9 Things You Didn’t Know About the Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a true gentle giant. Though they have been prized as courageous hunters for centuries, this breed also has a sweet temperament and thrives on companionship. Let’s look at some more interesting facts about the Irish Wolfhound.

1. They Are the Tallest Dogs in the World

The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all dog breeds, with males standing up to a minimum of 32 inches at the shoulder. If an Irish Wolfhound stands on their hind legs, they may be 7 feet tall.

2. They Date Back to Ancient Rome

The earliest written record of an Irish Wolfhound is from 391 A.D., in a letter from a Roman consul to his brother. The consul thanks his brother for his gift of “Irish dogs,” saying, “All Rome viewed them in wonder.” These “wolfdogs of Ireland” were apparently given to Roman consuls, as well as to European kings, shahs of Persia, and other world leaders.

3. Ireland Had Armies of Them

According to legend, one of the High Kings of Ireland, Cormac mac Airt (who is said to have reigned sometime between the 2nd and 4th centuries) had an army of 300 hounds. Irish Wolfhounds were highly coveted because they were excellent hunters, guardians, and companions.

4. They Were Used to Hunt Big Game

You can guess from their name that the Irish Wolfhound is a wolf hunter. They have also been used to hunt wild boar and deer. There are legends of bands of Scottish people and others from Northern Britain, known as the Fianna, using Irish Wolfhounds in massive hunts, where as many as 200 stags would be killed. Irish Wolfhounds have also been used to hunt the giant Irish elk.

5. They Nearly Became Extinct

As the number of wolves and elk in Ireland decreased, the demand for Irish Wolfhounds dropped. The breed was thinning out by 1800, but Capt. George A. Graham was convinced that there were still a few Irish Wolfhounds in Ireland. In the mid-1800s, Capt. Graham made it his mission to find the few remaining Irish Wolfhounds in the country and use them to revive the breed. Graham crossed the Irish Wolfhounds he found with Scottish Deerhounds to help the population bounce back.

6. A Civil War Memorial Features an “Extinct” Irish Wolfhound

One Civil War brigade, known as the Irish Brigade, consisted of several infantry regiments from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. In 1888, a memorial was erected at the Gettysburg battlefield to honor the Irish Brigade. The monument features a life-size Irish Wolfhound lying in mourning. The inscription says, “This, in the matter of size and structure, truthfully represents the Irish wolf-hound, a dog which has been extinct for more than a hundred years.”

7. They Frequently Appear in Poetry

There are many references to the Irish Wolfhound in poetry from many different countries, going back several centuries. One example is Katherine Phillips’ 1664 poem, “The Irish Greyhound,” which is dedicated to the majesty of the Irish Wolfhound.

8. They Aren’t the Best Guardian Dogs

They look imposing, and they make a great hunting dog, but the modern Irish Wolfhound isn’t a breed known for being a guardian dog. They are not at all suspicious of strangers, and they aren’t aggressive toward them.

9. Herbert Hoover and JFK Had Irish Wolfhounds

After President Herbert Hoover moved into the White House, his wife was given an Irish Wolfhound named Cragwood Padraic. The family renamed the dog Patrick. President John F. Kennedy also had an Irish Wolfhound named Wolf, which was a gift from family friends who lived in Ireland.


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