Dogs That Come From Erin's Isle

Massive Wolfhound Long Been Associated With Mighty Nobles and the Rich


From The American Kennel Gazette, June 30, 1925

 Cape Centaur House
On a long peninsula, projecting into Chesapeake Bay, stands the handsome home of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Stewart. The architecture is that of the Fifteenth Century Spanish transitional period. Two Irish wolfhounds live in the small houses on either side of the terrace.

Just as all the world loves a lover, so does all mankind love dogs. Of course there are exceptions, but in the main all civilized and uncivilized peoples are fond of dogs. But the kind of dogs they love depends a great deal upon environment. You own the kind of dog you like best, and the kind of dog you like best, generally, is best suited for the place in which he is kept.

We live on the eastern shore of Maryland, on a long peninsula projecting into Chesapeake Bay. When my husband purchased the estate, my thoughts naturally went to dogs. I could not imagine living without them. At first we were undecided regarding the breed. Finally we came to the conclusion that the Irish wolfhound was the dog we needed. And I have never regretted that our decision fell upon this majestic animal.

The Irish wolfhound, probably, is the oldest and most historic distinct breed of dog in the world, having an authentic history of almost two thousand years. After the Romans conquered Britain, he was used in the Circus Maximus and in gladiatorial fights before the Roman world. Before that he was the constant comrade of the early Britain of noble birth.

A curious old twelfth century manuscript mentions a certain Mesrodia, King of Leinsternien, who had a wolfhound named Ailbe, whose fame filled all Ireland. For this hound, six thousand cows - roughly, $300,000 to-day - and other things of value were offered by the King of Connacht. At the same time the King of Ulster offered, approximately, the same sum. Feeling ran so high that the kings and their retainers betook themselves to their swords, and a mighty battle was fought. History does not state who won the dog.¹

In those early days the wolfhound was valued not alone for his size and speed, but for his wisdom and prowess. Later he achieved a purely social value.

 Ch. Bally Shannon
The king of the pack at Centaur is this magnificent
Irish wolfhound. In spite of his great weight, he
looks as alert as a terrier.

A story is told in Halliday's Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin of a certain Olaf, a Norwegian, son of an Irish princess, who gives to his friend, Gunnar, "an hound that was given me out of Ireland; he is big, and no worse than a stout man. Besides, it is part of his nature that he has a man's wit, and he will bay at every man whom he knows to be thy foe, but never at thy friends. He can see, too, in any man's face whether he means thee well or ill, and he will lay down his life to be true to thee."

Later, history relates that when Gunnar's enemies plotted to kill him, they first had to kill the Irish hound.

More than any other, a dog of this breed proclaimed the great noble. In the old days noble blood alone entitled one to wear fur, carry hawk on wrist or hunting dog on leash. But noble blood alone was not enough to support an Irish wolfhound. Wealth also was necessary for that.

Before feudal society became highly organized and when wolves and bear - for he was the bear dog par excellence - were a very real and ever-present danger, this dog was best known and most esteemed. Then he and his master, with a serving man or two, hunted the uncleared forest primeval. In those days life was simple, game plentiful, and danger everywhere. But the complexities of feudal life and intermittent peace changed these conditions.

More and more land was cleared, game became scarcer, and the methods of hunting more highly specialized. The great noble went to the hunting field accompanied by his master huntsman, his master falconer, and their individual retinues - wolfhounds, boarhounds, staghounds, bloodhounds, beaglehounds, gerfalcons, sakerhawks, lanners, merlins, sparrowhawks, and sometimes chetas. Hunting of this kind was only possible to the wealthy.

Later, the king gradually absorbed into royal hunts the few remaining great forests; the great nobles took what remained; and instead of many hunts there were only a few where wolfhounds were used.

At different times, Irish wolfdogs were sent as presents to the mighty. They were sent to the Pope at Rome, the Grand Turk, the Shah of Persia, the Great Mogul, the King of France, the King of Spain, the King of Sweden, and the Emperor Jehangir in India. Also, so many English nobles owned specimens that space does not permit their enumeration.

Recently I read in Muhlebach's Youth of the Great Elector where Count Adam von Schwartzenberg said to his chamberlain: "My son writes me that he paid $8,000 for two hounds."
"They are worth it, your Excellency," replied the chamberlain. "They are two wonderful animals, and they have not their equal in all the world. I am quite in love with them myself, and if I had wife or lady-love, I'd gladly exchange them both for two such hounds."

Hanging in the great hall is this handsome
picture of the chatelaine of Cape Centaur House
and Ch. Bally Shannon. The picture was painted,
this year, by Beltran-Masses, court painter of Spain.

As time went on, conditions in Ireland became more and more impossible for the race of the Irish wolfdog. The English Lord Deputies, having their eyes firmly fixed on the interests of their own sheep flocks in old England, practically exterminated the Irish shepherds and the Irish wolfdogs. One alone carried more than one hundred and fifty wolfhounds from Ulster to Scotland. So scarce did these dogs become that, in 1653, when Oliver Cromwell had one for his constant companion, Henry Cromwell was able to get only one, and that with the greatest difficulty.

Goldsmith, writing in his Animated Nature in 1770, says: "The last variety, the most wonderful of all that I shall mention, is the great Irish wolfdog, that may be considered as the first of the canine species. This animal, which is very rare even in the only country in the world where it is to be found, is rather kept for show than use, there being neither wolves nor any other formidable beasts of prey in Ireland now that seem to require so powerful an antagonist.
The wolfdog is therefore bred up in the houses of the great. He is extremely beautiful and majestic as to appearance, being the greatest of the dog kind to be seen in the world. The largest I have seen, and I have seen above a dozen, was about four feet high, or as tall as a calf, or a colt, of about a year old."

Some very ancient frescoes depicting hunting scenes are at Easton Mostyn Hall, near Towerster, England. In one of these, two gigantic dogs of the rough greyhound type are represented with dark gray brindle coats, rather rough, either of which would be powerful enough to seize a wolf across the loins and trot off with him, as easily as a greyhound can a hare.

With all this romantic past, and with a character to match his other high qualities, it does seem surprising that the Irish wolfhound breed should be so little known in America. The first American mention of this dog is in 1886, when one of the American journals describes a Mrs. Albert Moor, of Philadelphia, "the cynosure of all eyes" at a fashionable seaside resort. The article descants on her gown, jewels, etc., and adds: "At her feet, as she sat, lay the famous Irish wolfhound that has taken so many prizes, and which Mr. Moor values at $5,000."

In 1892 the Kennel of February 20th says: "According to the Stockkeeper, an Irish wolfhound, bred by Mr. Townsend and exported by him to the Rocky Mountains, killed forty wolves single-handed during one winter."

The wolfhound alone has all the attributes essential for this work: speed, courage, and endurance. Other dogs, such as the Borzoi, possess speed, but lack the weight and strength to kill alone; the great Dane and mastiff, although possessing the weight and strength, have not the necessary speed to catch the quarry.

 Mrs. Stewart with a group of hounds
All at Centaur are interested in the family of Ch. Bally Shannon and Sinn Fein, seen at the
left of the picture. Fourteen puppies were in the litter, whelped last December. All lived,
regardless of the fact that the mother had considerable trouble in feeding so many

During the nineteenth century, the Earl of Derby, Lord Altamount, the Lord of Castletown, Sir Walter Scott and others had Irish Wolfhounds. Mr. Baker, of Ballytobin, did a tremendous amount to preserve the Irish wolfhound breed, procuring the best specimens obtainable, absolutely regardless of cost, and at his death left a really fine kennel.

