IRISH WOLFHOUND APPEARANCE:
These dogs are the tallest breed, with a swift pace and good sight. They have a rough coat (gray, brindle, red, black, pure white, or fawn), a large arrow-shaped head, and a long, muscular neck.
The Irish Wolfhound is usually known as the tallest dog in the world, averaging up to 86 cm (34 inches) at the withers, a fact that sometimes is its biggest disadvantage when attracting owners who have no concern for its special needs. As with all breeds, the ideal and accepted measurements vary somewhat from one standard to another, and there will always be individuals whose size falls outside these standards. However, generally breeders aim for a height averaging 32 to 34 inches (81 cm to 86 cm) in male dogs, two to four inches (5 to 10 cm) less for bitches. Acceptable weight minimums range from 105 lb (48 kg) for bitches to 120 lb (54 kg) for males.
The breed is very old, possibly from the first century BCE or earlier, bred as war dogs by the ancient Celts, who called them Cú Faoil. The Irish continued to breed them for this purpose, as well as to course for deer and wolves, hence the name of the breed. Their astonishing size, speed, intelligence and amiable nature made them ideal hunting animals for large game, or perhaps too ideal, as the wolf is now extinct in Ireland. The Irish Wolfhound has been recorded as being exhibited in Ancient Rome to some excitement, and Greek vases from the same period depict hoplites battling war dogs that are unmistakably Irish Wolfhounds.
Due to a massive export into various countries as a gift for royalty and a ban that allowed only royalty to own such a dog, the breed almost vanished in the middle of the 19th century. Captain Graham rebred the Irish Wolfhound with the Deerhound, Great Dane, and other breeds; this saved the breed, but had the inevitable effect of altering its appearance.
Wolfhounds should not receive additional supplements when a good dog chow is used. It is generally accepted that they should be fed a large breed puppy food until 18 months of age and then change to a large breed adult food.
By the age of 8 months, the dogs appear adult, and many owners start stressing them too much. Outstretched limbs and irreparable damage are the result. Wolfhounds need at least 18 months to be ready for lure coursing, running as a sport, and other strenuous activities.
Heart disease and bone cancer are the leading cause of death and like all deep-chested dogs, gastric torsion (bloat) is always a possibility. Otherwise they are generally a healthy dog with few if any breed specific illnesses. The average lifespan is around 6 to 7 years, though breeders are doing their best to increase this, with some animals now reaching 10 years or more.
In temperament, they are considered gentle and friendly, very calm in the house, enjoying long sleeps but energetic when taken for walks. Despite their great size and sometimes intimidating appearance, wolfhounds are sensitive and should be corrected firmly but without anger. They should be socialized from a young age so that they have a chance to gather experience.