Irish Wolfhound History

Dog World (USA) - Breed Notes

Development of Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a very large dog and special attention must be given to the foods and supplements that are fed to the growing puppy. Remember that you not only need to nourish the dog physically but also mentally. A hound that is deprived of essential food, minerals and vitamins will not develop to his full potential. A well balanced fortified diet during the growing period is most essential. As a rule Irish Wolfhound puppies weigh about a pound to a pound and a half at whelping time. By two months of age they may weigh between twenty-five to thirty pounds and by six months they may better than triple their weight.

At about eight or nine months they continue to grow but at a much slower pace. Many breeders have found this to be the most critical time for dogs of this breed. It seems that at this time the hounds seem to have a lowered resistance. It is best to immunize for prevention of distemper and hepatitis with tissue vaxue at about two to three months of age. Unlike other breeds the hounds grow so rapidly that my veterinarian recommends another dose of tissue vaxue at the time that size is stabilizing. This protection has proved very successful with my hounds.

March, 1966

The Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhounds are dogs of great size and are between 30 and 32 inches in height, the bitch being closer to 30 inches and weighing about 105 pounds whereas the male goes about 120 pounds. The hound continues to grow and matures at about 18 months of age. Size is of great importance in the breed and dogs that are mature but do not come up to the breed specifications should be barred from show competition. Although size is essential to this hound there must be all round balance and symmetry. The dogs must be large, active and powerful. We want all these qualities and gracefulness too.

 Hillaways Padraic of Eagle
Irish Wolfhound owned by S.E. Ewing III, was top
winner in his breed in the U.S. for 1964 and 1965

In order to move well the forelegs are quite straight and heavy boned with elbows well set under. The hindquarters give the power and forward thrust, these must have muscular thighs with well muscled second thighs and a nicely bent stifle. The spring that is so necessary to carry the large framework of this great hound comes from well put together rear quarters. The next time you see an Irish Wolfhound watch to see with what ease and grace the dog moves.

September, 1966


Irish Wolfhound Coat Types

The Irish Wolfhound Standard reads: "he is a rough-coated, Greyhound-like breed" and further defines the hair as "rough and hard on body, legs and head; especially wiry and long over eyes and under jaw." Coat is one of the IW characteristics that varies greatly in the hounds currently being exhibited in show-rings and bred in different parts of the country. The criterion would seem to be explicitly set forth in the Standard, but there are many judges who place little or no reliance on a good harsh coat and, sad to say, a few breeders who are cultivating the long, woolly-coated hounds which they believe appeal to the general public and thus to their own pocketbooks.

The Irish Greyhound from which our modern IWs are descended appears to have been both smooth and rough coated, according to ancient writers and engravings. By the nineteenth century the rough coat was predominant in the wolfhound and the only genuine Irish specimens obtained by Captain Graham were said to have been of such variety. This, therefore, would be the reason that our modern hounds are required to have rough, hard coats, and there should be more uniformity in adherence to this part of the IW Standard. Occasionally there will occur a throwback to the old smooth coat or one of the long-coated outcrosses introduced by Captain Graham, but these specimens should be the very rare exception rather than the not infrequently seen wolfhound which is regarded as acceptable by more than one dog-show judge.

In addition to quality, the Irish Wolfhound coat varies in quantity. The most common type and amount of hair is that which is also possessed by the Scottish Deerhound - harsh, wiry, and about two to four inches long, with a soft undercoat. Because of his early use for hunting wolves, the IW almost always grows a ruff about his neck that is thicker than his hair elsewhere. A single coat is most often found with wolfhounds whose hair texture is more woolly or silky than desirable, and this coat is usually longer than the wiry one. Indeed, there often seems to be a direct correlation between the length of the coat and its harshness. Some very good specimens can be currently see with little or no head furnishings and a sparse, but very wiry, body coat. Needless to say, this type of broken coat is preferable to the luxuriant, but silky or woolly, coat found on other hounds.

