What is an Irish Wolfhound

What is an Irish Wolfhound? [are they good family pets]

Irish Wolfhounds are large, muscular dogs that are as impressive in stature as they are sweet in personality. These tall gentle giant dogs are somewhat rare and known to be affectionate, highly intelligent, and make excellent family dogs for certain people and situations. 

Keep reading to learn more about the Irish Wolfhound’s history, appearance, temperament, and general care so you know what to expect before taking an Irish Wolfhound puppy home!

Are Irish Wolfhounds Rare

History of the Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are a fascinating combination of the last existing wolfhounds with the Scottish Deerhound, Great Dane, Borzoi, and Tibetan Wolfdog. 

This intimidating combination created a large size breed capable of taking down dangerous animals such as wolves. It is an ancient breed and can be traced back over 1,000 years!

History of the Irish Wolfhound

Because this giant breed is an intimidating-looking dog, Irish Wolfhound puppies were often given as gifts to those in high positions such as kings, and emperors to be watchdogs. 

They made excellent war dogs and were good at taking down large game animals.

Unfortunately, the Irish Wolfhound population decreased over time until they were nearly extinct. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Rare?

A few select Irish Wolfhounds kept in captivity were used to grow the population again in the late 1800s. 

By 1922, the first official Irish Wolfhound breeding program was established when six hounds were imported from Germany. 

By 1923, the Irish Wolfhound became a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in the United States and is now one of the world’s top ten breeds

Irish Wolfhound Appearance

Irish Wolfhounds generally have round, dark eyes, small ears, long necks, and dark noses. They also have long muzzles, typically covered in shaggy fur along with their deep chest.

Irish Wolfhound Appearance

Irish Wolfhound Colors 

They have medium-length, wiry coats that can come in gray, red, black, brindle, white, and fawn colors. 

You can expect them to have a muscular build, be strong, and fast with an appearance that can sometimes frighten some people!

Irish Wolfhound Size

Irish Wolfhounds are one of if not the tallest breeds of dogs in the world! Adult Irish Wolfhounds are typically around 30 to 32 inches in height but can be a little taller.

Irish Wolfhound Size

They usually weigh between 100 and 150 pounds. 

Male Irish Wolfhounds are typically larger than females, but not always depending on their parents. 

Is an Irish Wolfhound Bigger Than a Wolf?

Well, keep in mind that both wolves and Irish Wolfhounds are big dogs! Also, these animals will individually differ in size.

While an Irish Wolfhound is a big, tall dog some wolves can be larger in weight even if not as tall. I would say there is no simple answer to this question but it depends on the individual animal.

Is an Irish Wolfhound Bigger Than a Great Dane?

Here again, it depends on the individual dog. Both dogs are large and tall! You may find some Great Danes weigh more than the normal Irish Wolfhound.

Is an Irish Wolfhound Bigger Than a Great Dane

Irish Wolfhound Temperament

Irish Wolfhounds, despite their great size, are considered to be extremely affectionate and calm dogs. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Aggressive?

In general, Irish Wolfhounds are considered to not be aggressive with people.

They are termed “gentle giants” because their sweet demeanor often outshines their large, intimidating appearance. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Aggressive

Remember, these are large dogs and while they can seem gentle they may get excited and could harm small children by accident. Always take precautions when around small children.

Are Irish Wolfhounds High Energy?

Irish Wolfhounds love to take it easy (some say maybe lazy) and enjoy spending time with their owners, including children and even other pets at times. 

Irish Wolfhounds are also incredibly intelligent compared to other dog breeds and can learn commands easily. 

They do well in obedience training and are highly intuitive when it comes to their owner’s desires and emotions. With an Irish Wolfhound, you’ll certainly form a close bond!

Caring for an Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds have similar care requirements to other dogs, but you need to have a lot of space to keep them happy. 

Make sure that you’re able to commit enough time and energy to this large breed dog before bringing home that sweet puppy!

Food and Water

Irish Wolfhounds need a balanced diet and water just like any other pet! For one of the tallest dog breeds, you should be sure to get food for large-breed puppies and dogs. 

This food has different nutrients in it to prevent rapid growth, which reduces the risk of joint issues later in life. 

Dog food for large breeds also has enough nutrients to support your dog’s larger, denser body compared to other breeds.

Always make sure your dog has access to water throughout the day. Because Irish Wolfhounds are so large and energetic, they will need to drink a lot of water. 

If you take your Wolfhound on long walks, be sure to take a bottle of water and a bowl with you for rest breaks. 

Irish Wolfhound Exercise Requirements

The Irish Wolfhound is a large dog breed and needs more daily exercise than some other dogs. 

You can expect to have to exercise your Irish Wolfhound for at least 45 minutes per day, so a fenced yard is highly encouraged for this breed. 

