Other names: Wolfhound, Cú/ Cú Faoil
The Irish wolfhound is a gentle, loyal, and exceptionally affectionate dog. Like many greyhound-type breeds, he is very attached to his social group and takes pride and pleasure in protecting them. He is not particularly territorial, but can certainly prove to be a strong deterrent if his family is threatened in any way. Patient and friendly with children, he can blend into family life seamlessly despite his imposing size.
Key facts about the Irish Wolfhound
Origins and history
Opinions on the Wolfhound’s origins are divided: certain sources claim that the breed is recent (dating back to 19th century), but most experts consider his roots to be very old. It would seem that in 391 B.C., a Roman consul received a gift from his brother in the form of seven large dogs, designed to fight in the arena against lions and bears. The description of this dog is, at any rate, compatible with that of the Wolfhound.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 10 - Sighthounds
Section 2 : Rough-haired Sighthounds
Physical characteristics of the Irish Wolfhound
Female : Between 28 and 32 in
Male : Between 31 and 34 in
Female : Between 88 and 119 lb
Male : Between 88 and 119 lb
The admissible coat colours are: grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey.
Type of coat
The coat is medium-long.
The coat is coarse, hard and wirehaired above the eyes and underneath the jaw.
The eyes are dark.
The Irish Wolfhound is one of the biggest dogs in the world: a sighthound with an elongated and imposing frame, a significantly muscular constitution, and a large croup and back. The paws are long, straight, and of solid bone structure. The head is long and flat, not too wide, with a long and slightly pointed muzzle. The eyes are small and dark, exuding a gentle expression. The ears are small and rose-shaped, like that of the Greyhound.
Good to know
There was a time when this breed could not be found in a single, so-called ‘commoner’s’ home. Only nobility was allowed to own this dog. He was to be found in several royal courts, namely that of Edward the Third, Henry the Eighth, and Elizabeth the First in England, or Henry the Fourth in France.
The Irish Wolfhound, or quite simply the Wolfhound, is a particularly affectionate dog despite what his massive constitution might lead you to think. He is only fully at peace when surrounded by members of his adoptive family, to which he is very attached.
If invited to join in, he is always ready to play with members of his social group, but you should be careful not to excite him too much as, once at full throttle, he tends not to be in full control of his strength and can inadvertently become dangerous.
Do note that you should rather avoid playing ‘fetch’ with him, as his already pronounced hunting instinct need not be reinforced.
The Irish Wolfhound is a particularly balanced, gentle and patient dog, especially with children.
Even though he is a Sighthound and thereby rather predisposed to hunting, (a breed, however, no longer allowed to be used for this practice), he is actually mainly used as a companion and watchdog. In this sense, he is a versatile, intelligent dog, who possesses an ample ability to adapt.
The name ‘Wolfhound’ does indeed spring from the breed’s original function as a wolf and bear hunter right up until the 17th century- a role attributed to him on account of his courage and strength. He remains nevertheless a good-natured dog, that only reacts when provoked.
Fearful / wary of strangers
If an introduction has been made in a positive manner and in due time, the Irish Wolfhound does tolerate the presence of strangers on his turf. He does, however, need time to give his trust, and to assess whether the ‘intruder’ poses any kind of threat.
The Irish Wolfhound is very attached to his family, and takes enormous pleasure in watching over and protecting them. Having said this, his exceptionally calm nature does also equip him to stay out of his owners’ way when at home.
Behaviour of the Irish Wolfhound
When the Irish Wolfhound is left alone, he has a tendency to get bored fast- he values the company of his family above all else. A positive habituation towards solitary moments must be initiated ahead of time, whilst making sure he is also provided with toys that will keep him busy, and that he is carefully and progressively exposed to the absences.
Easy to train / obedience
Since the Irish Wolfhound is exceptionally attached to his master, the training process does not tend to be difficult if the methods used are both gentle and firm, coherent and positive. In fact, this dog takes it to heart to please his master, but no display of brutality will ever be tolerated.
Make sure to start laying the disciplinary groundwork for the Wolfhound pup as soon as he integrates the home, to prevent him from picking up any bad habits. What’s more, these ‘bad habits’ could prospectively become dangerous on account of the dog’s bulk once he reaches adulthood.
The basics of dog-training and discipline will therefore continually have to be reinforced, especially recall and healing. He only reaches maturity at the age of 3 or 4, in fact, so commands must be repeatedly taught and mastered.
A guardian and protector by nature, the Irish Wolfhound does use barking as a way of signaling the presence of an intruder, or any other source of potential danger.