In 1884 Captain George Augustus Graham compiled and published the pedigrees of about three hundred Irish wolfhounds, and later, obtaining some specimens from Sir John Power of Kilfane and some from Mr. Baker of Ballytobin, of the right Irish blood, began breeding as a hobby.²

In 1885 Captain Graham formed the Irish Wolfhound Club of the United Kingdom and, together with other sportsmen, drew up a Standard of Points to act as a guide. This Standard of Points was accepted by the Royal Kennel Club³.

While probably the splendid war dogs of the Middle Ages were larger, stronger, and fiercer than their average descendants are to-day, these characteristics of race are latent in the breed and only need proper conditions to reassert themselves. We can approximate the conditions which long ago created the breed, and by careful breeding, feeding and exercise encourage this elemental racial tendency or characteristic to develop.

This we are trying to do at the Centaur Kennel. It has not been an easy task. The first great difficulty was in procuring the initial stock. Only when I tried to create the kennel did I realize how rare Irish wolfhounds are, and what an extremely difficult undertaking breeders had to face if they wanted to resuscitate this breed.

After spending about ten months in different visits to England, the Continent and the very few American kennels, I found how difficult it was, at any price, to purchase suitable stock.

A great deal of time, money and experience are necessary to establish a kennel and raise good dogs. However, the Centaur Kennel was at last founded and has to-day the very finest stock obtainable, headed by the internationally known Ch. Bally Shannon, a dog weighing 185 pounds and measuring 38 inches at the shoulder.

 Ch. Bally Shannon and son
There is a strong resemblance between Ch. Bally Shannon
and Michael O'Centaur, his year-old son, regardless of the
fact that the youngster has not, as yet, reached the
massive proportion of his illustrious sire.

Mr. Bailey, secretary of the Irish Wolfhound Club of Ireland and England, wrote to one of the English breeders as follows, respecting this great dog: "I regard Bally Shannon as the finest wolfhound I have ever seen, and if breeders will not use him, we will be stuck in the mud."

This is high praise from the world's greatest authority on the Irish wolfhound breed. But it is deserved.

With Ch. Bally Shannon were imported two females and two other males, all most carefully selected for their excellence, as I wanted to have absolutely the finest kennel possible.

 Mr. & Mrs. Vanderbilt & Mrs. Stewart
Mr. and Mrs. Reginald C. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Glenn Stewart
all love these handsome dogs. The Vanderbilts recently
purchased Bally Shamrock for $3,500, the animal seen in
the picture, together with his father.

The climate of Maryland's eastern shore region was another asset in the building up of the kennel, on account of its similarity to the climate of Ireland. The Gulf Stream and Irish Sea temper the Irish climate in the same manner that Maryland's eastern shore is tempered by the Gulf Stream and Chesapeake Bay. Then, again, the kennel regime at Centaur is the result of careful study, and this regime has aided wonderfully in producing worthwhile dogs.

Like most kennels, the number of dogs at Centaur varies from time to time. I generally have about thirty. This is a comfortable number, easily handled, as the kennels and runs cover five acres or more of ground, surrounded by salt water and well shaded by trees.

 kennel tower
No expense has been spared in making the
kennels at Centaur ideal for Irish wolfhounds.
They cover five acres and more of ground

In design the kennels are somewhat original. The home of the kennelman is in the center of the kennels and runs. It consists of his living quarters, a kitchen, 18 x 20 feet, and a screened pantry, 18 x 8 feet, in which food and medicine are kept. The kennelman and his wife cook both their own and the food for the dogs in the kitchen, which is also used as their dining room. The building of the house in the center of the kennels assures one of absolute sanitation, as any insects or foul odour from dogs could not long be tolerated by the kennelman, especially in summer.

Mrs. Stewart & Bally Shannon 
The tremendous size of Ch. Bally Shannon is
well illustrated in this picture. The dog weighs
one hundred and eighty-five pounds. He was
bred by the Rev. Hildebrand, and born in
Essex, England, on October 14, 1919

The kennelman at Centaur is an "eastern shore" Marylander, of Irish descent. By occupation he was a farmer, but I have taught him the care of Irish wolfhounds, and to-day he is invaluable to me. He does all the cooking and cares for all the dogs unassisted, except at whelping times, when I have a night man on to feed and watch the puppies the first eight days.

