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irish wolfhounds - about breed


«He is big and no worse than a stout man. Besides, it is part of his nature that he has man’s wit, and he will bay at every man whom he knows to be thy foe, but never at thy friends. He can see, too, in any man’s face whether he means thee well or ill, and he will lay down his life to be true to thee.» Icelandic Saga of Burnt Nial in which Olav, a son of an Irish princess, offers his friend Gunnar a hound that was given to him in Ireland (970-1014.).


In ancient times in the emerald isle of Eire there lived a beautiful Irish princess and a wily Druid who craved for her love. Hundreds of times the Druid went on his knees in front of her asking for her love, and he always got a refusal. When he lost his last hope he in his fury turned the woman into a huge dog. But the princess had a nanny who in the last moment managed to add one condition – the princess will again obtain her human shape after she will give life to a child in a shape of dog. The time went and she gave birth to two puppies: a boy named Bran and a girl named Scolann. So the princess again obtained her human shape but Bran and Scolann have founded the marvelous breed of dogs named Irish Wolfhounds.

There are lots of legends about this breed of huge and fierce looking dogs with a gentle and faithful heart. It is believed also from ancient times that they have almost human understanding and they have king’s blood in their veins.


The Russian word «borzaja» comes from «borzii» – in ancient times it was used exclusively regarding horses which were bred for racing, for speed. People wanted to see the same qualities in hunting dogs calling them the same name.

The most ancient pictures of dogs are those of «borzoi» and only after that the pictures of Great Danes, hounds, badger-dogs appear. One can assume that the origin of “borzoi” is the Northern Africa and South-East Asia. The expansion of “borzoi” starts with the moving of Arian tribes towards Europe. Approximately 1000 years BC they brought with them fast hounds, remains of which were found at the Baltic Sea. The big borzoi-like dog of Arians was without any doubt a wiry haired “borzoi” which started the expansion along the sea coast to the West.

Maybe those dogs were the ancestors of the Irish wolfhound.

Remains of those ancient dogs were known in Europe under the name of Courland «borzoi» and were there almost until the 50ties of the 19th century. As is known some Celtic tribes moved to Ireland 300 years BC, and from there they moved to Scotland and Wales. Of course, their dogs moved with them. According to Roman geographer Strabon (1st cent) similar dogs accompanied also Normans who visited the coasts of today’s Great Britain. Silius also mentioned similar huge, fierce dogs of characteristic outlook which were taken from Ireland to Roman circus. Some writers of that era were convinced that the homeland of these wiry haired hounds was Scotland and Ireland and they were taken to Rome during the Roman imperia time. Writer Sabaneev L.P. mentions that those dogs were a great sensation there, terrifying with their stature and fierce outlook. We have to mention that in those times Ireland was called Scotia major in difference with Scotia minor.

At the end of ancient times wiry haired hounds were used only for hunting wild boar and wolves. Nevertheless at the beginning of 16th century the boars were extinguished and then in 1710 the last wolf was killed. The Irish hound was almost extinguished as there were no more hunting. Nevertheless the dogs were kept by some as demonstration of their wealth.

Those dogs of huge stature and power could not be other than successful. Naturalist Buffon (middle of 18th cent) states the height of 150 cm of an Irish hound, but it is not known how he measured the dog – from the head or shoulders. According to his contemporary Goldsmith, a zoologist, they were as big as a year old calf (up to 120 cm). Anyway, according to contemporaries this dog was of overwhelming size.

The common people under mortal danger could not own an Irish hound Cu – the huge dog. That was a privilege of kings and their closest. Those dogs lived with their masters and always took part in their meals. The hounds were pampered; they even were allowed to sleep on the kings’ beds. The shields of the first Irish kings were adorned with a shamrock, harp and an Irish wolfhound; underneath there was a slogan «Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked». The Irish wolfhounds were honored as a present to rulers of England and Germany; in 1615 these dogs were sent as a present to the Great Mogul to India. It is known that at the beginning of the 18th cent. landlords of Courland sent for them to improve the blood of their own “borzoi”. In 1652 Cromwell issues a law prohibiting export of these dogs from Ireland. But anyway the number of the Irish wolfhounds decreases and in 1792 English naturalist Bewick writes that the Irish wolfhounds have become very rare and are kept more for good looks than for hunting.

Only thanks to some enthusiastic people the breed survived. Mr. Richardson had these dogs from 1841 till 1862. Mr. Becker and Sir John Power had them till 1865. In 1863 Captain Graham started to work with the legendary breed. Starting from 1867 he begins with the restoration of the breed using progeny of Mr. Richardson’s dogs and adding Scottish deerhound and Great Danes bloodline. When he saw that the Danes add too much of massive body to the breed, he decided to use Russian borzoi (according to Sabaneev L.P. it was the best dog Korotai of that time in England). Captain Graham wrote a book about the Irish wolfhound telling everybody not only about the history of the breed and restoring them but also how he sees the breed. Actually that was the first standard of the Irish wolfhounds as we see them today. It is interesting that not the Irish people, but South African and North American colonists were more interested in the revival of the breed, as they hoped to use the dogs for hunting hyenas, leopards, lions in Africa and wolves in America.

