Irish Wolfhound

irish wolfhound large and small

Known for their impressive size and gentle nature, Irish Wolfhounds have captured the hearts of many dog enthusiasts around the world. In this article, we will delve into the rich history and origins of the Irish Wolfhound, exploring how they became one of the most beloved breeds today. We’ll also discuss their unique size characteristics, which make them stand out among other breeds.

But it’s not just their size that sets them apart – Irish Wolfhounds are also known for their gentle and affectionate temperament. We’ll delve into their personality traits, uncovering what makes them such wonderful companions.

Trainability is another aspect we will cover, as understanding how to effectively train an Irish Wolfhound is essential for their overall well-being. We’ll share some tips and techniques to help you establish a strong bond with your furry friend.

Additionally, we’ll explore the exercise requirements and energy levels of Irish Wolfhounds. Being a large and active breed, it’s important to provide them with the appropriate amount of physical activity to keep them happy and healthy.

Grooming is another crucial part of caring for an Irish Wolfhound, and we’ll discuss the specific grooming requirements needed to maintain their magnificent coats. From brushing to bathing, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to keep your Irish Wolfhound looking their best.

Like any other breed, Irish Wolfhounds are prone to certain health issues. We’ll touch upon these concerns and provide insights into how to keep your furry friend in optimal health.

Moreover, we can’t forget about the notable dogs from this breed! We’ll showcase some famous Irish Wolfhounds throughout history, highlighting their accomplishments and contributions.

Lastly, we’ll briefly mention comparable breeds to the Irish Wolfhound, allowing you to explore other options if this breed doesn’t quite fit your lifestyle.

So, whether you’re a current Irish Wolfhound owner or simply interested in learning more about this amazing breed, join us as we dive into the world of Irish Wolfhounds. Get ready to be captivated by their beauty, charm, and remarkable history!

History and Origins of the Breed

The history and origins of the Irish Wolfhound are truly fascinating. This ancient breed has a rich and storied past, dating back thousands of years. Let’s explore how this breed came to be and the role it played throughout history.

Ancient Origins

The roots of the Irish Wolfhound can be traced back to ancient times. While the exact origins are somewhat debated, it is believed that the breed descended from the ancient Celtic hounds. These hounds were revered by the Celts for their hunting abilities, companionship, and as symbols of status and prestige.

Celtic Hounds and Hunting

In Celtic society, hunting was not only a means of survival but also a significant cultural and social activity. The Celtic hounds, which the Irish Wolfhound is believed to have descended from, were highly prized for their hunting prowess, particularly in hunting wolves, boars, and other large game.

These hounds were often owned by nobles and chieftains, and their ownership was seen as a symbol of power and wealth. They were trained to track, chase, and hold down their prey until their human companions arrived. The Irish Wolfhound, with its impressive size and strength, was especially adept at taking down large and dangerous game.

Decline and Near Extinction

As history progressed, the Irish Wolfhound faced a decline in its population. Factors such as the decline of the wolf population in Ireland, changes in hunting practices, and social unrest in the country all contributed to the decline of the breed.

By the 18th century, the Irish Wolfhound was on the verge of extinction. Efforts to revive the breed were made by a few dedicated individuals who sought to preserve the breed’s noble lineage and unique characteristics.

Revival and Breed Standardization

In the mid-19th century, efforts to revive the Irish Wolfhound gained momentum. Captain George Augustus Graham, along with other breed enthusiasts, embarked on a mission to resurrect the breed. They crossed the remaining this breed with other breeds such as the Deerhound, Great Dane, and Borzoi to reintroduce desirable traits and increase the breed’s numbers.

The breed was eventually standardized, and a breed standard was established to guide breeders in their efforts to maintain the Irish Wolfhound’s unique characteristics. The Irish Wolfhound Club, founded in 1885 in Dublin, played a significant role in the breed’s revival and preservation.

Modern-day Irish Wolfhounds

Today, the Irish Wolfhound is recognized as a distinct breed and continues to captivate dog lovers worldwide. While their primary role as hunting companions may have diminished, this breed have found a place as cherished family pets and companions. Their gentle nature, loyalty, and majestic presence make them a beloved breed among dog enthusiasts.

In the next section, we will delve into the size characteristics of the Irish Wolfhound, which truly sets them apart from other breeds.

Size Characteristics

One of the most distinguishing features of the Irish Wolfhound is its impressive size. This breed is known for its towering stature and majestic presence. Let’s explore the size characteristics of this breed in detail.


