by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all dogs yet is rugged, graceful, commanding in appearance and agile. Even with his extraordinary height and harsh, rough coat there is a certain streamline quality about him which denotes sleekness, for the Irish Wolfhound is built along Greyhound lines.
Through historical narration, legend and art, this aristocratic looking dog is indubitably connected with the period which knew him best, the feudal times of the Middle Ages. His history is deeply colored with romance, and many are the sensational deeds of valor attributed to him.
The Irish Wolfhound was first mentioned A.D. 391 when it was written: "All Rome viewed them with wonder." In the second century writing of Arrian, dogs of the Irish Wolfhound's description are said to have been brought to Greece in 273 B.C. by the invading Celts.
In early writings the breed was referred to as "Irish dogs," "big dogs of Ireland," "greyhounds of Ireland," "wolfdogs of Ireland," "the great hounds of Ireland," and "the Irish Wolfhounds." They were widely used in wolf and elk hunting, but also served their masters well as bodyguards and in battle.
With the disappearance of the wolf and elk, the ranks of the breed became greatly diminished. It is believed and that Captain G. A. Graham, a Scotch officer in the British army, worked for more than twenty years in rehabilitating the breed. There were different strains, but none of the individuals were anything as large as the dogs mentioned in early writings. Capt. Graham crossed these dogs with the Great Dane and the Scottish Deerhound, and later used the Russian Wolfhound and one or two other breeds of large dogs.
The Irish Wolfhound has found considerable favor among present day sportsmen, being used in this country in hunting the timber wolf, other species of wolves, and the coyote. He is also used in other countries on large game. He has great speed and is game to the core, being capable of dispatching a wolf single-handled.
Despite his imposing appearance, the Irish Wolfhound possesses an even temperament, attaching himself to his master with great loyalty and affection. An ancient description read, "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked."
The Irish Wolfhound should not be quite as heavy or massive as the Great Dane, but more so than the Deerhound, which in general type he should otherwise resemble. He is of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly, though gracefully built. His movements are easy and active, head and neck carried high. The tail carried with an upward sweep with a slight curve towards the extremity.
The minimum height and weight of males should be thirty-two inches and 120 pounds; of the females, thirty inches and 105 pounds; these to apply only to hounds over eighteen months of age. Great size, including height at shoulder and proportionate length of body, is desired. It is also desired to firmly establish a race that shall average thirty-two to 34 inches in dogs, showing the requisite power, activity, courage, and symmetry.
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