The different varieties of hair appear to have separate growth patterns. The silky and woolly coats often attain full length by the time the hounds which unfortunately possess them are one year old. Hounds with the correct harsh and wiry coat may not come into full bloom until they are three or four years old. Many owners of adolescents of this type have bewailed their hounds' scanty adornment, but eventually the coat will appear and these hounds will then conform to the requirements of the Standard. Those wolfhounds, however, which have the short, broken coat seem never to grow more hair, although the texture remains entirely acceptable.

July, 1967

Irish Wolfhound Coat Colour

The Irish Wolfhound Standard of Excellence states that the recognized colors of our hounds are grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, or any color that appears in the Scottish Deerhound. Reference to the Deerhound Standard then brings forth the remark that "color is a matter of fancy", but the dark blue-gray is most preferred, followed by the darker and lighter grays or brindles, and yellow and sandy red or red fawn (with black ears and muzzles). By the Deerhound Standard, white is condemned, although a white chest, white toes and a white tip to the tail are acceptable. The Scottish Deerhound is a "self-colored", or one-colored, dog so the less white the better for these hunters.

The lack of a strict requirement for Irish Wolfhound coat coloring may be the result of many centuries when almost any color seemed to occur. The early Celts had pied hounds, as well as self-colored ones, and the description of the famous Fionn MacCumhail's Bran said she had yellow legs, white sides and breast, a speckled back and two crimson ears. Sir Tristram, in the twelfth century Scottish romance, had a hound named Pettigrew, which was "red, green and blue". There is no doubt that the early Wolfhounds must have been a mixed lot where color was concerned. Among the more predominant strains, however, seem to have been those white with red or dark ears, blue-gray, pied, or light buff or grey.

When Captain Graham began his task of collecting remaining specimens of the breed in the mid-19th century, he found only coat colors of an inconspicuous nature, evenly toned all over, or brindled. This situation possibly came about because of the general hard times in Ireland and the great reduction in the numbers and state of the Wolfhounds. Captain Graham tried to encourage black-and-tan coloring, and there were several specimens of this new scheme, including those with black bodies and fawn legs, but Captain Graham died before the colors became firmly established.

At present, the prevailing Irish Wolfhound colors are the various shades of grey and wheaten, either solid or with brindling. Pure white is very uncommon, but some Irish strains (mainly) produce black or red coats in rare instances. There seems to be no yardstick to determine which colors will result from certain hounds. One large litter of all wheatens whelped in recent years in California was followed by another large litter of all greys from the same two wheaten parents. We have a solid black bitch from a light wheaten dam and a medium grey brindle sire. So far as I can tell, brindles are the most common result if either parent is brindled, but the actual color may be almost any one in the vast range of shades and tints.

February, 1967

Grooming Irish Wolfhound for Show

Since the Irish Wolfhound is most handsome in his natural state, he should not be trimmed like a terrier for the show ring. At the same time, there are a number of measures that can be taken to "neaten" his appearance and remove the ragged edges. First of all, we use a regular metal comb – never a brush – to take out whatever snags or snarls may have developed in the hound's coat, and we carefully go over the whole animal with this instrument. Then there are several areas that require special attention: These are the head, the neck, and the feet.

The dead hair on the inside and outside of the ears should be plucked to make the ears as small and unobtrusive as possible. All ragged hair around the ears can be plucked also, to let the full shape of the skull be seen easily. When grooming, the long hair over the eyes and under the chin is combed forward and the rest of the hair on the head is combed back or down, again to show the natural head without hair standing up in odd spots.

From the head, attention shifts to the neck. At this point, let me state that clippers are strictly to be avoided, both because they cannot help but spoil the true Wolfhound look and also because they harm the texture of the coat. A very full ruff may tend to make the neck look short or heavy, and in such instances thinning scissors or judicious use of a stripping knife will restore the proper balance to the neck and throat. At the same time, no neck should be stripped down to the extent that a terrier neck is trimmed and shaped, as this practice is most foreign to the dignity of a Wolfhound.

