The Irish Wolfhound, originally called Cu Faoil, is the tallest breed of dog at a height of 34 – 38 inches at the withers for males and 30 – 35 inches for females. This is the same size as a small pony. They can reach up to 7 feet when standing on their hind legs and when grown weigh in the range of 90 – 150 lbs. The Irish Wolfhound is known for its loyalty and great strength; in the past it was used as a wolf-killer, and as a war-hound to drag men out of chariots or off horses. The breed was once so valued that ownership was restricted to clan chieftains, and ‘Cu’ was one of the most honorable and desired suffixes for a warrior.
With the evolution of war and the extermination of the great Irish elk and Irish wolves, the hound breed also found itself on the brink of extinction. It was saved by the efforts of Captain George Augustus Graham in the 19th century by collecting the remaining hounds and breeding them to canines with similar characteristics such as Scottish Deerhounds, Great Danes, Borzoi and Tibetan Mastiffs.
Their temperament, considering the breed’s past use, is surprising. In today’s world Irish Wolfhounds are nicknamed ‘The Gentle Giant’ and are greatly known for their gentleness and friendliness. They are typically fond and protective of children, and love the companionship of people. Imposing as their size is, they are friendly toward strangers – thus making them inadequate as guard dogs. As a guardian, however, they are formidable. Since ancient times and continuing to the present day they are renowned for their discernment of human intentions. Any perceived danger towards their human family makes the wolfhound a fearless and dangerous adversary.
Even as its instincts make it a family guardian, other instincts can make it in need of guarding. As a Sight-hound it is prone to chase after whatever catches its attention, which can be severely detrimental to small animals such as rabbits, cats, and small dogs. If it is raised with small animals this risk can generally be lowered if not removed, but it is to be watched and guarded against since each dog has its own personality. Likewise, the size of the dog means that it can pose a threat to livestock should the hunting instincts be strong.
Training the wolfhound is a simple procedure due to the breed’s high intelligence. Sessions of around 10 – 15 minutes with inducement of treats and approval suffice for training. Longer sessions result in boredom for the dog and can result in mutual frustration. Due to its ultimate size and strength it should be trained as a puppy to either follow or walk alongside its master, never in front. This helps keep it under control once it is grown. Their exercise requirements can be met with a large yard although bigger is certainly better. They are inactive indoors and their shedding is considered average.
The lifespan of the Irish Wolfhound is sadly short, with the far end averaging around 8 years for males and 10 years for females if kept in good health.
Irish Wolfhound Info
Irish Wolfhound Breed Site