Illustration of Irish Wolfhound

Although originally the breed was smooth coated or rough coated, only the rough coated variety exists today. It is thought that Phoenician sailors brought dogs of greyhound type from the Middles East to Ireland and these dogs were crossed with Mastiffs to produce a dog of gigantic size with the speed and strength to see off wolves which were a great threat to livestock in Ireland. By the end of the 18th century the wolf was extinct in Ireland and breed numbers dwindled. With the Great Famine in Ireland 1840s the breed became very rare.

However, a group of devotees lead by the Scotsman Captain George Augustus Graham developed a breeding programme to revive the breed, with the few Irish Wolfhounds which had survived using outcrosses with the heavier type of Deerhound, the Great Dane and the Tibetan Mastiff. The Irish Wolfhound is reputed to be the tallest of the hound breeds and the biggest of all breeds. Despite his size he is gentle and calm: truly a gentle giant.

The Hound Breed Group

Breeds originally used for hunting either by scent or by sight. The scent hounds include the Beagle and Bloodhound and the sight hounds such breeds as the Whippet and Greyhound. Many of them enjoy a significant amount of exercise and can be described as dignified, aloof but trustworthy companions.

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