AKC Dog Breeds: Irish Wolfhound

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Hound Group
Height: 31-36 inches   Weight: 90-150  pounds  Color: gray, brindle, red, black, white, or fawn

An Irish Wolfhound must be "of great size and commanding appearance." He has a large, muscular greyhound-like shape, and he is the tallest of dogs, but not the heaviest. A superb athlete and an endurance runner, an old Irish proverb describes him perfectly: "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked." One of the earliest recorded references to Irish Wolfhounds is in Roman records dating to 391 A.D. Often used as royal gifts, they hunted with their masters, fought beside them in battle, guarded their castles, played with their children, and lay quietly by the fire as family friends. They were fierce hunters of wolves and the oversized Irish elk, so good that their prey disappeared from Ireland and the hounds fell upon hard times. By the 19th Century there were few Irish Wolfhounds left in Ireland. It was said that during wartime they were trained to take an armored knight off its horse. When they were only allowed to be owned by royalty (and banned by everyone else) in the 19th century, the breed became almost extinct. The Irish Wolfhound was then bred with the Deerhound, Great Dane and Borzoi, which brought the breed back, changed its initial appearance slightly. The Irish Wolfhound was registered with the AKC in 1897.

General Appearance
A massive, muscular dog, the Irish Wolfhound is one of the tallest breeds in the world. This gentle giant can reach the size of a small pony. Standing on his hind legs the Irish Wolfhound can reach up to 7 feet tall!  He has a rough, shaggy coat and wiry bushy eyebrows. Colors include gray, brindle, red, black or white. Gray is the most common color. The paws are large and round, with markedly arched toes and strong, curved nails. It has a long head with a moderately pointed muzzle and a muscular arched neck. The chest is very deep and it has a well retracted abdomen. The shoulders are strong. The Irish Wolfhound gives the appearance of both strength and grace. The tail hangs down with a slight curve. The ears are carried back against the head except when the animal is excited, when they my prick up part-way.

One of the tallest and largest dog breeds in the world, the Irish Wolfhound has become known as the gentle giant. These dogs carry themselves with dignity, have an amiable and gentle disposition, and are always eager to please their owners. Although they do need plenty of space and attention, these dogs can make excellent family pets. The Irish Wolfhound is intelligent and a fairly quick learner, which can help to make training easier. These dogs can be very independent and, during the early years can also be destructive, making them best suited to owners with some experience of dog ownership. The Irish Wolfhound is an easy going dog, and is friendly, sociable, and good with children - although do take care around smaller children because of his size. Although he may give chase with smaller animals that run, he tends to get along well with other animals in general. These dogs also tend to get along fine with strangers. The Irish Wolfhound is not an aggressive or suspicious dog, and this means that his skills as a watchdog do leave something to be desired, although his size along can serve as a deterrent. The gentle attitude of this breed means that early socialization is important to improve confidence and sociability. An affectionate and very loving breed, the Irish Wolfhound will make a good family pet for those with the space and the time to look after a large dog.


The Irish Wolfhound has a medium-length rough shaggy coat that will require brushing and combing to keep the shedding to a minimum. Brushing and combing this dog regularly is a must. The Irish Wolfhound is an average shedder and the coat responds well to rubber brushing. Professional plucking of the coat may be necessary to remove dead hair. The beard of this breed must be cleaned regularly.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy

These dogs are prone to cardiomyopathy, bone cancer, bloat, PRA, Von Willebrands, and hip dysplasia. Whilst still growing the joints of the Irish Wolfhound can be susceptible to damage, which is why it is important not to provide exercise that it too strenuous. The life expectancy of the Irish Wolfhound, as with many other larger breeds, is relatively short at 6-8 years.

Activity Level

The Irish Wolfhound does need a fair amount of exercise, but whilst still growing care should be taken not to provide physical activity that may be too strenuous for him as he continues to grow. For older dogs daily walks and a safe, secured area in which to run will suffice. A large yard is best for this giant breed. This is a sighthound giving him the tendency to chase, so he should never be let off lead unless in a fenced in area


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Irish Wolfhound profile on dog encyclopedia
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