The Majestic Irish Wolfhound | a Gentle Giant

The Irish Wolfhound, historically called Cú Faoil by its ancient Gaelic owners, is one of the largest dog breeds in the world. In terms of size, the gentle giants are only surpassed by the Great Dane. Regardless of what the name suggests, the wolfhound is no more closely related to the wolf than other dog breeds.

If you’re hoping to bring in an Irish Wolfhound into your home anytime soon, there’s a truckload of information you could use. Here’s a comprehensive rundown of the dog breed and the best ways to care for it. 

Quick Facts About the Irish Wolfhound

TRAITSDETAILS
Life expectancy 6-10 years
Size Large
Height Male: 34-35 in
Female: 32-34 in
WeightMale: 110-180 lb
Female: 90-140 lb
Energy level Medium
HypoallergenicNo
Grooming levelLow
SheddingModerate Shredder
Coat TypeLong Hair
ColorsBlack, White, Brindle, Deer Color, Gray, Red
FCI GroupGreyhounds

Origin and History of the Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a very ancient breed of dog. Little is known about its exact origins. Lore suggests that the breed could have existed for over 7,000 years. Even in ancient Egypt, people are said to have kept very large greyhound-like dogs.

Most historians believe the dog breed was brought to Ireland by the Celts around 3000 BC. In fact, archeologists excavated the remains of very large greyhounds in the region around England, Wales, and Ireland. It could have been Irish Wolfhounds or at least one of the breed’s ancestors. The bone findings indicate that the animals were 71 cm or higher at the shoulder.

a noble hound

In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, only nobles were allowed to keep the Irish Wolfhound. It was therefore a real status symbol. But because of its size, strength and pronounced courage, the dogs were more than that for their owners. The Irish Wolfhound was often described as a loyal soldier or a brave warrior. In many sagas and legends, the special character of the Irish Wolfhounds is particularly emphasized.

The Irish Wolfhound was an excellent hunting dog and was very popular at the time. It was used to hunt big game, such as bears, wolves and moose. However, when firearms were invented, the Irish Wolfhound increasingly lost its importance as a hunting dog.

Recent history

The breed was kept less and less because it no longer served a purpose. The Irish Wolfhound was threatened with extinction. Around the middle of the 17th century, it was forbidden by law to export the Irish Wolfhound from Ireland, as there were hardly any dogs of this breed left.

In the middle of the 19th century, the breed finally began to be revived in Ireland. In addition, the last Wolfhounds were crossed with other breeds such as Deerhound, Great Dane and Borzoi. The result of these breeding attempts is the Irish Wolfhound as it is officially recognized today. Compared to the original wolfhound, today’s wolfhound is a bit stronger and larger.

The Appearance of the Irish Wolfhound

Photo Credit: wolfhounds_and_lee

It goes without saying that the most notable physical feature of the Irish Wolfhound is its height which generally stands above 30 inches. Females reach a height of about 32 to 34 inches at the withers while males tend to grow taller at around 34 to 35 inches. As befits a greyhound, Irish Wolfhounds have lean but very firm, well-developed muscles. Nevertheless, they look very petite for their height. They reach an average weight of around 120 lb and 105 lb for the male and female genders respectively. 

The fur of the wolfhound is a little longer, coarse, and hard. The coat color can be black, white, gray, red, fawn, or brindle. According to the breed standard, the same colors are allowed for the Irish Wolfhound as for the Deerhound. Most Irish Wolfhounds can live for as long as 10 years. 

Also, the breed’s ears are small and they have the typical Greyhound carriage. It also has a long neck and back which are supported by its round and fairly large feet. Compared to other breeds, the Irish Wolfhound has a thick and slightly curved tail that is fully covered in hair. 

Character & Traits of the Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is an AKC-recognized, independent breed of dog. They belong to the AKC Hound group. Despite their imposing size, the Irish Wolfhound has a very gentle and calm character. The breed is a very relaxed and easy-going dog and can hardly be disturbed. Therefore, it is very suitable for families with children.

However, the Irish Wolfhound can get uncomfortable, if need be. They are known for their loyalty and courage. These pedigree dogs are very vigilant and do not leave their owner’s side. In an emergency, they would defend their people. In principle, Irish Wolfhounds are by no means aggressive, but they can assess a dangerous situation well.

The Irish Wolfhound was used in Ireland for hunting wolves. Later, the breed was also used for bear hunting. Therefore, they have a lot of strength, energy and a well-developed hunting instinct. 

