AVERAGE SIZE OF ADULT: HUGE!
EXERCISE REQUIREMENT: High
GROOMING REQUIREMENT: Medium
AVERAGE LIFESPAN: 6-8 years
Why Irish Wolfhound’s are great
Irish Wolfhound’s are usually described with the kind term ‘gentle giant’. They are widely believed to be the largest of the ‘hound’ breeds and I would firmly class them as HUGE!
Adding to their giant size, they are believed to protect livestock from wolves in Ireland in the 18th century.
But despite their size and bloodline, the affectionate term used is completely correct. They’re known to be easy going dogs and are kind and friendly around all sorts of people and children.
Things to consider when looking at Irish Wolfhound’s for Sale
The main things to consider when looking at Irish Wolfhound puppies and dogs for sale are:
- Their size. Please consider the space you have available at home, they’re big old dogs. Imagine another teenager coming to live with you!
- Exercise needs. They are considered low energy, but their general size means they need to be exercised two hours at least every day, and can run very quickly.
- They’re huge, they eat a lot! Don’t think you’ll get away with a small bit of dog food, they are big.
We’ll cover most other topics such as Irish Wolfhound health and nutrition in more depth later, but these are the main things to be weary of.
History of Irish Wolfhounds
Irish Wolfhounds are classified a ‘Hound’, meaning they originate from a group of breeds originally used for hunting either by scent or sight. They’re often classed as the largest ‘Hound’ known.
They are believed to have been used in the 18th Century as a form of protection of livestock from wolves in Ireland.
They are estimated to have been around since 6000BC which makes them one of the oldest breeds, and there is mention of these dogs in Irish laws that existed before Christianity and many records of them in ancient Irish writing. There are accounts of ‘the fierce Celts and their large dogs’ in many ancient wartime stories, and these dogs are believed to be the Irish Wolfhound, and even mentioned by Julius Ceasar in his account ‘The Conquest of Gaul’.
Irish Wolfhounds were bred as hunting dogs, and were extremely sought after animals, but only certain classes of people could own these dogs. They were often given as gifts to important people and nobles and in the early 13th Century there is account of King John of England gifting an Irish Wolfhound to the Welsh.
The breed was gifted so many times around Europe that in 1652 a ban was placed on gifting the Irish Wolfhound to ensure that sufficient numbers remained to control the wolf population.
In the late 1700’s most of the Wolf population had gone, in Ireland, which in turn saw a decline in the Irish Wolfhound’s as there was no longer as much of a need for their primary existence. At this point, people began keeping them as pets rather than hunting dogs, and we began to see the first signs of crossbreeding the Irish Wolfhound. These remaining Irish Wolfhounds were kept by a few families who were mainly descendants of old Irish hunting families and the dogs quickly began to symbolise status, and most definitely not hunting.
After an extended period of making the breed more domestic, it was largely believed that the Irish Wolfhound lost its large, strong and domineering status to become little more than a household pet.
It wasn’t until 1879 that an enthusiast by the name Captain George Augustus who set us a breeding program to attempt the reaffirm the breed’s existence. He devoted his life to ensuring the survival of the ancient breed writing ‘here are few specimens of the breed still left in Ireland and England to be considered Irish Wolfhounds, though falling short of the requisite dimensions.’
It is believed that the Borzoi, Great Dane, Scottish Deerhound and English Mastiff played a part in his breeding program and these are largely the make-up of the Irish Wolfhound we know today. In 1885 Captain Graham and other breeders founded the Irish Wolfhound club, as an ideal to which breeders should aspire if they are to breed Irish Wolfhound Puppies.
Like many other breeds, the Irish Wolfhound had a sharp decline in numbers in both the First and Second World wars, and wasn’t an accepted breed by the Kennel Club until 1925. In 1981 the Irish Wolfhound Society was established, and whilst numbers have been slowly increasing, and the breed is famous all over the world, still an extremely small number of these puppies are bred every year. On puppies.co.uk, we very rarely have an opportunity to sell this breed, and your best bet if you would like to share your home with an Irish Wolfhound Puppy (or, Irish Wolfhound Puppies) is to register your interest with a breeder through the Irish Wolfhound Society and get on a waiting list.
