What is nearly three feet tall, can weigh over two hundred pounds, and has four legs?
If you were thinking of a deer or perhaps a small bear, you’re mistaken. The animal in question is none other than an Irish Wolfhound, and while dogs come in all shapes and sizes, few come anywhere near the stature of these majestic animals.
Irish Wolfhounds were used by the Gaelic people in ancient Ireland as hunting dogs, and the first written account of these dogs was by a Roman Consul in 391 AD. Pairs of these massive hounds were considered prized gifts by the royal houses of Europe and Scandinavia from the middle ages to the seventeenth century.
In the fifteenth century each country in Ireland was required to keep at least 24 dogs to protect farmers’ flocks from wolves, however the gradual disappearance of wolves throughout the country decreased the need for the dogs, and they nearly went extinct by the end of the seventeenth century.
In the late nineteenth century, there was a renewed interest in the breed, particularly as Irish Nationalism swept across the country. During this time, Captan GA Graham found some of the few remaining hounds in Ireland and crossed them with Scottish Deerhounds to revive the breed.
These incredible animals typically reach an average height of 32 to 34 inches, and an average weight of about 90 pounds for female dogs and 120 pounds for the males .
Irish Wolfhounds also come in a variety of colors, including blue. This, however, is not a technical color, but is actually a color paling effect which dilutes the pigment of the dog’s coat, skin, and eyes, and is called “blue dilute”. Puppies with this trait used to be put down, as it was considered undesirable, however, it is now known that it doesn’t affect the dog’s health and is no longer done .
While their massive size may be intimidating, and their history as hunting dogs may lead you to believe that they would make useful guard dogs or have an aggressive nature, Irish Wolfhounds are actually very gentle and are neither suspicious nor aggressive toward strangers .
Of course, as with any dog, early socialization as a puppy will have an effect on their temperament, but in general wolfhounds as a breed are sweet-natured and friendly.
How to Care for an Irish Wolfhound
Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest dog breed in the world, so it is important that if you are going to have one of these dogs, you should have enough space for it. As such, people living in apartments will have a difficult time providing adequate room for them to thrive.
Irish Wolfhounds require a minimum of forty minutes of exercise every day, and do best in a home that has a fenced-in yard where they can run around. A fence will also keep them from chasing prey. It is important to note that an electric fence will not work, as their desire to chase will greatly outweigh the threat of a momentary shock.
Irish Wolfhounds get along well with other dogs and cats as well, so if you have other animals you don’t need to worry about fighting.
Because of its size, you may think it would be fun for your small child to ride on your wolfhound’s back like a pony, however you should not allow this, no matter how small the child is. The dog’s joints are not built for that kind of strain, and you could injure the animal.
It is also important to note that if you decide to get an Irish Wolfhound, you will likely not have your dog for very many years. The average lifespan of these dogs is only about six to eight years, and their large size predisposes them to many health problems.
A Loving Companion
If you decide to get an Irish Wolfhound, you will be getting a loving, goofy, gentle animal that will love spending time with you, and may try to sit on your lap despite its massive size. They are excellent companions for adults and children alike.