The Irish Wolfhound is considered one of the tallest dog breeds in the world. Males typically stand at a minimum height of 32 inches (81 cm) at the shoulder, with some individuals reaching up to 34-35 inches (86-89 cm) or even more. Females are slightly smaller, usually measuring between 30 and 32 inches (76-81 cm) in height. These measurements make the Irish Wolfhound a truly giant breed.


In addition to their impressive height, Irish Wolfhounds are also known for their considerable weight. Males typically weigh between 140 to 180 pounds (64-82 kg), with some exceptional individuals reaching or even exceeding 200 pounds (91 kg). Females generally weigh slightly less, ranging from 115 to 140 pounds (52-64 kg). It’s important to note that while these weight ranges are common, individual dogs may vary.

Proportions and Build

While the Irish Wolfhound is undeniably large, it is important to note that they possess a graceful and well-balanced build. Their body is long and muscular, with a deep chest and strong limbs. Despite their size, Irish Wolfhounds are built for agility and speed, allowing them to move with ease and efficiency.

Growth and Development

Irish Wolfhounds experience a relatively slow growth and development compared to smaller breeds. It’s crucial to provide them with a well-balanced and nutritious diet to support their growth and prevent any issues associated with rapid growth. Proper care is necessary during their puppyhood to ensure they reach their full potential while maintaining a healthy weight.

Comparisons to Other Giant Breeds

When it comes to size, the Irish Wolfhound is often compared to other giant breeds such as the Great Dane and the Saint Bernard. While these breeds may share some similarities in terms of height and weight, the Irish Wolfhound possesses a unique elegance and grace that sets it apart. Their long, lean bodies and wiry coats contribute to their distinctive appearance.

In the next section, we will delve into the temperament of the Irish Wolfhound, exploring the gentle and affectionate nature that makes them such beloved companions.


irish wolfhound

Image courtesy of lutz-p0



The temperament of the Irish Wolfhound is often described as gentle, sweet-natured, and affectionate. Despite their imposing size, these gentle giants are known for their friendly and sociable personalities. Let’s delve into the temperament of the Irish Wolfhound and explore what makes them such wonderful companions.

Gentle and Patient

Irish Wolfhounds are renowned for their gentle and patient nature. They have a calm and even-tempered disposition, which makes them well-suited for households with children and other pets. Their patient nature allows them to tolerate the antics of energetic kids, making them excellent family pets.

Sociable and Friendly

Irish Wolfhounds are typically very sociable and friendly dogs. They enjoy being around people and are generally welcoming to strangers. This breed thrives on human companionship and is known to form strong bonds with their families. Their friendly nature makes them less likely to exhibit aggression or hostility, making them a great choice for households with frequent visitors.

Good with Other Animals

Despite their hunting background, Irish Wolfhounds can generally get along well with other animals, including other dogs. Their social nature and friendly demeanor make them more inclined to make friends rather than engage in conflicts. However, it is always important to properly introduce any new animals and provide appropriate supervision to ensure a harmonious coexistence.

Reserved and Dignified

While Irish Wolfhounds are friendly and sociable, they also possess a sense of dignity and reserve. They may not be as exuberant or overly playful as some other breeds. Instead, they tend to exhibit a more composed and regal demeanor. This reserved nature adds to their unique charm and makes them appear even more majestic.

Moderate Watchfulness

While not typically known for their guarding instincts, Irish Wolfhounds can exhibit a moderate level of watchfulness over their families and territories. They may alert their owners to the presence of strangers or unusual sounds, but they are generally not aggressive or overly protective. Their size alone can act as a deterrent to potential intruders.


Irish Wolfhounds are known to be sensitive dogs. They are attuned to their owners’ emotions and can often sense when something is amiss. This sensitivity can make them excellent therapy dogs or emotional support animals. However, it’s important to provide them with a loving and nurturing environment as they may be more susceptible to stress or harsh treatment.

In the next section, we will explore the trainability of Irish Wolfhounds and provide some insights into how to effectively train and socialize these gentle giants.


The trainability of Irish Wolfhounds can vary from individual to individual, but overall, this breed is known to be relatively easy to train. They are intelligent dogs with a desire to please their owners, making the training process a rewarding experience. Let’s explore the trainability of Irish Wolfhounds and provide some insights into how to effectively train and socialize them.

Early Socialization

Early socialization is crucial for Irish Wolfhounds to develop into well-rounded and confident dogs. Exposing them to various people, animals, environments, and situations from a young age helps them become accustomed to different stimuli and reduces the likelihood of fear or aggression later in life. Positive experiences during socialization will contribute to their overall temperament and behavior.

