Sunday, November 15, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
The Irish Wolfhound breed has an interesting past. One of the earliest records of the Irish Wolfhound comes from the Roman Consul Quintus Aurelius, in 391 A.D. He wrote about seven that he received as a gift, though there is some thought that the breed may have arrived in Ireland as early as 3500 B.C. They were used by the Romans as guards for their stock, castles and families. They were also used as warriors in battle to drag men off horseback or out of chariots, as well as for hunting game like the very large Irish elk and wolves. Irish Wolfhounds were also considered a family pet, and were allowed to play with children.
With the extinction of the Irish elk and wolves, the breed almost became extinct itself. Because there was such a worldwide demand for the Irish Wolfhound, Oliver Cromwell created a law to ban their export from Ireland. Nevertheless, by the nineteenth century there were not many Wolfhounds left in Ireland. Enter Captain George August Graham, who in 1862 began to restore the breed. He gathered the last specimens of the breed, and by using a Borzoi, Tibetan Mastiff, Great Danes and Deerhounds was able to recover the size and style of the original Irish Wolfhound. Under his supervision, in 1885 with the founding of the Irish Wolfhound club, the first breed standard was made. In 1981, the Irish Wolfhound Society was founded by Mrs. Florence Nagle, and every year both the society and the club hold a rally and a championship show and open.
The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest and largest of the hound group, with a rough coat. He has keen sight, is very swift and powerful with a commanding appearance and a strong muscular frame. The size range for height should be between 30 and 34 inches at the shoulder with the minimum for females being 30 inches and a weight of 105 pounds; males should be 32 to 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 120 pounds. They should have good symmetry and power while being active and showing courage.
While Irish Wolfhounds are known as “gentle giants,” it should be remembered that they are historically a hunting dog. They are usually friendly and even tempered, but socializing them early is very important. They are generally good with other dogs and people, and most Wolfhounds love children. However, they may not do well around other types of animals because of their natural instincts. One good outlet for this behavior is lure coursing, which also helps with their need for exercise.
Because of their size and exercise requirements, you should carefully consider whether a Wolfhound is the right breed for you. Although they can be kept in a city, it is not the best place for them. The ideal situation for them is a property that is fenced and has sufficient room for them to run and gallop, as their size demands. As an adult, these dogs are a calm, loving family member and do best with daily human companionship.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently