The Irish Wolfhound dog breed is a sighthound originally used for hunting wolves with the help of its sharp eyesight and great speed. The tallest among dog breeds in general, they are formidable in the field when out hunting, but they are very calm and well-behaved as a pet. Called Cú Faoil in Irish, it is the National Dog of Ireland.
As long as these dogs are given sufficient exercise to keep fit and happy, they can adapt to city living. They make great pets for those who love large, imposing dogs that would protect the family members by being a deterrent to trouble makers.
The Irish Wolfhound dog breed hailing from Ireland has a long history that dates back to 1500 B.C., when they are thought to be introduced into the country from Greece. They have their origins in war hounds that were later used for hunting and for personal protection. They were popular as gifts between the members of nobility. The first documented evidence of Irish Wolfhounds being presented to the Romans as gifts is from 391 A.D. They used these dogs in the sporting arena to chase down wild animals as a form of entertainment.
Even though these large dogs were popular in the early centuries, they were no longer in demand by the 18th century. Their numbers reduced drastically, and by the 19th century, this breed almost became extinct.
The credit of reviving the breed goes to Captain G.A. Graham who took an interest in these dogs. He crossbred Irish Wolfhounds with other large breeds such as the Borzoi, the Scottish Wolfhound and the Great Dane to bring out the Irish Wolfhound breed we know today. They not very common even today, but many dog lovers who have come to know this breed have welcomed them into their homes as family dogs.
The Irish Wolfhound dog breed, measuring a minimum of 32 inches at the withers and weighing at least 120 pounds, is the tallest dog breed today. A Great Dane is currently the tallest individual dog, but the average height of the Irish Wolfhound breed is more than that of Great Danes.
These dogs have an elongated, muscular body similar to that of Greyhounds, but it is masked by a thick shaggy coat. They come in various colors ranging from white to black with many shades of fawn, red, wheat and grey in between. Brindle patterns are also seen.
The Irish Wolfhounds are capable of hunting individually and killing large prey on their own. But these dogs are calm and quiet otherwise, and show great devotion and affection for their families. They are friendly with even strangers that they make poor guard dogs. However, they can effectively protect their family members if their safety is threatened. They are fearless and capable of meeting any challenge.
These dogs are intelligent and independent. But they are generally easy to train when handled with firmness and consistency. Extremely gentle with children, they tolerate quite a bit of rough handling by the young ones.
Grooming and exercise
The shaggy coat of Irish Wolfhound dog breed requires thorough brushing once in 2-3 days. In addition to that, the coat has to be trimmed once every 4-6 weeks too.
These dogs need their daily quota of physical activity, but they do not need strenuous workouts for extended periods. Brisk walking on the leash or jogging with the owners a few times a day will provide sufficient exercise. This makes them suitable for even city life, but that doesn’t mean these dogs can live in cramped apartments. They need large houses with free access to a large yard.
The shaggy coat of Irish Wolfhounds gives them ample protection from cold so that these dogs can comfortably live outdoors. However, when kept as family pets, these affectionate dogs are better off spending most part of the day outdoors, but sleeping indoors with the family at night.
Common health issues of Irish Wolfhound dog breed
The Irish Wolfhound dog breed is prone to many of the musculoskeletal disorders associated with larger breeds. Canine Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia are common, as is a potentially fatal condition called gastric torsion. Early medical intervention at the onset of symptoms is essential for a positive outcome. The incidence of Osteoarthritis is relatively high in this breed, and is the main cause of most fatalities. Megaesophagus, Progressive Retinal Atrophy and cardiomyopathy are occasionally seen.
The Irish Wolfhounds dog breed has a short lifespan as the case of most large dog breeds. The average life expectancy is around between 5 and 7 years, but some healthy dogs may live up to 10 years with good care.