Positive Reinforcement

Irish Wolfhounds respond best to positive reinforcement training methods. This involves rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, or playtime, while avoiding punishment or harsh corrections. Their sensitive nature makes them particularly responsive to positive reinforcement, and it helps to build a strong bond between the dog and the owner.

Basic Obedience Training

Teaching basic obedience commands is essential for every dog, including Irish Wolfhounds. Commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “heel” provide the foundation for a well-behaved dog. Consistency, patience, and repetition are key when training an Irish Wolfhound. Short, frequent training sessions with plenty of positive reinforcement will yield the best results.

Leash Training

Due to their size and strength, proper leash training is essential for Irish Wolfhounds. Teaching them to walk calmly on a leash and respond to leash cues not only ensures their safety but also makes walks more enjoyable for both the dog and the owner. Using positive reinforcement and gradually increasing the duration and difficulty of the walks will help them become well-behaved on a leash.

Advanced Training and Activities

Irish Wolfhounds can excel in various advanced training activities such as obedience trials, agility, and even therapy work. These intelligent dogs thrive on mental stimulation and enjoy learning new things. Engaging them in advanced training activities not only keeps them mentally stimulated but also strengthens the bond between the dog and their owner.

Patience and Consistency

It’s important to remember that Irish Wolfhounds can be somewhat slow to mature, both physically and mentally. They may take longer to fully grasp certain training concepts compared to smaller breeds. Patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are key to their success. It’s important to set realistic expectations and understand that each dog progresses at their own pace.

In the next section, we will discuss the exercise requirements and energy levels of Irish Wolfhounds, as their large size demands an appropriate amount of physical activity to keep them happy and healthy.


irish wolfhound
Image courtesy of Natalia Gusakova


Exercise Requirements and Energy Level

Despite their large size, Irish Wolfhounds have a moderate exercise requirement and generally possess a calm and laid-back energy level. Let’s explore the exercise needs and energy levels of Irish Wolfhounds to ensure they receive the appropriate amount of physical activity to keep them healthy and content.

Moderate Exercise Needs

Irish Wolfhounds are not high-energy breeds that require intense exercise or vigorous activity. However, they still benefit from regular exercise to maintain their overall health and well-being. A daily walk or two, along with some playtime in a securely fenced area, is usually sufficient to meet their exercise needs. It’s important to remember that individual exercise requirements may vary based on age, health, and individual preferences.

Avoid Overexertion

Due to the size and structure of their bodies, Irish Wolfhounds are more susceptible to certain health issues, including joint problems. It is essential to prevent overexertion and avoid activities that may put excessive strain on their joints, especially during their growth stages. Care should be taken to provide controlled exercise and avoid excessive jumping or running on hard surfaces.

Mental Stimulation

In addition to physical exercise, Irish Wolfhounds also benefit from mental stimulation. Engaging their minds with puzzle toys, interactive games, or obedience training sessions can help prevent boredom and promote mental well-being. Mental stimulation is especially important for Irish Wolfhounds since they are intelligent dogs that thrive on mental challenges.

Supervised Off-Leash Activities

Irish Wolfhounds should be given the opportunity to enjoy off-leash activities in a securely fenced area. This allows them to stretch their legs, explore their surroundings, and burn off excess energy in a safe and controlled environment. However, it’s essential to supervise them closely to prevent any potential accidents or encounters with other animals.

Adaptation to Living Spaces

Despite their large size, Irish Wolfhounds can adapt to various living spaces, including apartments or houses with small yards. While a spacious yard is ideal, they can still thrive in smaller living spaces as long as they receive regular exercise and mental stimulation. Daily walks and opportunities to stretch their legs in a safe environment are crucial for their well-being.

Age-Appropriate Activities

It’s important to adjust the exercise routine and activities based on the age of the Irish Wolfhound. Puppies have different exercise needs compared to adult dogs, and senior dogs may require more gentle exercises to accommodate their aging bodies. Consulting with a veterinarian can help determine the appropriate exercise regimen for each life stage.

In the next section, we will discuss the grooming requirements of Irish Wolfhounds, including their coat care and maintenance.

Grooming Requirements

The grooming requirements of Irish Wolfhounds are relatively moderate, but they do require regular care to keep their coats healthy and looking their best. Let’s explore the grooming needs and maintenance routines specific to Irish Wolfhounds.

Coat Care

Irish Wolfhounds have a double coat that consists of a soft, dense undercoat and a harsh, wiry outer coat. Their coats provide protection from the elements and help regulate body temperature. While they do shed, the shedding is usually not excessive. However, they do require regular brushing to prevent matting and keep their coat in good condition.