The Irish Wolfhound is very frugal and adaptable. So, in principle, it could also be kept in the city, provided he has the opportunity to let off steam in a suitable place. It is only partially suitable for small homes, as the large animals need a lot of space. So, if he were to live in an apartment, it would have to be big enough. A garden is a plus point for keeping Irish Wolfhounds but is not a substitute for long walks and runs.

The Irish Wolfhound usually gets along very well with fellow dogs. Due to his calm and good-natured manner, there are seldom arguments with other dogs. Nevertheless, due to its size and the pronounced hunting instinct, it should be socialized early and made to get familiar with conspecifics and other animals. This way, you can avoid negative experiences in everyday life.

How to Care for an Irish Wolfhound

Photo Credit: wolfhounds_and_lee

The Irish Wolfhound is fairly easy and frugal to care for. Starting from its physical qualities, the long coat should be brushed thoroughly about once or twice a week. As with other dogs, you should regularly check its eyes, ears, and teeth. You can gently wipe the eyes and ears with a soft cloth if they get dirty.

Warmth accumulates in the drooping ears of the wolfhounds, which are usually slightly angled backward. This creates more sebum and, in turn, dirt is deposited in the auricles and in the entrance area of the wolfhound’s ear canal. To prevent ear infections, you should regularly make sure that your dog’s ears are clean. However, you must not go too deep into the ear, otherwise, you risk injuries to the ear and eardrum.

After walking, especially if you have walked through tall grass or fields, you should thoroughly check the fur for ticks. The long coat of the wolfhound offers many hiding places for the unwanted parasites.

Big dog = Big strain on joints

Large breeds of dogs, such as the Irish Wolfhound, should avoid climbing stairs whenever possible. Ideally, it should live at ground level or there should be an elevator. Otherwise, you’ll have to carry it up the stairs, but this can be problematic in a full-grown wolfhound. Climbing stairs is problematic because it strains the joints and can lead to symptoms such as hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis.

Rest periods should be considered urgently with an Irish Wolfhound. Young dogs in particular are sometimes very cocky and overestimate their strength. Since the bones and joints are not that stable, the young dog must be protected from overload.

The wolfhound has a very calm and almost stoic nature, making them endure any pain without showing signs. As a result, owners often notice that something is wrong only late. They hold out until it is almost too late. This is why it is so important for owners of Irish Wolfhounds to keep a close eye on their dogs. Any change in weight, behavior, and movement patterns could be an indication that something is wrong.

Proper Nutrition

There are a few things to consider when it comes to nutrition. Because the Irish Wolfhound is very large, it requires significantly more food than smaller breeds. Albeit it’s not only the quantity that is important. Particularly, when your wolfhound is still a puppy, you shouldn’t skimp on nutrition. The small wolfhounds grow very quickly and need the necessary nutrients for it.

The food should not be filled with excessively empty energy, as this can negatively affect the weight and growth of the dogs. If they become too heavy before their bones and joints are stable enough, this can later lead to serious illnesses and malpositions. For young dogs, you should choose puppy food specifically designed for very large breeds, if you intend to use ready-made food. It takes up to 2 years for an Irish Wolfhound to reach adulthood, and then you can switch to more energy-based foods. 

Another important point in the Irish Wolfhound diet is the calcium to phosphorus ratio. Too much phosphorus in the feed inhibits the absorption of calcium. This leads to bone loss. With breeds as heavy and large as the Irish Wolfhound, this can be dangerous. Ideally, the ratio of calcium and phosphorus should be balanced because phosphorus is also important for the dog’s body.

Best training methods

An Irish Wolfhound running on the grass
Photo Credit: wolfhounds_and_lee

Training must also be consistent with a dog of this size. As a holder, however, you must never be excessively strict or harsh. Wolfhounds are sensitive and at the same time very stubborn. The implementation of commands can take a little longer because he first has to carefully check and weigh them up for their meaning. A lot of patience is required here from the owner. However, once the Wolfhound has gained confidence and a solid bond, its loyalty is hard to beat.

They need a lot of exercise every day. So, it’s best to give them the opportunity to do a few short sprints as well. For a greyhound, running is a real basic need to keep it busy. However, it is out of the question for agility and dog sports, where many jumps are necessary. Due to the size and weight, his joints would be too strained and wear out quickly.

