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History The Irish Wolfhound is a hunting dog of the sight hound family and one of the largest dog breeds in the world. It is also one of the oldest, dating back to the 1st century B.C. or earlier. Its ancestors were a massive breed called the Cú, who were bred by the early Celts to hunt deer, elk, and other large game. The breed appears in much of Irish literature, where they were alternately called the Great Hounds, Irish Dogs, and the Wolf Dogs of Ireland.
For decades, Irish Wolfhounds could only be owned by the elite and were given as presents to Irish royals. However, wolf-hunting became so popular that the export had to be stopped, and in 1766 the breed disappeared from its native land. It was revived some 200 years later by British soldier Captain George Graham, who bred the Wolfhounds brought by the Romans with the Borzoi, Deerhound, Great Dane, and other breeds of similar size. Today the Wolfhound appears in show rings and is a popular sporting dog.
Appearance The Irish Wolfhound is a massive dog; it can reach up to 7 feet standing on its hind legs. But despite its size, it doesn’t have the lumbering gait common in large dog breeds. It has a tough, muscular body and a shaggy coat that always looks unkempt. The head is elongated with a slightly pointed muzzle, and the chest is noticeably deep. The ears are normally set back, but they prick up when the dog is excited.
Colours Acceptable coat colors are black, white, red, gray, brindle, and fawn.
Temperament The historic motto "Gentle when stroked; fierce when provoked" is often used to describe the Irish Wolfhound’s temperament. On most days, these dogs have a sweet, gentle temperament that belies their hunting prowess. They are very patient and get along very well with children. They are also tolerant of other pets, although they may play too roughly with smaller dogs. They are not meant to be watchdogs—they’ll greet anyone who walks in—but their sheer size is enough to deter intruders.
Weight 71 - 89 cm in height and 41 -54 Kg in weight. Males are larger than females and at the top end of the size ranges.
Problems As with most large breeds, the Irish Wolfhound tends to have weak bones and is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Because of their deep chests, bloat or gastric torsion is also a major concern. This can be avoided by feeding them several small meals instead of a few big ones every day. Other common problems include retinal atrophy, heart disease, and bone cancer.
Living Conditions Irish Wolfhounds are not meant to be housedogs. Even in a house big enough to accommodate them, their clumsiness and instinct to move can be a problem. They can also become restless and destructive unless they are taken out regularly. The ideal home is one with a large, well-fenced yard where they can satisfy their hunting instincts. They can adapt to most weather conditions, but they prefer cool climates.
Requirements Irish Wolfhounds need exercise just like any other dog, but their needs are small for their size. A daily walk or run should be sufficient. Puppies should not be over-exercised, as this can affect their bone growth. Exercise should start early and build up gradually, so that the dog can get used to it.
Training Requirements Irish Wolfhounds are fairly trainable, as long as training starts early. It’s important to build the dog’s self-confidence at the start of training, as young Wolfhounds tend to be very shy. Owners should be firm and consistent, but also gentle and understanding. Socialization is also necessary, especially if there are other dogs in the house.
Life Expectancy Wolfhounds are relatively short-lived; the average life span is 7 to 10 years.
Grooming The Wolfhound’s coat should be brushed regularly to prevent tangling. This breed sheds once or twice a year; during this time the loose hairs should be brushed off so they won’t mat. Baths can be given only when necessary.
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More Irish Wolfhound Information: Check out our Irish Wolfhound Clubs and links to more informative websites dedicated to the breed.
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