Irish Wolfhound History

Management of Irish Wolfhounds

by A.Croxton Smith, Country Life, May 14th, 1932

Isaac Everett with two hounds 
 Mr. Everett with Felixstowe Kilcully and Ch. Felixstowe Killary

As I was standing in the gangway at a dog show recently a paw hit me gently in the middle of the back and, turning round, I saw the pup looking at me with his dark eyes, partly mischievously and altogether appealingly. To anyone versed in doggy ways it was easy to tell what he wanted. Being sociable, he was lonely in a strange place away from his friends, he craved for human notice, and it may be that with the intuition by which dogs perceive who is sympathetic and who is not, he realised that I was a friend of his kind. Anyhow, a word or two in the lingua franca that enables us to carry on a conversation with our dogs set his tail a-thumping, his ears went back in the manner that gave the nearest approach to a smile of which he was capable, his back wriggled and we were on excellent terms at once without any of the hesitating, non-committal banalities that mark the opening intercourse of human strangers. "What's the matter with you, old man?" I asked. "I'm bored", was the reply, "and a little bit nervous. Sit down and comfort me." So I sat on the edge of his bench, and we were getting on so famously together that when his master came to give him a run he was reluctant to leave. "The pup doesn't make friends too easily," remarked the owner, "wouldn't you like to have him? He is for sale." "A hefty youngster like that must cost a good deal to feed," I said, for he was an Irish wolfhound that already measured 36 ins. at the shoulders. "Not so much as is generally thought," was the reply, "now that he has come down to two meals a day."

I forget the exact weekly sum he mentioned, but it was smaller than I imagined and, as some guidance to my readers who might care to add one of these huge creatures to their establishment, I decided to ask Mr. I.W. Everett to give me information about his methods for this article on his stud. Mr. Everett, who is our oldest breeder, has model kennels at Witnesham, near Ipswich, and what he does not know about rearing and management could be inscribed on one's thumbnail. He started Irish wolfhounds before the last century came to a close, and he has seen his early contemporaries relinquish the pursuit and new exhibitors come along in far greater numbers than anyone anticipated in the old pre-War days. At that time his principal outlet for surplus stock was in foreign parts, where these huge dogs were prized as protectors of lonely homesteads or for coursing wolves or coyotes. Provided they are trained properly when young, they make devoted companions, sensible and hardy, and are as manageable as any. I lay some stress on the question of education, for any big dog is a responsibility in public places if he is not under control. Mr. Everett speaks highly of their friendly qualities, saying that at an early age they take readily to indoor life, and hardly ever does he find they have any trouble in learning house manners.

Felixstowe Killen 
 Felixstowe Killen is not so big as some, but he has quality

Now for the regimen recommended by Mr. Everett, given very much in his own words. Let us begin with the rearing of a puppy from two months of age; that is, just after the final parting from the dam. Start the day at 7.30 a.m. with half an egg in a quarter pint of new milk at milk heat. At 9.30 a.m. about 2 ozs. of finely minced raw beef, chilled, with the frost out, with 2 ozs. or 2½ ozs. of a proprietary puppy food or shredded wheat, scalded with just sufficient water or new milk to soften, and given at not more than milk heat. At 12.30 p.m., same as the last with the addition of 2 ozs. of raw ox marrow. About 2.30 p.m., half an egg and milk; 4.30 p.m., same as 9.30 a.m.; 8.30 p.m., same as 12.30 p.m.; 9.30 to 10 p.m., one egg and milk. Anyone unversed in the feeding of younglings may be surprised at the number of meals and the small quantity allowed at each, considering the size of the puppies. Those who have had experience, however, usually practice the rule of 'little and often', believing that big puppies are less likely to go unsound on the legs if they are not over-laden with food at a meal.

Mr. Everett reminds us of the necessity of increasing the amounts as the puppy grows. The daily allowance of beef, for instance, should be increased at the rate of 2 ozs. for every week, so that at the age of six and a half months the puppy would be getting 2 lb. a day, which is the maximum, as he has found after a lot of watching and checking weights that his dogs never need more or better food after they are six or six and a half months old. By this time he puts them on three solid meals a day, with an egg and milk first and last thing, giving the quantities mentioned above. Before talking about adults, let us finish with the care of the puppies. When they are at liberty to roam about at will they do not need a great deal of road exercise, but they should have a certain amount every day. If their kennels are littered thickly with plenty of dry. clean wheat straw on a wooden floor, they will clean themselves to a large extent, though it is as well to go over them with a whisk dandy brush.

