Dog Breeds 101: Irish WolfHound

The Irish Wolfhound is the gentle giant of the canine world. It can grow up to 32 to 36 inches tall but stand nearly 7 feet tall when it stands up on its hind legs! The full-grown Irish Wolfhound is, in fact, the tallest dog in the world. It has even been described as “like a small horse.” [1]

To be able to grow this big, this dog has to grow pretty fast. And it does! Irish Wolfhound puppies have been known to gain as much as a pound a day.

At full size, this dog of course stops growing at such a ridiculous rate. But that doesn’t put a damper on its appetite. Irish Wolfhounds can consume up to 3.5 pounds of dog food per day. [2]

Irish Wolfhound – History

The Irish Wolfhound is certainly an ancient breed of dog with a long history. Everywhere Irish Wolfhounds went, people were at awe at the sight of them because of how large they are. This used to be a fearsome dog, as one might imagine because any dog that can take on a wolf would need to be! They used to be feared in Ancient Rome but they have now been cross-bred and domesticated to be affectionate, loving and devoted companions. Roman consul Aurelius even wrote in 391 A.D. that “all Rome viewed with wonder” the Irish Wolfhounds that were sent to him as gifts. Back then, nobles were the only ones who were allowed to own Irish Wolfhounds and the number of dogs owned was related to the prestige their titles held. They were used in wars, accompanied hunters and guarded livestock as well as property. This dog’s proclivity for rubbing elbows with the rich and famous made it a highly esteemed breed, despite the fact that it looks a bit “pauperish” because of its characteristically rough and wiry coat, which can come in shades of white, fawn, gray, brindle, red, or black. [3]

Its royal masters liked to take the Irish Wolfhound on hunting expeditions because this dog was such a good hunter of large prey. In fact, the Irish Wolfhound was so good at hunting, the wolves and boar that it hunted practically disappeared from the Irish Wolfhound’s hunting grounds. This event was followed by a sharp decline in the dogs’ popularity. [4]

However in the second half of the 19th century, a British army officer named Captain George Graham aimed to save the breed from completely dying out by incorporating the Great Dane and Deerhound into the Irish Wolfhound’s bloodline. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1897. [5][6]

Irish Wolfhound – Temperament And Habits

Today, this huge dog has returned to good human graces, and even better, you don’t need to be royalty to own it any more. However, you still do need a big house, or at least, a big yard for it to stretch its long legs in.

In modern times this dog is still sturdily built but has swift, graceful movements and is highly capable of running down large game. But despite its large size, it is not generally destructive inside the house. In fact, this dog is generally known to have a reserved, easy going and introverted nature. It loves to be around its people and is considered to be good with children if provided early socialization. The Irish Wolfhound needs to be taken out on daily walks and when its exercise requirements are met, it will be content in lounging around the house.

You may expect that a dog as big as a small horse would need a lot of space and time to gallop around, but in actuality, this dog really doesn’t ask for much, just an outdoor romp once or twice a day for exercise. The rest of the time, it is happy to docilely stay indoors as it is not a naturally rambunctious creature. Really, this dog is quite easy to please.

Irish Wolfhound – Care And Health

In addition, it’s also easy to groom. Unlike its more aristocratic counterparts, who need daily brushing to keep their luxurious coats in perfect condition, this slightly scruffy-looking dog can do with just a weekly brushing to keep its coat looking its very best.

An Irish Wolfhound that is well cared for can give joy to its human for up to eight years on average. Sad to say, this dog has one of the shortest life spans in the canine world, largely because of its size. It is somewhat prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and heart disease. [7] For instance, its heart has to work extra hard to pump blood to the end of its extremely long legs. It doesn’t always succeed in doing that, and then fluids may begin to accumulate in its feet and cause swelling. [2]

Veterinarians recommend that Irish Wolfhound owners should always observe their pet carefully, because this rather stoic breed is unlikely to fuss when feeling unwell. [1] “If you have an Irish Wolfhound and he’s chewing at his back feet, you should get his heart checked”, says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman. [2]

Dog Breeds 101 – Irish Wolfhound - WP
Photo –
Wikipedia – lic. under CC 2.0


[1] Get to know the Irish Wolfhound. American Kennel Club.

[2] Breed All About It – Irish Wolf Hound – Animal Planet.

[3] Irish Wolfhound Standard of Excellence: General Appearance. Irish Wolfhound Club of America.

[4] Starbuck, Alma. Early History of the Breed. Irish Wolfhound Club of America.




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