Irish Wolfhound

FCI standard Nº 160

Origin
Ireland
Group
Group 10 Sighthounds
Section
Section 2 Rough-haired Sighthounds
Working
Without working trial
Acceptance on a definitive basis by the FCI
Tuesday 26 April 1955
Publication of the official valid standard
Tuesday 13 March 2001
Last update
Monday 02 April 2001
En français, cette race se dit
Lévrier irlandais
Diese Norm ist in deutscher Sprache sichtbar
Irischer Wolfshund
En español, esta raza se dice
Lebrel irlandés
In het Nederlands, wordt dit ras gezegd
Ierse Wolfshond

Usage

Up to the end of the17th century, Irish Wolfhounds were used for hunting wolves and deer in Ireland. They were also used for hunting the wolves that infested large areas of Europe before the forests were cleared.

Brief historical summary

We know the continental Celts kept a greyhound probably descended from the greyhound first depicted in Egyptian paintings. Like their continental cousins, the Irish Celts were interested in breeding large hounds. These large Irish hounds could have had smooth or rough coats, but in later times, the rough coat predominated possibly because of the Irish climate. The first written account of these dogs was by a Roman Consul 391 A.D. but they were already established in Ireland in the first century A.D. when Setanta changed his name to Cu-Chulainn (the hound of Culann). Mention is made of the Uisneach (1st century) taking 150 hounds with them in their flight to Scotland. Irish hounds undoubtedly formed the basis of the Scottish Deerhound. Pairs of Irish hounds were prized as gifts by the Royal houses of Europe, Scandinavia and elsewhere from the Middle ages to the 17th century. They were sent to England, Spain, France, Sweden, Denmark, Persia, India and Poland. In the15th century each county in Ireland was required to keep 24 wolfdogs to protect farmers' flocks from the ravages of wolves. The Cromwellian prohibition (1652) on the export of Wolfhounds helped preserve their number for a time but the gradual disappearance of the wolf and continued demand abroad reduced their numbers almost to the point of extinction by the end of the 17th century.
The revival of interest in the breed accompanied the growth of Irish nationalism in the late 19th century. The Irish Wolfhound became a living symbol of Irish culture and of the Celtic past. At this time, one determined enthusiast, Capt. G A Graham, set about obtaining some of the few remaining hounds of the Wolfhound type that could still be found in Ireland, and with the use of Deerhound blood and the occasional outcross of Borzoi and Great Dane, he eventually achieved a type of dog that bred true in every generation. The results were ultimately accepted as a legitimate revival of the breed. The Irish Kennel Club scheduled a class for Irish Wolfhounds at their show in April 1879, and a club was formed in 1885. The Irish Wolfhound now enjoys once again something of the reputation that it had in the Middle Ages. Wolfhounds are now owned and bred in fairly large numbers outside of Ireland.

General appearance

The Irish Wolfhound should not be quite so heavy or massive as the Great Dane, but more so than the Deerhound, which in general type he should otherwise resemble. Of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly though gracefully built, movements easy and active; head and neck carried high; the tail carried with an upward sweep with a slight curve towards the extremity.
Great size, including height at shoulder and proportionate length of body, is the desideratum to be aimed at, and it is desired to firmly establish a race that shall average 32 inches (81cm) to 34 inches (86cm) in dogs, showing the requisite power, activity, courage and symmetry.

Behaviour / temperament

“Lambs at home, lions in the chase”.

Head

Cranial region

Head
Long and level, carried high; the frontal bones of the forehead very slightly raised and very little indentation between the eyes.
Skull
Not too broad. 

Facial region

Muzzle
Long and moderately pointed.
Jaws and teeth
Scissor bite ideal, level acceptable.
Eyes
Dark.
Ears
Small, rose ears (Greyhound like in carriage).

Neck

Rather long, very strong and muscular, well arched, without dewlap or loose skin about the throat.

Body

Body
Long, well ribbed up.
Back
Rather long than short.
Loin
Slightly arched.
Croup
Great breadth across hips.
Chest
Very deep, moderately broad, breast wide.
Ribs
Well sprung.
Underline and belly
Well drawn up.

Tail

Long and slightly curved, of moderate thickness, and well covered with hair.

Limbs

Forequarters

Shoulders
Muscular, giving breadth of chest, set sloping.
Elbows
Well under, neither turned inwards nor outwards.
Forearm
Muscular, heavily boned, quite straight.

Hindquarters

Upper thigh
Long and muscular.
Lower thigh
Well muscled, long and strong.
Stifle
Nicely bent.
Hock
Well let down and turning neither in nor out.

