Meet the Breed: The Irish Wolfhound



  • Height: 28"- 30” (Can be up to 7' tall when standing on the hind legs!)
  • Weight: 90-150 pounds
  • Historical function: Hunting wolves and large prey, estate guards, companions
  • Modern function: Family companion
  • AKC classification: Hound

Physical Characteristics:

The Irish Wolfhound is one of the tallest dog breeds, about the size of a small pony. It takes its name from its historical wolf hunting function as opposed to any wolf-like appearance. The IW has a Greyhound appearance with a rough, wiry coat. They are slender yet sturdy, athletic, and have a graceful, galloping gait while running. The chest is deep, and the waist is narrow. The tail hangs low and curves up slightly. Coat colors include grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey. Grey is the most common color. 

History of the Breed:

Dogs resembling the Irish Wolfhound were documented in ancient Rome as early as 391 AD and were used as war dogs and estate guards. Eventually the dogs were imported to Ireland where they were only allowed to be owned by Irish nobles. They were employed as wolf, wild boar, and elk hunters. After the depletion of prey, their numbers dwindled. They were also frequent gifts to visiting nobility which also depleted IW numbers. The dog breed was championed by British army officer Captain George Graham in the second half of the 19th century. The breed was restored by the introduction of Great Dane and Deerhound blood.


The Irish Wolfhound truly is a gentle giant, being trusted with children, other dogs and non-canine animals they have been raised with. They are quiet dogs by nature and modern Irish Wolfhounds do not seem to have retained much of the guarding instinct, though their sheer size is often intimidating enough. They are sweet-tempered, highly intelligent, and eager to please. It is believed that the close proximity this dog has had with humans for thousands of years makes it discerning about human behaviors and intent. Therefore, when called upon, this dog will show great bravery against genuine threats against the family. This giant breed can be clumsy and is slow to mature in both body and mind, taking about two years before they are full grown. High-quality food is essential.

  • Best suited for: These super-sized dogs need room to grow. Though quiet indoors, an apartment is probably not suitable. Needs a large vehicle for transportation. As a sighthound, a safe, securely fenced yard is a must.
  • Preferred living conditions: This dog prefers to be around people and is not suitable for a kennel. Needs room. A safe open area for running is a must.

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Regular brushing and combing of the rough coat as well as a twice-yearly stripping of dead growth. An average shedder.
  • Exercise needs: Daily walk, but take care not to strain young growing dogs too much.
  • Life expectancy: 6-8 years.
  • Health concerns: May be prone to bloat. Feeds several small meals of quality food rather than one large meal. Hip dysplasia, cardiomyopathy, bone cancer,
    PRA, and Von Willebrands.

Breed Club Links: Irish Wolfhound Club of America Perfect Pairings: We recommend elevated feeders to put less strain on this large breed's body and minimize the risk of bloat.

Have any stories about an Irish Wolfhound? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Philip Wilson.

This entry was posted by Mary.
Fish stonge on February 10 at 9:21 PM said:

They are beautiful animals, we have 2 rescues, pit mix & jack Russell mix & to papered, a pit bull & South African baurbal, 4 cats( they all get along dogs & cats) the pit does most of the coyote chasing- need a replacement, has to be young so he/ she can adjust to the situation. Looking in the next year- I shop for quality not price. Have 10 acres, looking for 50.u can try me on face book, fish stonge
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