sometimes they were crossed with Borzois and Great Danes too.
It was not until the 1870s that Irish Wolfhounds were first to appear at dog shows when they made quite an impression with their large statures and calm, placid natures. A few years later in 1855 a breed club was established for these wonderful and noble looking dogs. Today, although the breed is known the world over, the Irish Wolfhound remains an Irish national treasure. Not many puppies are registered with the Kennel Club with just under 300 being recorded in 2015.
Height at the withers: Males 71 - 90 cm, Females 71 - 90 cm
Average weight: Males 40 - 69 kg, Females 40 - 69 kg
When Wolfhounds first appeared on the scene centuries ago, there were two types with dogs boasting either a smooth coat or a rough one, but the hounds we see today have coarse, rough coats that match their overall appearance perfectly. Irish Wolfhounds are the largest and tallest of all hound breeds, but they boast having a perfect balance and a symmetry that gives them their graceful yet muscular look.
Their head is long which dogs carry high adding to their proud and noble look. They also boast a long muzzle that's moderately pointed with dogs having black noses and lips. Their eyes are full, oval-shaped and dark in colour. For such large dogs, the Irish Wolfhound boasts small, rose-shaped ears which boast a velvety texture to the touch. Their ears are dark and dog's carry them away from their faces.
They have strong jaws with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Irish Wolfhounds have long, strong and muscular necks that dogs carry well arched. Their shoulders are well-muscled with dogs having quite broad, sloping chests. Their front legs are well developed, strong and straight.
They are long backed and boast well arched loins with their belly being well drawn up which adds to their balance and symmetrical lines. They have well-muscled thighs and second thighs with strong, long back legs. Their feet are quite large and round with well arched closed toes and their nails are curved and extremely strong. Tails are long and quite thick, slightly curved and they are well covered in hair which dogs carry quite low.
When it comes to their coat, the Irish Wolfhound boasts a harsh, rough coat on their body, head and legs, but it is especially long and wiry around their eyes and under a dog's jaw. The recognised colours for the breed include the following:
Although very large and tall, the Irish Wolfhound is a truly kind, friendly and gentle giant. With this said, they are not the best choice for first time owners simply because being hounds, these dogs need to be given the right amount of training and guidance from a young age and then throughout their lives to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. As such, they are better suited to people who are familiar with how to manage and handle this type of large hound.
One thing about the Wolfhound that most people notice apart from their size, is the fact they never seem to rush things, but when they do put on a turn of speed, they can cover a tremendous amount of ground. They are not high energy dogs, but they do need to be given a ton of daily exercise to keep them happy, healthy and fit. They also need to be given the right amount of mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in which could see a dog looking for other ways to amuse and entertain themselves. In short, they may well develop some unwanted behavioural issues which is best avoided if they get bored.
Irish Wolfhounds thrive on being around their owners and do not do well if they are left to their own devices even for shorter lengths of time. They are a great choice for people who work from home or where one family member usually stays at home during the day when everyone else is out of the house. They are not a good choice for people who work all day and who leave their dogs alone during this time. In a nutshell, the Irish Wolfhound is a real gent and they are a delight to be around, however, they are not the sort of hound that can be taken on too lightly.
They can be a little wary and aloof around strangers, but these hounds very rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards anyone.
The Irish Wolfhound is an intelligent dog, but they need to be handled correctly and their training has to be started early always taking a gentle approach to things. Puppies are usually quite well-behaved and they are quiet too. However, when training an Irish Wolfhound, it's best to be very patient and to show a dog a lot of understanding, never attempting to rush things which would just end up being a complete disaster due their sensitive natures.
Although not the best choice for first time owners, the Irish Wolfhound does make a great family pet for people who are familiar with this type of large hound and therefore know their needs. With this in mind, they are known to be very good around children although it has to be said, that their size alone means that adult supervision is necessary whenever they are around children and more especially toddlers.
Irish Wolfhounds are usually good around other dogs, but care needs to be taken when they are around any small pets and animals which includes cats because their natural instincts might just kick in.
The average life expectancy of an Irish Wolfhound is between 6 and 8 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
However, like so many other pure breeds, they are known to suffer from certain hereditary disorders which are worth knowing about if you are hoping to share your home with one of these large, proud and gentle giants. The health issues that seem to affect Irish Wolfhounds the most include the following:
Irish Wolfhounds are also known to suffer from growth issues. As such the feeding and exercise requirements of young and older dogs need to be carefully monitored and controlled, but more especially in puppies. It is also essential that nursing bitches be constantly watched over for the first three weeks after they have given birth to puppies because mothers can accidentally crush them.
As with any other breed, these large dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in tip-top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
An Irish Wolfhound's coat is wiry and rough which means a weekly brush is essential to keep their skin and coats in good condition. It's also important for these dogs to be hand stripped at least twice a year and more especially when they shed most which is during the Spring and then again in the Autumn.
It's also essential for a dog's ears to be checked on a regular basis to ensure no infections are flaring up because once they do, they can be notoriously difficult to clear up once an infection takes hold.
Although Irish Wolfhounds never do much in a hurry, they are however, very athletic dogs which means they need a minimum of 2 hour’s daily exercise to keep them fit both physically and mentally. When it comes to Irish Wolfhound puppies, they only need to be given a little amount of exercise because their bones and joints are still growing and developing. If too much pressure is put on them, it could lead to some serious joint and bone issues later in a dog's life. With this said, a good 15 minute’s romp in the garden would be enough for puppies, but their playtime should always be supervised.
Older dogs like to be able to roam around a large back garden whenever they can, but the fencing needs to be very secure and high, although they are not known to jump fences, but if they find way out they are liable to go wandering off.
If you get an Irish Wolfhound puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again. With this said, it is vital that a puppy's diet be carefully monitored because Irish Wolfhounds grow very fast when they are young.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. Their diet has to contain all the right vitamins, minerals and other nutrients these large dogs need to stay healthy. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Irish Wolfhounds are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. You should never feed an Irish Wolfhound just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
If you are looking to buy an Irish Wolfhound you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are offered for sale every year. You would need to pay anything from £750 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Irish Wolfhound in northern England would be £71.75 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £130.13 a month (quote as of April 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £60 - £80 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Irish Wolfhound and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1400 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for one of these large dogs would be between £130 to £200 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Irish Wolfhound puppy.
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