Tivoli's Buinne of Eagle 
Irish Wolfhound owned by Mr. & Mrs. A.B. Bleecker
and handled by Samuel E. Ewing II, finished title at
Charleston, S.C. Pictured here as he placed 2nd in
Group at the Tennessee Valley K.C. show under
Nelson Groh.
(Graham photo)

August, 1967

Exploitation of Irish Wolfhounds

The magic word of import has come on the scene of the Irish Wolfhound. This has been apparent in this breed as well as in others for some time. Yes the Irish Wolfhound originated in Ireland and there are kennels abroad that breed some very fine hounds but they are not the kennels that are exporting to this country in litter lots. The true devoted breeder will export only the finest and will price his stock accordingly. The breeder that imports knows what qualities he needs in his kennel and knows that the stock he brings in must be as good as or better than the stock he already has. It is the knowledgeable breeder who knows what he is doing and what bloodlines he needs that should import from abroad. There are certain qualities one may need in his breeding stock. One might try to breed out a fault or intensify certain qualities which may be done by the introduction of certain bloodlines.

The average individual knows very little about the foreign dogs. Some dogs that are brought in are not eligible to American Kennel Club registration so that the Irish Wolfhound that is brought over cannot be registered nor can its offspring be registered. Once the dog is here it cannot be returned because of the quarantine fees involved if imported from the United Kingdom, and to keep a hound in quarantine for six months plus transportation would prove very costly.

So if you want a good clean healthy dog for a companion, guard or for breeding purposes check your breeders here in the States. You will have available to you help that many have accumulated over the years. You will have a dog of proper pedigree and American Kennel Club registered stock and a dog that is well bred, well cared for and comes from a planned breeding program. The breeders here in the States are not concerned with how many puppies they can produce to sell, they are concerned with how many good representatives they can breed for a limited market. Buyers of Irish Wolfhounds must qualify that they are willing to meet the obligations of this great breed of dog.

advert for book

Grooming Irish Wolfhound
(The first and second parts of Mr. Ewing's article on this subject appeared in our August and September issues)

The third area of major attention is the feet. Nails should be kept short and clean at all times. The fringe around the sides of the feet can be cut so the real shape of the feet is not hidden by superfluous hair and the feet do not appear large and flat like those of an Afghan. Depending on the hound's environment, it is also sometimes helpful to cut out the hair between the pads of his feet. This can help him to keep his toes well arched and closed.

Other than general tidying up of the coat, there is nothing more that need be done to make a Wolfhound ready for show. As I have stated before, he is best viewed in his natural condition, and the grooming measures we take are designed to promote this view. Many a good hound has been unduly hindered in the ring by a sloppy, unkempt coat which hides the excellent qualities he may possess. It is the duty of the exhibitor to help the judge see his dog at its best. Some time and effort may be involved, but with our breed it is fortunate that little is desirable or required.

October, 1967


The Growing Irish Wolfhound

One of the most frequent questions asked of Irish Wolfhound breeders and exhibitors at shows is "How much does he weigh?" Other questions along this line refer to height and the various measurements for growing puppies. Mrs. Starbuck of the Ambleside Kennels made up a chart of heights and weights a number of years ago, and General DeQuoy has more recently revised the schedule of pounds and inches, but it seems to me that any such standard can only be approximate. We have found in our own Wolfhounds such a great variation even in puppies from the same litter at different ages that we no longer weigh and measure as faithfully as we used to do. The growth pattern of Irish Wolfhounds is just not something we have found to adapt to frequent comparisons.

