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
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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.
Tendency to run away
His primordial hunting instinct being effectively intact, it is not uncommon to have to embark on a search after one’s Irish Wolfhound, who might have decided to take off in pursuit of an interesting trail, and with little regard for his masters.
Off-leash walks can only be allowed in secure environments, while the garden fence must be tall and absolutely foolproof.
It is when left alone for hours on end- without an activity to keep him busy, and without having been physically expended beforehand- that the Irish Wolfhound can indeed prove to be destructive. In such situations, proof of ‘mischief’ could be found all over the house, in direct proportion to the Wolfhound’s boredom and excess energy.
What’s more, given that this dog cannot stand his owners’ absences and gets stressed when alone, he will tend to ‘target’ and damage anything that bears his family’s scent (such as pillows, remote controls, phones, slippers, etc.).
Greedy / Gluttony
Of a rather frugal nature, this dog is not a big eater.
The ability to protect can be one of his advantages, but this trait should never be further reinforced by his owners. Already very protective of his family by nature, he can quickly become a deterrent if he deems it necessary. In fact, if he- or a family member- is attacked, he can quickly morph into a ferocious creature.
On the other hand, while he does actively protect his owners, he remains rather indifferent towards protecting the house or house grounds.
Generally speaking, Sighthounds are not recommended to novice owners. The Wolfhound cannot be placed in just anybody’s hands. If he is not properly trained and socialised, he can be dangerous (which is in fact the case with many other breeds as well).
It is preferable that this large, wirehaired Sighthound be handled by experienced owners who know the breed well, are familiar with the needs this type of dog has and, above all else, know how to train and socialise a pup in a positive, coherent, and preemptive manner.
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Irish Wolfhound in a flat
City life, which is more than likely to be in a flat, is not at all suitable for the Irish Wolfhound. Despite his stoic calm, he is clearly not made for living within a confined space.
This dog needs space to feel fully at peace. The ideal situation for him is a house with a garden (properly secured to avoid escapes) with the possibility to take walks in wide, outdoor yet secure spaces on a daily basis.
Need for exercise / Sporty
You cannot disassociate a Sighthound from the idea of racing, and the Wolfhound does indeed require much exercise and space to fulfil his physical expenditure needs.
He of course excels in all racing-related disciplines. Lure coursing on a racetrack or in a field is a very good activity to expose your sighthound too, especially since it has practically been designed with him in mind.
However, you should wait until your Wolfhound is fully grown (at around 15 months) before trying this kind of activity with him, in order to ensure that his joints are resilient enough.
Other than that, this dog needs stimulation every day for at least two hours- be it physical, mental, social, or olfactive- to remain fully content.
Travelling / easy to transport
This dog’s massive size, coupled with his low tolerance to heat, do not work in favour of travel, even car travel.
Irish Wolfhound and cats
This big Irish racing dog can get along well with a cat if he knows it, if he has been exposed to it as a pup and with which he has co-habitated for several years. Otherwise, he does remain a hunting dog by default, and will not necessarily be friendly with all cats.
Irish Wolfhound and dogs
He needs to be socialised properly and ahead of time to be able to get along with his fellow dogs. Regular, supervised, and always positive encounters will be necessary for the Wolfhound pup to develop and reinforce his ‘canine code of conduct’.
Irish Wolfhound and children
He is very gentle and patient towards children, which he dotes on and protects. Given his large size however, you must remain vigilant when you expose him to very small children.
Irish Wolfhound and the elderly
Renown for his tranquility, this dog can be suitable for certain older persons, but can under no circumstance live a sedentary life, which would on the most part make his life miserable and thereby intolerable.
The price of a Wolfhound varies depending on its origins, age, and sex. You have to count an average of £1430 for dogs subscribed to the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog of this size, you have to estimate an average of £70 per month.
The maintenance of this wirehaired dog is not complicated but does require some amount of diligence and consistency in order to preserve the beauty and cleanliness of his coat. He doesn’t necessarily need to be bathed, unless he is very dirty of course, but this should remain rare.
Shedding is moderate throughout the year, save for moulting seasons, during which it intensifies. That is when daily brushes will be required.
Nutrition of the Irish Wolfhound
Being the very large dog that he is, he will require rather copious meals throughout his entire period of growth (roughly 15 months). The diet should also ideally be approved of by a vet.
Once an adult, this dog is not difficult at all and can be just as happy with commercially available food (kibble) as with traditional nutrition (e.g. raw or homemade food).
It is, in fact, at the owner’s discretion to choose the type of diet he will provide his dog with, depending on availability and budget. At any rate, be they daily dry, raw, or cooked meals, they must be composed of high-quality products.
His large constitution requires two meals a day to prevent the dog from ingesting too much at once: a light meal in the morning, and a more substantial one in the evening.
Health of the Irish Wolfhound
Life expectancy is 8 years on average.
Strong / robust
The Irish Wolfhound is relatively robust but, unfortunately, does not have a very long lifespan.
Hot weather is not the Irish Wolfhound’s climate of choice. He will require a spot in the shade and an endless source of fresh water during heat waves, and you should refrain from demanding any physical exercise of him during these times.
Even though he tolerates cold weather and greatly appreciates spending time outside, it is not advised to have him sleep outside, as he clearly prefers to rest within the comfort of his family’s home.
Tendency to put on weight
This athletic and frugal dog is not vulnerable to excessive weight gain.