Irish Wolfhound History


Among most of the larger varieties the modern tendency seems to be in the direction of breeding for greater size, and from time to time heated discussions arise as to the wisdom of such a course. There is much to be said on both sides, with numerous qualifications which considerably affect the point at issue. In some of the working sorts experience is usually the best arbiter of what is desirable. In greyhounds, for instance, I suppose more little dogs than big ones have wrested highest honours. That rare little bitch Coomassie, though almost a toy, her weight being but 44 lb., managed to win the Waterloo Cup twice, and Master M'Grath, the triple winner, was but 10 lb. heavier. Fullerton, however, was a large dog, being a 65-pounder. A good many people think that the fashionable foxhound in favour at Peterborough would be all the more suited to most countries if he were an inch lower in height.

When we come to consider the breeds that are not used for sporting purposes in this country, we are confronted with dogs the size of which cannot well be determined from any utility standpoint; but even with them we must admit certain general principles from which there should be no deviation. Let us take it for granted that the largest St. Bernards, Great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, mastiffs, deerhounds, etc. look more imposing than their smaller fellows, and therefore they are more likely to catch a judge's eye when in the ring. In most of these varieties size is desirable if it is not purchased at too serious a cost.

In the first place, the chances are that a very big animal will be coarse and in many respects non-typical. He is frequently unsymmetrical, and only too often so badly built at the hocks that he cannot move with that freedom we all wish to see. If, however, his various points bear a proper relationship one to the other, and he is also blessed with quality, the chances are that he will be found in the top flight.

Growing a dog to great size is beset with so many pitfalls, particularly as regards the difficulty of rearing him straight in front and behind, that the man who succeeds in avoiding the dangers is entitled to his reward when he seeks the opinion of a judge. Unquestionably, it is easier to bring on a medium-sized or light dog. He will almost look after himself, a remark which does not apply to the progress through puppy-hood of the canine giant. From the date of weaning until he is at least fifteen months old, the best skill that experience can provide will have to be lavished upon his feeding and exercise, in order that he may reach the fullest development without exhibiting such glaring defects as crooked pasterns or cow hocks.

Up to the present time 36 in. at the shoulders has been regarded as about the outside height to which any dog could attain, and when anyone claims to own an animal that reaches this maximum, the testimony of witnesses is usually demanded. The minimum height aimed at by Great Dane breeders is 30 in. for a dog, slightly less for a bitch, and between this and the size we have mentioned there is a vast difference.


At last a giant has come along whose shoulder measurement is said actually to have exceeded by a trifle 37 in., and a picture is given of him this week. It shows the Irish wolfhound Donegal, bred and owned by Mr. C. Eric Palmer of Shinfield Grange, Reading. When Donegal appeared at the Kennel Club Show, he was sufficiently conspicuous to make a mild sensation in his section. The judge afterwards wrote of him: "The tallest dog I have ever measured or seen, I think. His head is very good, being long and strong, quite massive enough, well covered with hair, which gives character, and his ears are well carried. He lacks girth for so big a dog; his shoulders are too upright, while his ankles seem rather straight, which makes his fore action appear stilty. When he lets down - he is not much more than a puppy - and thickens out as he should, and as I trust he will, he will make a very fine specimen."


In trying to arrive at a reason for Donegal's enormous height, it struck me that some explanation could be found in the formation of his shoulders, which were very straight. If they had had the normal slope, which one prefers to see, it would probably have made some difference to his inches. Of course, in any case he would be an immense dog. His pasterns, too, were very long in proportion to his forearm. His weight of 150 lb. was scarcely proportionate to his height, but a few months more would have made a lot of difference to that. Among his virtues, apart from size, must be mentioned his beautiful head and his coat of admirable texture.

All lovers of dogs will be grieved to hear that poor Donegal died soon after the Crystal Palace Show. His loss will be keenly felt, as he would have become, so to speak, a landmark in Irish wolfhound breeding. Altogether he was a remarkable dog, inevitably conjuring up remembrance of Goldsmith's much-hackneyed assertion that the old race of Irish wolf dogs attained the size of yearling calves. Well, a little imagination would enable anyone speaking of Donegal years hence to quote him in support of this remark. Mr. Palmer deserves a tribute for having got the dog so true in front.

Up to this time I always thought Mr. I.W. Everett's handsome Felixstowe Gweebarra one of the biggest and finest dogs I had ever seen, yet he is a shade under 36 in. His girth and bone are in every way suitable for such a measurement, and we may infer his substance from the fact that he turns the scales at 175 lb. Gweebarra is a most imposing-looking creature, dignified, with noble carriage and easy movement - this in spite of the fact that he is as heavy as many St. Bernards, although we get a good many of the latter now scaling up to 200 lb.

A.C. SMITH (A. Croxton Smith)

Donegal was whelped 12th June 1910; s. Aughrim 159N, d. Hibernia 657P; colour brindle, so this article would have been published some time late-1911. Name of publication unknown.

CRYSTAL PALACE Oct. 26th, 1911

 Donegal and Griffons
The largest and smallest dogs in show
- Mr. C.E. Palmer's wolfhound Donegal, 1st prize Winner,
and Mrs. Bates's Griffon Bruxellois.

The Judge was I.W. Everett (Felixstowe) and his report reads: "Novice: Donegal led; a tremendous hound, but light in eye and plain in skull; his outline, coat, movement, and feet are all A1."

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