Felixstowe Kilcully 
 Felixstowe Kilcully
He has not yet done growing

Now a word about the dietary for adults. Mr. Everett's have their first feed about 7.30 a.m., consisting, perhaps, of ½ lb. shredded wheat and 3 oz. of ox marrow, scalded together with just enough water to melt the marrow and soften the cereal. These are well mixed and allowed to stand until cold. If pressed down tightly as soon as scalded the mixture will cool into a solid mass, which can be cut or broken. The dogs do not care to push their noses into a lot of sloppy stuff, pig fashion. At 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. they have about 2 lb. of raw lean beef or slaughtered horseflesh cut into large but thin slices, and two dry dog biscuits of a reputable make. They and the puppies are all the better for having a knuckle beef bone to gnaw. The kennels are furnished with very low slatted benches which hold the straw, and the remainder of the floor is of movable boards, too, but not slatted. The small upper door is always open, day and night. Should the dogs have their liberty, the necessary road work is little beyond what they would get when accompanying anyone on an ordinary walk. They cannot well have too much exercise, but if they have their freedom, one need not feel bound to go a considerable distance every day.

Felixstowe Muldoon 
 Felixstowe Muldoon
"Has already proved his worth, though not yet at his best"

The illustrations show the noble lines on which Irish wolfhounds are built. No dogs stand as high as they do, and their proportions are in keeping. Thirty-six inches at the shoulder, impressive measurement though it is, is often exceeded. In one litter from Felixstowe Killone and Felixstowe Kilbixy were three dogs over 37 ins. at the shoulder, one of which was just over 38 ins. when he died at the age of thirteen months of intussusception. Had he lived, he would have been a marvel, as he had not done growing. In hard condition he weighed over 200 lb., and, in the opinion of judges who saw him, he was a perfect model. Killone is siring some wonderful puppies apart from this exceptional litter. Ch. Felixstowe Killary is a son of his, and Ch. Iduna of Hindhead, and two others of the same litter also became champions - Mr. J.V. Rank's Biddie of Ouborough and Felixstowe Kilmorac. Killary is not quite 36 ins., but his enormous bone, symmetrical frame, and general quality place him in the front rank. His sister, Felixstowe Killen, has done some winning, and has bred a great puppy that we shall hope to see in a little while. Felixstowe Killora, a young bitch, straight and sound, went through five classes at Belfast, where she was made best of her sex, and was awarded five cups and other trophies.

Felixstowe Killone 
 Felixstowe Killone
Sire of three dogs over thirty-seven inches at the shoulder in one litter

Felixstowe Muldoon has already proved his worth, and is not yet at his best, this breed, in common with all bigger dogs, maturing late. Felixstowe Kilcully contains blood that should be a useful outcross, his sire being the American champion, Felixstowe Kilmorac Halcyon, and his dam Sheila of Brabyns, bred by Captain Hudson.

This is by no means an exhaustive description of the inmates of the Witnesham kennels, but it serves to give an idea of the class of stock that is to be found there. In carrying my mind back to the time when I first met Mr. Everett's Irish wolfhounds, then at Felixstowe, I feel to be on safe ground in writing of the great improvement shown in the breed generally since the opening years of this century. Being now farther away from the outcrosses that were needed when numbers were few, there are fewer misfits than there were, the type is more uniform, and they are bigger without being deformities.

Kitty of Lynstone  Ch. Felixstowe Killary
 Kitty of Lynstone  Ch. Felixstowe Killary
"They make devoted companions, sensible and hardy"

The aspirations of breeders who drew up the standard approved by the Irish Wolfhound Club seem modest in comparison with the achievements of present-day enthusiasts. A shoulder measurement of 31 ins. for dogs and 28 ins. for bitches is obsolete, and any as small as that would be completely dwarfed. When the late Captain G.A. Graham wrote an article for the Kennel Encyclopædia about 1907 he suggested that the height of dogs should be from 33ins. to 34ins., which was not so bad in those days. I have never made a fetish of size, believing that a dog must first of all be sound and well balanced, but if we can get these points in combination, we are approaching the ideal, presuming that head and ears, eyes and coat are also characteristic.


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August 1st, 2015