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Irish Wolfhound Breed Guide and Insurance Plan

By Christy True and medically reviewed by Cathy Barnette, DVM
published: January 10, 2024 • 5 min. read
Irish wolfhound

Introduction to Irish Wolfhounds

Irish wolfhounds are courageous and dignified dogs that are exceptionally tall and agreeable. Many people love these dogs because of how calm and serene they are. These large hound dogs are fast runners and make great family dogs because of how well they do around kids. Although Irish wolfhounds were originally bred to hunt big game, they mostly live in loving households today and are very affectionate with those they love.

You can learn more about the Irish wolfhound breed in this Healthy Paws breed guide to determine whether this is the right type of dog for your home and lifestyle.

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Size of Irish Wolfhounds

One of the most remarkable things about the Irish wolfhound is its size. Male Irish wolfhounds often weigh 140-160 pounds and stand nearly 36 inches tall at the shoulder, while females are closer to 130 pounds and 33 inches tall. However, adult dogs can weigh as much as 185 pounds. These dogs typically stop growing by about two years of age.

Here’s how big you can expect your Irish wolfhound to get as the dog grows from puppyhood to adulthood:  

Weight Chart3 months6 months10 months12 months24 months
Average male Irish wolfhound weight44.7 lbs.98.3 lbs.129.7 lbs.136 lbs.149.8 lbs.
Average female Irish wolfhound weight41.7 lbs.87.2 lbs.114.8 lbs.120 lbs.129 lbs.

Characteristics of Irish Wolfhounds

Irish wolfhounds are gentle giants that usually get along with kids and pets while having moderate exercise needs. These intelligent dogs are easy to train and require regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. The typical personality of an Irish wolfhound is sensitive, responsive, and alert. Most Irish wolfhounds love being around people, and Irish wolfhounds are not great guard dogs because they are too friendly with strangers. They also don’t respond well to harsh words or punishments, and they require plenty of space to move around and exercise.

As you get to know an Irish wolfhound’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on his or her breed characteristics:

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsHigh
Good with PetsHigh
Need for ExerciseMedium
Energy LevelLow
Intelligence LevelHigh
Able to Be TrainedMedium
Amount of BarkingLow
Amount of SheddingMedium
Irish wolfhound

History of Irish Wolfhounds

As their name suggests, the history of the Irish wolfhound is tied to Ireland. However, their breeding involves mixing large dogs of Britain and Middle Eastern coursing hounds. The hounds were well-established in the British Isles during the Roman Empire, and records show that a Roman consul received seven of them in the year 391. Bred to be hunting dogs, they gained a reputation for being “gentle when stroked but fierce when provoked.” Therefore, they were used to hunt large Irish elks, wolves, and other big-game animals. Only kings and nobles owned Irish wolfhounds back then, and they were prized gifts exchanged among rulers and other important people.

George Augustus Graham, a British army captain, worked to protect and promote the breed in the mid-1800s after it nearly became extinct. Major H.D. Richardson wrote a book that addressed the breed’s lineage and began breeding them. The American Kennel Club registered its first Irish wolfhound in 1897, and the breed enthusiasts founded the Irish Wolfhound Club of America in 1927.

Irish Wolfhounds Standard Information

Irish wolfhounds are compared to each other at dog shows and competitions, based on a breed standard that the parent breed club and other national or international organizations accept. For example, these dogs are the tallest and largest of the galloping hounds, rough-coated, and gracefully built.

