Irish Wolfhound History

The New Dog of the White House

Mrs. Herbert Hoover Registers an Irish Wolfhound with the American Kennel Club

By Arthur Frederick Jones

From The American Kennel Gazette, Vol. 46 - No. 1, January 1, 1929

Time batters harmlessly at the ancient traditions which surround that lord of dogs, the Irish wolfhound. More than fifteen hundred years ago a Quaestor of Rome accepted seven as being the best suited to gain him favor with the Roman people. Two months ago, the Princess Mary of England accepted an exceptionally fine specimen of the breed from the Irish Wolfhound Society. A simple but impressive ceremony marked the presentation at Portumna.

Now the Irish wolfhound enters the kennels of the White House. The breed that has been associated with emperors, and kings, and members of royal families since it first gained prominence in a wolf-ridden Ireland nearly two thousand years ago, is to be the official dog of the United States. An Irish wolfhound is to be the personal friend and the guardian of Herbert Hoover, President-elect of the United States of America.

Cragwood Padraic

Cragwood Padraic, one of the noblest of the noble, has been accepted as a gift from Mrs. Norwood Browning Smith, of Urbanna, Virginia, a schoolmate of Mrs. Herbert Hoover. It has been registered with the American Kennel Club by Mrs. Hoover and its number 665,207.

Other dogs have become known as "first dogs" of the United States under various presidents, but not one has been of such a regal breed as Cragwood Padraic. Even the far-famed Airedale terrier, Laddie Boy, which was such a close friend of Warren G. Harding, could not boast of an ancient ancestry for his breed. The pets of Calvin Coolidge, a wire-haired fox terrier called Peter Pan, an Airedale named Paul Pry, and that beautiful white collie, Rob Roy, could lnot point with such pride to their ancestry. Most were pure-bred specimens, but their breeds were not as old by many hundreds of years as is that of Cragwood Padraic, the Irish wolfhound.

This particular wolfhound comes from a strain of the aristocratic Irish breed which is one of the most prominent in the world to-day. He is a young dog, a tawny gray brindle in color. His sire was Felixstowe Kilconly O'Cragwood, and his dam Cragwood Macha. To those who know something of pedigrees, the appearance of the name Felixstowe bears considerable significance. It is one of the most reliable prefixes in this old breed.

Felixstowe Kilconly, the sire, is by Felixstowe Kilshane, out of Felixstowe Kilbirnie. He was imported a little more than a year ago. The dam, Cragwood Macha, has just as remarkable parents. Her dam was the famous Cragwood Delight, the bitch that went to best of the breed and to fourth in the splendid sporting group at the Sesqui-Centennial dog show held by the American Kennel Club. And Cragwood Delight is a daughter of the bitch Ch. Toyon Diana, and her sire was the incomparable Cragwood Darragh.

Thus Cragwood Padraic is a great-great-grandson of Cragwood Darragh, the most famous Irish wolfhound ever bred in the United States. This fame came when he was selected by R. Montagu Scott, owner of the Ifold Pack, to improve the strain in England. Darragh travelled more than six thousand miles from Redwood City, California, to Lancaster, London, W., in 1924 to become known as the first Irish wolfhound imported into England from the United States.

The American-bred great-great grandsire of Cragwood Padraic, the President's hound, therefore made his home on the 1,100 acre Ifold estate, one of the most ideally adapted settings for this big breed of dog that could be found anywhere. There are 500 acres of woodland, 300 acres of pasture and 300 acres of arable land. The mansion sits in the center of a park that takes up 120 acres.

If President-elect Hoover is anxious to develop Cragwood Padraic into the perfect Irish wolfhound - and of course he is - Mr. Hoover could do no better than to study how Irish wolfhounds were developed at Ifold. For years this kennel was one of the principal leaders in the development of the breed. A large part of its success depended upon its fortunate situation in regard to exercising space. Hounds from these kennels were famous for their general soundness and condition. This came from almost daily work they had with game of many sorts.

