The Irish wolfhound (Irish: Cú Faoil, Irish pronunciation: [ˈkuː ˈfˠiːlʲ]) is a breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), specifically a sighthound. The name originates from its purpose (wolf hunting) rather than from its appearance. Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest dog breed on average.
The standard of The American Kennel Club describes the breed as "Of great size and commanding appearance, the Irish Wolfhound is remarkable in combining power and swiftness with keen sight. The largest and tallest of the galloping hounds, in general type he is a rough-coated, Greyhound-like breed; very muscular, strong 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." The colours allowed by The Kennel Club are "grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey" The American Kennel Club allows "any other color that appears in the Deerhound". The size as specified by the KC is "Minimum height for dogs: 79 cms (31 ins), females: 71 cms (28 ins). Minimum weight: 54.5 kgs (120 lbs) for dogs, 40.9 kgs (90 lbs) for females. Great size, including height of shoulder and proportionate length of body is to be aimed at, and it is desired to firmly establish a breed that shall average from 81-86 cms (32-34 ins) in dogs."
An easygoing animal, they are usually quiet by nature. Wolfhounds often create a strong bond with their family and can become quite destructive or morose if left for long periods. Despite the need for their own people, wolfhounds generally are somewhat stand-offish with total strangers. They should not be territorially aggressive to other domestic dogs but are born with specialized skills and it is common for hounds at play to course another dog. This is a specific hunting behaviour, not a fighting or territorial domination behaviour. Most wolfhounds are very gentle with children and are aware of their size and power. The Irish wolfhound is relatively easy to train. They respond well to firm, but gentle, consistent leadership. However, historically these dogs were required to work at great distances from their masters and think independently when hunting rather than waiting for detailed commands and this can still be seen in the breed.
The wolfhound of today is far from the one that struck fear into the hearts of the Ancient Romans. Irish wolfhounds are often favoured for their loyalty, affection, patience and devotion. Although at some points in history they have been used as watchdogs, unlike some breeds, the Irish wolfhound is usually unreliable in this role as they are often friendly toward strangers, although their size can be a natural deterrent. That said, when protection is required this dog is never found wanting. When they or their family are in any perceived danger they display a fearless nature. Owenmore wolfhound breeder Linda Glover believes the dogs' close affinity with humans makes them acutely aware and sensitive to ill will or malicious intentions leading to them excelling as a guardian rather than guard dog. J A McAleen, in praising them, wrote:
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