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About The Irish Wolfhound

Gentle when stroked; fierce when provoked!

Mr Antony Killykeen-Doyle (IRL) - (pdf) The History and Development of the Irish Wolfhound
Mr Fred Gresham - (pdf) The Irish Wolfhound
(«The New Book of the Dog» - By Robert Leighton, London, 1912)
IERDIE Jubilee Edition, April 1994 (Hoensbroek / NL - 60th Anniversary)

E. C. Murphy

The origin of the Irish Wolfhound, or Great Irish Hound as it was known in earlier times, is lost in the distant past.

The five hundred years ending 600 AD were probably the most colourful in Irish History. Each court had its own bard who related the heroic deeds and great feats of warriors to the kings and chiefs and their guests. These legends and sagas have been handed down to us and from them we learn of the existence, nature and temperament of the Great Irish Hound before history was recorded.

The Hounds of Ireland were already well established in Ireland in 391 AD when a Roman consul wrote to his brother thanking him for the gift of seven Irish dogs 'All Rome viewed them with wonder and fancied they must have been brought hither in iron cages'.

Down the centuries, the Hound of Ireland was a gift highly prized by the kings and noblemen of other countries. King Edward ll (1336), Queen Elizabeth (1562) and Henry the Great of France (1595) are among those on record as having received them. The exportation continued to the kings of France, Denmark, Sweden and Poland. So great was the number exported that Cromwell decreed (1652) that no further hound should be sent abroad as the numbers were dwindling so rapidly in Ireland that the wolf population was on the increase.

The breed was maintained in the early 19th century by Richardson (1840) and Sir John Power of Kilfane, Mr Baker of Ballytobin and Mahony of Dromore. In the latter part of that century, following the famine, the breed was at a low ebb when Capt Graham, a friend of Sir John Power put much work and effort into gathering all the specimens available and revitalising the breed.

Today, as in earlier times, the Irish Wolfhound is in great demand around the world and is to be found at shows world-wide. Now, as then, he is prized for his great size, graceful build, proud bearing and superb temperament; 'a lamb at home - a lion in the chase'.

The early history of the breed, including the various legends and sagas, is well documented in Phyllis Gardner’s book 'The Irish Wolfhound'

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The Irish Wolfhound, the tallest, strongest and most majestic of the sight-hound family should combine both speed and power. Neither character should predominate at the expense of the other. A heavily built hound is untypical as is a lightly built one. The Wolfhound should symbolise strength, his conformation should allow him to move with a long low stride as, like all sight-hounds, he is built to use the double suspension gallop.

In the show ring, he is judged by the Standard of Excellence which describes the correct type and conformation. Type has evolved from breeding countless generations of the best hounds with each other. Type is that particular combination of build, shape and conformation which has proven most efficient for the purposes of the Irish Wolfhound.
Capt. Graham and his colleagues formulated this ideal in the Standard.

Type and soundness are of equal importance, the combination of both giving quality. The head, often referred to as the repository of type, reflects the character and majesty of the Irish Wolfhound. It should be powerful and hound-like, showing strength without coarseness. Small greyhound-like ears, a reasonable amount of eyebrow, muzzle hair and beard and dark eyes enhance the soft typical expression. The nicely arched, muscular neck should be thick in comparison to his over-all form. A neck stripped out like a terrier gives the impression of weakness. Both head and neck should be proudly carried and not strung up on a tight lead in terrier-like fashion.

The rough coated body should give the impression of adequate length rather than that of a short-coupled body; the chest should reach down to elbows and be nicely wide at the bottom; the ribs should be reasonably well sprung. As a galloping hound, he should have adequate angulation of the forequarters and hindquarters producing the long, low stride typical of the breed. The longer bones, especially the shoulder-blade and upper arm, upper and lower thigh, so typical of a sight-hound allow adequate angulation of the front and rear without the degree of angulation required in non sight-hound breeds. Over angulation, as seen in the German Shepherd would be as untypical as under-angulation, though under-angulation with its accompanying short stride is a much more common fault.

The topline, determined by the shape and strength of the spine, should comprise a nice set of curves beginning with the crest of the neck and finishing with the bend of the tail. The loin should show a slight arch but not be so exaggerated as to give the hound the appearance of being dipped behind the shoulders. It should be just sufficient to give a nice gradual sweep right down to the set-on of the tail which should connect fairly low. Lack of angulation, short neck, weak dippy topline or inflexible straight spine, shallow chest, no tuck-up, crooked or short limbs, flat feet or weak pasterns are all serious faults in a galloping hound. A coarse or snipey head, very light eyes, heavy ears, a curly or gay tail are all faults against type, as is a soft or woolly coat.

A firm stand must be made against awarding prizes to hounds that are not absolutely sound, as the breed is essentially a galloping one, meant for rough as well as fast work, and therefore coat, soundness of limb, and freedom of action, must be insisted on. Girth is also most essential, as without it, the necessary lung and heart action is impossible (Capt. Graham, 'The Kennel Encyclopaedia', 1908).

P.S. The foregoing contains extracts from the writings of Graham and Everett

«Time For a Guinness» - by John Baker

The flower of all his race,
so true, so brave - a lamb at home,
a lion in the chase.

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