The Irish Wolfhound is the largest breed of dog in the world, when it comes to size, in weight the Great Dane and the Mastiff are the heaviest.
Although not the oldest breed of dog in the world, this dog breed is certainly old enough, having references dating back to 200 B.C. believe it or not.
The Irish Wolfhound was not the nice gentle animal that everybody knows and loves today, back in those days, it was a ferocious killer, an animal used not only to guard the flocks and the home but also a dog used in war. There are reports of entire battalions going into war with nothing but Irish Wolf Hounds at their sides! Just imagine an animal that can stand over seven feet tall when on his hind legs, and can weigh over 150 pounds, how would you like to meet that on an all out war, remember they did not have guns back then. I think such a thing would be a terrible experience indeed.
An Irish Wolfhound was capable of taking an armored knight off his horse, there are also reports of this dog even going to Rome and when put up against a lion, well let's just say the lion did not have a chance.
The Irish Wolfhound was born and bred in Ireland for wolves hunting, hence the name, and the hunting of deer but that is not all the Irish Wolf Hound was used for. This dog was also used in dog fights between clans and as I mentioned earlier they were used for the guarding of the home.
But how did an animal that was such a ferocious creature end up being the, "Gentle Giant" that we have today?
Well, for one thing the Irish Wolf Hound used to be such a good hunter that the entire population of wolves in Ireland was wiped out. That having happened, the Irish Wolf Hound started to disappear and probably would have if not for the efforts of Captain Graham who saved the breed but in the process the Irish Wolf Hound was bred to breeds such as the Great Dane, Deer Hound and the Borzoi, that is probably when the mean streak was bred out.
This animal did such a good job at hunting that when the Elk and the Wolf disappeared the Irish Wolfhound nearly did also, because he was not needed anymore and the dog was so popular with other countries that exportation of the dog was very high, eventually becoming outlawed. That was when our friend Captain Graham came into the picture.
There is actually a story along those lines about a little orphaned boy who went to get hired on a ship, now the captain of the ship was a person who stole Irish Wolfhounds and sold them in other countries. What did he want with a skinny little boy on his ship? The one thing that made him stop to consider hiring the little boy was the fact that it seemed this boy was the only one capable of calming the animals. So the boy gets hired and on their journey they become shipwrecked and stranded on an island; everybody is starving until one day the little boy prays and suddenly a group of wild bores comes into sight, with the help of the dogs the crew gets enough to eat, and they live happily ever after. It's actually a nice story.
Anyway, the Irish wolfhound is a dog that hunts by sight so when you take him out for a walk make sure you got a leash on him because he will chase what he sees. This is not a dog for the city or for apartment living, why? Because it is a BIG dog that needs a lot of space, he does not make a good guard dog, it is more likely to greet an unwanted person as a member of the family.
This dog is great with children; they are big but also gentle, kind, loving animals. Care must be taken with this breed because they mature rather slowly, reaching full maturity at about 18 months of age; too much exercise before this time can be harmful to their bones.
With a little regular brushing and some love, you can find a true friend in the Irish Wolfhound!