The Irish Wolfhound: Everything You Need to Know

Known for their towering height and gentle nature, the magnificent Irish Wolfhound is one of the largest dog breeds in the world.

In this article, we will explore the history, physical characteristics, personality, and potential health issues of the Irish Wolfhound breed.

A Brief History of the Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound has been around for centuries and has a rich history in Ireland. Breed members were originally used for hunting and as war dogs. The Irish Wolfhound was first described by Julius Caesar in his writings and was greatly valued by the ancient Celts.

Origins in Ancient Ireland

The origins of the Irish Wolfhound date back to ancient Ireland when the breed was used for hunting wolves, hence its name. They were also used by Irish chieftains for protection and were often given as gifts to the leaders of other countries.

It is said that the Irish Wolfhound was so highly regarded in ancient Ireland that there were laws regulating their ownership. Only kings and nobles were allowed to own them, and the penalty for killing an Irish Wolfhound was equal to that of killing a human.

The Role of Irish Wolfhounds in Celtic Mythology

According to Celtic mythology, the Irish Wolfhound was considered a sacred animal and was often depicted in artwork alongside gods and heroes. The legendary hero Cu Chulainn had two faithful companions, both of whom were Irish Wolfhounds.

It was believed that the Irish Wolfhound had special powers and could even sense danger before it occurred. This made them highly valued protectors and companions.

The Decline and Revival of the Breed

The Irish Wolfhound almost became extinct during the 18th century. However, in the early 20th century, efforts were made to save the breed, and it was successfully revived. Today, the breed is still rare, but it is treasured by dog lovers all over the world.

Physical Characteristics of the Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are truly impressive animals and are known for their large size and unique appearance. Here is a close look at some hallmark traits. 

Size and Build

Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest dogs in the world, with adult males standing at least 32 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 120 pounds. Females stand at least 30 inches tall and weigh 105 pounds.

Coat and Colors

The Irish Wolfhound has a long, wiry coat that comes in various colors, such as gray, brindle, black, white, and red. Their coat requires regular grooming to prevent tangles and matting.

Unique Features

In addition to their large size, the Irish Wolfhound also has some unique features, such as long and powerful legs, a long tail, and a long and narrow head. The shaggy coat and striking height are the two hallmarks of the breed. 

Personality and Temperament

Irish Wolfhounds are gentle and affectionate dogs who love to be around people. They are calm and make great family pets. Breed members have a strong desire to be close to their humans.

Gentle Giants

Irish Wolfhounds are often described as gentle giants, and this is no exaggeration. These dogs are patient and kind and are great with children and other animals. They have a calm and gentle demeanor.

Despite their large size, Irish Wolfhounds are not aggressive dogs. They are known for their docile nature and are unlikely to become aggressive unless provoked.

Loyalty and Affection

Irish Wolfhounds are loyal and affectionate pets who love nothing more than being close to their owners. They are gentle, naturally affectionate, and loyal to their owners. 

These dogs thrive on human companionship and are happiest when they are spending time with their family. They are great cuddlers and make excellent companions for those who are looking for a loyal and loving pet.

Intelligence and Trainability

Irish Wolfhounds are intelligent dogs who are eager to please their owners. They respond well to positive training methods and are generally easy to train when approached correctly.

However, some Irish Wolfhounds have an independent nature, which makes training a challenge. The keys to successful training of the dog are patience and consistency.

Health and Lifespan

As with all breeds, the Irish Wolfhound is prone to certain health issues that owners should be aware of. However, with proper care and attention, the breed can enjoy a long and healthy life.

Common Health Issues

Common health issues for Irish Wolfhounds include: 

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Or DCM, is a condition that causes the heart to enlarge and weaken, which can lead to heart failure
  • Bloat: A serious condition that occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off blood flow to the organs
  • Hip Dysplasia: A condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, causing lameness, pain, arthritis, and mobility issues  
  • Eye Conditions: The most frequent eye problems in the breed are cataracts, glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)

While these health issues can be concerning, there are steps owners can take to reduce the risk of their Irish Wolfhound developing them. Regular vet checkups are essential to catch any health issues early. 

Tips for Maintaining Good Health

To keep your Irish Wolfhound healthy, it’s important to provide regular exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of love and attention. Regular vet checkups are also essential to catch any health issues early.

Exercise is important for all dogs, but it is especially important for large breeds like the Irish Wolfhound. Daily walks and playtime in a secure, fenced area can help keep your dog healthy and happy.

A healthy diet is also crucial for maintaining good health. Feeding your Irish Wolfhound a high-quality, balanced diet that is appropriate for its age, size, and activity level can help prevent obesity and other health problems.

Lifespan Expectancy

The average lifespan of an Irish Wolfhound is between 6 and 8 years. However, with proper care, some members of the breed have been known to live much longer.


The Irish Wolfhound is a truly remarkable breed that has a long and rich history. From their origins in ancient Ireland to their role as beloved pets today, this gentle giant has captured the hearts of dog lovers all over the world.

If you’re considering getting an Irish Wolfhound, do your research and ensure you’re prepared for the responsibility that comes with owning such a large breed. With proper care and attention, this dog is a wonderful pet.

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