The Standard of the Irish Wolfhound states that dogs over eighteen months of age should be 32 inches in height and 120 pounds in weight, and bitches, at the same age, should be 30 inches in height and 105 pounds in weight. These are minimum requirements. How long does it take the average Wolfhound to reach his full height and weight, and at what age is he generally at his peak? There seems to be agreement, more or less, that a Wolfhound reaches full maturity between the ages of three and four years. In arriving at this maturity, he may do most of his growing in height by the time he is ten or eleven months old. Weighing around 1½ pounds at birth, the hound will thus spend a very active first year. Whether or not he makes a fast growth start and slows up later depends somewhat on heredity and on his nourishment and environment, but these factors do not seem to have the same effect on every puppy. There are other intangibles which appear to be just as important. Some of our largest hounds have weighed less during their first six months than others which might have stopped growing when they became eight or nine months old, and vice versa. So far, we have not been able to determine exactly why this is true, but it is. When, therefore, we are asked whether such-and-such a puppy at such-and-such an age is of proper size, we decline to take a stand. Of course, there are some which are obviously larger or smaller than what might be called an average, but these are comparatively rare instances.

One particular item that may be of interest to those who weigh their puppies frequently is that rolling the puppy in a towel before placing it on the scale will keep it from wiggling and moving about and will allow for a more accurate reading of its weight. By immobilizing the puppy, the person weighing it will have sufficient time to read the scale before the needle begins to move again.

Aefe of Eagle
Fergus of Ballinaboy
Oighe Dubh of Eagle

November, 1967

Exhibiting the Irish Wolfhound

Why are large breeds of dogs, especially the Irish Wolfhound, made to compete in a "postage stamp" size ring? Would the answer be that the breed is rare and only entered on occasion? If the show giving club wants the breed in the show ring and provides a classification for the breed in the premium list is it not obligated to give an ample sized ring? Once the entries close and there are dogs of the breed in competition it is the obligation of the show giving club to stake out a ring that will give the breed plenty of room to stretch out and move. If the club members don't realize the necessity the burden falls upon the show superintendent.

A thought comes to mind that if the breed were given proper recognition there might be more of these "rare giants" exhibited. When the judge asks that a dog be gaited — one just about gets started and hits the wall or rope. The owners of Irish Wolfhounds do not have a gaiting marathon but they do like to show the judge and the public that the dogs have good fronts and hindquarters and can move correctly if the proper facilities are provided. We do hope that the all-breed clubs will take the problem under advisement so that the fanciers will come in greater numbers and support them.

Banshee of Balingary
Boroughbury Brona
Castleborn Ard-Mallen of Eagle
Jocopa's Dorcha Clay of Eagle
Kilmoira of Killybracken
Maghera Glass Colleen
Sionnach Cam's Sheena


April, 1968

Ardynol advertisement 

Ardynol Irish Wolfhounds

At Ardynol our dogs are, first and last, members of our family. This means that there are no kennels. Consequently, quality rather than quantity must prevail. Furthermore, as we are not "professionals" in the sense that we derive any of our livelihood from our dogs, we are in a position to pick and choose as we see fit in our quest for perfection.

"Fafner", shown sparingly in 1967 — always owner-handled and coming from the classes, had a record of 14 Best of Breed wins in 15 outings. We also believe that dogs should be well-behaved and that furniture and beds are for people. Because of this, we are strong on Obedience training.

Because he is a favourite with the children, our doorbell is likely to ring at any hour with the resultant query, "can Fafner come out and play?"

As to personality, Fafner will "talk" to us but is extremely quiet otherwise. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Wotan is quiet with us except when he hears a strange noise at night. He then (softly, but in no uncertain terms) lets us know that we are safe while "in his hands."

Fafner's sire, Ch. Sulhamstead Samando Patrick, CD; his dam, Belle of Lu-N-Mac. His latest get, out of Fleetwind Diana, are getting ready to do more than their share of winning.

As we jot down these facts, some of our dogs are "snoozing" at our feet. We take pride in and are gratified by the results of our selectivity as exemplified by "recommends".

As a direct result of this program, we confidently invite any and all comparisons.

June, 1968

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