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Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound,Irish WolfhoundThe Irish Wolfhound (right, Ch Ainsea Fleur)is one of those breeds that even people not interested in dogs tend to recognise.  The largest of the hounds, standing at up to, and over, 34" and having a minimum weight for the dogs of 54.5kg, he is also the largest of all dog breeds. Unlike most breeds there is no maximum height given in the Irish Wolfhound Breed Standard, the aim being for him to well-built throughout.  The KC Breed Standard requires a breed "of great size, strength, symmetry and commanding appearance, very muscular, yet gracefully built".

The national dog of Ireland, the Wolfhound is believed to descend from the Cu, a giant, rough coated type of hound known in Ireland since pre-Christian times.  It is likely that in common with the Scottish Deerhound and the Borzoi (also known as the Russian Wolfhound), the original sighthound, of Afghan/Saluki type, arrived with Phoenician traders from the Middle East and was then bred to local, coated dogs to improve hardiness.  The Cu was known as ferocious in battle, a courser of large game and devoted to his owner.  He would hunt wolf, boar and elk.  He was held in high regard and ownership was limited to kings, nobles and poets.

By the end of the 18thC there were no wolves left in Ireland and the Irish Wolfhound suffered a catastrophic drop in numbers.  The famines of the middle years of the 19thC hastened the decline of the breed, and had it not been for Captain Graham's efforts to save the Wolfhound it would almost certainly have disappeared.  A Scottish officer in the British Army, he tracked down hounds wherever he heard of them and managed to re-establish the breed.  The Irish Wolfhound Club was established by him in 1885 and exists today to serve the interest of the breed.

One of the most tragic folktales belongs to the Irish Wolfhound, the story of Gelert.  His owner Llewelyn left his hound Gelert in the castle whilst out hunting; on his return he saw the baby's cradle was overturned and blood was dripping from the hound's jaws.  In his fury and anguish he ran the hound through with his sword and the hound's dying cry was answered by the cry of the baby.  Llewelyn picked up the cradle, and there lay the baby unharmed, a wolf dreadfully maimed, dead beside it.  This tale is set in Wales, but evidently variants crop up all over the place; it is probably an early equivalent of today's urban myths. It has even been suggested that the tale was no more than an early marketing strategy dreamt up by a local Innkeeper.

However, from that tale it is evident that the Wolfhound is gentle, devoted and trustworthy; and that is every inch his nature.  He is a delightful dog in every respect and for the right owner a joy to own.  He does require plenty of space; unlike some hounds he does not curl up into a small space - he needs a lot of space in the house and his head is carried just above the kitchen worksurfaces, so if a joint of meat is left out and disappears he is not really to blame.  Similarly he needs plenty of space outside, and as a sighthound that space must be well-fenced.  No sighthound is reliable near stock so safe areas for exercise are essential.

As a youngster - up to about 2 years - the Irtish Wolfhound needs to be given controlled exercise in order to protect his developing frame.  Jumping out of a 4WD (SUV) is terribly damaging to his front and he should be trained to use a ramp from a puppy.  His dietary requirements will also be demanding; he eats a good deal and that should be high quality food.  Breeders will always provide diet sheets and their advice should be heeded.  A rewarding and superb dog to own he has some very particular requirements so if ownership of one of these lovely hounds is to be successful then plenty of research should be done and the Breed Clubs should be your first port of call.

The coat is easy to care for.  Regular grooming with a slicker brush will remove dead coat and ease out knots, whilst some handstripping will prevent the coat from becoming too heavy. 

To read the Kennel Club Breed Standard for the Irish Wolfhound click here.

Irish Wolfhound Breed Clubs

IRISH WOLFHOUND CLUB  Mrs Jean Malley  01704 823532
IRISH WOLFHOUND SOCIETY Mrs E Murray 01302 722166

Irish Wolfhound Rescue and Rehoming

Contact a Breed Club or the  Irish Wolfhound Rescue Trust Mrs Jan Pain (Secretary)  on  01550 777605.

They should be able to give you information about hounds requiring homes and procedures for re-homing; if you are in the unfortunate position of having to re-home your own Wolfhound, please go through breed rescue. They will not be judgmental and are best able to find the right permanent home for him.

If you are looking for a puppy contact the Breed Clubs and the Breeders listed and visit the puppyfinder website where there is a great deal of information on hereditary conditions.  If you are a Breeder and wish to advertise your puppies puppyfinder is an excellent showcase.

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