By: Cassidy Moody
In 1571, Father Edmund Hogan, an Irishman and a Jesuit priest wrote, “The Irish are not without wolves, and greyhounds to hunt them bigger of bone and limb than colt.” He wasn’t actually referring to a small and slender greyhound known for its speed, but rather the larger than life Irish Wolfhound.
Seen in ancient wood carvings as far back as 273 BC, the Irish Wolfhound has long been a part of the Irish culture. Often used in ancient battles, it was said that Julius Caesar and “all [of] Rome viewed them with wonder.” In addition to fighting and hunting, the wolfhounds were also used to guard homes and livestock. The dogs became very popular with the British nobility in Ireland, causing them to become a negative symbol to the public. Due to their regal appearance and calm nature, the dogs were often presented as gifts to other aristocrats. Soon, more hounds were being exported from Ireland than were being born and the population began to decrease.
In 1879, a Scotsman named George Augustus Graham took it upon himself to reaffirm the Irish Wolfhound’s existence. The breed of Irish Wolfhound we observe today is believed to be a result of Graham and the early Irish Wolfhound Club’s efforts. The Borzoi, Great Dane, Scottish Deerhound, and English Mastiff are all believed to be somewhere in the lineage of the present day Irish Wolfhound.
Today, Irish Wolfhounds are definitely not given away as gifts. Irish Wolfhound puppies can range anywhere from $1,000-$2,500! The average litter size is about four puppies but can sometimes be as large as twelve. The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all dogs, standing as tall as seven feet on their hind legs, so those puppies won’t stay small for long. A fully matured male can stand 32-34 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 150 pounds.
While their size can be intimidating, the Irish Wolfhounds are nothing more than gentle giants. The American Kennel Club describes them as “calm, dignified and courageous but not aggressive.” They received approval scores of 85% and higher in regards to their interactions with children and other pets, as well as their ability to be trained, making them great family dogs. Although hard to track, it is estimated that there are about 250 Irish Wolfhounds in the United States. They placed 71st on the list of most popular dog breeds out of the 128 recognized breeds. But with both of Ireland’s rugby teams being known as “the Wolfhounds,” a British Army regiment having one as their mascot and the United States being home to almost 60 breeders nationwide, these gentle giants are quietly sneaking their way into people’s hearts.