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The Irish Wolfhound

Oliver Jones

irish wolfhound_DragoNika_Shutterstock

The Irish Wolfhound is a giant purebred from Ireland, its name indicating its purpose not its ancestry. Today it does well in a variety of activities including sighting, obedience, lure coursing and hunting. While they may be an imposing sight it is a very gentle and sweet dog and makes a great family pet and companion.

Here is the Irish Wolfhound at a Glance
Name Irish Wolfhound
Other Names C̼ Faoil, Cu Faoil
Nicknames Cu
Origin Belgium and Ireland
Average size Giant
Average weight 115 to 180 pounds
Average height 30 to 35 inches
Life span 6 to 10 years
Coat type Rough, harsh, wiry
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, grey, white and red
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 69th by the AKC
Intelligence Average to above average
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not great in warm or hot weather
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold weather just not extreme cold
Shedding Average – will be loose hair around the home to deal with
Drooling Low – not prone to drool or slobber
Obesity Average – not especially prone to obesity but can gain weight if over fed and under exercised
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush daily
Barking Occasional
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs a certain level of activity due to its size
Trainability Moderately easy for those with experience
Friendliness Excellent – social breed
Good first dog Moderate – really needs experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate to good with socialization – has high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Not a healthy breed – many issues including bloat, eye problems, cancer, OCD, heart problems, liver problems and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for toys, basic training, license and miscellaneous items
Average annual expense $1000 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1750
Biting Statistics None reported

The Irish Wolfhound’s Beginnings

The Irish Wolfhound has been around for centuries, there are some that say it existed as far back as 7000 BC. Also known as The Great Hound of Ireland it has been admired since Roman times at least. When he was sent 7 Irish Wolfhounds as a gift the Roman Consul Aurelius in 391 AD wrote that they were ‘viewed with wonder’. The dog was used as a war dog, a wolf hunting dog and a big game hunter like Irish elk. In war its job was to pull men from chariots or horses.

As well as hunting wolf and elk it was also used to hunt boar, deer and as a guard dog for livestock and homes. It was a dog highly prized for its bravery and its ferociousness. There was a time when under British rule, the law in Ireland dictated that only noble and kings were allowed to own this dog, and how many they were allowed to have depended on the prestige they held. So those of higher nobility were allowed more, and those of lower nobility might be limited to just two. It was a breed often gifted to other rules and people of importance.

However coming up to the 18th century numbers of the Irish Wolfhound were in decline as need for such a dog lessened and the Irish elk, boar and wolf became extinct because of hunting. Those that were around were more pets than working dogs now. In fact the breed was heading to extinction itself if not for a Major H Richardson.

New Lease on Life

In the mid 1800s he along with other breeders who were fans of the breed took it upon themselves to revitalize it using the Tibetan Mastiff, Glengarry Deerhounds, Great Danes and Borzoi. In 1879 Captain Graham wrote ‘there are few specimens of the breed still left in Ireland and England to be considered Irish wolfhounds’. He then spent his life seeing to the survival of the breed. The Irish Wolfhound Club was founded in 1885 by Captain Graham and the English Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1925.

The first Irish Wolfhound to be recognized by the American Kennel Club was in 1897 and the Irish Wolfhound Club of America was formed in 1927. The AKC ranks the Irish Wolfhound today as 69th most popular registered dogs.

The Dog You See Today

The Irish Wolfhound is a giant sized dog weighing 115 to 180 pounds and standing 30 to 35 inches tall. This makes it one of the tallest breeds of dog and the biggest sighthound. It usually has a harsh, rough and wiry coat though some pet quality wolfhounds can have a softer coat. Common colors are red, black, grey and white. This is a strong, muscular breed but graceful too. It has a deep chest and long strong legs. Its feet are round and the tail is long and curved, hanging down. It is longer than it is tall.

On the face its hair is longer over the eyes and under the jaw. It has a long head and long pointed muzzle. Its small ears are partly pricked if it is alert or excited but against the head when relaxed. It has an arched neck that is long and strong. It holds it head and neck high most of the time.

The Inner Irish Wolfhound


This breed is a brave and loyal dog, but is quite different in many ways from the dog it was bred to be. Today it is sweet, quiet, reliable, patient and affectionate. It can be a good watchdog but is not reliable in this role because it is very friendly towards strangers so it as likely to make friends with an intruder as it is to alert you to them. Despite its good temperament this is not a dog best with new owners, it needs someone with experience.

The Irish Wolfhound is fairly intelligent, eager to please and very friendly. It gets along with everyone but can be slow to mature and clumsy when young which can lead to some accidental destruction due to its size. It can be a dignified dog, but it can also have its silly moments and times when it wants to play. It tends to bond very closely with its family and does not like to be left alone for long periods. That can actually lead to separation anxiety which can cause destructive behavior.

Living with an Irish Wolfhound

What will training look like?

It is moderately easy to train in terms of intelligence, eager to please and being receptive. Results will not be super quick but nor will they be incredibly slow. Be prepared for spending time on it, being consistent, firm, positive and fair. Being a large dog it is essential to get it into good behavior and habits early on, as when it is fully grown it will be very difficult to get it to do something it does not want to! Avoid being negative or harsh, as a sensitive dog it will not respond well.

It is very important that along with training it is also well socialized. A dog that has been socialized early on is more confident, happier and is the best version of themselves. It is one you can trust when out or when in different places or situations. Without socialization some Irish Wolfhounds can becomes too fearful which leads to defensive biting, or they can be overly protective and unable to judge real situations from nothing to worry about.

