Irish Wolfhound Breed Information

“The Irish Wolfhound is a very large and powerful breed, known for its gentle temperament, noble bearing and impressive height that reaches up to 34 inches tall, originally bred for hunting large game like wolves.”


About the Irish Wolfhound

Group: Hound

The Irish Wolfhound, often considered a gentle giant, stands as one of the tallest breeds in the world. Their towering stature can be intimidating, but these dogs are known for their loving, sweet nature, making them the friendliest giants you’ll ever meet. While they enjoy lounging around with their loved ones, they do require moderate exercise to keep their large frames healthy. Bred for hunting, they retain a strong prey drive, but with their inherent love for their human companions, they can be well-behaved around other pets if introduced correctly.

Despite their many lovable qualities, Irish Wolfhounds can be a challenge for new dog owners due to their size. They need ample living space and strong leadership to curb any potential unruly behavior. Their short lifespan, typically 6-8 years, is also a heartbreaking aspect of the breed. Specialized nutrition is needed to maintain their health, which, together with potential medical expenses, makes their ownership a significant investment. Nevertheless, for those ready to open their homes and hearts, the Irish Wolfhound’s loyalty and affection are truly unmatched.

Physical information

Male Female
Average Height 34 – 35 inches 32 – 34 inches
Average Weight 140 – 180 lbs. 115 – 140 lbs.
Life Expectancy 6 – 10 years 6 – 10 years

Irish Wolfhound Breed Standard

The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard for the Irish Wolfhound breed emphasizes the following key aspects:

  1. General Appearance: The Irish Wolfhound is a breed of great size and commanding appearance, known for its remarkable combination of strength and swiftness coupled with a keen sight.
  2. Size and Proportion: This breed is among the tallest of dogs, with a powerful build and strong neck and back, yet their overall appearance is one of grace and elegance.
  3. Head: The head is long and level, carried high, with a moderate length of skull and a slightly arched muzzle. The eyes are dark, expressive, and not too large; ears are small and carried back against the head when the dog is relaxed.
  4. Body: The body is muscular and well-built, with a deep chest and well-sprung ribs. The tail is long and slightly curved, carried with an upward sweep.
  5. Temperament: The Irish Wolfhound is known for its gentle and friendly nature, displaying dignity and good-natured temperament. They are loyal and affectionate to their owners, intelligent and trustworthy.
  6. Gait: The movement is easy and active, with a long stride that is true and straight. They exhibit both power and elegance, covering the ground effortlessly.
  • Acceptable Colors: Grey, Brindle, Red, Black, Pure White, Fawn, Wheaten and Steel Grey.
  • Acceptable Markings: The AKC breed standard does not mention specific acceptable markings for the Irish Wolfhound. However, it does note that color and markings are of little to no significance and do not affect the dog’s ability or worthiness for shows.

Personality and Ownership Rankings

Good with kids
Shedding Level
Grooming Needs
Drool Level
Energy Level

Breed Highlights

  • Patience: Irish Wolfhounds are known for their extraordinary patience, making them excellent companions for families with small children.
  • Loyalty: Highly loyal, they form strong bonds with their families and make both loving and protective pets.
  • Size: Their unique size and nimble strength are captivating, but also mean they need plenty of space and exercise.
  • Gentle Nature: Despite their towering size, they are incredibly gentle and sensitive, often described as “gentle giants”.
  • Intelligence: They are smart and relatively easy to train, but need firm, consistent guidance to prevent stubbornness.

National Breed Clubs and Rescues

Clubs and Organizations

Rescue Organizations

Care Needs

The Irish Wolfhound, as a giant breed, has some unique healthcare requirements. Their substantial size makes them prone to certain health issues such as heart disease, hip dysplasia, and bone cancer. It is crucial for an owner to ensure regular vet check-ups and appropriate diet for this breed. This comprehensive article provides detailed information about Irish Wolfhound health care advice, including symptoms to watch out for and preventative measures to take.

Recommended Health Tests

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Liver Shunt Screening

Exercise Needs

Though known for their calm and relaxed temperament, Irish Wolfhounds require a moderate level of exercise to maintain their health and happiness. They should receive regular walks and have access to a spacious yard where they can stretch their legs. Considering their large size and running heritage, it’s vital not to over-exercise them, especially while they’re still growing. For more detailed advice on exercise routines and precautions, this informative article comes in handy.

Actionable Exercise Advice

  • Provide daily walks and playtime.
  • Embed low-impact exercises in the daily routine.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, especially in puppies.
  • Be mindful of their large size when planning their exercises.

Training Needs

Irish Wolfhounds are intelligent dogs and are usually fairly easy to train with the right approach. They respond best to gentle, patient, and consistent training methods and excel with positive reinforcement. Early socialization is essential for this breed to help them become well-rounded dogs. For detailed training insights and advice, consider this expert guide from the Irish Wolfhound Club of America.

Actionable Training Advice

  • Start training when they are puppies.
  • Use positive reinforcement training methods.
  • Socialize your Irish Wolfhound early with a variety of people and situations.
  • Consistency is key in training sessions.

