Irish Wolfhound

Table of Contents

irish wolfhound portrait
Meet the Irish Wolfhound, a gentle giant with a heart as big as their towering stature! This breed's unique combination of grace, strength, and kindness has won the hearts of dog lovers worldwide.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

Irish Wolfhounds are perfect for those who adore big, friendly giants and have plenty of space to spare. They’re great with kids and other pets, making them a wonderful addition to families. Despite their size, they’re gentle, affectionate, and patient, making them ideal companions for those seeking a loyal, furry friend.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEIrish Wolfhound
OTHER NAMESIrish Greyhound, Cú Faoil
ORIGINIreland
BREED GROUPHound Group
BREED SIZEGiant
HEIGHT30-32 inches
WEIGHT105-120 lbs
LIFESPAN6-8 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERHigh
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYModerate
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK89th
irish wolfhound sitting in an open field
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

Appearance

Imagine a dog that stands as tall as a mini pony, yet carries the grace of a deer. That’s an Irish Wolfhound for you! They are nothing short of majestic, with males standing about 32 inches at the shoulder and weighing around 120 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, but still tower over most other breeds.

The first thing you’ll notice is their towering height, but there’s so much more to adore. Their bodies are robust and sturdy, built for power and speed. Despite their size, they move with surprising agility and grace, a delightful sight to behold.

Their long tails hang down, touching the ground when they’re relaxed. But when they’re excited or alert, their tails form a slight upward curve, wagging enthusiastically to express their joy. It’s a heartwarming sight that can light up even the dullest day!

Now, let’s talk about their heads. It’s long, but in proportion to their body, giving them a noble and dignified appearance. Their ears are medium-sized and set high on the head. When they’re at rest, their ears fold back against their head. But when alert, they raise their ears, showing off their attentive and intelligent expression.

Their eyes are one of their most endearing features. They are dark and round, full of kindness and intelligence. One look into those eyes, and you’ll feel like they’re reading your soul!

An Irish Wolfhound’s coat is rough and wiry, designed to protect them from harsh weather conditions. It comes in various colors, including grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, or fawn. This shaggy coat gives them a somewhat rugged appearance, adding to their charm.

Their overall expression is one of gentle dignity. There’s a certain calmness and wisdom in their gaze that’s hard to describe, but absolutely beautiful to witness. Despite their imposing size, there’s a softness to them that’s incredibly endearing.

Overall, Irish Wolfhounds are a beautiful blend of strength and gentleness, power and grace. They are a sight to behold and a joy to have around, making every moment with them a memorable experience.

irish wolfhound outdoors on a sunny day
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

Temperament

Irish Wolfhounds may be towering giants, but they are also some of the most gentle and kind-hearted dogs you’ll ever meet. They are known for their sweet nature and calm demeanor, making them a joy to be around.

Despite their historical role as hunting dogs, Irish Wolfhounds today are anything but aggressive. They are remarkably patient and good-natured, often described as a gentle giant. This breed is known for its love of people and desire to be part of the family. They enjoy being involved in all family activities and will happily lounge around the house with their loved ones.

One of the most endearing traits of an Irish Wolfhound is their sensitivity. They are intuitive creatures who can pick up on their owner’s emotions. Feeling blue? Your Wolfhound will likely be by your side, offering silent comfort. Celebrating something? Expect your furry friend to join in on the excitement.

Irish Wolfhounds are very friendly and sociable. They get along well with other dogs and animals, and they’re typically great with children. Their size might be intimidating to some, but their gentle nature makes them a wonderful companion for kids. They have a deep-seated desire to please their humans, and this often translates into a willingness to cooperate and a generally easygoing nature.

Despite their size, they are surprisingly mellow and easygoing indoors. They are not overly energetic or hyperactive. Instead, they prefer to spend their time lounging around, preferably with their favorite humans nearby. They have a certain grace and dignity about them, which is reflected in their calm and composed behavior.

However, don’t mistake their calmness for laziness. Irish Wolfhounds are also known for their playful side. They enjoy a good game and can show surprising agility when they’re having fun. They have a sense of humor and can be quite entertaining with their antics.

Irish Wolfhounds are intelligent and thoughtful. They are quick learners and have a good understanding of commands. However, they are not overly eager to please, so they might take their time to respond to your commands. But rest assured, they’re paying attention!

