Irish Wolfhound

Like most big sight hounds, the origins of this majestic dog are steeped in myth and mystery. There is little doubt, however, that the Irish Wolfhound stems from the hounds of ancient Egypt and arrived in Ireland circa 300-500BC with marauding Celtic tribes who had acquired them from Phoenician traders.


In Ireland, the early hounds were bred with large, indigenous, hairy dogs to produce a big dog that was impervious to bad weather and able to tackle wolves and boar. So successful were they that they rid Ireland of these two species by around 1770, but without their work, Irish Wolfhounds themselves became virtually extinct. One man, Captain George Graham, set about recreating the breed from about 1865 onwards, using, it is believed. Great Danes, Scottish Deerhounds, Russian Wolfhounds, Pyrenean Sheepdogs and Tibetan Mastiffs.

The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest breed. It loves human company and may develop behaviour problems if left for long periods.


These gentle giants are extremely affectionate, quiet and laid back but fierce in action. They are playful and good with children whom they allow to take liberties. However, babies and toddlers should not be left alone with them in case of accidents due to their great size. Irish Wolfhounds make loyal companions but they do need early socialization and are fairly difficult to train due to their obstinate hunting dog mentality. Nobody should consider owning one unless they have a spacious home and garden, ideally in the countryside.

must know

Wolfhounds can suffer liver shunt, bone cancer, osteochondrosis and cardiomyopathy, none of which are proven hereditary conditions. Check status of hips and eves with the breeder.


Irish Wolfhounds are graceful yet muscular with a shaggy, harsh topcoat and an undercoat. Adults should sport long hair over the eyes and a beard. The minimum height for dogs is 79cm (31in); 71cm (28in) for bitches. The minimum weight for dogs is 54.5kg (120lb) while bitches are 40.9kg (90lb).

Strangers 3/5

Will warn but affable

Temperament 4/5

Laid back, affectionate

Exercise 5/5

Adult dogs need plenty

Grooming 1/5

Minimal: once a week

Other dogs 3/5

Accepts all friendly breeds


Gentle, loyal with a liking for quiet children

General care

These dogs crave company; they do not like being left alone. A weekly brush and combing suffices to keep the coat in good condition. They must be fed highly nutritious food when young because of their speedy growth. Not much exercise is required for young dogs until the bones have ossified.

Gallery of Irish Wolfhound