Feet

Moderately large and round, neither turned inward nor outwards. Toes, well arched and closed. Nails, very strong and curved.

Gait and movement

Movements easy and active.

Coat

Hair
Rough and hard on body, legs and head; especially wiry. Hair over eyes and beard especially wiry.
Colour
The recognised colours are grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn or any colour that appears in the Deerhound.

Size and weight

Height at withers
Desired height : averaging 32 inches (81cm) to 34 inches (86cm) in dogs.
Minimum height : Dogs 31 inches (79 cm).
Minimum height : Bitches 28 inches (71 cm).
Weight
Minimum weight : Dogs 120 pounds (54.5kg).
Minimum weight : Bitches 90 pounds (40.5 kg).

Faults

• Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Faults listed should be in degree of seriousness.

General faults

 Too light or too heavy a head.
 Too highly arched frontal bone.
 Crooked forelegs; weak pasterns.
 Weak hindquarters and a general want of muscle.
 Too short in body.
 Back sunken or hollow or quite straight.
 Large ears and hanging flat to the face.
 Twisted feet.
 Spreading toes.
 Short neck; full dewlap.
 Chest too narrow or too broad.
 Tail excessively curled.
 Nose of any colour other than black.
 Lips of any colour other than black.
 Very light eyes.
 Pink or liver coloured eyelids.

Disqualifying faults

 Aggressive or overly shy dogs.

NB :

• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• The above mentioned faults when occurring to a highly marked degree or frequently are disqualifying.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.

Bibliography

http://www.fci.be/

 

Additional information from visitors

This magnificient breed is of ancient origin, descended from Molossian hounds and Asian mastiffs introduced to Ireland by the Celts and Romans well over 2000 years ago. In the past the Irish Wolfhound was owned only by the royalty, but this doesn't mean that only a few of these hounds existed. In fact, there were hundreds upon hundreds, seing how old Ireland was divided among 150 kingdoms. Employed as a hunter of wild boars, elk and other game, as well as the exterminator of wolves, the mighty Cu Faoil also made an excellent war dog, used for knocking the enemy horsemen to the ground and mauling them. This breed was also a capable herder and watchdog. The Irish Wolfhound is mentioned in a number of Celtic myths and historical stories of Ireland. One of the most famous ones is of course the story of Gelert, a dog given to Llewellyn, the King of Wales in 1210 by Prince John of England. This practice of giving dogs away as gifts to foreign nobilty, coupled with the disappearance of wolves from Ireland greatly contributed to the breed's decline in numbers from the mid-1700's to the early 19th century, even though the exportation of Irish Wolfhounds was officially banned as early as 1652.
Reduced to the role of a companion animal and property guardian, the Irish Wolfhound was nearing extinction when a number of fanciers decided to save the breed in the 1800's. While living in Dublin, a Scottish Major H.D.Richardson wrote a book about dogs called "The Dog: Its Origin, Natural History and Varieties". In this book he claims that the Irish Wolfhound is a heavier variety of the Scottish Deerhound breed. Richardson started a breeding programme to save the great Irish Hound by using the Glengarry type of Scottish Deerhounds, Spanish Hounds, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, Serbian Greyhounds and a number of other breeds. Another noteworthy breeder was the Earl of Caledon, who crossed his Irish Hounds with Great Danes. However, it is Captain George Augustus Graham who is credited as the saviour of the Irish Wolfhound. He was successful in reviving the breed in the 1860's by crossing Richardson's hounds with dogs of Earl of Caledon and introducing Russian Wolfhounds, Tibetan Mastiffs, Greyhounds and other breeds into the breeding programme. This incarnation of the Irish Wolfhound was first shown in 1870's and the official breed Standard was written in 1885, although crossings with Scottish Deerhounds and Great Danes continued for the next 40 years.
Both World Wars had a devastating effect on the Irish Wolfhound, but efforts of dedicated breeders and the sheer popularity of the breed ensured its survival. This is presently one of the most popular dogs worldwide, thanks to its calm and sensitive personality and noble good looks. Tall, deep-chested and powerful, the Irish Wolfhound is one of the largest breeds in the world and makes an intimidating watchdog. It is devoted to its owner and generally gets along with people, but some specimens can be overly reserved and suspicious around strangers, needing early socialization and obedience training. This is an intelligent and reliable breed, playful and gentle with children, making a good family pet. However, it needs plentiful excercise and a fair amount of grooming. The coat is rough and dense, coming in shades of white, gray, fawn, red and brindle. Average height is around 33 inches, but taller examples can be encountered.

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