For instance, we had a litter of fourteen in December last, which required tremendous care, as the mother has only ten feeders, and it is impossible to obtain foster mothers for Irish wolfhounds in America - unless I provide my own - and we had to tie red tape on half the puppies and hold half away from their milk, and feed in turn.

bitch and puppies 
Irish wolfhounds are exceptionally tender mothers. Here is
Maeve of Brabyns and her litter of three-week-old puppies,
recently born at Cape Centaur

This bitch had single service. Incidentally, I disapprove of double service. During the first four weeks of pregnancy we served the usual fare. During the next four weeks we fed three times daily, and gave cod-liver oil in milk, eggs, and plenty of rice, which is a natural germicide.

We did not give anything laxative, nor did we comb or brush heavily, but kept the bitch clean and rid of fleas and any other pest. We also exercised on the leash two or three miles daily. On the day of whelping puppies, there was no meat. This bitch's actual diet was as follows:
6.00 A.M. - Quart of milk, three eggs (raw), and teaspoonful of cod-liver oil.
8.00 A.M. - Lukewarm mutton soup, with meat (mutton) left in, and poured over bread.
10.00 A.M. - Milk.
12.00 M. - Soup from bones, with cabbage, strained over usual corn bread, as per recipe.
2.00 P.M. - Milk. (Plenty of water between feedings).
4.00 P.M. - Two pounds of raw ground beef.
6.00 P.M. - Milk.
8.00 P.M. - Warm soup and rice, etc.
10.00 P.M. - Milk and three eggs, with tablespoonful of cod-liver oil.
Midnight - Milk, lukewarm.

Of course, this feeding was very regular. Also, remnants of food never were left beside her.

To most breeders this may appear to be a ridiculous amount of food and trouble. Many may think that it is entirely too much. But it is unquestionably this care and feeding that makes my dogs so much greater in strength and size than any other Irish wolfhounds that I have ever seen, either here or in Europe.

I know that my method is correct, particularly as I first tried feeding along lines generally followed by other breeders, only to raise small, rickety puppies. This regime has done wonders at Centaur, and I feel sure that it will work wonders in all other kennels of this great dog.

I fed the bitch along these lines until the puppies were able to eat, which was in about three weeks. Once I lost two puppies through feeding too soon, or at about two weeks. It taught me a lesson. Incidentally, I raise all puppies on a compound of cod-liver oil and powdered lime phosphate. I never have had worms of any kind. I seldom worm a puppy. The December litter has not as yet been wormed, nor do I expect to do it.

There is never a flea or other insect in our kennels. The kennelman has a compressed air, five-gallon, shoulder-tank spray, with which he daily sprays floors, walls, beds, and ceilings of all the kennels, using a solution of creolin disinfectant.

Also, he takes exceptional care in the preparing of all foods. As far as possible, no flies are allowed inside the kitchen. Also, no dirty pans are ever used. All food is prepared in separate, large, five- and eight-gallon kettles - one for soup, another for rice, and another for other vegetables. The feed pans are white enamel basins, each of a gallon capacity. Each dog has a separate basin. Also, there are small washtubs for the dogs - one to each two dogs - filled three times a day with fresh drinking water.

At the present time, with 10 puppies and 16 grown dogs, I am using about 75 pounds of ground lean beef and 50 pounds of cut beef daily. It is the chuck neck of beef. The 50 pounds of cut beef feed the dogs that thrive best on raw meat, and the bones make soup. About an eight-gallon kettle is used for soup.