Already in the XIX century Sabaneiev expressed doubts about such use of the Irish wolfhound: «However, it is doubtful that modern exhibition room and these dogs were suitable for harassment. They have already lost much of malignancy (...).Irish wolfhounds new type does not have a fierce-looking: they are very tame, friendly and absolutely safe for children, in general, not nearly as quarrelsome, as most of the other greyhounds. A purebred Irish have a phlegmatic character, but still easy to get along with other dogs, unless they are removed from the patience».

The first classes for Irish greyhounds were opened by Irish Kennel Club in 1879, but in 1880 it ceased to exist. Nevertheless, it was soon registered as a club of the Irish wolfhound, to adopt its own standards and finally separate from the Scottish relative - Deerhound.

Irish wolfhound today

Irish wolfhound is considered a rare breed, but having a powerful and imposing appearance, balanced temperament, wonderful affection for the children and the ability to get along well with other animals, even in small apartments, is gradually becoming more popular. Devoted and loving family, he is restrained with strangers. Never will he attack first, and only real threat to his beloved master may take him out of balance. I know of several cases where very sensitive to the normal dog`s life and not prone to aggression, they defended their masters.

Female Tsara was not very brave, did not like strangers, and if possible avoided them. But late one evening, the hostess, as usual, was walking with her in the park. The people were few, and the woman let the dog off the leash so that she could run freely. Tsara was absent busy with her doggie business, when in front of the woman from the bushes suddenly a man stepped out. Not really seeing anything the woman felt the danger, but had no time to get frightened. Near the hostess suddenly appeared Tsara and easily knocked the man down, just pushing it. It was enough so that he ran away with all speed.

So, not being a guard dog, the Irishman still remains a reliable defender of his house. Anyone who has heard his growl, low and muffled, almost like a roaring of a bear would without any hesitation wish to be as far as possible from the source of these sounds.

Incidentally, about the voice of the Irish wolfhound: if the Irish wolfhound lives in an apartment, you hardly hear him barking. Here I recall an anecdote. Advertisement in a newspaper: «For sale a dog, almost new, never barked.» Sometimes owners may first hear the voice of their pet, but only when he turns a year old. But if you live in your own home, the dog will not only notify you by barking that you are having guests, but also will meet them at the gate.

Do not think that the huge size of this dog will be the reason that there would be «too much» of him. All owners of the Irish unanimously believe that he could be, if only, for a little but yet more. Irish wolfhound - a typical homebody, but vital for his regular walk, during which he could fill of frolic without a leash. The Irish wolfhound would be happy to stay for hours on a comfortable sofa or rug by the fireplace, but its hard to keep in place if he will read your thoughts about the upcoming walk, well, let alone if he hears the command: «Walk!» ...

Dogs of this breed get along well with children, but it is necessary for adults to control the communication of younger members of families with this gentle giant. Amused with most giant of toys, children can accidentally hurt him! Fleeing from the small abuser, he may accidentally push or step on it.

Wolfhounds can live together with all the animals in the house. But if they love and protect your cat, the strange cat - it is a game. And, well, if the dog simply urge on, but in fact they may cause significant harm.

With the Irish you can go to the races of greyhounds, but you have to prepare the dog since puppy age, then it would be his sport. I have tried to participate in the races with my wolfhounds. At first there is excitement for everybody. But jerked for «rabbit», some suddenly remembered that the masters are left behind alone, unattended, and returned with a guilty look: «I only wanted to run ...» Others, however, starting to run, will soon realize that running is not for a live rabbit, but a piece of cloth.

When I attended the races with my favorite Argus, he showed his whole appearance that now he would catch up and catch the «rabbit», just let me go. I had just to let him off the leash, as he did throw for bait, immediately turned around and ... raced to nearby homes - chasing cats. Had he to pursue some cloth, when close by there are lots of living cats. And before that he ran very well for «rabbit» until he realized that inanimate prey is always returned in the same place. Therefore, my wonk reached this point and stopped - waiting until the «bunny» comes back: «Why should I drive it around?» But, if we were walking in the field, and the dogs had seen a live rabbit, then the instinct immediately worked. I could call them as long as I could - they did not hear. However, if I was the first to see a rabbit, then the command «close» worked flawlessly, as if the dogs did not want to throw in pursuit.

