Irish Wolfhound

PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: March 16, 2009

Known as the world's largest breed, the Irish Wolfhound is a strong and sturdy giant whose temperament is gentle and noble. The Irish Wolfhound makes an excellent addition to any family that can offer plenty of space to accommodate this breed's size.

Physical Characteristics

A large size is highly preferred in this breed. However, the Irish Wolfhound dog should also have a graceful build, with an active and easy gait, while proudly keeping its head high. Resembling the rough-coated Greyhound, the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest sighthound with a strong build. The dog’s rough coat is effective in providing protection from cold and damp weather and even from the teeth of the opponents. The coat can also be wiry and long, under the jaw and over the eyes.

Personality and Temperament

Although the hound is huge, it is very gentle, easygoing, and soft natured. The dog remains calm indoors and is sensitive, easygoing, patient, and lovable. This breed is very friendly with unknown people, gentle with pets, other dogs and children and is brave when required.


When it comes to the dog’s care, its coat requires to be combed or brushed two times in a week and at times it is a good idea to trim its stray hair. Dead hair needs to be stripped twice a year. The hound loves stretching its legs and long walks, thus daily exercise is a must. Indoors the dog requires a lot of good space to stretch its body on a soft surface. Lying frequently on hard areas can cause the development of calluses.


The Irish Wolfhound dog, which has a lifespan of five to seven years, may suffer from von Willebrand's Disease (vWD), progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and megaesophagus. It is also prone to minor health problems like cardiomyopathy, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), osteosarcoma, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run hip and cardiac exams on this breed of dog. In addition, Irish Wolfhounds are known to be suscetible to tail-tip injuries and do not tolerate barbiturate anesthesia.

History and Background

The Irish Wolfhound was mentioned for the first time in Rome in 391 A.D. The dog gained a great deal of reputation for its ability to fight with wild animals during sports and also for its noble stature. It is said that big dogs were transported from Greece to Ireland by 1500 B.C. The dogs’ stature became more imposing in Ireland and they were offered as gifts to Rome. The breed was so famous in Ireland that many legends were spun about the dog’s bravery in chasing and battle.

In Irish the breed is known as Cu Faoil and there was a time when every big hound was referred to as Cu, which spoke of bravery. Irish chieftains regarded the breed as exceedingly good hunters of Irish elk and wolves. Pictures of these dogs date back to the 17th century, bearing much resemblance to modern day Irish Wolfhounds.

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