At the end of the 120 acre park is a large rabbit warren. So when Cragwood Darragh and the other hounds were released from their kennels near the house, the first procedure was invariably to leap the fence and make for the warren at about 40 miles per hour. However, they were obedient as the result of long training and would always return to the master's heel upon hearing his whistle. They hunted often, but not unless it was permitted by the master.

There are thousands of rabbits on the property and a goodly number of hares. Of recent years a family of reindeer has appeared in the woods, but these are jealously preserved. There are foxes in abundance, but two packs of hounds hunt in the neighbourhood with the result that the foxes are also carefully preserved. But accidents will often happen when a pack of Irish wolfhounds gets into the woods.

The woods consist almost entirely of oak, with a little silver birch around the ponds and around the river. There are also one or two plantations of pinus sylvestris. The river, running through the park and the woods beyond, is a tributary of the Arun, and a favorite hunting ground for the pack of otter hounds in the district. There are also several ponds in the woods and some very pretty valleys. While the wooded hills are not very high, the country is by no means flat.

Considering the size of the Irish wolfhound, and is consequent need of plenty of room to stretch his muscles, it is small wonder that Ifold's extensive acreage has helped materially in placing Mr. Scott's pack among the first in England or the world. Ifold stock has been sent to all parts of the world, for these hounds were noted for their soundness, stamina, and type. It was not an unusual occurrence for the Ifold entries to carry off most of the first, specials, and championship challenge certificates at English shows.

The Ifold kennels had not only quality, but quantity as well. In Darragh's time there were between thirty and fifty hounds of all ages in the kennels, but there have been as many as sixty-nine at one time. Contrary to popular belief, these large dogs whelp easily and have large litters. One of the finest litters every whelped at Ifold was out of that wonderful bitch, Ferb.

Ferb was a wonderful mother. She whelped fifteen puppies inthe litter mentioned and reared thirteen of these herself. Ferb not only survived this unusual occurrence, but her children proved sturdy hounds that have carried on the best traditions of Ifold. But it is not the custom to leave such a large litter with the mother. It has been found that most bitches can nurse six puppies with ease, and any other are given to foster mothers.

The normal amount of attention that is given to any breed should be sufficient to keep Irish wolfhounds in proper condition. At least that has been found to be the case at Ifold. Although they consume large quantities of food and take up more room per unit than any other breed in the world, these hounds are not burdensome to the owner.

wolfhounds off for a morning walk 
Irish wolfhunds off for a morning's walk. These big dogs need plenty of exercise.

Mr. Scott told me, at the time Darragh was shipped to England, that he maintained one kennelman and a boy to do the entire work of the kennels. This consists of preparing food, feeding, a certain amount of exercising, grooming, kennel cleaning and bedding.

The manner of taking care of these big Ifold specimens as described by Mr. Scott is very interesting. As may be imagined, food is a primal consideration, yet no kitchen, in the usual way, exists. All meat is fed raw to the hounds whenever possible, but one boiler or cauldron supplies boiling water for scalding utensils. This is sometimes used to cook meat which has been kept too long, but is only used for this purpose occasionally.

The feeding troughs are mainly made of wood and stand on legs two feet from the ground, so that the hounds do not have to stoop when feeding. This is a very important point with young stock, and different feeding troughs are used for them. The puppy troughs are capable of extension so that the puppy is always made to stand well up to feed and does not have to bend and splay his legs and wrists to get his ration out of the meal. Each run has its wooden trough of about four feet in length and made V shape with a depth of seven inches in the middle. Each run also has its water trough, which is made of just unenameled cast iron. Both utensils are scalded out daily after the morning meal.

The food is prepared in a zink lined wooden trough four feet long by three feet wide with a depth of nine inches - in reality a bacon salting trough - and the food is here mixed with an ordinary shovel. The quantity varies with the hounds, naturally, but is usually between 80 lbs. to 140 lbs. In connection with this is the slaughter yard.