This will help them get their energy out and keep their muscles strong, while a fence will prevent them from chasing prey out of your yard while exercising. 

Providing plenty of exercise also reduces the chances of your Irish Wolfhound getting bored and turning to destructive habits. 

Always make sure your Irish Wolfhound has toys available indoors while you’re away so they can stay busy and not feel pent-up by the time you get home. 

Regarding getting enough exercise, Irish Wolfhounds love to walk, run, jump, and play with toys thanks to their high energy level, so you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose!

Do Irish Wolfhounds Need Special Vet Care?

As with any pet, make sure you have access to ample vet care in your area. 

You should have a veterinarian and an emergency vet both picked out before even taking your Irish Wolfhound home. 

Make sure that any vet you bring your dog to has experience and is comfortable working with large-breed dogs such as Irish Wolfhounds. 

Training an Irish Wolfhound

As previously mentioned, these large hounds are intelligent creatures.  

These dogs will take to training quite easily, whether you only put them through obedience training or continue on into specialized training. 

Irish Wolfhounds love to please their owners and are highly intuitive as to your mood and responses to their behavior.

At a minimum, your Irish Wolfhound will need obedience training. This training will help prevent your 100-pound dog from destroying your house or jumping on visitors. 

It can also help them become housetrained if you bring a puppy home instead of an adult dog. 

If you want further training such as for hunting or watchdog purposes, you should reach out to a specialist trainer in your area. 

You can either take your big dog to a training center or purchase private lessons where a trainer comes to your home. 

Though more expensive, the latter option is often more effective than simply putting your dog in group training. 

Irish Wolfhound Health Conditions

The Irish Wolfhound dog breed is more susceptible to certain health issues than other dog breeds. 

Responsible Irish Wolfhound owners should take their wolfhound to an experienced veterinarian for assessment if they have any concerns regarding these conditions. 

Please note that we are not veterinarians and the information we provide is just for informational purposes. 

Heart Disease

Irish Wolfhounds are susceptible to Irish Wolfhound Type Cardiomyopathy (IWCM). This disease presents itself in about one-third of Irish Wolfhounds. 

It can cause progressive loss of function in the heart as well as abnormalities in the heart. 

Symptoms include labored breathing, exercise intolerance, and coughing. Your dog may also not lay on its side as it is struggling to breathe. 

Without treatment, Irish Wolfhounds can die within days to weeks. 

If you notice any of these symptoms in your Irish Wolfhound, be sure to visit your vet immediately for potential treatment. 

Your dog may qualify for medication to slow this disease depending on the circumstances. 

Bone Cancer

Approximately 25% of all Irish Wolfhounds die from osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer. Signs of this disease include limping, inability to walk on a limb, or lumps on a limb. 

If you suspect your Irish Wolfhound has bone cancer, bring them to a vet immediately. 

Because this cancer is so aggressive, treatment should be implemented as soon as possible to improve your dog’s chance of recovery. 

Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia

Dysplasia can affect both the hips and elbows in Irish Wolfhounds. 

This condition results from abnormal development of the hip or elbow joints during growth and development, which can be common in large breeds. 

Symptoms include limping, swollen joints, reluctance to exercise, and a crooked stance. 

If you believe your Irish Wolfhound has hip or elbow dysplasia, bring them to the vet for a full assessment. 

In some cases, your dog may be provided with medication to reduce inflammation, while in others your dog may require surgery to fully recover.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an eye disorder in dogs that can eventually cause blindness. 

This genetic health problem is frequently found in Irish Wolfhounds as it is present in the gene pool of all wolfhounds. 

Though it is not painful, your dog may have issues navigating your home or yard without his sight. 

If you believe your Irish Wolfhound is developing PRA, take them to the vet for an eye exam. 

There is no treatment for PRA but they can help you come up with ways to make your dog more comfortable without his eyesight. 

Liver Shunt

Liver Shunt, also called portosystemic shunt is a concern for Irish Wolfhound puppies. During pregnancy, the mother’s liver detoxifies the puppy’s blood.

After a puppy is born their own liver should take over this detoxification process through a closure of blood vessels.

The Liver shunt health issue occurs when the blood vessels do not close off properly after the puppy is born. This is a serious condition that threatens the life of the puppy.

The problem for Irish Wolfhound puppies is that this deformity is not detectable until after they are at least eight weeks old. 

You should not adopt an Irish Wolfhound puppy before the age of nine weeks and only after it has been shown the puppy was tested for Liver Shunt.

How to Find an Irish Wolfhound

You can find an Irish Wolfhound for your family in a few different places. The first is from a reputable breeder. 

Irish Wolfhound Breeders

A good breeder will put lots of care into their purebred dogs and be registered with the American Kennel Club and preferably the Irish Wolfhound Club of America. 

If you don’t want to get your dog from a breeder, you may also be able to find an Irish Wolfhound at a rescue or shelter. 

