Irish wolfhounds are the tallest dog breed. By: peggycadigan (Top: Mikkel Bigandt)
Irish wolfhounds are affectionate companions who love children.
1. Key Characteristics
- AKC Group: Hound
- Height: 30–35 inches
- Weight: 105–120 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 8–10 years
The Irish wolfhound is a giant sight hound and the tallest of all dog breeds. They have long heads and small ears, similar to the ears of a greyhound. The neck is long and arched, and the tail is long, hangs down and is slightly curved. The feet are large and round with arched toes.
The coat is rough and wiry and typically longer over the eyes and under the jaw. There are 13 coat colors, including gray, brindle, red, black, white and fawn, among others.
2. Where They Came From
These dogs may have been around since 273 B.C. Irish wolfhounds were treasured for their abilities in hunting wolves and huge Irish elk. Because wolf and elk numbers dwindled over the later centuries, the breed was in danger of going extinct at one point.
A breeding program was started in 1862 by Captain George A. Graham, and a breed standard was written 23 years later. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1897, and the Irish Wolfhound Club of America was formed in 1926.
3. How Friendly Are They?
The breed is sweet, patient, eager to please, loyal and intelligent. They are very patient and caring with children and typically get along well with cats and dogs, although they may give chase after smaller, fleeing animals.
They are easy to train and do best with positive reinforcement, but in their first year, they can be clumsy and slow to mature. They do not endure kenneling or confinement well if left for long periods of time.
The Irish wolfhound is not a guarding breed; although they look intimidating because of their size, they are not aggressive or protective by nature. Most often they are friendly with everyone they meet.
4. Is This the Right Dog for You?
MEDIUM: Being a giant dog breed, Irish wolfhounds grow quickly. Exercise that is strenuous or continuous for long periods of time should be avoided for the first year to protect the dog’s physical development. The breed is inactive indoors and does well with a large yard. They are not ideal for apartments because of their large size.
When outdoors with an Irish wolfhound, remember that they are sight hounds and likely to give chase after small animals that move quickly or appear to be fleeing. They should be exercised in fenced or secured areas when outdoors.
MEDIUM: Grooming an Irish wolfhound can be easy when done regularly. They should be brushed a few times each week with bathing done occasionally. Stripping of the coat to remove dead hairs should be done once or twice throughout the year as needed; the coat is not shaped, clipped or styled but left in its rugged, natural state. Shedding is average.
Wax and debris build up easily in the ears, so they need to checked and cleaned regularly. The nails are prone to splitting and cracking if not maintained and should be trimmed every few weeks. Teeth brushing is also recommended, as it is with every breed.
MEDIUM: Some health issues are very common to the Irish wolfhound, and they include:
- Elbow and hip dysplasia
- Bone cancer
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
- Von Willebrand disease
5. Where to Adopt One
Irish wolfhounds may be found in shelters and rescues, so check there first. If you contact a breeder, make sure the breeder’s dogs and puppies are well cared for and do not show any signs of mistreatment.