The hounds usually have horse flesh,between one to three pounds per head per day, and in this way consume about one horse per week. Every part of the carcass is used except the hide and the hoofs. The larger bones are split, and sub-divided for the growing stock, the fresh marrow in them being considered of great value as an item in their diet.

The other part of the staple diet is broken biscuits or hound meal, of which the average ration is half a pound to one pound per day. This is moistened with boiling water, the chopped raw meat, in pieces of not more than two inches square, is thrown in and a ration of cod liver oil, of about one dessert spoonful per head, is also added, also a solution of lime, and the whole is thoroughly mixed and gives a diet which the hounds usually relish.

hounds running across the park 
The hounds sight a rabbit warren and start across the park at top speed

A cooking pot is also used for cereals where the special diet is cooked for puppies, bitches in whelp, and suckling mothers. This is made of infant's food; milk, with extra sugar of milk and dry milk powder added; and sometimes malt extract. This varies in the strength according to the puppies' age.

Diet is the same in winter and summer. The stud dogs are fed with higher meat rations and sometimes entirely on raw meat, certain portions of the carcass being found most suitable for them.

The hounds vary very much in their individual requirements. The raw meat is invariably picked out first, before the soaked biscuit is eaten. There are between four and eight hounds at every trough feeding together, and the best doers are made to stand back from the trough by the kennel man at the commencement of a meal to allow the others a slightly better ration. Every run has a master or top dog, and care has to be taken to see that he stands back at the commencement of the meal.

All the hounds are keen on the liver and on certain other parts of the animal. They eat usually horses, but occasionally bullocks and cows. As far as possible these tit-bits are reserved for the more timid and delicate feeders.

The dogs, in most instances, are fed twice a day, at 8 a.m. and at sunset. But there are usually some that do better on one meal a day, and these have the evening meal only. Every dog gets a fresh bone per day about noontime.

hounds breaking cover 
Seldom has there been taken a better action picture of Irish wolfhounds.
Note the unusual positions of the dogs.

The main kennels are on grass which is also, itself, a staple and necessary diet. They are wired enclosures, the wire is fastened to stout oak posts, and is a stout gaged sheep netting six feet high, with three strands of barbed wire above, bringing the entire height to seven feet. The wire netting is also buried in the ground about six inches down. The largest two runs, 70 by 30 yards, are one for the brood bitches and the other for the stud dogs.

The other six runs are divided into divisions for the younger stock. The whelping kennels and quarters for breed bitches, either heavy in whelp or in season, are brick built kennels and stables well away from the runs.

Ordinary well and river water is used for drinking, lime being added, as already stated, in the food.

The hounds are never washed under any consideration; living as they do, an entirely open-air life all the year round, it would be inviting trouble to remove the natural grease from the skin. The doors of the huts in which they live are open day and night, and many of the hounds sleep in the open. It is not at all unusual after a frosty night to see their beds clearly defined in the grass by the absence of hoar frosts.

Shaun of Ifold, later the property of Mrs. Norwood B. Smith, was an entirely open-air dog when in the Ifold Kennels, and it had to be a very wet night to drive him indoors. The coats of the hounds are rubbed daily at grooming time with some good disinfectant of a strength of two tablespoonfuls to a gallon. Coarse cloth, dipped in the solution, wrung out and then smartly rubbed all over the coat, will keep the coat sweet, remove dirt and prevent fleas and other undesirables.

Such is a rough idea of how these noble dogs were raised at Ifold. Of course, the Hoovers do not intend to go into the breeding of Irish wolfhounds. And equally, of course, a great deal took place at the big English estate that would be impossible at the White House. Still the basic principles must be followed by any one anxious to bring an Irish wolfhound from puppyhood to maturity.

Those who own the Irish wolfhound to-day place emphasis on his proper care and upon his breeding. They are keenly aware that carelessness nearly ruined the breed and they want to preserve it in its resuscitated form. This form or type to-day is identical with that of centuries ago, but this did not result from chance.