Positive reinforcement is also a good way to train your Irish Wolfhound. You should reward it for good behavior through toys or treats. Depending on your use for the dog, a training aid will be useful.  

Possible Health Problems

Irish Wolfhounds are not immune to health issues. They are especially prone to dilated cardiomyopathy, a severe life-threatening condition in which the heart can’t pump blood to the dog’s body. Other health conditions Irish Wolfhounds are known to have include progressive retinal atrophy, osteosarcoma, von Willebrand’s disease, liver shunt, gastric torsion, and autoimmune thyroiditis. Due to its size, the dog is also more likely to develop hip and elbow dysplasia. 

Suitable accessories

For the care of the long and wiry fur of the Wolfhound, it is advisable to use an appropriate brush for long-haired dogs. De-felting combs are also very suitable, as they loosen the small nodules from the fur for a long time. Matted fur prevents the skin from breathing and is a breeding ground for germs and parasites.

Because of its size, an elevated food bowl can be a sensible purchase. If the food bowl is on the floor, the large dogs have to bend down very far to get to their food. A height-adjustable bowl is ideal for those who take their wolfhound in as a puppy. You can adjust it to the size of your growing wolfhound as you wish.

Wolfhounds are not overly playful and, as greyhounds, are also not very fixated on food. Nevertheless, they too are happy about a ball that they can chase after or a snack as a reward. A dog ball throwing machine would be a great idea for you with a garden.

Is the Irish Wolfhound the Right Dog for You?

Getting an Irish Wolfhound largely depends on what you want in a dog as a dog owner. If you want a dog that is less prone to diseases and has a long lifespan, the Irish Wolfhound is unfortunately not the type of breed you should settle for. They max out their lives at around 8 to 1 years. 

Also, the dog breed is quite calm and sociable. So, it’s a perfect pick for a household with children. However, nothing will suit the dog’s size better than a large area where it can roam, play and relate well with children or other pets.

Notably, the dog thrives well under little supervision, so you won’t regret being away. However, you should make out a reasonable chunk of time for bonding with your pet, helping it socialize, and exercising. 

Should You Buy or Adopt an Irish Wolfhound

Owning an Irish Wolfhound is no easy task. So, you must be ready to commit financial, spatial and emotional resources to the well-being of the breed. You can always decide to buy an Irish Wolfhound from a reputable breeder, but then, be prepared for tons of questions about how you plan to care for it. For adoption, your best bet is adopting from a rescue that has a sizable number of wolfhounds up for adoption. The choice to adopt or buy also depends on your budget as buying is a more expensive option. 

FAQs about the Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound has a gentle temperament and is highly affectionate. Besides, they tend to have a friendly relationship with children and other pets. These traits make them very good family dogs, especially when you have a large home area.

On a general scale, Irish Wolfhounds are not aggressive. They do not show signs of aggression with their human owners or other pets they’ve been socialized with growing up. However, the wolfhound can sense danger and react appropriately. It could also get aggressive with cats or other dogs, usually of the same gender, to assert its dominance.

Large dog breeds like the Irish Wolfhound occasionally come off as expensive and this is due to their size. Moreover, buying or adopting a strong, healthy Irish Wolfhound from a reputable breeder will be costly. The nature of the dog, its physical properties and cost of care contribute to its high cost. 

Irish Wolfhounds belong to the Canine family which includes wolves. However, it does not have a greater connection with wolves than any other dog type. While its name may be Wolfhound, this is due to the fact that the dog was commonly used to hunt wolves, centuries ago.

There is a great chance that your Irish Wolfhound puppy will be fully mature after 24 months. You can tell that they are growing by their increasing height and weight. If you notice stunted growth, you should contact your vet.

Irish Wolfhound Facts and Figures Summary

Appearance

  • Big and tall
  • Wiry coat
  • Highly muscular and boned

How to care

  • Brush its coat weekly
  • Check for ticks after walks
  • Keep the ear clean always
  • Pay close attention to mood and body changes
  • Prevent them from overload and enforce rest periods

Health Problems

  • Liver shunt
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Gastric torsion
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Progressive retinal atrophy

Personality traits

  • Mid-energy levels
  • Highly sensitive
  • Very affectionate with family and children
  • Vigilant

How to train

  • Positive reinforcement 
  • Regular exercises
  • Be patient as your dog learn commands
  • Help your dog build confidence
  • Socialize with other pets early enough

Temperament

  • Not aggressive
  • Sociable
  • Courageous
  • Calm