10 Things You Never Knew about the Irish Wolfhound

irish wolfhound

There is much to learn about the Irish Wolfhound, even if you’ve grown up with one in the house. For example, many people consider the mastiff or the Great Dane to be the tallest dog breed in existence, but it’s actually the Irish Wolfhound that stands tallest, according to the American Kennel Club. This little known fact often throws people, and it’s not surprising. This dog is a lovely one, but many people are unfamiliar with so many of the historical facts about the breed.

A docile and mellow breed by nature, the AKC does state that this particular breed is somewhat active and always looking for a bit of a gallop. They’re also described as dogs that are very calm and dignified, and that they are highly courageous but they are not considered an aggressive breed. They make wonderful household pets for families that enjoy having a dog around, but they do need space to run and enjoy themselves on a daily basis.

They’re wonderful with kids and they are friendly dogs, but they are also very protective and loyal dogs. For this reason, many homes are happy to have an Irish Wolfhound present to use as a guard dog. While this breed might not prefer the aggressive course, it is one that is happy to alert a homeowner to the presence of anyone else. This breed is interesting, and it’s got a long history behind it. Read on to find out exactly what it is you didn’t already know about this Irish Wolfhound.

Oliver Cromwell Saved the Breed

There was once a time when this breed was dwindling in numbers rapidly in Ireland, and Oliver Cromwell stood up for it. He refused the allowance of anymore exporting these dogs out of the country because the numbers were so low and he feared extinction. He is not, however, credited with saving the breed from extinction.

They almost went Extinct in the 1800s

Captain George Augustus is the man credited with bringing this breed back from the verge of extinction back in the 1800s after he made it his mission to do so. He took wolfhounds and began cross breeding them with dogs such as the Great Dane, the Mastiff and even with deerhounds. Don’t ask us how that works, because it seems a bit confusing as to how this saved a breed.

They’re not the Smartest Dogs

Let’s get this straight; the Irish Wolfhound is not a stupid dog without any intelligence. However, this is a breed, when compared to other breeds that is considered a bit less intelligent. For example, while this dog might do a few things better or as good as a border collie, the collie is considered highly intelligent in comparison.

War History

Did you know that the Irish Wolfhound has not always been a loving, kind everyday house pet? In fact, it was once considered a war dog. It’s primary use at one point was simply to rip men off of their horses so that the enemy could capture them and do with them what they did with men trying to ride off on their chariots or horses in those days. We might not know for certain what those things are, but we can say with certainty that they were not good.

Wolfhounds and Small Animals do not Mix

This is a dog that was bred in its history to hunt. It has natural hunting instincts and that is not something that merely disappears with age or with time or with anything of that nature. Because this dog was at one time a born and bred hunting dog, that instinct is still with it. For that matter, the Irish Wolfhound is wonderful with kids, but should not be kept in a home with smaller animals. The natural desire to hunt makes this dog more likely to want to do that – with the other animals in the house.

Coloring is Important

As with any purebred dog, there is a very distinct and very fine line when it comes to coloring. To be considered a purebred, the coloring on an Irish Wolfhound must be appropriate; there cannot be too much spotting, and only some colors are allowed. It’s very strict and there are no exceptions to the rules whatsoever when it comes to determining this in the wolfhound.

Herding History

The people of Scotland have found an even more appropriate use for this particular breed of dog; herding. The Irish Wolfhound is often used in Scotland as a dog that herds sheep. In fact, even though this is a classic Border Collie job, many that engage their dog in this type of behavior have said that it’s nice to use the wolfhound because the breed has a more natural way of herding than the collie, making them slightly better at the job.

Hunting Dog History

Many people use hunting dogs in their extracurricular activities, but not many people use this particular breed for hunting and guarding. However, there was once a time when wolves and elk were abundant in the wilderness of Ireland, and that is when these dogs were used to hunt them, capture them and kill them for their owners. It’s a pretty gruesome history.

Blue Wolfhounds were once Immediately Killed

In the most inhumane and ridiculous manner, dogs that showed up at birth with even a hint of blue were immediately killed. This color is deemed impermissible by the people who get to determine what makes a dog a purebred, and this color is not acceptable. Fortunately, the killing of blue wolfhound puppies has been put to a stop. However, the color is not acceptable for show dogs; only dogs that have no ‘role’ in show.

Wolfhounds as a Mascot

Everyone who knows anything about the British Royal Family knows that Prince William (the Duke of Cambridge) is a part of the royal army. What most people do not know is that he is a part of the Royal Irish Regiment, and that the mascot animal for this regiment is the Irish Wolfhound.

Photo by Getty Images

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