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Breed Profile: Irish Wolfhound

If you like a WHOLE lotta dog, then the Irish Wolfhound definitely needs to be on your dog breed shortlist! They're one of the tallest dog breeds out there, but they're also friendly and gentle, which makes them a great choice as a family pet - provided you have the space and stamina to keep them moving!

History of the Irish Wolfhound

They may be called Irish Wolfhounds now, but they actually have ancient roots. In fact, Irish Wolfhounds were first mentioned as far back as AD 391, in ancient ROME!

They started out as fighting dogs, known for their ability to face wild animals in the arena, and then became the favourite hunting companions of Irish chieftains. Their ancestors were given as gifts to foreign monarchs. Then the wolf died out in Ireland, and the Irish Wolfhound started to lose popularity.

By the start of the famine in 1845, the breed had almost disappeared, and that event nearly finished the job. Fortunately, however, in 1869, a fan of the breed named Captain G. A. Graham decided to save the breed, and started to cross breed one of the last remaining Irish Wolfhounds with Scottish Deerhounds, Great Danes and other large breeds, and just a few short years late in the mid 1870s, the Irish Wolfhound made it's dog show debut.

The rest, as they say, is history, and while Irish Wolfhounds aren't common, they are certainly instantly recognizable wherever they go.

General Physical Characteristics of the Irish Wolfhound

The first thing you notice about the Irish Wolfhound is it's size. At between 105 and 120 lbs and standing over 32" (for the adult male) there's no way you can miss this dog in a crowd!

They can be grey, brindle, black, white, fawn or red, and another common trait is their longish, shaggy, almost wiry coat.

They have long heads and muzzles, small, triangular ears and expressive eyes. The combination of a deep chest, long back with curved loins and drawn up belly means that while they are tall, they're not a bulky looking dog breed. A long, slightly curved tail and large feet complete the picture, and to be honest, once you have seen one Irish Wolfhound, it's impossible to mistake them for anything else!

Temperament and Character of the Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are the very definition of gentle giants. They are calm, patient, sensitive and friendly. They're great with children, other dogs and other pets, and they are laid back and easygoing.

While they are generally friendly even with strangers, they're not timid, and they won't hesitate to step in and be the hero when the need arises.

Lifespan of the Irish Wolfhound

One of the greatest tragedies of sharing your life with a large breed dog is that they tend to have shorter life spans, and the Irish Wolfhound is no exception. The average lifespan of this wonderful breed is only about five to seven years, but they will be BIG, wonderful years!

Common Health and Personality Issues in Basset Hounds

The Irish Wolfhound, for all their shorter life expectancy, are generally fairly healthy dogs. However, there are a few conditions that are more common in the breed. These include:

  1. Like most large dogs, gastric torsion or bloat is always a concern. Pay extra attention around meal times, and treat any suspected instance as a medical emergency.
  2. Elbow and hip dysplasia are also common among these large dogs.
  3. Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, is another relatively common condition in Irish Wolfhounds.
  4. They might also develop other bone conditions, so it's worth working with your veterinarian to spot any problems early.
  5. Irish Wolfhounds might be more inclined to develop von Willebrand Disease, which is a clotting disorder.

As always, if you are going to bring a pure breed dog into your life, look for reputable breeders only, ask about family history, particularly of hereditary conditions, and speak to your vet about preemptive testing.

An Irish Wolfhound is a lot of dog, but they also have giant hearts, and are loving, amazing dogs to be around. If you have the room in your life to give one the loving, active, peaceful home they love, it's a great choice of family dog.

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