What better way to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day than to learn about a dog with a royal Irish history. Perhaps you have heard of the Irish Wolfhound because it is the largest of dog breeds, but do you know why they are called Wolfhounds? Did you know they were commonly found in the field or at the hearth of ancient Irish kings?
The Irish Wolfhound appears often in the ancient legends and lore of Ireland. The Irish Wolfhound was depicted in the stories of battles with Finn MacCool (spelling varies) and the Fianna. Culann (sp) killed a great dog which may have been an Irish Wolfhound and was from henceforth known as Cuchulainn(sp) which means “The Hound of Culann”. Cuchulainn was a great Irish hero of Ulster known for his size, strength, loyalty, and battle prowess – all the features of the Irish Wolfhound. For more great historical information on the Irish Wolfhound, visit http://www.irishwolfhounds.org/history.htm.
In generally, only chieftains and other Irish nobility had been permitted to own an Irish Wolfhound. The Irish Wolfhound was prized for his ability to hunt wolves and large game. Not only were they good in the hunt, but they also made great pets. Even today, the Irish Wolfhound makes an ideal family pet. He is good with children and other pets. He is generally calm, good-natured, and easy-going. Despite his amiable nature, the Irish Wolfhound makes a good guard dog. He is reserved with strangers and will hold his ground against intruders. And unlike some guard dog breeds, he is not eager to attack and bite unless no other options are left to him.
Other than enormous food requirements, caring for an Irish Wolfhound is relatively easy. Since they have a calm nature, the Irish Wolfhound needs nothing more than a big yard and occasional long easy walks. For grooming, the rough medium-length hair of the Irish Wolfhound needs regular brushing. But hair trimming or stripping of the fur is not necessary.
The Irish Wolfhound is often pictured in a gray or fawn color but they also come in brindle, red, black, or even a pure white. Since the Irish Wolfhound was bred with the Scottish Deerhound in the late 1800’s in an attempt to revive the nearly extinct breed, the Irish Wolfhound also comes in Scottish Deerhound colors such as dark blue-gray and gray brindle. An Irish Wolfhound who is at least 18 months old should stand between 30″ and 32″ tall and weigh between 105 and 120 pounds. He has a long body, neck, and head, and along moderately pointed nose. Adversely, the folded ears of an Irish Wolfhound are small and short.
The Irish Wolfhound is in the AKC Hound Group. The hound group, in turn, is divided into two types of hounds – scent and sight hounds. Scent hounds like the Bloodhound, Basset Hound, and Beagle have a great sense of smell and may have a tendency to wander. Sight hounds, on the other hand, have a not-so-great sense of smell but excellent eyesight. Sight hounds include the Greyhound, Afghan Hound, and the Irish Wolfhound. As a whole, most types of hound dogs, including the Irish Wolfhound, tend to be independent and require careful training. Positive reinforcement with a tempting toy or treat as a reward generally works better than any forceful or compulsive type of training.
Sadly, the average life span of the Irish Wolfhound is only 5 to 7 years. And as with many large breed dogs, they are prone to gastric torsion and hip dysplasia, and even elbow dysplasia. Other types of health problems associated with the Irish Wolfhound include heart problems and bone cancer. If you are considering purchasing an Irish Wolfhound, make sure the breeder has done tests for hip dysplasia and for the heart.
An Irish Wolfhound figurine can be purchased at http://www.animalfigurinestore.com/page/hound_dog_figurines
Our sources for this article include the website mentioned above, Wikipedia, the AKC website, and “The Dog Breed Bible” by D. Caroline Coile, PH.D.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!