The rice is cooked twice daily, in a five-gallon kettle, and is well done. I use 900 pounds of corn meal a month. The bread is made fresh every other day. Puppies, from four to eight weeks, eat white wheat bread. At eight weeks they get bread made according to an ancient formula. George Murray, of Burton, Ohio, an Irish wolfhound enthusiast, recently told me that the formula was used in ancient days, according to data he had on the breed.

This bread consists of one-half ground meat, one-half the following flour: one-third red wheat bran, one-third whole ground oats (not oat-meal), one-third corn meal; salt and baking soda. It is baked in a hot oven for one-half or three-quarters of an hour. My grown dogs do not like or thrive so well on this formula.

At two months I feed my usual corn bread. I feed the same food winter and summer. In winter we feed at 8.00 A.M. and 5.00 P.M. As the dogs run, or exercise, after 3.00 P.M. in hot weather, and must have an hour's rest before dinner, we feed at 8.00 A.M. and 7.00 P.M. in summer.

The dogs will not eat when hot. Also, do not give them any water until one hour after eating. All dogs, large and small, get all the fresh whole milk they will drink at noonday.

Sinn Fein and her mistress 
Mrs. Glenn Stewart takes a personal interest
in everything connected with her kennels. Among

her favorites is this handsome bitch, who is here seen
with three of her two-week-old puppies

I have noticed that the appetites of my dogs vary greatly. For instance, take my big champion, Bally Shannon. He weighs to-day 190 pounds and is 38 inches at shoulder. When at stud he refuses food for days. Ordinarily he eats for breakfast two pounds of corn bread - not the ancient formula - but my regular formula of one-half corn meal and one-half ground raw beef, carrots, etc., and drinks a quart or so of milk. At noon he might drink a little milk. At 5.00 P.M. he eats always from five to seven pounds of raw ground beef and a pan of about one and one-half or two pounds of corn bread. Also, soup is placed in his sleeping kennel at about 8.00 P.M. This he usually eats.

It is often difficult to get him to eat after having been at stud. The kennelman has a most unique way of coaxing him. He takes Bally to his own table at mealtime and places tempting bits on a plate on the far side of the table. The kennelman then proceeds with his own food. Finally, Bally Shannon comes along and eats from the plate prepared for him. It is a strange fact that if the kennelman notices or urges him to eat, Bally will refuse the food. If sand, dirt or straw gets into his food, he will not touch it. Bally is fond of oranges.

Maeve, an imported English bitch, as promptly as the clock strikes 4.00 P.M., begs her freedom from the kennel and comes half a mile, direct to the terrace or great hall in our residence to get cake and sugar lumps. Captain Hudson, the well-known English breeder of Irish wolfhounds, raised her with his three little girls, and when she landed here from England, in 1922, she refused food for ten days.

When we were about to despair, a neighbor's little girl came into the kennels, and she sprang to the child's feet. Through the child we discovered the malady was homesickness for the little English children. She ate anything the neighbor's girl offered.

The dogs eat about the same food summer and winter. The food may seem a lot, but they often cover from 15 to 18 miles daily. It is hard work, as it includes jumping, swimming, and racing. Breeding bitches are light feeders, and are fed mostly cooked beef and milk and eggs. Two dogs, raised together, will not eat as well when separated. Also, they will not eat at all when changed into another's room. Puppies up to six months eat four, then three times daily. After six months, only twice a day.

some of the youngsters 
Puppies receive unusual care at Mrs. Stewart's kennels. Here are some
youngsters, just a year old. On the left end is Mike, a dog that weighs
one hundred and sixty-five pounds. The others are Mary, Big Boy,
Jackie and Alphonse

Ch. Bally Shannon is king of the pack. He has developed a rather amusing trick. If two dogs start fighting, he will quickly separate them. He has discovered that mealtimes always gives him many fights to separate, so he leaves his food and walks around the center of the kennel, peering into each couple's room. A growl or a push on the part of the occupants of a kennel while eating is the sign for Bally to give a warning growl for peace through the room door.

