Irish Wolfhound

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Size

Giant

Life span

10 Years

Weight

69 Kg

Group

Hound Dogs

Irish Wolfhound Overview

The Irish Wolfhound is a giant sighthound breed famous in its native land, Ireland. Originally, the Irish Wolfhound comes as a smooth coated or a rough coated dog but only the rough coated variety exists today. As the name suggests, the Irish Wolfhound was originally used as a wolf-hunting dog, whose greyhound ancestors were brought to Ireland by Phoenician traders. Its general appearance is that of a dog possessing great strength, symmetry, great speed and courage. The dog has a rough and harsh coat on the body, legs and head, wiry and long over the eyes and under the jaw. Breed colours include grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten, and steel grey. The Irish Wolfhound is extremely intelligent, corky, extremely loyal and friendly. It is reputed to be the tallest of all the hound breeds and the biggest of all dog breeds, but despite its size, it is very gentle, calm, and loving – a true gentle giant. The minimum height for dogs is 79 cm but the average size is between 81 - 86 cm, while the minimum height for bitches is 71 cm. Weight minimum ranges between 54.5 kg for males and 40.9 kg for females.

Irish Wolfhound Characteristics

Size InformationIntelligence
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Size InformationExercise Needs
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Size InformationDogs Health
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Size InformationChild Friendly
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Size InformationApartment
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Size InformationShedding
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Size InformationGrooming Needs
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Size InformationBarking
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Size InformationAlone
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Size InformationTrainability
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Size InformationEnergy Levels
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Size InformationDog friendly
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Thinking of buying or adopting a Irish Wolfhound?

History & Origin

1The origin of the Irish Wolfhound is rather obscure. Ancient Celtic writings suggest that the breed existed as early as 273 BC. Experts believe that greyhound-type dogs were brought to Ireland from the Middle East by Phoenician traders. These dogs were then crossed with Mastiffs to produce a dog of massive stature and impeccable speed and strength. Julius Caesar even mentions the breed on his commentaries on the Gallic Wars. The Irish Wolfhound was highly esteemed and was given as gifts to kings and emperors. In 391 AD, Roman Consul Quintus Aurelius Symmachus received seven Irish Wolfhounds as gifts which were used for fighting lions and bears.

The Irish Wolfhound was originally developed to hunt wild boars, elks, and wolves. It was so successful in hunting that these game eventually disappeared and nearly made the breed extinct because there was no more practical use for it. Luckily, a group of breed enthusiasts led by Scottish Captain Augustus Graham developed a comprehensive breeding program in 1879 that eventually revived the Irish Wolfhound by crossing it with the Scottish Deerhound, Borzoi, Great Dane, and the English Mastiff.

Temperament

5The Irish Wolfhound is curious, loyal, responsive, and a sweet dog. Despite its enormous size (which can reach up to 7 feet when standing on its hind legs), it is calm and gentle, making it a true gentle giant. It is a true sighthound that relies on sight rather than scent and is highly adapted towards hunting wolves. It has an amazing amount of speed and strength, very agile and fast where it can catch up with wolves when they’re running as well as taking them down. Although hunting still runs in its blood, majority of modern Irish Wolfhounds are couch potatoes and would rather sleep all day or sit on his owner’s lap. It is rarely destructive in or out of the house nor boisterous. It is an easygoing house pet that is quiet by nature. It thrives on human companionship and may develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.

Training

Training should start during puppyhood because a puppy is never too young to learn. Basic training such as wearing a collar, walking on the lead, coming when called, simple sit or down are necessary and can easily be taught to the Wolfhound as early as 6 to 12 weeks old. Clicker training is an excellent way to train a puppy or an older Irish Wolfhound. Firm and gentle training with positive reinforcements is the best method to use when training the Irish Wolfhound. It responds negatively to harsh training.

Grooming

Grooming should start early in the life of the Irish Wolfhound as a puppy. Brushing the coat with a soft brush and checking the ears, mouth, feet, and tail regularly will create a strong bond between the owner and the puppy. An adult Irish Wolfhound doesn’t need an enormous amount of grooming. Just regular brushing and a thorough grooming once a week is sufficient.

Health

Similar to other large dog breeds, the Irish Wolfhound has a very short lifespan, with an average of 7 years. There are Irish Wolfhounds that live up to 10 years but very rare. Among the leading cause of death for this breed are dilated cardiomyopathy and bone cancer. Dilated cardiomyopathy is an enlargement of the heart which disrupts the efficient flow of blood, thereby affecting  the normal function of the lungs, liver, and other body systems. Bone cancer or osteosarcoma is a cancerous tumour in a bone and is the leading cause of the breeds mortality in the United States from the 1960s to the 1980s. Like all deep-chested breeds, gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) or bloat is also very common in Irish Wolfhounds. Rarely seen is intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (IPS) or liver shunt which can either be hereditary or acquired.

Exercise

An Irish Wolfhound puppy should not be given actual exercises until about six months of age because it may damage the fragile bones like other large breeds of dogs. A growing puppy needs a lot of rest time so children must be taught to leave the puppy alone when it is sleeping. Short walks must be given past six months of age, gradually increasing in distance as the puppy grows older. An adult Irish Wolfhound requires at least 20 minutes of free running in the morning and in the evening with short walks in between. Do not exercise the breed an hour before feeding or two hours after feeding or it may suffer from gastric torsion which can be life-threatening.

Children and other pets

The Irish Wolfhound is a true gentle giant, often forming a strong bond with all the members of the family. It is excellent with children, although caution must always be taken whenever it is playing with children because its sheer size can easily knock anyone down, even adults. It also goes along well with other dogs, especially those it grew up with which he can form strong attachment with.

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