The Irish wolfhound is a giant hound breed native to Ireland with a medium-length, wiry double coat and a lanky but muscular build. A true gentle giant, the wolfhound has an imposing stature but calm demeanor that makes it a wonderful companion. It was originally bred as a big game hunter but now is primarily a family dog. It's generally an easygoing dog but needs ample space to move and play.
HEIGHT: At least 30 inches (female), at least 32 inches (male)
WEIGHT: 105 pounds (female), 120 pounds (male)
COAT: Medium-length, wiry
COAT COLOR: Black, blue, brindle, creme, gray, red, silver, white, wheaten
LIFE SPAN: 6 to 8 years
TEMPERAMENT: Courageous, Calm, Even-Tempered
Characteristics of the Irish Wolfhound
Irish wolfhounds generally have a friendly temperament despite their imposing size. They are typically very affectionate with their family and overall have an easygoing, quiet personality. With proper training and socialization, they can even be good around kids. While they only possess a moderate energy level, they need lots of space to exercise their large bodies.
|Tendency to Bark||Low|
|Amount of Shedding||Medium|
History of the Irish Wolfhound
The history of the Irish wolfhound stretches back centuries to the birth of trade between the British empire and the Middle East. Dogs native to Britain were bred with Middle Eastern hounds that had been bartered. One of the earliest accounts of the breed is from a Roman consul, who in the year 391 described seven majestic Irish hounds he received as a gift.
People used the large hounds to hunt big game. And in the 15th century, they were put to work in hunting the overpopulation of wolves in Ireland. In fact, they were such effective hunters that the wolves were hunted to extinction—and consequently the wolfhound breed almost died out because it had served its purpose.
However, in the mid-1800s, a British army captain found the remaining Irish wolfhounds and worked to preserve and standardize the breed. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Irish wolfhound in 1897.
Irish Wolfhound Care
The Irish wolfhound may be a gentle giant, but it still requires lots of time and energy on your part. You must make sure your dog has the chance to stretch its legs every day. And be consistent in training and socialization. Fortunately, the Irish wolfhound's grooming needs are fairly simple, even for such a big dog.
Plan to spend at least an hour each day exercising your wolfhound. Many make excellent jogging or running partners (once their skeletal system is fully developed), and they enjoy long walks and hikes. Ideally your wolfhound also will have access to a fenced yard where it can really stretch its legs running and moving at will. And participating in dog sports, such as tracking and agility, can challenge your wolfhound's body and mind.
Always keep in mind that this dog breed is a sighthound, and its prey drive can kick in at any time. So it’s best only to let your wolfhound run free in an enclosed space.
When properly exercised, the Irish wolfhound is usually quite docile in the house. In fact, some owners find they have to coax their dog to exercise each day. Irish wolfhounds can be quite the couch potato.
The double coat of Irish wolfhounds sheds a moderate amount, and it actually doesn’t have seasonal periods of higher shedding like many other breeds do. Brush at least weekly to remove loose fur and debris. And bathe your dog every one to two months, depending on how dirty it gets.
Check the ears at least weekly for any dirt, irritation, and other abnormalities. And check the nails roughly once a month to see whether they’re in need of a trim. Also, aim to brush your dog’s teeth every day.
Irish wolfhounds typically do well with training because they are attentive to their owners. However, don’t become lax in your lessons or you’ll have a very large and dominant dog on your hands. Make sure to instill clear obedience lessons in your hound from puppyhood, and socialize it well for a balanced and amicable animal.
Aim to expose your dog to different people and various situations from as young of an age as possible to instill comfort and confidence. And always use positive training methods; harsh corrections and bad experiences can cause these sensitive dogs to shut down and not learn.
Common Health Problems
Irish wolfhounds are generally a healthy breed, but they are prone to some hereditary health issues, including:
Diet and Nutrition
Always have fresh water available to your dog. And expect to have a hefty food budget to feed this big breed. Most owners feed two measured meals per day. It’s best to choose a dog food that’s specifically formulated for large breeds to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s nutritional needs. Discuss the variety and amount with your vet, as this can vary based on age, activity level, and other factors. Also, be mindful of treats and extra food to prevent your dog from becoming overweight and putting too much stress on its joints.
Also, like other deep-chested dogs, Irish wolfhounds are at risk of bloat and potentially life-threatening stomach twists. This often can arise when a dog eats too quickly. Using puzzle toys that slowly dispense food, feeding smaller meals, and restricting activity right after meals all can help to prevent bloat.
Where to Adopt or Buy an Irish Wolfhound
Irish wolfhounds aren’t a common sight at animal shelters, but it’s still worth looking at your local shelters for a dog in need of a home. Also, see whether there’s a breed-specific rescue in your area. For a reputable breeder puppy, expect to pay around $2,000, though this can vary depending on bloodline and other factors.
For further information to connect you with an Irish wolfhound, check out:
Irish Wolfhound Overview
Friendly and affectionate
Relatively quiet and calm
Often good with children
Short life span
Strong prey drive
Prone to some hereditary health problems
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
When deciding whether an Irish wolfhound is right for you, discuss the breed with veterinarians, Irish wolfhound owners, reputable breeders, and rescues. Try to spend some time around Irish wolfhounds in person before committing.
If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:
There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!
What were Irish wolfhounds bred for?
Irish wolfhounds originated to hunt big game, including wolves. They were valued for their athleticism, size, and bravery, as well as their sighthound abilities.
Are Irish wolfhounds good family dogs?
Despite the breed's tremendous size, Irish wolfhounds can make an excellent family dog. With proper training and socialization, they are patient and docile with children. However, it's best always to monitor them around small children due to their size.
Are Irish wolfhounds aggressive?
Irish wolfhounds are alert and courageous dogs. However, they typically have mild demeanors and are not aggressive.