of the Irish Wolfhound, or Great Irish Hound as it was known
in earlier times, is lost in the distant past.
five hundred years ending 600 AD were probably the most colourful
in Irish History. Each court had its own bard who related
the heroic deeds and great feats of warriors to the kings
and chiefs and their guests. These legends and sagas have
been handed down to us and from them we learn of the existence,
nature and temperament of the Great Irish Hound before history
Hounds of Ireland were already well established in Ireland
in 391 AD when a Roman consul wrote to his brother thanking
him for the gift of seven Irish dogs ‘All Rome viewed
them with wonder and fancied they must have been brought hither
in iron cages’.
the centuries, the Hound of Ireland was a gift highly prized
by the kings and noblemen of other countries. King Edward
ll (1336), Queen Elizabeth (1562) and Henry the Great of France
(1595) are among those on record as having received them.
The exportation continued to the kings of France, Denmark,
Sweden and Poland. So great was the number exported that Cromwell
decreed (1652) that no further hound should be sent abroad
as the numbers were dwindling so rapidly in Ireland that the
wolf population was on the increase.
breed was maintained in the early 19th century by Richardson
(1840) and Sir John Power of Kilfane, Mr Baker of Ballytobin
and Mahony of Dromore. In the latter part of that century,
following the famine, the breed was at a low ebb when Capt
Graham, a friend of Sir John Power put much work and effort
into gathering all the specimens available and revitalising
as in earlier times, the Irish Wolfhound is in great demand
around the world and is to be found at shows world-wide. Now,
as then, he is prized for his great size, graceful build,
proud bearing and superb temperament; ‘a lamb at home
- a lion in the chase’.
early history of the breed, including the various legends
and sagas, is well documented in Phyllis Gardner’s book
‘The Irish Wolfhound’
* * *
The Irish Wolfhound, the tallest, strongest and most majestic
of the sight-hound family should combine both speed and power.
Neither character should predominate at the expense of the
other. A heavily built hound is untypical as is a lightly
built one. The Wolfhound should symbolise strength, his conformation
should allow him to move with a long low stride as, like all
sight-hounds, he is built to use the double suspension gallop.
the show ring, he is judged by the Standard
of Excellence which describes the correct type and conformation.
Type has evolved from breeding countless generations of the
best hounds with each other. Type is that particular combination
of build, shape and conformation which has proven most efficient
for the purposes of the Irish Wolfhound.
Capt. Graham and his colleagues formulated this ideal in the
and soundness are of equal importance, the combination of
both giving quality. The head, often referred to as the repository
of type, reflects the character and majesty of the Irish Wolfhound.
It should be powerful and hound-like, showing strength without
coarseness. Small greyhound-like ears, a reasonable amount
of eyebrow, muzzle hair and beard and dark eyes enhance the
soft typical expression. The nicely arched, muscular neck
should be thick in comparison to his over-all form. A neck
stripped out like a terrier gives the impression of weakness.
Both head and neck should be proudly carried and not strung
up on a tight lead in terrier-like fashion.
rough coated body should give the impression of adequate length
rather than that of a short-coupled body; the chest should
reach down to elbows and be nicely wide at the bottom; the
ribs should be reasonably well sprung. As a galloping hound,
he should have adequate angulation of the forequarters and
hindquarters producing the long, low stride typical of the
breed. The longer bones, especially the shoulder-blade and
upper arm, upper and lower thigh, so typical of a sight-hound
allow adequate angulation of the front and rear without the
degree of angulation required in non sight-hound breeds. Over
angulation, as seen in the German Shepherd would be as untypical
as under-angulation, though under-angulation with its accompanying
short stride is a much more common fault.
topline, determined by the shape and strength of the spine,
should comprise a nice set of curves beginning with the crest
of the neck and finishing with the bend of the tail. The loin
should show a slight arch but not be so exaggerated as to
give the hound the appearance of being dipped behind the shoulders.
It should be just sufficient to give a nice gradual sweep
right down to the set-on of the tail which should connect
fairly low. Lack of angulation, short neck, weak dippy topline
or inflexible straight spine, shallow chest, no tuck-up, crooked
or short limbs, flat feet or weak pasterns are all serious
faults in a galloping hound. A coarse or snipey head, very
light eyes, heavy ears, a curly or gay tail are all faults
against type, as is a soft or woolly coat.
firm stand must be made against awarding prizes to hounds
that are not absolutely sound, as the breed is essentially
a galloping one, meant for rough as well as fast work, and
therefore coat, soundness of limb, and freedom of action,
must be insisted on. Girth is also most essential, as without
it, the necessary lung and heart action is impossible (Capt.
Graham, ‘The Kennel Encyclopaedia’, 1908).
The foregoing contains extracts from the writings of Graham
For a Guinness" by John Baker