By Dr. Becker
The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all dog breeds, but despite his intimidating size, he’s a gentle giant.
Unlike many dog breeds, Wolfhounds are known for having distinct personalities and quirks. However, most Wolfhound guardians agree this is an intelligent, calm, and loyal breed.
Irish Wolfhounds require an average amount of exercise and plenty of room to do it in.
If you’re thinking of adding an Irish Wolfhound to your family, be sure to check your local shelters and rescue organizations first to see if there’s an adoptable dog available.
10 Fascinating Facts About Irish Wolfhounds
The Irish Wolfhound Is a Gentle Giant
Despite his intimidating size, the Irish Wolfhound is a well-mannered, quiet, and gentle soul. He’s known to be a courageous defender of his family, but otherwise non-aggressive.
Wolfhounds get along with just about everyone, behaving in a calm and friendly manner with humans of every age and size, as well as other dogs. They are sometimes described by the historical maxim, “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.”
The Wolfhound Was Brought Back from the Brink of Extinction
The Romans used Wolfhounds in battles to drag the enemy off horseback and out of chariots. The breed was also known as skilled hunters of elk and wolves. They are named for their wolf hunting abilities, not their appearance.
If it weren’t for an Englishman named Captain George Augustus Graham, the Wolfhound would be a long-extinct dog. In the late 1800s, Graham insured the survival of the breed by crossing the few remaining dogs with the Borzoi, Great Dane, and Scottish Deerhound.
In 1885, Graham and other breeders founded the Irish Wolfhound Club. The breed has also been known as the Big Dog of Ireland, Greyhound of Ireland, and Great Hound of Ireland.
Irish Wolfhounds Are the Tallest of All Dog Breeds
Adult Wolfhounds reach a height of 28 to 35 inches at the shoulder, and weigh between 90 and 150 pounds – about the size of a small pony. When standing on his hind legs, he can reach 7 feet tall!
Due to his extraordinary size, the Wolfhound isn’t an ideal pet for small living spaces or compact cars.
Irish Wolfhounds Need Room to Run
Like all giant breeds, the Wolfhound needs lots of space to run, but she doesn’t actually need more exercise than an average-size dog – just more room to do it in. Lure coursing is an ideal sport for the Irish Wolfhound, as well as obedience and tracking.
Wolfhound puppies should be carefully supervised to protect and preserve the health and integrity of their rapidly developing musculoskeletal system.
Once full-grown, these dogs should get daily exercise to prevent weight gain, which can put extra stress on joints.
Wolfhounds Are Sighthounds
Sighthounds respond to movement, which means your Wolfhound will take off after cats and other small “prey” if he sees them running. That’s why it’s best to socialize your Wolfhound to cats and small dogs at an early age, and always supervise them when they’re together.
The Wolfhound Coat Is Relatively Low-Maintenance
The Irish Wolfhound’s coat is rough and can be gray, brindle, red, black, white, or fawn in color. It’s extra wiry and long over the eyes and below the jaw.
Unless you’re showing your dog, her coat is easy to maintain with a once or twice weekly brushing or combing to remove dead hair, and prevent mats and tangles. The Wolfhound double coat sheds moderately year-round.
Coat maintenance along with regular nail trims and daily teeth brushing will keep your dog looking well-groomed.
The Wolfhound’s Giant Size Presents Special Challenges
Caring for a Wolfhound or any giant breed is more expensive than owning a smaller dog.
Wolfhounds can and do counter surf, so be prepared to never leave food unattended or uncovered on kitchen counters or tables.
The Wolfhound’s body is large and bony, and he can develop calluses from lying on hard surfaces. Be prepared to share your furniture with your dog or provide lots of roomy, cushioned resting places for him.
Due to their size, Wolfhound puppies can be incredibly destructive when left alone, so be prepared to either crate-train your dog or provide him with a secure space where he can’t damage anything of value. Long hours alone in or out of a crate are harmful to the development of all dogs, and especially giant breeds.
Irish Wolfhounds Are Prone to Certain Serious Diseases
Like every breed, and especially large and giant breeds, the Irish Wolfhound is predisposed to certain health problems, including cardiomyopathy, bloat, PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), hip dysplasia, von Willebrand disease, and bone cancer.
Regular veterinary exams can increase the chances of catching and treating health problems early, and a species appropriate diet can reduce dietary contributing factors for many of these lifestyle related diseases.
Sadly, the average lifespan of an Irish Wolfhound is just 6 to 8 years.
There Were Wolfhounds in the White House
President Herbert Hoover’s wife was presented with an Irish Wolfhound named Cragwood Padraic shortly after moving into the White House. The Hoovers called the dog Patrick.
President John F. Kennedy received an Irish Wolfhound from Father Thomas Kennedy of Dublin. The Kennedys called their dog Wolf, or Wolfie.
Irish Wolfhounds Are Quirky Individualists
Unlike many dog breeds, Irish Wolfhounds are known to have personal quirks and individual personalities. These dogs are considered intelligent, introverted, and rather reserved.
Wolfhounds closely bond with their humans and can become destructive and depressed if left alone for long periods. Despite her independent nature, the Wolfhound becomes very attached to the family members (two-legged and four-legged) she’s raised with, and as a result, she’s not the most adaptable of breeds.