Regular Brushing

Regular brushing is essential to prevent tangles and matting in the Irish Wolfhound’s coat. Ideally, they should be brushed at least once a week using a slicker brush or a pin brush. This helps remove loose hair, debris, and prevents the formation of knots. Pay particular attention to areas like the chest, belly, and behind the ears, as these areas are more prone to tangles.


Irish Wolfhounds generally do not require frequent bathing unless they get particularly dirty or develop an odor. Bathing them every few months or as needed is usually sufficient. Use a mild dog shampoo that is specifically formulated for sensitive skin to avoid drying out their coat and skin. It’s important to thoroughly rinse off all the shampoo to prevent any residue.

Nail Care

Regular nail trimming is necessary for Irish Wolfhounds to prevent their nails from becoming too long, which can cause discomfort and affect their gait. Trim their nails every few weeks or as needed, being careful not to cut into the quick (the sensitive part of the nail). If you’re unsure about nail trimming, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian for guidance.

Ear Cleaning

Irish Wolfhounds are prone to ear infections, so regular ear cleaning is crucial. Check their ears once a week for signs of redness, swelling, or discharge. Use a dog ear cleaning solution and cotton balls to gently clean the outer portion of the ears. Avoid using cotton swabs or inserting anything deep into the ear canal to prevent injury.

Dental Care

Proper dental care is important for the overall health of Irish Wolfhounds. Regularly brushing their teeth with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste helps prevent tartar buildup, gum disease, and bad breath. Additionally, providing dental chews or toys can help promote good oral hygiene and reduce plaque and tartar.

Professional Grooming

While Irish Wolfhounds can be groomed at home, some owners prefer to take their dogs to a professional groomer for certain tasks. Professional groomers can help with tasks such as trimming the hair around the paws, shaping the coat, and ensuring proper hygiene. If you’re unsure about certain grooming techniques or prefer professional assistance, consult a reputable groomer in your area.

In the next section, we will explore the common health issues that Irish Wolfhounds may face and provide insights into how to keep them in optimal health.


irish wolfhound

Image courtesy of Martina Vitáková 


Health Issues

While Irish Wolfhounds are generally a healthy breed, like all dogs, they may be prone to certain health issues. Being aware of these potential health concerns allows owners to take proactive measures to keep their Irish Wolfhounds in optimal health. Let’s explore some common health issues that may affect Irish Wolfhounds.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a heart condition that can affect Irish Wolfhounds. It occurs when the heart muscle becomes weak and enlarged, leading to decreased heart function. Symptoms may include coughing, difficulty breathing, and lethargy. Regular veterinary check-ups and monitoring can help detect and manage DCM early on.

Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)

Bloat is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can occur in large, deep-chested breeds like Irish Wolfhounds. It happens when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off blood supply. Symptoms may include a distended abdomen, restlessness, unproductive retching, and difficulty breathing. Immediate veterinary attention is crucial if bloat is suspected.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia are orthopedic conditions that affect many large breeds, including Irish Wolfhounds. These conditions occur when the hip or elbow joints develop abnormally, leading to pain, lameness, and arthritis. Regular screening by a veterinarian and responsible breeding practices can help reduce the incidence of these conditions.


Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, is more prevalent in large and giant breeds such as Irish Wolfhounds. It typically affects the long bones, and symptoms may include lameness, swelling, and pain. Early detection and prompt veterinary intervention are crucial when dealing with osteosarcoma.


Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can lead to weight gain, lethargy, skin problems, and other symptoms. Regular blood tests and monitoring can help diagnose and manage hypothyroidism in Irish Wolfhounds.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an inherited eye disease that can lead to progressive vision loss and, in severe cases, blindness. Regular eye examinations by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help detect PRA early on.

Other Health Concerns

Irish Wolfhounds may also be prone to certain other health issues, including allergies, bloat, von Willebrand’s disease (a blood clotting disorder), and certain types of cancer. Regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, appropriate exercise, and responsible breeding practices can help mitigate the risk of these health concerns.

It’s important to remember that not all Irish Wolfhounds will develop these health issues, and with proper care and attention, many can live long and healthy lives. Regular veterinary check-ups, a nutritious diet, appropriate exercise, and maintaining a safe and nurturing environment are vital to their overall health and well-being.

In the next section, we will highlight some notable Irish Wolfhounds throughout history and their contributions to the breed and beyond.

Notable Dogs from This Breed

Throughout history, there have been several notable Irish Wolfhounds that have left their mark on the breed and beyond. These remarkable dogs have showcased the true potential and versatility of the Irish Wolfhound. Let’s explore some of these notable dogs and their contributions.