Despite their imposing size, Irish Wolfhounds are not typically used as guard dogs. They are too friendly for that! While they will certainly alert you to the presence of strangers, they are more likely to greet them with a wagging tail than a growl.

irish wolfhound on grassy moor
Photo: Fenne/Getty Images Signature

Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

Given their size, Irish Wolfhounds need space. A home with a large, securely fenced yard is ideal. They love to stretch their legs and explore, but they’re not overly active, so they don’t require vast amounts of exercise space. However, they’re not suitable for apartment living due to their large size.

Remember, Irish Wolfhounds are indoor dogs. They crave human companionship and should not be left outside alone for extended periods. They’re happiest when they’re spending time with their family, whether that’s lounging on the couch or romping in the yard.

One specific precaution to keep in mind is their height. Their towering stature can make them more prone to certain health issues, including joint problems. Providing them with a comfortable place to rest and not encouraging them to jump or do excessive running can help protect their joints.

Climate Adaptability

As far as climate is concerned, Irish Wolfhounds are pretty adaptable. Their thick, wiry coat provides some protection against the cold, but they’re not built for extreme temperatures. In colder climates, they’ll appreciate a cozy dog bed indoors. In hotter climates, it’s essential to provide plenty of shade and fresh water, and avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day.

Ideal Owner

Irish Wolfhounds thrive in environments where they’re part of the family activities and given plenty of love and attention. Ideal pet parents for these gentle giants are those who appreciate their calm demeanor, enjoy their playful antics, and have a lot of love to give.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, Irish Wolfhounds are quite sociable. They usually get along well with other dogs and can coexist peacefully with cats, especially if they’ve been raised together. They’re generally patient and gentle, making them great companions for children as well.

irish wolfhound's face up close
Photo: THEGIFT777/Getty Images Signature

Grooming

Irish Wolfhounds may be large, but their grooming needs are surprisingly manageable. Their shaggy, wiry coat is part of their charm, and while it does require some maintenance, it’s not as demanding as you might think.

Coat Care

Firstly, let’s talk about their unique coat. It’s rough and somewhat scruffy, giving them a delightfully rugged appearance. Regular brushing, about once or twice a week, will help keep their coat looking its best. A slicker brush or a hound glove works well for this task. These tools can effectively remove loose hair and prevent matting without causing discomfort to your gentle giant.

Bathing your Irish Wolfhound doesn’t need to be a frequent affair. Every two to three months should suffice, unless they’ve rolled in something smelly or gotten particularly dirty. Use a dog-friendly shampoo to protect their skin and coat. Remember, they’re big dogs, so you might need a little extra help to get them fully cleaned!

Ear Care

Now onto their ears. Check them weekly for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or bad odor. Clean them with a vet-recommended cleanser to keep them healthy. Never insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.

Dental Care

Their teeth also require attention. Dental hygiene is crucial for all dogs, and the Irish Wolfhound is no exception. Brush their teeth several times a week to prevent tartar buildup and maintain good oral health. Dog-friendly toothpaste and a soft brush will do the trick.

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget about their nails! These should be trimmed regularly, usually every two to three weeks. Long nails can cause discomfort and lead to problems with walking and running. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, they’re probably too long. Use a dog nail clipper or grinder for this task, or have a vet or professional groomer do it if you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself.

Additional Grooming Tips

Lastly, keep an eye on their skin. Irish Wolfhounds can be prone to certain skin conditions, so regular check-ups can help catch any issues early. Look out for any unusual lumps, bumps, or areas of irritation during your grooming sessions.

Grooming your Irish Wolfhound is also a great bonding time. They love the attention, and it gives you a chance to check them over for any signs of health issues. Plus, who can resist the opportunity to spend some extra time with their furry best friend?

irish wolfhound running in a park
Photo: Peter_C_Henderson/Getty Images

Exercise

Despite their large size, Irish Wolfhounds are not a high-energy breed. However, they still need daily exercise to keep them healthy and happy. So, what does exercise look like for these gentle giants?

Exercise Amount & Types

Irish Wolfhounds enjoy a good walk. A couple of moderate walks a day, around 20 to 30 minutes each, should suffice. They’re not built for endurance, so long hikes or runs are not recommended. Instead, a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or a romp in a securely fenced yard will keep them satisfied.

Playtime is also important for this breed. They have a playful side and enjoy games that stimulate both their body and mind. Fetch, tug-of-war, or even hide-and-seek with their favorite toys can be a great way to keep them engaged and active.