The Irish Wolfhound has a coarse and rough coat, which is different to when the breed first appeared, as it is believed a smooth coat was also present. The coat we see today makes the breed extremely graceful when in movement, and adds to its overall stature of being the biggest of the Hound Breeds.
They have large, long heads which they hold height, and have strong jaws with which they can cause some serious damage, as their heritage as hunting dogs suggest. The main initial appearance of an Irish Wolfhound is that is longer than it is tall, and unlike scent hounds (Beagles and Bloodhounds, for example) their appearance is far more suited to catching and killing animals, Wolves to be exact!
The dog is all-round a muscular breed, quick, and big.
How big is the Irish Wolfhound?
A male Irish Wolfhound (and female for that matter) is a big, big dog, usually noted as the largest of the Hound Dogs. A male will be over 32 inches (81cm) tall at the shoulder and weighs at least 120 pounds (55Kgs). The female will be slightly smaller, but still an already large dog. This isn’t a definitive size guide as often many are even larger, with average males being 34 to 36 inches tall and 145-175 pounds.
Definitely consider the size of your house, garden and buy a big dog bed if you’re looking for Irish Wolfhound puppies!
How heavy is an Irish Wolfhound?
The average range for male Irish Wolfhounds is 145-175 pounds (65kgs- 80kgs) with female Irish Wolfhounds usually around 115-140pounds (52kgs-63kgs)
What Colour is the Irish Wolfhound?
According to the Kennel Club (https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/breed/standard.aspx?id=1022) , Irish Wolfhounds will come In grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey.
Irish Wolfhounds are often affectionately known by the sentence ‘gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked’. Whilst they are not natural guard dogs, they will protect individuals they become attached to, rather than an owners property. The Irish Wolfhound puppies, like every dog need early socialization when young, and exposure to different sounds and experiences as they are a very alert dog.
The gentle giant, is truly kind and friendly, but will require an experienced trainer, as every hound often will. The Irish Wolfhound is well known for not rushing situations, and is calm, collected but always alert, so when springing to action, can move very quickly.
They are not high energy dogs, but need to be exercised enough to prevent boredom. The dogs thrive on being around their owners and do not particularly enjoy being left alone for periods of time.
The breed is really not known for being boisterous, or aggressive around the house, but do not under estimate the size of this dog. This is because the breed is introverted, intelligent and reserved in character.
They will form tight bonds with their owners and other dogs they are raised with, but they are bred ultimately for independence.
The wolfhound today is far from the wolf-killing and roman scaring animal it was, they are patient and affectionate, if exercised, trained and stimulated in the right ways.
Do Irish Wolfhounds make good guard dogs?
In short- no. Despite their large size, they are often alert, but never suspicious. They are really not aggressive dogs, unless provoked or they sense their owners are in danger. However, they are a pretty poor choice for protection of possessions, and property
Do Irish Wolfhounds bark a lot?
No, the Irish Wolfhound doesn’t bark excessively. They are known for a distinctive and deep pitch bark, so you’ll know about it when they do. The most common times the Irish Wolfhound will bark is when they’re left along a long time, or if they are trying to communicate with you.
Are Irish Wolfhounds easy to train?
Irish wolfhounds are straightforward to train, but often not recommended to first time dog owners, because of their large size and often large need for interaction.
Are Irish Wolfhounds Playful?
The breed does have a playful side, but being hounds, they have built into their blood the hunting instinct, so to be safe, it is often recommended to keep an eye around small animals, wildlife and livestock. They are especially playful when puppies but as they get larger, make sure they’re used to playfulness outside- you don’t want an 80KG beast rampaging around!