The recovery of the breed may be credited to the late Captain George Augustus Graham, a sportsman who labored for years to bring the Irish wolfhound back to its original high estate. Graham started the work and it continued for nearly fifty years before it was satisfactorily completed. But the job has been done well. To-day the Irish wolfhound has been bred up to a height of thirty-seven inches at the shoulder, as in the days of greatest glory. Type and stamina have been recovered; grace and dignity revived. The spirits of the great hounds of Ireland stalk the earth again, for to-day the Irish wolfhound lives and moves and has his being as the monarch of the canine world.

Possibly no higher tribute could be paid to this breed than what Mr. Scott, that great breeder, has to say in a brief résumé he wrote for the GAZETTE. It follows:
"The Irish wolfhound is an animal which walks the earth clothed in majesty. For almost as long as there is history, he has lived and moved and had his being. From time immemorial he has hunted the forests and mountains of the Emerald Isle.
"Beloved of kings and the friend of hunters, he has led his masters in the chase for centuries.
"Pateient, relentless, enduring, and at the last ferocious, his high courage never falters. From the scent of faint spoor to the quarry in view, the chase is his joy; the kill his reward. From Irish wolf to African lion; from the prairie coyote to Canadian mouse, through bush and thicket he crashes, over plain or sofari he speeds.
"With his graceful and enduring wolf lope he will follow the trail, mutely persisting. And at the last, with his quarry in view, with his marvelous burst of speed he will reach him and with flashing leap and certain aim he will sever the jugular and the huntsman's horn winds La Mort o'er the forest when even the rearguard will halt and doff their bonnets to the game that died game and the hounds that laid it low.

The end in view 
It will not be long before the huntsman winds La Mort upon his horn

"No dog was ever more fashioned for the American home than the ancient hound of Ireland. His natural dignity is his heritage of the ages and ensures freedom from clumsiness. He is the largest of all hounds, and often stands thirty-six inches and more at the shoulder. Moreover he is as alert and faithful as he was two thousand years ago, when he was led in the Roman Triumphs, and when the Romans called him 'noble'.
"It is these very qualities that make him so welcome in the home, and woe to the tramp or intruder who threatens his beloved! With one leap he will fell him and he will not let him move until his master or mistress bids him to.
"The giant of the canine races, he is also the gentlest. He is devoted to children and is the safest of all custodians. They may play with him to their heart's content; and he is patient. They may ride him or wrestle him and he will submit, but if they are distressed he will comfort them and malicious danger cannot come near.
"When the last wolf was slain in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, the age-long chase of the great hound was ended. Some landowners retained their kennels for some time, but for a century or more their numbers had steadily been declining. By the middle of the Nineteenth Century the race had almost entered the valley of the shadow of oblivion.
"Their blood remained, as in the pack of buckhounds Lord Massy owned and hunted in County Limerick, which were half Irish wolfhound but the rebellions of then and later years saw the last of these and many other hounds, so that when the late Captain Graham searched the island for specimens of the breed, he found few on which to commence his work of resuscitation.

The kill is their reward 
From the first scent of the faint spoor to the quarry in view,
the chase is the joy of Irish wolfhounds

"Inbreeding there had to be, but fresh blood was imperative. The Scottish deerhound, itself a descendant of the Irish wolfhund, was at once resorted to, but it was light of bone and short of stature although the type was sound.
"The Russian wolfhound has come from the five hundred couples of Irish wolfhounds imported in 1563 by King John of Poland and mated to the Persian greyhound. Here was the blood of the race, although diluted. Then the desire for size and bone brought about the Great Dane outcross, which used and abused almost unded the work of those enthusiasts who were endeavouring to proceed on scientific lines.
"To-day the resuscitation of the breed is complete. The modern Irish wolfhound is akin to his ancestors. He will hunt with you the livelong day. He will guard you by the solitary camp fire or amidst the comfort of your home. He will live for you. If needs be he will die for you. He is the king of dogs."

The early literature of Ireland has much concerning Irish wolfhounds and their mighty deeds. True, these accounts cannot be claimed as actual history beyond the fact they prove that the ancient breed of hounds existed in the earliest Celtic times as the beloved guardians and companions in the chase of the Kings of Ireland. There are many hounds named in these legends, and their nomenclature alone provides a ready description of their prowess.