Dog Sports

While they’re not typically seen in agility or obedience competitions due to their laid-back nature, Irish Wolfhounds can excel in lure coursing events. This sport involves chasing a mechanically operated lure in a race, which can be a fun and exciting way for them to exercise.

Exercise Precautions

One thing to keep in mind is their growth rate. Irish Wolfhounds grow quickly and continue to grow until they’re around 18 months old. During this time, their exercise should be carefully monitored to avoid putting too much strain on their developing bones and joints.

In hotter weather, make sure to exercise your Irish Wolfhound during the cooler parts of the day to prevent overheating. Always have fresh water available for them to drink.

irish wolfhound walking with his handler in a park
Photo: emer1940/Getty Images

Training

Training an Irish Wolfhound can be a joyful experience. They’re intelligent and eager to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. However, they also have a gentle and sensitive nature, requiring a kind and patient approach.

Basic Obedience

Start training your Irish Wolfhound early when they’re still a puppy. This is the perfect time to teach them basic commands like “sit”, “stay”, “come”, and “leave it”. They’re quick learners, so they’ll pick up these commands in no time.

Socialization

Socialization is also crucial during this stage. Expose them to different environments, people, and animals. This will help them grow into well-rounded, confident adults. Remember, they’re big dogs, so teaching them good manners from a young age is essential.

Positive Reinforcement

Irish Wolfhounds respond best to positive reinforcement techniques. This means rewarding them for good behavior with treats, praise, or playtime. Harsh training methods are not recommended as they can harm their sensitive nature. Patience is key with this breed. They might take their sweet time to follow a command but rest assured, they’re trying their best.

irish wolfhound resting on grass
Photo: shawshot/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding an Irish Wolfhound is a task that requires some careful consideration. After all, you’re fueling a gentle giant! They have specific dietary needs to support their large size and relatively calm lifestyle.

What to Feed & How Much

Irish Wolfhounds do well on high-quality dog food that adheres to the AAFCO guidelines. Whether you opt for dry food, wet food, or a raw diet, make sure it’s specifically formulated for large breeds. These diets take into account the unique nutritional needs of big dogs like the Irish Wolfhound.

The amount you feed your Irish Wolfhound will depend on their age and activity level. Puppies generally require more calories as they’re growing rapidly, while adult Wolfhounds need a balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow the feeding guidelines provided by your chosen pet food brand, and consult with your vet to determine the right amount for your individual dog.

Remember, despite their size, Irish Wolfhounds are not overly active. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which can put unnecessary strain on their joints and lead to other health issues. Therefore, it’s crucial to monitor their weight and adjust their food intake as necessary.

Treats

Treats are a great training tool, but they should be given in moderation. Too many treats can contribute to weight gain. Opt for healthy options like pieces of fruits or vegetables, or specially formulated dog treats.

Water

Water is also essential for your Irish Wolfhound. Make sure they always have access to fresh, clean water, especially after exercise or during hot weather.

Additional Feeding Tips

Lastly, Irish Wolfhounds can be prone to bloat, a serious condition that can occur if they eat too quickly or exercise immediately after eating. To prevent this, feed them smaller meals multiple times a day instead of one large meal, and avoid vigorous exercise around meal times.

irish wolfhound playing in the snow
Photo: Martina Vitáková / 500px/Getty Images

Health

It’s important to note that the lifespan of an Irish Wolfhound is generally shorter than many other breeds, typically around 6-8 years. They are a wonderful breed, full of love and loyalty. However, like all breeds, they have certain health considerations that prospective owners should be aware of.

Here are common health problems associated with this breed:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit together properly, leading to discomfort and potential mobility issues.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this affects the elbow joints and can cause pain and lameness.

Cardiomyopathy: This heart condition is unfortunately common in Irish Wolfhounds. Regular vet checks can help detect any heart abnormalities early.

Osteosarcoma: This is a type of bone cancer that is more prevalent in large breeds. Early detection is key to managing this disease.

Bloat (Gastric Dilation Volvulus): This serious condition occurs when the dog’s stomach twists. It’s a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Despite these potential health issues, there’s a lot you can do to help your Irish Wolfhound live a long, healthy life. A balanced diet tailored to their size and activity level can help maintain a healthy weight, reducing strain on their joints and heart. Regular exercise is also essential for overall health.

