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Irish Wolfhound Dog Breed: Pictures, Info, History & More

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

irish wolfhound lying on the grass

Irish Wolfhound Dog Breed: Pictures, Info, History & More

Do you love large dogs? Do you think the larger the dog, the better? Then, you might end up adoring the Irish Wolfhound! This dog breed is the tallest one, standing 30 to 32 inches from the withers. Their stature may seem a bit imposing, but in reality, these pups are gentle, loving, and loyal.

If you might be interested in adopting one, you should know more about the breed, though. That’s why we’ve gathered together everything you should know about the Irish Wolfhound, from their temperament to what sort of health issues they face. Keep reading for all you need to know to make an informed decision about adopting one of these pups!

Breed Overview

Height:

30–32 inches

Weight:

105–120 pounds

Lifespan:

6–8 years

Colors:

Black, gray, brindle, cream, red, silver, white, blue

Suitable for:

Families, those with plenty of room

Temperament:

Loyal, patient, sweet, calm

The Irish Wolfhound is an exceptionally old breed. These pups were around in the days of ancient Rome and were used for hunting now-extinct elk that are rumored to have been massive. Later on, they became hunters of wolves and other big game in Ireland (and did so well at this that they put themselves out of a job!). Despite their rather ferocious beginnings, though, these canines are known for their patience and gentleness these days.

Irish Wolfhound Characteristics

Energy
+
High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Trainability
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Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Health
+
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Lifespan
+
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Sociability
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Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Irish Wolfhound Puppies

Two Irish Wolfhound puppies in the garden
Image By: Zuzule, Shutterstock

We suggest looking at rescue organizations for an Irish Wolfhound first. There are several rescues for Irish Wolfhounds in the United States, and they sometimes have puppies (though they may be older puppies). Many of the dogs at rescues had owners who loved them but found that they couldn’t care for such a large dog, so make sure you have the space for an Irish Wolfhound before adopting one. Even though they start out small, they grow quickly into giants!

However, if you don’t find what you’re looking for from the rescue organizations, you’ll likely need to try a breeder. Ensure you’re going through a reputable breeder for one of these pups, though. Reputable breeders will prioritize the health of their Irish Wolfhounds and do all the required health screenings.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest canine breed, so they can seem imposing at first glance. Add in the breed’s past as war dogs, and you might expect a rather ferocious dog. However, you’d be wrong!

These pups may be large, but they are some of the gentlest dogs around. They get along with pretty much anyone—people, dogs, and even cats—and have seemingly limitless patience when it comes to children. The breed is also on the quiet side and tends to be relatively calm, so you don’t need to worry much about them running around the house and knocking things over. That said, they are also fairly clumsy the first couple of years of their lives, so watch out for that!

These dogs are fiercely loyal to their humans. Because they tend to make friends with almost everyone they meet, they aren’t the best watchdogs (but their vast size can be an automatic deterrent to others). Though the breed isn’t aggressive, they are brave. They’re also quite intelligent and eager to please their people.

young irish wolfhound dog standing in the snow
Image By: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Provided you have enough room for the Irish Wolfhound (inside and outside your home), these dogs make fantastic family pets. They get along well with children and are full of patience for little ones. You should always keep an eye on children around this dog, though. Due to the breed’s size, they could accidentally knock over a child during play.

Also, consider the breed’s lifespan before adopting one. Due to their large size, these canines only live a short time (6 to 8 years). If you have children, you may want to think about how well they would handle that; you might realize that a breed with a longer lifespan is a better option.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽 

Due to their friendly nature, this breed can absolutely get along with other pets. They’ll get along with other canines best, whether they’ve grown up with the other dogs in the home or you’re bringing the Irish Wolfhound in later.

These dogs can get along with cats, but you’ll need to extensively socialize them early on. Because Irish Wolfhounds are sighthounds, they have a rather significant prey drive, so they can be prone to chasing smaller animals. Introducing an Irish Wolfhound to your cat when they are a puppy can go a long way in helping the two get along. Also, due to this breed’s prey drive, you don’t want to leave these dogs alone with smaller animals like gerbils or rabbits at all, as the Irish Wolfhound could give chase.

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Things to Know When Owning an Irish Wolfhound:

What else should you know about these giant canines? Everything from what to feed them to the sorts of health conditions they can be prone to developing! All the information you need to care for the Irish Wolfhound is below.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Your Irish Wolfhound should be fed high-quality dog food that corresponds to their life stage and is designed for large dog breeds. This way, you can make sure your pup gets all the nutrients they need to grow as they should and replenish the energy they burn. If you’re unsure whether the suggested amount of food on the bag is correct for your pup, speak to your dog’s vet about how much you should feed them.

