The Irish Wolfhound is an historic gazehound or sighthound originating from Ireland. A sighthound (gazehound) is a type of hunting dog or hound that hunts primary by sight and incredible speed, rather than by scent. Wolfhounds are the tallest breed today, with a minimum height of 30-32 inches for the males and 28-30 inches for the females and they can weigh up to 140 pounds.
The Irish Wolfhound is one of the oldest breeds of dogs known, with Roman records dating back to 301AD. They were not called Wolfhounds at that time but instead were referred to as “Cu” and “Conn”. Cu is the Irish word for hound. They even appeared on the coat of arms of some ancient Irish Kings. These incredibly large dogs were used as hunting dogs by the Gaels who called them “Cu Faoil” meaning “hound of wolf” however they were also used to hunt Irish Elk, deer, and wild boar.
In 391AD, a Roman Consul named Quintus Aurelius Symmachus writes that he received a gift of 7 dogs (canes Scotici) to use for fighting lions and bears.
During the 15th century wolves were overwhelming the Irish landscape and people wanted to be rid of them so their use in Ireland concentrated on hunting wolves. Irish Wolfhounds were known for their ability to take down a wolf with ease, so they were officially named the Irish Wolfhound. When the wild boars and wolves (~1786) became extinct in Ireland their numbers declined rapidly.
On the verge of extinction, Captain George Augustus Graham (1833-1909) rebuilt what is now the modern Irish Wolfhound. This new Wolfhound retained the appearance of the ancient Cu Faoils but not the genetic ancestry. The captain took the biggest and best of 3 different breeds, the Scottish Deerhound, the Great Dane, and the Borzoi, and he built a new modern Irish Wolfhound.
Is the Irish Wolfhound a good pet?
If you are trying to choose a dog breed that is right for you and your family, the Irish Wolfhound may be a good choice of dog for you. Irish Wolfhounds make an excellent family dog but does have certain needs because of its massive size so they are not for everybody. These dogs are quite rare so they tend to cost more to buy and they also can cost more to keep because of the amount of food they require. It does not make a good pet for apartment living and needs a lot of room to run around. For this reason, this breed is best suited for rural living.
The Irish Wolfhounds of today are good with most people, even strangers and make excellent therapy dogs. They are gentle and protective with children hence they make good family dogs.
Irish Wolfhounds do need exercise to satisfy their hunting drives. They excel at sports such as tracking, lure coursing and agility. They do like to play with other dogs however because of their genetic nature as a wolf hunter and these traits affect the way they interact with other animals. They tend to tackle other animals and may play rough. These dogs are incredibly brave but not generally aggressive and this is another great quality when seeking a family dog. Unfortunately, Irish Wolfhounds have a short lifespan of only 6-9 years and gastric torsion is a common problem because of their immense size. Irish Wolfhounds are quite a rare breed so if you do happen to get a chance to meet one or own one, you should consider yourself very lucky.
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