Regular vet checks are crucial. Your vet can monitor their heart health, check for signs of joint issues, and keep them up-to-date on vaccinations. Early detection of any health issues can make a big difference in managing them effectively.

irish wolfhound sitting on green grass
Photo: Ashva/Getty Images

History

The history of the Irish Wolfhound is as large and fascinating as the breed itself. These gentle giants have an intriguing past that dates back thousands of years, making them one of the oldest dog breeds in existence.

Irish Wolfhounds were originally bred for war and hunting. Their size and strength made them ideal for pulling men off horses and chariots, and their speed and power were used to hunt large game, including wolves and deer. Hence, the name “Wolfhound”. They were highly valued for their courage, loyalty, and fighting skills.

Over time, their roles shifted from war and hunting dogs to companions of nobility. They were often given as prestigious gifts among royalty and considered symbols of wealth and power. They were so prized that at one point, their numbers dwindled due to the high demand and a decline in large game in Ireland.

In the 19th century, Captain George Augustus Graham, an Englishman, took it upon himself to revive the breed. He gathered the few remaining Irish Wolfhounds and cross-bred them with other large breeds, such as the Scottish Deerhound and the Great Dane, to restore their numbers and maintain their unique characteristics.

The American Kennel Club first recognized the Irish Wolfhound in 1897, and since then, they’ve been cherished for their gentle nature, loyalty, and unique appearance.

In popular culture, Irish Wolfhounds have made several appearances. They’ve been featured in various movies and TV shows, often representing loyalty and courage. In literature, they’ve been mentioned in many works, from ancient Irish texts to modern novels. J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series even includes an Irish Wolfhound named Fang, further cementing their place in popular culture.

Irish Wolfhounds also have a presence in the world of sports. The University of Notre Dame uses the Irish Wolfhound as their football team’s mascot, perfectly capturing the breed’s combination of strength and gentle spirit.

Parent Club

The parent club for Irish Wolfhounds in the US is the Irish Wolfhound Club of America (IWCA). Founded in 1926, it serves as a resource for both owners and enthusiasts of this majestic breed. The club provides information on the breed, organizes events, and promotes responsible breeding practices.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Irish Wolfhound or becoming a member of the club, you can visit their website.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Irish Wolfhound’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

irish wolfhound puppy standing on a rock
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Acquiring

Bringing an Irish Wolfhound into your home is an exciting decision! But, before you welcome this gentle giant, there are a few things to consider.

Firstly, prepare for a big dog with an equally big heart. They need space to move around, so ensure you have a suitable living environment. Also, budget for larger food portions and potential health care costs due to their size.

If you decide to buy, always choose reputable breeders. They prioritize the health and temperament of their pups over profit. However, consider rescuing instead. There are many wonderful Irish Wolfhounds in shelters waiting for their forever homes. The Irish Wolfhound Club of America and the American Kennel Club can help connect you with rescue organizations.

Remember, whether you buy or rescue, you’re gaining a loyal and loving companion in an Irish Wolfhound!

FAQs

Is the Irish Wolfhound bigger than a Great Dane?

While the Great Dane can be taller at the shoulder, the Irish Wolfhound generally has more mass and is longer from nose to tail. So, in terms of overall size, the Irish Wolfhound is usually bigger.

Is the Irish Wolfhound as big as a wolf?

Irish Wolfhounds are indeed larger than most wolf species. They were originally bred to hunt wolves, hence their size and name.

Is the Irish Wolfhound the largest dog breed?

The Irish Wolfhound is one of the tallest breeds, but not necessarily the heaviest. Breeds like the Saint Bernard and the English Mastiff can outweigh an Irish Wolfhound.

Is the Irish Wolfhound a wolf hybrid?

No, despite its name, the Irish Wolfhound is not a wolf hybrid. The “wolf” in their name refers to their original purpose of hunting wolves, not their ancestry.

Are Irish Wolfhounds good with kids?

Yes, Irish Wolfhounds are known for their gentle and patient nature, making them great companions for children. However, due to their size, supervision is recommended when they’re around small children.

How much exercise does an Irish Wolfhound need?

Despite their size, Irish Wolfhounds aren’t overly energetic. A few short walks and a moderate play session for about 20-30 minutes each day should be sufficient.

Are Irish Wolfhounds easy to train?

Yes, Irish Wolfhounds are intelligent and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. However, their training should always be done with patience and positivity.

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