Father Edward Hogan, S.J., with his love and knowledge of Irish mythology, is quite at home among them. He says:
"In size and shape hounds were tall, straight, slender and handsome; there are the epithets seang, slim; caol, slender; aluinn, handsome; and the names Ard-an-fheirb; Ard-an-sealg; Ard-an-seang; Seangaire; Coir-bheann; Coir-dubh; High one of the cow (or of the roe); High one of the Hunts; High one of the slender ones; Slender; Straight one of the peaks; Straight black one, etc.
"Let us endeavour to form an idea of him from the various allusions made to him. He was carefully bred (saoi) for the work he had to do. He was to run down and kill, unaided, boars, wolves, badgers, hares, and deer; it was necessary that he should be strong, fierce, swift, and enduring. These are the attributes ascribed to him.
"Swiftness, as the multiplicity of names and epithets that denote it prove, was the first quality sought for. Hounds are called luath, swift; mear, quick; luth, active; gniomach, nimble; Aainmhear, very quick; ciarthoill, which outstripped every hound; iosgadur, swifter than a blackbird; luas or luadhas, speed; rinnruith, star of running.
In the prose tale of MacDatho, which is probably based on an earlier poem, we are told of 'Ailbe, his famous cunning splendid hound, from whom is the renowned plain of Ailbe,' a hound so swift that it could run through all Leinster in one day.
"According to the author of the prose, Ailill and Medb, of Connaught, and Conchobar, of Ulster, sent envoys at the same time to MacDatho to buy his hound. They each offered on the spot six thousand milch cows and a chariot with two of the finest horses to be got, and as much more after twelve months.
"Breeders of good dogs were certainly not without encouragement when they could look for an offer like this; it cannot have been worth less than £60,000. But MacDatho dared not choose between such powerful purchasers; by gratifying one party he made an enemy of the other.
"Accordingly, at his wife's suggestion, he promised the hound to each separately, and arranged that both should come the same day with their forces to receive it. When they came they very naturally fell by the ears. In the heat of the fight, MacDatho let loose his hound to choose for itself. It sided with Ulster and set to tearing the men of Connaught.
"Ailill and Medb mounted their chariot and drove toward Connaught, but Ailbe pursued them and seized the chariot-pole. The charioteer, leaning forward, dealt the hound a blow that severed the body from the head, but even in death the strong jaws held their grip from Ballaghmoon in Kildare to Farbill in Westmeath. In Farbill the head dropped from the pole in a ford, known afterwards as Ath Cind Chon, Hound's Head Ford.
"All this will hardly be accepted as a statement of fact. It shows, however, that when the tale was told hounds were valued at a high price and esteemed in proportion to their swiftness, fierceness and tenacity.
"Ferocity and courage, as the tale of Ailbe shows, were reckoned scarcely less necessary in a good hound than speed and endurance. Some, it is true, are commemorated with different characteristics, as Cos-luath -swiftfoot - the gentle; Gruaim, the merry; and Eachtach, of the tricks or feats; for the great hound was also a companion. But the greater number are praised for their sterner qualities."

walking by the river 
Home again at the end of the chase come the hounds.
Note their reflections in the water.

In modern times we have a tendency to deplore the fierceness and warlike pastimes of previous centuries, but we need have no fear that the Irish wolfhound retains these tendencies in greater measure than the human race. The big hound can be as gentle as the South wind, as frank as the North light. He is an uncrowned ruler of his kind.

Of such royal company comes Cragwood Padraic, the President's dog. His is the blood that has flowed in the veins of thousands of mighty hounds - hounds that have been companions to the rulers of church and state and sport. In a nation that counts its traditions by the scores of years, Cragwood Padraic, a glorious "first dog" of the United States, reckons the deeds of his ancestors by centuries. He adds a touch of old world majesty to the new world's monster democracy.

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