How active is the Irish Wolfhound?

The Irish Wolfhound if a giant dog so there is a certain level of activity needed to keep it healthy and happy. While it is quite a chilled dog so is happy to have its time snoozing in the sun, it needs to be taken for a couple of good walks a day and it needs access to a yard that has been well fenced. This means that it really is not a dog suited to apartment living, it needs space inside and out, even if it is calm indoors in a small living space it is going to be more prone to knocking things over.

Make sure when out walking that it has been leash trained. With its size and strength it can easily drag you around if you cannot stay in control. It would also love the chance for time in a dog park where it can socialize or run free and play with you. Take care when it is still young as with growing bones and ligaments these can easily be damaged if it gets too boisterous.

Caring for the Irish Wolfhound

Grooming needs

There is a moderate amount of grooming to be done with this breed but as it is so large that may be more time consuming than a moderate amount on a smaller dog! It sheds an average amount so there will be some loose hair around the home. Its coat may need plucking once or twice a year too and then brushed daily to stay on top of the loose hair, keep its coat softer and take out debris and dirt. Only give it a bath when it really needs one. Being so large if that is difficult to do in your home you can use a hose, or find a professional groomer that has bathing stations that you can use.

Its teeth will need to be brushed two to three times a week at least. It should also have its ears checked once a week for signs of infection and then wiped clean. Its nails should be clipped when they get too long, this is something a groomer can do for you if you do not have the necessary knowledge and skill, as care should be taken due to the live vessels and nerves in them.

Feeding Time

A dog of this size is going to need somewhere between 4 to 8 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day and that should be split into at least two meals. Make sure though that it does not eat straight after exercise as this could lead to the risk of bloat. How much it needs exactly can vary from one dog to another depending on its metabolism, activity levels, age, health and size.

How is the Irish Wolfhound with children and other animals?

Irish Wolfhounds are great with children especially with socialization and when raised with them. Their gentle and sweet nature means they are quite patient with them, but they do like to play too so can be energetic with them outside. Their size means that smaller children can get easily knocked over by accident so supervision with toddlers is a good idea. Also teach the children how to touch and play nicely with it, and that just because it is the size of a small pony does not mean you should keep getting on its back!

With other pets in the home it tends to be friendly and accepting but with other smaller animals outside it may see them as prey and try to chase and pounce on them. In general it is very good with other dogs though there is the potential for it to be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex especially if it has not been neutered or spayed. Its size means socialization and training is essential as it could easily hurt or kill other dogs or animals if it is left to become aggressive and is poorly raised.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Sadly the Irish Wolfhound is not a healthy breed, it has some serious health issues as well as other problems that it can be prone to and it has a short life span at just 6 to 10 years. Those health issues include bloat, cancer, heart problems, Von Willebrands, hip and elbow dysplasia, anesthesia sensitivity, liver problems, OCD, Fibrocartilaginous Embolic Myelopathy and eye problems.

Biting Statistics

Looking at reports of dog attacks doing bodily harm against people in Canada and the US over the last 34 years, there is no direct mention of the Irish Wolfhound. This is not a dog to be scared of or one that is prone to aggression or attacking people, despite its origins and its size. However there is in every breed, no matter its size, the potential for a bad day, aggression or snapping in reaction to something. In order to have the best odds at having a dog you can trust you should get one you can truly take care of. Can you really handle a dog this size, can you give it the exercise and stimulation it needs, and not be out all day? Are you prepared to make sure it is well socialized and trained, loved and fed and cared for?

Your Pup’s Price Tag

An Irish Wolfhound puppy is going to cost around $1750 for a pet quality dog from a good breeder. This is not a cheap breed to buy or to own. If you want something of show quality that is a lot more, well over $5000. It is possible there will be one waiting to be rescued from a shelter though not likely to be a puppy and that will cost less, around $50 to $400. Avoid buying from a puppy mill supplies place like pet stores, or from too good to be true ads you might spot. Too often there are some very sad stories about terrible treatment of dogs and about very unhealthy pets that die far too soon.

Once you have your dog you have some things you need to get for the home. A crate, collar and leash, bowls and so on at least. These will cost around $200. Medical needs will include an exam, blood tests, deworming, micro chipping, vaccinations and spaying or neutering, these come to about $300.

Annual costs for food are going to be pretty big though there will be variations depending on if you feed it fresh food, what kind of treats you give it and so on. If you feed just a good quality dry dog food and give good quality treats this is at least $270 a year.

Medical yearly costs will vary depending on what health issues or emergencies come up and what kind of insurance you have. If you just base it on basic health care like check ups, flea and tick prevention and shots along with pet insurance this is at least $485 a year.

Then there will be other costs to think about like licensing, basic training at least, toys and other miscellaneous costs that may come up. These start at $245 a year.

This gives a total of $1000 a year as a starting figure.


Looking for a Irish Wolfhound Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

This is not a dog you will be able to ignore! It will take up space, need a lot of feeding, plenty of walking, and will want attention from you. It is also a great mix of calm but playful, easygoing but sometimes independent. If you are truly prepared for fitting this dog in your home, your car and your life it will make a great family dog or companion. The only thing is you might not have it around for long due to its shorter life span.

Meet Irish Dane – Great Dane x Irish Wolfhound Mix

Irish Dane
Irish Dane
Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound Mix
General Information
Size Giant
Height 32 to 38 inches
Weight 100 to 150
Life span 7 to 10 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Very Active
Breed Traits

Eager to please



Featured Image Credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock
Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.