Bally is jealous, and when I enter the compound gate he drives all that are in the compound flying to their rooms. Then he begs my caresses and woe to any other dog that intrudes. He is a one-woman dog, as he shows no affection for anyone but myself.

There is excellent water at the kennel. The dogs are washed only in summer, once every two weeks. They swim in salt water daily, even in winter, when on their runs they break the ice to lie in the water. For a wash, I use 19 parts of green soap to one part creolin, making a thorough lather, and rinse off with warm water thoroughly. If any irritation of skin occurs, I feed each dog one-half cake of yeast daily, and use sulphur, lard, and crude oil in coat, sparingly, applied warm with a small, hand-squirted oil-can of one-half pint size.

Their ears and over-backs are kept covered with Glover's mange cure in very hot weather (August and September), on account of the flies and ticks which they encounter while in the woods. I seldom need medicine. When a dog acts rundown, I use Garfield (herb) tea, an old-fashioned remedy, about half a cup every night, for five nights.

Benger's baby food has saved some very weak puppies under a month of age. Tincture of iodine is used for cuts or sore feet. Ten per cent solution of Argyrol for eye wash. Weak eyes usually come from the stomach, so watch the diet.

The end of the tail, if bruised, should have a funnel-shaped leather taped on, and zinc ointment applied until healed.

Always remember to let the dogs be quiet. Children can torment a dog to death. Above all, do not buy an Irish wolfhound and expect him to ride in an automobile or live in an apartment. He is a rich man's dog, and must have outdoor space. It costs a great deal to feed and to care for him properly. A poor man should not attempt his care, any more than he would try and keep a Rolls Royce on a Ford car income.


¹Ailbe is said by history to have been killed in the battle to determine his ownership.

²Presumably the book of pedigrees of Irish wolfhounds published by Capt. Graham actually refers to his book of pedigrees of Scottish Deerhounds, since his Irish Wolfhound pedigrees were not published until 1959. The first time Capt. Graham registered an animal as an Irish Wolfhound (under the heading "Foreign Dogs") was in the Kennel Gazette of 1881.

³It was simply "The Kennel Club", not the "Royal" Kennel Club.

Ch. Ballyshannon was bred by the Rev. Hildebrand and born October 14, 1919, by Felixstowe Kilgerran ex Sarah. Sarah was by Conall of Catshill ex Hindhead Mollie. Ballyshannon (which is how he was registered) was transferred to Mrs. Glen Stewart in September, 1921.

Ch. Ballyshannon 
 A young Ch. Ballyshannon before he was sold to Mrs. Stewart

Maeve of Brabyns was bred by Ralph Montagu Scott (Ifold) and born March 27, 1920, by Fland ex Ferb. Fland and Ferb were litterbrother and sister, by Sheelin of Caldy ex Hindhead Mollie. Hindhead Mollie was by Hy Niall (the hound bought at around three months of age from a tramp. He was first registered "pedigree unknown" but later re-registered as being by Ivo Dhulart ex Felixstowe Sheelah. This was a litter from which a puppy had been stolen.) out of Norah (listed in the registration details as an unregistered animal and therefore with no known pedigree.). However, during this time, Kennel Club records were poor and hounds were frequently listed in registrations with incorrect names, incorrect spelling, different owners of parents for hounds in the same litter, and so on. Mrs Trethewy, breeder of Hindhead Mollie, had a registered bitch, Wyke Mark Norah, born June 30th, 1906, by Osric ex Mrs. Bayly's Adel Frona, and it seems very possible that she was the dam of Hindhead Mollie. More possible than that Mrs. Trethewy had two "Norahs" in the kennel, one registered and one not. Oddly enough, the same thing had happened a decade or so earlier with another Norah, this time Carlow Norah who appeared in registrations sometimes as Carlow Norah, sometimes as just Norah, and was variously listed under both names as registered and unregistered.

Sinn Fein was a full sister to Maeve of Brabyns, bred by Ralph Montagu Scott and born June 2, 1921.

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