Nutrition Needs

The Irish Wolfhound, as a giant breed, has specific dietary needs to ensure they grow and develop properly, while also maintaining a healthy weight. Appropriate balanced diet should include high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, along with essential vitamins and minerals. Understanding their nutritional needs is crucial for their overall health, longevity, and quality of life. This comprehensive guide provides more information and guidance about the biology-based nutritional requirements of giant breeds like the Irish Wolfhound.

Actionable Nutrition Advice

  • Provide a balanced diet with a mix of high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Avoid overfeeding to prevent obesity, especially considering their low energy level.
  • Feed puppies a diet specifically designed for large breed puppies to ensure proper bone development.
  • Provide meals in several smaller portions throughout the day to prevent bloating.

Irish Wolfhound Breed History

The Irish Wolfhound is a historic breed with a rich, storied past that dates back as far as 391 AD. Originating from Ireland, they are known to have been trusted hunting companions, often referred to as “wolf dogs,” due to their role in hunting wolves and other large game. The breed almost faced extinction during the 19th century. However, a passionate enthusiast named George Augustus Graham took it upon himself to revive the breed, carefully crossbreeding them with the Deerhound and other breeds to retain the Wolfhound’s unique traits.

The first breed standards of the Irish Wolfhound were set by Graham, ensuring their survival and recognition. These dogs are distinct in their appearance, boasting a muscular build, long legs, and a rugged coat. Though massive in size, they are known for their kind and gentle disposition.

Over time, the breed’s popularity grew; they are now recognized globally and cherished for their unique traits and behaviors. The Kennel Club recognized the breed in late 1925, solidifying their status among pedigree breeds. Despite its historical value and critical acclaim, the breed faced several genetic health issues due to a small gene pool, leading to concerted efforts among breeders to increase healthy genetic diversity among the breed.

Today, the Irish Wolfhound’s attributes transcend their physical prowess and hunting capabilities. They are celebrated for their calm and friendly demeanor, their loyalty towards their human families, and their high adaptability. Despite their imposing physical stature, these dogs are known for their patient, even-tempered character, adorably stark contrast to their considerable size. Their imposing yet loyal character resonates with dog lovers worldwide, ensuring the breed’s survival and ongoing appeal among dog enthusiasts.

Irish Wolfhound Fun Facts

  • The Tallest Dog Breed: The Irish Wolfhound holds the title for being the tallest breed of dog, with adult males standing at an average of 2-3 feet at the shoulder.
  • Ancient Warriors: Back in the day, these giant dogs were used in wars to pull men off horses and chariots. They were known as ‘war dogs’.
  • Hunted Extinct Animals: Irish Wolfhounds were originally bred for hunting wolves and Irish elk, an animal species that is now extinct, showing their ancient roots.
  • Family Protectors: Despite their size and history as hunting dogs, Irish Wolfhounds are known to be excellent protectors and are very gentle with children.
  • Card Game Stars: A sign of their cultural significance in Ireland, Irish Wolfhounds are depicted on the face cards of the most popular card game in Ireland, known as Macabre.
  • A Symbol of Ireland: Irish Wolfhounds have a deep-seated cultural significance in Ireland, to the extent that they’re considered a symbol of the country and appear in its folklore and mythology.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How big does an Irish Wolfhound get?

Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest breed of dog, with adult males standing at an average of 2-3 feet tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 180 pounds.

2. Are Irish Wolfhounds good with children and other pets?

Yes, they are often described as “gentle giants”. Their patient and calm demeanor makes them great companions for children and they generally get along well with other pets.

3. How much exercise does an Irish Wolfhound need?

Despite their size, they don’t require as much exercise as some breeds. Regular walks and moderate play in a secure area are usually sufficient.

4. What is the lifespan of an Irish Wolfhound?

The average lifespan of an Irish Wolfhound is typically between 6 and 8 years, but with proper care, they’ve been known to live longer.

5. Are Irish Wolfhounds easy to train?

Yes, their intelligent and eagerness to please make them relatively easy to train, but they respond best to gentle, consistent methods.

Breeds Similar to the Irish Wolfhound

  • Scottish Deerhound: The Scottish Deerhound is closely related to the Irish Wolfhound and shares many characteristics, such as a calm temperament, a need for moderate exercise, and friendliness towards children and other pets. Their history as hunting dogs also means they both love to chase.
  • Great Dane: Like the Irish Wolfhound, Great Danes are giant dog breeds known for their gentle nature and love of their families. They require similar amounts of exercise and are also known for forming very strong bonds with their owners.
  • Bernese Mountain Dog: While Bernese Mountain Dogs are not as large, they share a similar calm demeanor, friendliness, and loyalty. They love being part of family activities and getting moderate exercise, so they could be a good alternative for someone considering an Irish Wolfhound.
  • Greyhound: Greyhounds are known for their speed, while Irish Wolfhounds are known for their size. However, they have similar temperaments – both breeds are gentle, intelligent and surprisingly low-energy given their physical abilities. A Greyhound could also appeal to those considering an Irish Wolfhound, but who may want a smaller dog.