Often I'm asked the question: «do wolfhounds steal from the table?» I reply: «No! They just take!». And indeed, both their size, when the head is well above the table, and all the goodies are right in front, they do not try? Can it be called stealing? We too take off the table what we want. If you are near, Irish wolfhound would ask: first, it pushes you with nose, then licks a piece that he wants to eat, and then will mesmerize you with his eyes, resting his head on the table. And if you do not «understand», then in the process of hypnosis in some miraculous way the distance between a piece of food and muzzle of the dog is quietly but strictly declining - and you have a happy wolfhound!

Owners appreciate the Irish wolfhound for his unique character and ability to be a good companion. He is happy to go with you on a journey, would be relevant everywhere: in a mansion, and in a city apartment, and never disturb the peace in the family. Those who had an Irish wolfhound, as a rule, do not change this breed, as well as the wolfhound never changes his habits, followed by all his dog's life. For a complete happiness a wolfhound needs a home where he can be with his beloved master and his family.

When somebody hears about the price of the Irish wolfhound puppy, sometimes he starts to count, what profit can be obtained from the sale of puppies. So very often I have to explain that this breed is not for business. After all, we give the puppies to new families after they reach the age of two months, not before, after vaccination, microchip, pedigree.

The largest litter ever given by my dogs, consisted of fourteen puppies. And that means long sleepless nights when I had to change every two hours the puppies under the bitch one time seven puppies the other seven the next time, so that they all in turn receive breast milk. During that time I fed the first seven. When you have fed the last one it is already the time to feed the first one. And so it went without a break for sleep, day and night for a couple of weeks. In addition, every two hours the young mother had to be fed - for good, she ate well. But there are bitches, which have fewer puppies and eat disgusting, and therefore you have to additionally feed the puppies from the very beginning. When the puppies are growing up (and they grow by leaps and bounds) then starting approximately from 2.5 weeks you have to gradually accustom them to eat not only mother's milk. Thus it is necessary to make sure that all ate and that someone is not pushed off. And as the breed is not from the small ones, then babies eat a lot according to their size. Well, what puddles! One can stay with a cloth in hands all day long in the cage.

It is not always possible to find immediately the owners for puppies. I had a case where I had to sell a year-old puppy, and he is already a grown-up dog in his nature, there has been put in a lot more than I got. And taking into account how difficult it is, because they are all my children, and I want them to have a happy dog's life with a loving master. On one occasion, I was returned a three-year bitch, which was not needed by their owners. I just thanked the previous master that the dog was returned to me, and not put to sleep. The prerequisite was that I return the money for the dog. Breeder must always be prepared for the fact that puppies can stay with him forever.

People relate differently to mischieves of puppies. Here are a few cases. In one litter of nine puppies there was a five months' girl Tsoyga. When she became bored, she began to howl, to catch my attention. Immediately she was joined by her brothers and sisters – really the Pyatnitsky Choir. When I sold her we had the long-awaited peace in the house. Then one day the new owner calls me and says: «What skills does she have!» I thought, well, everything, she howls. But he is delighted: «She`s singing!»

People often complain that the puppies have gnawed something. Well, then, do not keep things accessible for the puppy. After all, when you have little children in the house, you make sure that they do not get to things they must not touch. I will never forget that waking up one morning, I found my puppy, which was 1.5 months and was paralyzed (nervous form of plague). I saw that the baby moved to the other side of the bed and was chewing my slippers. With what delight I told this to my veterinarian: «She got up and ate the slippers!»

So my Latochka while growing, has eaten three pairs of sandals and slippers, I just bought several pairs at once and said: «Here, Latochka, I bought us new shoes.» Gained strength, she learned to go down to the basement, where there was a workshop of my father, and he had lots of different instruments. She stood and stared at the bench for a long time, then picked out what she needed. Then she took this thing and carried off to her place. Especially she loved a sledgehammer, which weighed 5 kilograms. And we knew that if the sledgehammer was not in the basement, it could be found in Latkin’s bins.

Hosts of Kroha told me a story. Mistress watched TV, and Kroha was bored, he approached her, demanding attention. She promised him that as soon as the transfer is completed, they will go for a walk. Kroha sighed and went to his place. After a while the hostess remembered that she needed to recharge her mobile phone. They sought it and found on the rug of Kroha, although it no longer needed to be charged. The hostess joked that the dog took offense at her and decided to call the owner - to complain. But the buttons are so small – the claws are inconvenient for clicking, but the teeth – that’s another matter ... In short, the phone could not be repaired.

It is quite possible to avoid such accidents, if you give a dog enough communication. An Irish wolfhound puppy would be happy to play with toys, but most of all puppies and adults love to communicate with the master, listen to his stories on any topic. He is ready to fulfill any of your requests not for a slice of a delicacy, but simply for the fact that you talk to him and admit that he is the most favorite and wonderful dog in the world. And do not be afraid to squeeze as much as possible and embrace a wolfhound, in his concept a man is created to fondle a wolfhound with two hands, but four is even better.

