Irish Wolfhound

"Colossal Charmer"

Photo of Irish Wolfhound


When an Irish Wolfhound walks down Fifth Avenue each year with the Grand Marshal of the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, more than ethnic pride is involved. The dog represents a living connection with the ancient past, a time of ferocious European Celts hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. It was those very Celts that possibly developed the breed in Europe and took him to Ireland around 1500 BC. Canine historians surmised that the Celts gave Irish Wolfhounds as gifts to Roman invaders in 391 AD. Seven of the great dogs were presented to the Roman consul, which "all Rome viewed with wonder." This majestic breed has been the subject of historical descriptions, legends, Celtic literature, and works of art due no doubt to the Irish Wolfhound being among the tallest of all dogs. For centuries the breed was used for hunting wolves and elk, but also served as bodyguards and participants in fearsome battles. Once the wolves and elk were gone, the breed began to disappear, dwindling to near-extinction. In 1862 Captain George A. Graham, a Scotsman in the British army, restored the breed by crossing the Great Dane and Scottish Deerhound, and later the Russian Wolfhound, among other breeds.


Despite his size and commanding appearance, the Irish Wolfhound has an even temperament, bonding with his family and showing great loyalty and affection. An ancient inscription read, “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.” These dogs are rugged, playful, and protective, yet gentle, sweet and loving. They are good with children, but may accidentally knock very young ones over without intending to as they are somewhat clumsy. They are at their best in the country where they can run and play hard. They are lethargic within the confines of a city apartment and can become destructive when bored and not exercised sufficiently.


The most outstanding aspect of this breed's appearance is his size; he's one of the largest dog breeds, with a minimum height of 32 inches from the shoulder and 120 pounds in weight (females are somewhat smaller in size and weight). The breed is rough-coated, very muscular, yet gracefully built. His head and neck are carried high as he moves, but he gallops when breaking into a run. Coat colors are gray, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, or any other color that appears in the Deerhound. The Irish Wolfhound is a sighthound and little escapes his view when gazing into the distance.


They require a very firm hand. Because of their large size, when training them you cannot equivocate or back down from a command. An untrained Wolfhound could develop serious behavior problems that become unmanageable. It is extremely difficult to handle a 34-inch, 175-pound dog who suddenly becomes aggressive. Early training is necessary. They are not stubborn, but respond at a slower pace than other dogs. Nevertheless, they respond well to training. Training methods must be firm.

Grooming & Care

The coat is rough and harsh and sheds very little. It requires no trimming. However, it should be brushed twice a week. Untidy hairs are usually scissored off and dead hairs stripped twice a year.

Health Concerns

Life expectancy is approximately eight to ten years. Irish Wolfhounds are susceptible to hip dysplasia, bloat, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cardiomyopathy, and bone cancer.

Famous Irish Wolfhound

The subject of many legends and poems, like the story of Gelert, and the story of Bally Shannon.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 4
Schedule 33
Home 46
Children 48
Experience 51
Quick Facts
Grooming 110
Exercise 61
Challenges Not for small spaces; short lifespan.
Height 30 to 35 inches
Weight 105 to 135 pounds
Life 6 to 8 years
Home Alone 20
With Kids 86
With Strangers 93
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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