Are Irish Wolfhounds good with children?
Yes, Irish Wolfhounds are typically family pets and their gentle demeanour often makes them wonderful playmates for older children. Whilst they are indeed gentle, keep an eye out around younger children, as they often forget how big they really are. A tail wag, is suddenly a supersize tail wag!
Are Irish Wolfhounds good with other pets?
Yes, the Irish Wolfhound generally will spend time with other animals. As already mentioned, just be weary of their size around smaller animals, as they sometimes have natural prey drive/
How long do Irish Wolfhounds live?
Irish Wolfhounds usually life for under 10 years. With average being 6-8 years. The UK Kennel Club puts the average age of death at 7 years.
How much exercise does an Irish Wolfhound need?
In short, a healthy adult should get about 1-2h of exercise a day to prevent boredom.
The Irish Wolfhound will need access to a securely fenced yard, where they can run and they will be happy. They whould be given a couple of 20 minute play times every day, and will definitely enjoy a walk. Avoid exercise an hour before meals and two hours after as this may increase the risk of bloat.
Puppies need to play frequently but their running should be limited, along with not walking them until 6 months old, this is to prevent future spinal growth problems.
What are Irish Wolfhound Common health issues?
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat): This condition commonly affects deep chested breeds and can usually be avoided by limiting exercise around meal times. If you can see recognisable swelling in your dogs abdomen, you must get to a vet immediately
Heart problems: The Irish Wolfhound is prone to defect, as any large animal is. If you are worries, consult a professional, however murmurs can be common in Wolfhounds
Hip dysplasia –This will eventually lead to arthritis, and is caused by not having proper skeletal deformation. Be sure not to over-walk Irish Wolfhound Puppies.
How much space do I need for an irish wolfhound?
Whilst I couldn’t recommend an exact square meter size required, please just have a real hard think about the size of the breed vs what you have available. The dog will be agitated by being left inside all day, so unless you can provide a secure (big gates and fences) area that you feel safe leaving your new dog alone outside in, then you will need to re-consider
Think of it as space for an extra 15 year old teenager, who needs space to run round, relax and stretch their legs. Good access to walking areas- and parks/ fields that you are able to let your dog for a run in will be valuable.
What should I feed my Irish Wolfhound?
Because of their size, Irish Wolfhounds will often eat more, and quicker than most dogs. The best advice we can provide on diet is to make sure you are providing a diet that suits their age, lifestyle and health requirements.
When you get your Irish Wolfhound Puppy, the breeder will give you a schedule and routine for feeding, as well as sometimes a small food sample. It is imperative to stick to the same foods and schedules for at least a few months to avoid any digestion problems. The Irish Wolfhound will grow very quick when a puppy, so any changes to the diet it is important to consult your vet to prevent future health problems.
With an older dog, they are not known to be fussy, so whilst you can get away with a lower quality diet, the dogs when older must be fed a diet with all the right vitamins, and most importantly watch that the dog is taking in the right amount of food which is being burnt off when exercising. Being overweight will shorten a dogs life significantly, so make sure you keep an eye on how the dog looks around their bones, and if you are worried reduce the diet slightly. You should be able to see a waist, then place your hands ono the back, thumbs along the spine and fingers downwards, you should be able to feel but not see ribs of the dog.
Because the Irish Wolfhound also suffers from bloat, it is important to feed them in at least 2 meals, not one large one, and make sure that you avoid exercise an hour either side of feeding time.
How much grooming do Irish Wolfhounds need and do Irish wolfhounds shed?
Irish Wolfhounds shed consistently throughout the year. You must brush your dog weekly to keep the coat healthy, removing tangles using a brush and maybe a comb, and they shouldn’t need a bath more than once or twice per year.
The coat of the Irish Wolfhound Is rough and hard, and under the jaw is long and wiry. It is important that the Irish Wolfhound is stripped by hand at least twice a year, especially in Sprint which is when they shed the most.