As a large breed, the Irish Wolfhound has a deep chest cavity, making them more likely to get bloat than other breeds. Bloat can be deadly and is associated with eating too fast or too much at a time, as well as engaging in strenuous activity right before or after feeding time. Keep individual meals well-portioned to avoid this, and if your dog eats too quickly, try out a puzzle feeder to slow them down.

Irish Wolfhound dog running in the field
Image By: Oksamutnaya, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

You might think a larger dog would need more exercise than a smaller one, but that isn’t the case for the Irish Wolfhound. These canines need daily exercise, but they’re only moderately active, so you don’t need to exercise them more than 30 to 45 minutes a day. They’ll enjoy long walks and good romps in the backyard, but because of their prey drive, only take their leash off in an area you know they can’t escape (such as your backyard). Otherwise, these dogs could see a squirrel, chase after it, and be gone in a blink!

While walks and playtime are great ways to meet your Irish Wolfhound’s exercise needs, these dogs also do well in canine sports like agility. Setting up an agility course in the backyard for your dog could be another excellent way to meet their daily exercise requirements.

Training 🎾

Irish Wolfhounds are highly intelligent and eager to please, so they tend to pick up on things quickly. Use positive reinforcement with them during training and begin training and socialization early on. While you can train this breed on your own if you have the know-how, puppy training classes are also recommended for these dogs. The Irish Wolfhound matures more slowly than some other breeds, so while they’re quick to learn, they might take a bit longer to train than a breed that matures more quickly.

Grooming ✂️

This breed has a rough, wiry outer coat and a softer undercoat. While Irish Wolfhounds do shed year-round, they don’t shed a ton. Thoroughly brushing them once a week will help immensely in keeping their coats free of dirt and any loose hair.

Besides brushing them weekly, you’ll want to keep your Irish Wolfhound’s nails neat and trim to avoid problems. If you feel up to the task, you can cut these yourself or get your vet or a groomer to do it. These pups should also have their teeth brushed regularly to help prevent dental problems.

You’ll also want to bathe your Irish Wolfhound occasionally. They won’t require many baths, though, as overbathing could lead to duller coats and irritated skin. Due to their size, you may want to take them to your vet or a groomer for this. Otherwise, you might end up bathing them in the backyard!

Two irish wolfhounds in the field
Image By: DragoNika, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

Unfortunately, the Irish Wolfhound is prone to developing quite a few health conditions. It doesn’t mean that yours will develop any of these; it’s just that the potential is there. Ensuring your pup comes from a reputable breeder (if you go that route) means that a dog should have been pre-screened or tested for many of these.

Minor Conditions
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD)
Serious Conditions
  • Anesthesia sensitivity
  • Bloat
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy
  • Liver shunt
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)

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Male vs Female

The only real differences between male and female Irish Wolfhounds will be their size and how much it costs to have them fixed. Males of this breed will be roughly 2 inches taller and roughly 15 pounds heavier than females. It will also cost less to have males neutered than females spayed. Whether a male or female Irish Wolfhound is right for your family will mostly depend on your personal preference.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Irish Wolfhound

Want to learn even more about these gorgeous pups? Here are a few more facts about the Irish Wolfhound that you might not have known!

1. Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest dogs.

We mentioned it before, but these dogs are the tallest dog breed around. Some of these pups are almost 7 feet tall when standing on their hind legs! Standing on all four legs, the males reach 32 inches at the withers.


2. The Irish legend, “Gelert, the Faithful Hound”, is said to have been inspired by this breed.

The tale is one of extreme loyalty and immense regret and remorse. Whether or not it was actually inspired by the Irish Wolfhound isn’t known for sure, but it is believed this is just one of many legends inspired by these dogs.


3. This breed almost went extinct because they were too good at their job.

The Irish Wolfhound was initially used to hunt wolves, elk, and more. However, by the end of the 1700s, these dogs had helped to hunt wolves and other big game almost to extinction, which meant there really wasn’t a need for them any longer. As a result, the breed almost went extinct themselves.

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Final Thoughts

The Irish Wolfhound may be the largest dog around, but these canines are incredibly gentle. Loving, loyal, intelligent, and friendly, these pups make wonderful family pets. They have great patience when it comes to children and can get along with almost everyone they meet, including other animals. Because of their massive size, though, they do require a lot of room, both inside the home and out; these definitely aren’t apartment dogs! Provided you have enough room for one and you’re not put off by their short lifespan, the Irish Wolfhound could be the perfect pet for you.


Featured Image Credit: Jana Oudova, Shutterstock

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