Domhnall of Shantamon

Domhnall of Shantamon, an Irish Wolfhound born in the early 1960s, holds the distinction of being one of the most influential sires in the modern history of the breed. His exceptional lineage and impressive show career contributed significantly to the preservation and improvement of the breed’s conformation and temperament.


Bran, an Irish Wolfhound from the 1800s, gained fame as the companion of the renowned author and poet, Sir Walter Scott. This dog became a symbol of the breed’s loyalty and gentleness, as depicted in Scott’s novel, “Waverley.” Bran’s depiction in the novel helped popularize the breed and further cement its reputation as a noble and faithful companion.


The legend of “Gellert” is a famous Irish folklore that tells the story of a brave Irish Wolfhound who sacrificed himself to protect a child from a wolf. This tale is often shared as an example of the breed’s loyalty, courage, and protective instincts.

“Cú Chulainn’s Hound”

In Irish mythology, the hero Cú Chulainn is often depicted with a loyal and mighty hound by his side. This legendary hound, sometimes referred to as “Cú Chulainn’s Hound,” is believed to be an early representation of the Irish Wolfhound. The bond between Cú Chulainn and his hound exemplifies the deep connection and companionship that can be formed with this breed.

Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs

Irish Wolfhounds have also made significant contributions as service dogs and therapy dogs. Their gentle and calm nature makes them well-suited for providing comfort and support to individuals in need. Whether it’s offering emotional support to those living with mental health conditions or assisting individuals with physical disabilities, Irish Wolfhounds have shown their versatility and ability to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

These notable Irish Wolfhounds, among many others, have played a significant role in shaping the breed’s history and reputation. Their stories serve as a testament to the Irish Wolfhound’s remarkable qualities and the bond they form with their human companions.

In the final section, we will briefly discuss some comparable breeds to the Irish Wolfhound, allowing readers to explore other options if the Irish Wolfhound doesn’t perfectly fit their preferences or lifestyle.


irish wolfhound

Image courtesy of Lutz Prager


Comparable Breeds

While the Irish Wolfhound is a truly unique and remarkable breed, there are several other breeds that share certain similarities in terms of size, temperament, or appearance. If the Irish Wolfhound doesn’t perfectly match your preferences or lifestyle, you may consider exploring these comparable breeds:

Great Dane

The Great Dane is known for its impressive size, similar to that of the Irish Wolfhound. Like the Irish Wolfhound, Great Danes are gentle and friendly, making them excellent family companions. They also share a similar need for regular exercise and proper socialization.

Scottish Deerhound

The Scottish Deerhound is another breed that shares a close resemblance to the Irish Wolfhound. They both have a similar sighthound heritage and possess a gentle and dignified temperament. While the Scottish Deerhound is slightly smaller in size, it still maintains an elegant and noble presence.

Saint Bernard

The Saint Bernard is another giant breed that may be comparable to the Irish Wolfhound in terms of size and gentle temperament. They are known for their loyalty, friendliness, and their history of working as rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps. While they have different coat types, both breeds require regular exercise and socialization.


The Leonberger is a large and majestic breed that shares some similarities with the Irish Wolfhound. They are known for their gentle and friendly nature, making them excellent family pets. Like the Irish Wolfhound, they require regular exercise and socialization to thrive.


The Newfoundland is a large and gentle breed that may be comparable to the Irish Wolfhound in terms of temperament and size. They are known for their calm and patient nature, as well as their swimming abilities. While they have a different coat type, both breeds require regular exercise and grooming.

Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large and protective breed, similar to the Irish Wolfhound in terms of size. While they have different temperaments, both breeds are known for their loyalty and devotion to their families. Tibetan Mastiffs require a firm and consistent approach to training and socialization.

Remember, each breed has its own unique characteristics and considerations. It’s essential to thoroughly research and interact with these breeds to determine which one best aligns with your preferences, lifestyle, and ability to meet their specific needs.

As we conclude this comprehensive article on the Irish Wolfhound, we hope that you have gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for this majestic breed. Whether you’re considering adding an Irish Wolfhound to your family or simply intrigued by their fascinating history and characteristics, the Irish Wolfhound is sure to captivate you with its grace, gentleness, and unique presence.

Known for their impressive size and gentle nature, Irish Wolfhounds have captured the hearts of many dog enthusiasts around the world. Whether you’re a current Irish Wolfhound owner or simply interested in learning more about this amazing breed, join us as we dive into the world of Irish Wolfhounds. Get ready to be captivated by their beauty, charm, and remarkable history!

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