Make sure to check the ears of the Irish Wolfhound for infections on a regular basis, as they are known for being difficult to remove infection once it gets too bad.
You should brush the dogs teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar and bacteria, and trim the nails once or twice a month to prevent problems. As a rule, if the nails are clicking on the floor and you can hear if they need rimming. Be careful when trimming because dog toenails have blood vessels in them. If worried, talk to a groomer or vet.
As you groom, check for rashes, redness, inflammation on the skin, nose, mouth and eyes, this is so you can catch potential problems as early as possible.
How much does it cost to keep an Irish wolfhound?
If you are looking to buy a puppy, as we mentioned before, you can expect to get on a very long waiting list as they are not offered very often in a year. You would pay anything from £700-£1100 for a pedigree puppy.
Insurance will also be needed, and the big cost of all its food (they eat a lot!)
On top of this you would need to include veterinary costs such as vaccinations, boosters and neutering or spraying your dog when the time is right. However, it is well known that neuteuring your Irish Wolfhound Puppy at a too young age has a strong correlation to bone cancer.
As a rough guide in pricing:
Food: £60 to £80 per month
Vet Costs: £1300 to £1500 per year
Specific Buying Guide
You can read our general buying guide here (https://www.puppies.co.uk/advice-on-buying-a-puppy/), with the most important thing being going to view your Irish Wolfhound Puppy, seeing it with its mother, and checking the quality of the breeder.
More specifically, there are important things to ask a breeder, and Irish Wolfhound specific things to check for.
- Make sure you get on a breeders waiting list. Do your research, take your time, and find a reputable breeder for the Irish Wolfhound. The breed is very scare and not many puppies are bred every year, which means you should try and find a specialist breeder.
- Watch out for scams. A popular Irish Wolfhound thing to be careful of is ‘Irish Bred’. Whilst a percentage of these will be legitimate, it seems an easy scam for Irish Wolfhound Puppy Breeders to try.
- Beware of ‘get rich quick’ breeders. Because of their low breeding numbers, there is a large temptation to breed Irish Wolfhounds for a quick profit, and not caring about the puppies, their dam and the breed. Under Kennel Club laws, the mother can only produce 4 litters and has to be at a certain age. Think very carefully about the breeder you are conversing with, to check that they have the correct paperwork, Kennel Club registrations and the puppies lineage is written down.
Questions to ask an Irish Wolfhound Breeder:
- Could I meet the litter’s parents if at all possible? It is always a good idea to take a good look at what the parents of the puppy or puppies we are interested in actually look like. Do they look in a good condition?
- How have you been socialising the pups so far? A question only relevant if the puppies are more than a couple of weeks old or so.
- Can I ask if the parents of the puppies are certified? This question will help specifically with matters concerning potentially inherited health problems from the parents such as hip conditions.
- How big and heavy are the parents of the pups? This question could help us gauge just how big our puppy or puppies could grow to.
- What vaccines has the puppy had? We should find out exactly how many shots the pup has already had and when it is due for its next injection.
- Have any of the puppies in this litter become ill up until now? Another good way to work out the likelihood of your puppy or puppies being of good health.
- Can you provide me with any recommendations from previous customers please? A good way to establish the integrity and reputation of the breeder.
- What are you currently feeding the puppies? It is wise to learn this important aspect as it is often ideal to continue with the diet at least for the first few days or so.
- Do you offer a guarantee with the sale of the puppies? If so, it might be a good idea to have a contract drawn up if one does not exist already and get it witnessed at singing.
- Do you belong to a dog breeding club? This is always a useful question as it often provides us with evidence of how professional the breeder actually is.
In Popular Culture
Wolfie, is a stray Wolfhound in Paddington Bar
Sparky from Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure
Dogs in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are based on the Irish Wolfhound
Other reading and Organisations
Below are some links to Irish Wolfhound Organisations.