Friday, March 12, 2010

Irish Wolfhounds

Next week there will be a holiday called St. Patrick's Day.  This holiday will be on the 17th, which is the same day it always comes on.  The way people celebrate St. Patrick's Day is they wear green and have parades and drink a lot of beer and think about Irish stuff.  So to start getting us all in the mood for this holiday, I am going to tell you about an Irish breed of dog.

This breed is called the Irish Wolfhound, and it is the very tallest of all dog breeds.  A male Wolfhound can be as tall as a small pony, and when he stands on his hind legs, he can be 7 feet tall!  This is taller than a lot of humans, which you can see in this photo of an IW with a man who is 6'1".  I have never met an Irish Wolfhound in person, but I am pretty sure that if I met one, I could walk right under it without even having to duck.

Nobody knows for sure how long Irish Wolfhounds have been around, but it's probably a really, really long time.  Some of the first people who lived in Ireland may have brought these dogs with them, and that would have been around 3500 BC.  The name for Irish Wolfhound in the Irish language is Cú Faoil.  They were such big dogs that they could be used to hunt boars and wolves, and they were so good at hunting them that all the boars and wolves became extinct in Ireland!

Irish Wolfhounds were also used as war dogs, and they were trained to pull armored knights off their horses or out of their chariots.  This was very helpful to the Irish when they were fighting against Roman invaders and also later on against the English.

You might think that Irish Wolfhounds are fierce and mean, but they are actually very nice dogs who are good with children.  They are patient and loyal and easy to train.  And they pretty much like everybody they meet, which means they are not very good watch dogs.  Irish Wolfhounds are sighthounds, just like basenjis are, so they often compete in lure coursing.

Because they are so big, Irish Wolfhounds usually only live to be 10 years old or maybe less.  They are especially likely to get bloat or cancer or an enlarged heart, and none of these things are good.

Some people think of the Wolfhound as the national dog of Ireland, but it was never officially given this title.  In the old days, only rich noblemen could own Wolfhounds, so the regular people preferred the Kerry Blue Terrier as their favorite Irish dog.  But nowadays some rugby teams use the Wolfhound as their mascot, and so do the Irish Guards.  Here's a picture of the Queen Mother with an IW during a St. Patrick's Day parade in the late 1990s.

That's all I'm going to tell you about Irish Wolfhounds, except I will just say that if you want to get one, you should make sure you have a big house and a big yard, and you should be prepared to spend a lot of money on dog food!


  1. My mom just finished a novel about an Irish Wolfhound by Dean Koontz called Breathless. She said it was not the best book she'd read and liked Sight Hound by Pam Houston much, much better. It is also about an Irish Wolfhound. Both those IW's live in Colorado, which is where I live. I don't know those IW's but I know other IW's. So maybe Colorado is a popular place for IW's to live.

    I think you should add that if someone is going to get an IW, they should also have an extra large pooper scooper.

    Your freind,
    Zest the superstar in training
    who is doing agility this weekend and keeping her mom humble.

  2. Dear Zest,
    You are totally right about the pooper scooper! I should have thought of that. I'm glad to know there are so many IWs in Colorado. There are some IWs in Missouri, too, but I have not met them and neither has Mom. I'm not sure if I want to meet one because I still think they look kind of scary, even though they are supposed to be nice.
    Your friend, Piper

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