Females and males characters are not particularly different, although males usually look more impressive and imposing. Boys are not less affectionate than girls, but more independent. However, the love of his master would not allow him to go too far, even for a bitch in heat. So my curious little girls used to run away round a corner to see if there is something interesting, then, as Argus, first, too, ran after them, but in halfway always returned –there are a lot of girls, but there is only one «Mama». On walks, he vigilantly guarded me, but for the safety of the master was not particularly worried. Seemingly, he thought that a man can stand up for himself.

Argus liked to sit on the «hands». He approached me and put on my knees first one paw, then another, then tried to climb a whole, clinging to me all over. But there was a problem - my knees were too small for him, so only the body was on my knees, and legs were on both sides. Then he found another way - would come to me backwards, and sat down on my knees, as on a sofa.

You must not develop in the Irish wolfhound malignancy, because with his power and his size it would be a killing machine. Malignancy in these dogs eradicated in centuries, and now he is the gentlest giant of the dog world. When my granddaughter was born, I had no fear and from the first day allowed the dogs to be near her, while I was cautious with the other breeds of dogs.

In executing your commands Irish wolfhound would be slow, as if to say, that’s not a royal case - in a hurry. But he knows what to do necessarily. Some people have successfully completed their dogs’ general course of training, although the majority believes that there is no great need - the dog understands what the boss wants. But it all depends on education. Everything depends on education, not just training. One should interact with a puppy as a baby, explaining all the wisdom of a dog's life in the family.

In this breed there are colors from pure white to black, including all shades of red. Color can be monotonous or brindle, not acceptable are only colors in spots (like a Dalmatian). White markings on the tip of the tail, legs or chest are allowed. But if the white socks - it is beautiful, the greater amount of white is not desirable, although not considered as waste.

Unfortunately, Irish wolfhounds do not live as long as smaller dogs. However, usually it is still not five years, as can be seen in some books, but 9-10 years. I contacted a wolfhound, who was 12 years old, and when he was11 we still participated in dog shows. Regarding health problems it should be noted that sometimes due to trauma, like it is in other large breeds, osteosarcoma can be formed, but this is infrequent. Science moves forward, there is a program testing dogs for predisposition to cancer. It is hoped that in future we can minimize cancer due to exclusion from breeding dogs which are prone to this disease. In breeding, we try to use the dogs only with a healthy heart; there is a heart problem in the breed. And we hope that the taken measures will help to breed healthier dogs. We are members of the European Union of the owners of the Irish Wolfhounds, which pays much attention to the health of the breed. There are special tests that determine the propensity of the individual to certain diseases, and if these diseases are identified, these dogs are not allowed in breeding.


For the first time I saw an Irish wolfhound in 1984 on a dog show in Riga. The giant impressed me with his might at the same time being completely calm and dignified. He was placed among German dogs and they were simply «lost» side by side with him. When I saw him I was out of breath and the only thing I could say was: I want this dog! That was love from the first sight. Only later I got to know that he is one of the first imported to the USSR for the movie «The trees grow also on stones».

In our sparse canine literature of the time I was literally on the grains of collecting information about the breed and could buy my first puppy only in 1991. Thus began my personal acquaintance with this wonderful dog.

However, our desires are often corrected by the fate. So it happened that it did not go as smoothly as we would like. Two of my first puppies died through no fault of mine, and I decided to abandon further attempts to keep the dogs of this breed. But the owner of the Irish wolfhound Hassin and providence decided differently. In March 1992, in my house appeared Bilenka Boiga Elvi, who was followed by Lorhi-Vilardi-Favorit. Two of these females had begun breeding Irish wolfhounds in my kennel.

Boyga gave me many unforgettable moments she gave me the love that can only be given by an Irish wolfhound. She was really my dog. From the first days of life in our house she immediately chose me as «mom». This 1 month old lump everywhere followed on my heels and refused to eat in my absence (and remained so all her dog's life). It seemed as if I have one more child. Beneficial side is that the wolfies are brought up as children, they just have to be explained what it is possible and what is not, they are well versed in intonation. Although Boyga disliked the exhibitions, but for me she was ready to endure anything to be side by side with me.

After the experience of growing up and having the first litters of wolfhounds, I found that other species are not interesting to me anymore (before that I had a Caucasian, Rottweiler, Cocker). And now I know that if I venture even to buy some another dog, it will be another Irish wolfhound. And if the first Irishman impressed me for its vast extent, then after living next to these psychic dogs for many years, I understand that first and foremost, I love them for their gentle, delicate and unique soul, which is in any of this breed. Now I live with great-grandchildren of Boygi who remind me of my first favorite wolfhound.