Irish Wolfhound Origin and History
The Irish Wolfhound is one of the oldest recorded breed’s of dogs. Records of the existence of Irish Wolfhounds go back to the 1 st century in Ireland where they were bred for war. The Irish initially named these dogs Cu Faoil, or the Irish Wolfdogge. These large shaggy haired dogs were often used by farmers to protect their livestock and guard their homes.
Historically, Irish Wolfhounds have been seen as something of an enigma. Frequently references to these dogs have been found in books of historical saga’s and romances, in the western world giving these dogs almost mythical properties and qualities.
Factual information of the Irish Wolfhound through historical documents shows that although never officially adopted as the Nation’s breed the Irish do regard the Wolfhound as their official dog. In early Irish times, Wolfhounds were used to hunt boar and deer to provide much needed food.
They were also used to capture and kill predators like the coyote and now extinct Irish wolf from where it gets its name. In Roman times, these dogs were often so feared that they were transported like lion’s in cages and used for entertainment blood sports by the Romans.
During the early historical conflicts in England , Wolfhounds were trained for war and their job was to catch armoured knights on horseback, and separate them from their horse. Once dragged to the ground, these knights, if not killed from the fall were killed by the Irish Wolfhounds, who were historically believed to kill their victims by breaking their spines.
Physically an Irish Wolfhound is a large animal weighing about minimum one hundred and fifty pounds for the males, and approximately one hundred and twenty pounds for the female. The male Wolfhound grows to an approximate three feet in height, and on going arguments between breeders, as to whether the Wolfhound should be classified as the World’s largest dog, still exist.
A Wolfhound has a long slender body, with a rather square shaped head. Most commonly Wolfhounds are whitish in colour with touches of grey but may also be red, black, brown or tan colours. The most defining attributes of the Wolfhound are their amazing eyesight and strong necks, both of which were needed in days of conflict.
After the conflicts in England ceased, Irish Wolfhounds became known as the dog or royalty and were transported around the world to be the guardian dog’s of Kings and Queen’s. In fact the Irish Guard, the Queen’s own army still uses Irish Wolfhounds in special civic ceremonies. These even tempered dogs have served both royalty and soldiers well for many centuries.
In the mid nineteenth century when the Wolfhound had all but disappeared from regular civilian life, a gentleman named Captain Graham sought to reintroduce us to these spectacular dogs. Of course in seeking to save this breed, Captain Graham did alter the genetics of the traditional Irish Wolfhound. The most noticeable difference of the modern day Irish Wolfhound are the variety of colours that now exist. This is believed to be a result of Captain Graham rebreeding the dog with the Great Dane, Deerhound and the Borzoi amongst others.
Traditionally a rather aggressive but loyal dog, this more modern species of Irish Wolfhound are more noted for their calm even temperament. The Irish motto for the Wolfhound is as follows, �Gentle when stroked. Fierce when provoked’.