The Irish Wolfhound

"One of our national peculiarities is that Wolf Dog, which, with paws most contemplatively crossed, is looking abroad and as it were, scouting with his keen round eye, for the game that, alas poor Luath! is no longer found on hill or curragh. Ireland, though it does indeed contain many a ravenous greedy creature, is yet no longer infested with wolves. Formerly it was not so. So late as the year 1662, Sir John Ponsonby had to bring into parliament a bill to encourage the killing of wolves. Their coverts were the bogs, the mountains and those shrubby tracts, then so abundant in the island, and which remained after the ancient woods were cut down; affording shelter, not only for the wolf, but the 'raparee'(outlaw).

The last wolf seen in Ireland was killed in Kerry in 1710. But if our country was once famous for wolves, she was equally noted for its peculiar enemy - the Irish Wolf Dog, uniting all the speed of the greyhound with the strength of the mastiff, and depending on its eye, its foot and its wind, would hunt down the game, which the canis veltris, or scent hound had started for it. These Irish dogs were exhibited in the fourth century, at the Circensian Games in Rome. They were an article of export from our isle in the middle ages. They are mentioned in the Welsh Laws of Howel Dha, as belonging exclusively to the Cambrian princes and nobility and a great fine is noted as to be imposed on those who should injure them. They were employed to hunt the red deer, and the 'platyceros' or moose deer, as well as the wolf. But the employment being gone, the breed, though not extinct, has ceased to be common. It is rarely to be seen though I have marked a certain, grave solemn gentleman, parading through town with a couple of these grim creatures stalking after him, while both he and his dogs look as if they belong to an age long gone by".

Jesse O'Toole 
 The O'Toole walking his dogs

(Written by a Mr. Terence O'Toole and taken from the Dublin Penny Journal - July 7 1832).

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