Let's talk Irish Wolfhounds

With their coarse, wiry coats often in grey or brindle, Irish Wolfhounds were originally bred to hunt large prey, but have long ago left behind those wild origins. Unkempt of hair and amiable of temperament, modern-day Irish Wolfhounds make charming, affectionate companions. They’re huge of course, and with impressive muscles, speed and strength, they need space and exercise to stay healthy. But they’re also docile, affectionate and fun. 

Official name: Irish Wolfhound

Origins: Ireland

Side view of Irish Wolfhound in black and white
 Drooling tendencies:

Very low

Warm weather? Very low
 Shedding level: Medium
Suited to apartment living? Very low
 Physical activity needs (high, low, medium): Medium Kid-friendly?
Very high
 Compatibility with other pets: Very high
Can stay alone? * Low

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed’s specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy, healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socialising your pet as well as covering their basic welfare, social and behavioural needs.

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of Irish Wolfhound
79 - 86 cm translations.feature.breeds.height
translations.feature.breeds.upto 54.5 kg translations.feature.breeds.weight
71 - 86 cm translations.feature.breeds.height
translations.feature.breeds.upto 40.5 kg translations.feature.breeds.weight

 Baby age:  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age:  2 to 8 months
 Junior age:  8 months to 2 years
 Adult age:  2 to 5 years
 Senior age:  From 5 years

Irish Wolfhound walking across grass


Get to know the Irish Wolfhound

All you need to know about the breed

It’s appropriate that a breed whose exact origins are lost in the (Irish) mists of time, should look like something out of an ancient legend. With their wiry, coarse coats and slightly whimsical expressions, it’s easy to imagine Irish Wolfhounds of yore bounding across ancient moors or curled up in front of the crackling hearth of a great hall.  

But in the real world, modern-day Irish Wolfhounds make a lovely addition to any household with the space to cope with this supersize but sweet-natured dog. These sighthounds (dogs originally bred to hunt prey principally using sight and speed, rather than scent) need space to spread out those long, greyhound-like muscular legs. 

While they are not always on high-energy mode – they can be quite content just lolling around close to their people when they’re at home – Irish Wolfhounds do need regular exercise to keep those muscles in good condition. They also benefit from an enclosed garden (the fence needs to be high!) to run around in, free from smaller creatures that might otherwise bear the brunt of that ancient chasing instinct. That said, once trained, they’re usually fine with other animals within their household.

Irish Wolfhounds get on brilliantly with children, under supervision of course, and make a great addition to the family—although you may need a bigger car.

Irish Wolfhound standing in grass with puppy


2 facts about Irish Wolfhounds

1. White House Wolfhounds

Herbert Hoover was the first U.S. president to keep an Irish Wolfhound at the White House—his was called Patrick. John F. Kennedy, perhaps in a nod to his Irish heritage, also had an Irish Wolfhound, just one of a whole pack of presidential dogs. He went by the name of Wolf.

2. (Irish Wolf)hound of the Baskervilles?

Some people have suggested that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hound in the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles – “a great black beast shaped like a hound yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested upon” – was supposed to be an Irish Wolfhound. Although the description fits in terms of size and shape, these sweet, affectionate and sociable dogs have nothing else in common with the terrifying hell-hound of Conan Doyle’s imagination. 


History of the breed

Irish Wolfhounds have inspired their fair share of legends. The most famous (almost certainly made up) is the subject of a poem by W.R. Spencer, which tells the story of Gelert the faithful hound “a lamb at home, a lion in the chase” whose master bitterly regretted mistakenly killing his faithful dog, who had protected his baby from a wolf.

Although information about the true origins of the Irish Wolfhound is hard to come by, the breed probably began with crosses between the coursing hounds of the Middle East that were traded around the world and large native dogs. References to Irish Wolfhound-like dogs were made in Roman records and by the Middle Ages they were well established as hunters of large prey: Deer and especially wolves, hence the name.

They were a bit too good at their job and, as wolves began to die out in Ireland, the Irish Wolfhound itself faced extinction. A British Army Captain, George Augustus Graham, saved the breed in the 19th century, gathering together all the remaining dogs he could find and making it his mission to standardise and promote the Irish Wolfhound breed.

Close-up of Irish Wolfhound in black and white


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Irish Wolfhounds

1. Ears

Small ears and a slightly furrowed brow.

2. Head

Hair especially wiry around eyes and beard.

3. Body

Tall, muscular and long-limbed with upright stance.

4. Coat

Rough coat in grey, brindle, red, black, white, wheaten.

5. Tail

Long, curved tail.

Grey Irish Wolfhound standing in grass


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Irish Wolfhound
Irish Wolfhound running across grass


Caring for your Irish Wolfhound

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Irish Wolfhounds have a double coat that consists of a harsh, wiry outer layer covering a soft undercoat. They need to be brushed once a week or so to stay clean and keep their coat in good condition. Even though Irish Wolfhounds are not the most energetic breed, and can be content just lounging around when they’re at home, regular exercise is important: Those extraordinary muscles need to be used if they’re to stay in good condition. Long walks on a lead combined with opportunities to play in a safe, enclosed space are ideal.
These big dogs stay puppy-like for an extended period, not maturing until around 18 months. That leaves plenty of time for puppyish mischief. But the good news is that Irish Wolfhounds are intelligent, and with patient, positive and consistent training, starting early on, as well as socialisation (puppy classes can help) you should see progress.


All about Irish Wolfhounds

Yes—if you have the space. Irish Wolfhounds are certainly big dogs, which may be off-putting to some. But they’re also big softies who are affectionate to their human family members and get on fine with other pets. Irish Wolfhounds are good with children too although of course they should not be left unsupervised with young ones.

Irish Wolfhounds shed a moderate amount—less than you might expect given their shaggy appearance. The breed has a double coat made up of a wiry outer layer and a soft undercoat. They need to be brushed around once a week.



1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/