Some rescues are breed-specific, so you could find Irish Wolfhounds there. Reach out to your local rescues and animal shelters to find out if they have a match for you!

Irish Wolfhound Names

Remember, these wolfhounds are special and unique dogs so you need to give your puppy a special and unique name!

Here is a short list of some popular Irish Wolfhound names.

  • Anluan (means Great Champion)
  • Cathal (means battle rule. Popular Irish name)
  • Conn (Irish masculine name)
  • Duff (Dark hair male Irish name. Could be a female name also)
  • Erin
  • Galway (City on Ireland’s west coast)
  • Gypsy
  • Maggie
  • Morag (Great and Sun)
  • Mungan (could mean hairy or long hair)
  • Murphy
  • Olcan (Name of an Irish Saint)
  • Pip (short easy name your dog will answer to)

Related Irish Wolfhound Questions

Are Irish Wolfhounds lazy?

Well, that is a good question! The Irish Wolfhound is a hunting animal by nature and thus can be very active and energetic. 

But on the other hand, most Irish Wolfhound owners come to realize that their big dog is also happy to be lazy and sleep the day away.

So no, they are not lazy dogs but they also need to be encouraged to get their daily exercise if they are a family pet and not a working dog in the field.

Can an Irish Wolfhound kill a wolf?

Some say the Irish Wolfhound was actually bred to hunt wolves but most agree they were mainly bred to hunt wild boar.

Can an Irish Wolfhound kill a wolf

Having said that, there are stories of Irish Wolfhounds killing wolves and being used to hunt wolves in the wild.

The answer is far more complex than a simple yes or no. A single Irish Wolfhound would probably not stand a chance against a pack of wild wolves but one on one it is possible.

Are there any famous Irish Wolfhounds?

Though there are no current famous Irish Wolfhounds, there was a famous Irish Wolfhound back in the 13th century. 

Gelert the Irish Wolfhound was presented to Llewelyn the Great by King John in 1205 and was known for his intelligence and strength. 

This special dog was a loyal companion to Llewelyn the Great until his passing years later. 

Do Irish Wolfhounds have hair or fur?

Irish Wolfhounds have a double coat of wiry, harsh fur. Their undercoat is much softer than the outer coat, but it cannot be seen unless you are regularly grooming your Irish Wolfhound. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds hypoallergenic?

Because of this, Irish Wolfhounds are not hypoallergenic and you can expect them to shed regularly throughout the year. 

Can I shave my Irish Wolfhound?

Because they have double coats, you should not shave your Irish Wolfhound. 

Though you may think shaving their shaggy coat will help keep them cool in the summer, this harsh coat helps them regulate their temperature in both hot and cold weather. 

Shaving their coat could cause issues with temperature regulation and can result in heat stroke and other health conditions. 

If you must, you could simply trim around your Irish Wolfhound’s tail, ears, eyes, and feet to provide a neater appearance. 

If you plan to show your dog, note the breed’s standard appearance before making any drastic decisions about their coat. Ultimately, this coat is a good thing!

How long do Irish Wolfhounds live?

Because Irish Wolfhounds are large dogs, their lifespan is approximately six to ten years. 

Those with the best care will live closer to ten years, while those with insufficient care will have a short lifespan. 

To have as much time as possible with your Irish Wolfhound, you should provide excellent care at all times and maintain regular care with your vet. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds good with children?

Yes! Irish Wolfhounds are actually great with small children and young children. These dogs may look scary, but they actually love being around people. 

If you have any concerns, the best way is to get an Irish Wolfhound puppy to raise alongside your kids. Older children should have no issues. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds good with other pets?

In many cases, yes, Irish Wolfhounds can be gentle with other pets in the home including small dogs and cats. 

However, some Irish Wolfhounds may have more robust prey drives, which can lead them to chase or even attack small animals in the home. 

You should always make sure your smaller animals have a place to hide if needed and should consider bringing home a puppy or adult Irish Wolfhound with prior pet experience to reduce this risk. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds the tallest dog breed?

Well, the tallest dog can vary by the individual dog but the tallest dog breed recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) is indeed the Irish Wolfhound per their website.

What is the tallest dog in the world?

As of this writing, the tallest living dog in the world is Zuess, a Great Dane that stands over 40 inches tall and is over seven feet long!

How can I learn more about the Irish Wolfhound?

There are several good sources for Irish Wolfhound information including the list below.

Irish Wolfhounds Can Be Good Pets

There is a lot to know and learn when getting and caring for the giant-size Irish Wolfhound. 

These large animals may seem intimidating, but they’re actually incredibly sweet and loyal and make a great family dog for the right person and right situation. 

If you have the time to take one on, check out your local breeders and animal shelters to find the right puppy or adult dog for your family.

What is an Irish Wolfhound

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