Here is an overview of the breed standard information for Irish wolfhounds:

Irish wolfhound

Head:

  • Long head with a skull that is not too broad
  • Long and moderately pointed muzzle
  • Small and greyhound-like ears

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Long, strong, and muscular neck
  • Very deep chest and wide breast
  • Back is rather long than short
  • Belly is well drawn up

Forequarters:

  • Shoulders are muscular
  • Elbows are well under and neither turned inward nor outward
  • Legs are strong and relatively straight

Hindquarters:

  • Muscular thighs
  • Hocks well let down
  • Moderately large and round feet
  • Toes are well-arched and closed
  • Nails are very strong and curved

Coat:

  • Rough and hard hair on body, legs, and head
  • Wiry and long over the eyes and underjaw

Color:

  • Gray, brindle, red, black, white, or fawn
  • Any other color that appears in the deerhound is also acceptable
Irish wolfhound

Caring for Irish Wolfhounds

Although Irish wolfhounds are gentle and easygoing, they still require plenty of care and attention. These dogs need at least an hour of exercise daily and do best in homes with a fenced yard where they can stretch their legs and move around.

Here are some general tips for taking the best care of an Irish wolfhound:

Best Living Environments:

  • Not good apartment dogs
  • Homes should be large enough for the dog and have an outdoor area

Type of Exercise:

  • At least one hour of exercise per day
  • Adult dogs make great running partners
  • Hiking with family members
  • Plenty of time moving around in a fenced yard

Mental Enrichment:

  • Time outdoors with favorite humans
  • Promote exercise to prevent digging and chewing
  • Try obedience training and interactive dog toys
  • Consider search and rescue jobs and dog sports

Training Strategies:

  • These dogs have a strong prey drive
  • Can be “couch potato” dogs, so you may need to coax them to exercise
  • Eager to please and learn
  • Start training early to prevent this large dog from becoming too dominant
  • Sensitive dogs that require patience and positive reinforcement

Grooming Tips:

  • Moderate amount of shedding
  • Does not have seasonal shedding periods
  • Brush at least weekly to remove debris and dead fur
  • Bathe every one to two months
  • Check ears for dirt and infection
  • Trim nails monthly if not worn down outdoors

Common Health Problems of Irish Wolfhounds

Irish wolfhounds and other deep-chested, large dog breeds often experience bloat, an abdominal swelling that can be life-threatening. If you purchase your Irish wolfhound from a breeder, ensure that the breeder has screened their dogs for genetic and health conditions, including a liver shunt, cancer, heart disease, and pneumonia. The national breed club for Irish wolfhounds recommends the following health tests: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, serum bile acids, cardiac exam, and ophthalmologist evaluation.

These are some of the most common health issues that arise with Irish wolfhounds:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (painful joint disorder)
  • Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)
  • Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy (can cause hind leg paralysis)
  • Liver shunt
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Bloat

Diet and Nutrition for Irish Wolfhounds

Since Irish wolfhounds are large dogs, they will need approximately four to eight cups of dry dog food per day. Your dog’s age, size, level of activity, and metabolism, as well as the caloric density of your dog’s food, will dictate the required amount. Ask your vet for a specific recommendation. Break the total amount of food for your dog into two or three daily meals to reduce the risk of bloat.

Where to Adopt or Purchase Irish Wolfhounds

The Irish Wolfhound Club of America is the national breed club for this type of dog and offers a breeder director, general information, and a national rescue directory. On this directory, you can find organizations led by rescue volunteers committed to finding permanent homes for Irish wolfhounds needing adoption. If you wish to adopt a pet, you can also contact your local humane society or search for rescue groups in your area.

Related Breeds

If a gentle giant of a dog is what you are looking for, the Irish wolfhound is an excellent choice. However, there are other similar and related breeds that you might also consider before making the big decision to purchase or adopt a new pet, including these:

Pet Insurance for Irish Wolfhounds

Like many other large dog breeds, the Irish wolfhound has a limited life expectancy – just six to eight years on average. Therefore, it is so important to take the very best care of your pup throughout all stages of life by providing the necessary veterinary care and scheduling regular checkups. Healthy Paws is a pet insurance company that offers Irish wolfhound insurance that covers accidents, illnesses, emergency care, cancer, breed-specific conditions, hereditary and genetic conditions, and alternative care. You can take your Irish wolfhound to any licensed vet and submit your pet’s veterinary bills to us on our website or mobile app. We want you to take the very best care of your Irish wolfhound without worrying about finances and how you’ll pay for your dog’s care. Visit our quote page today to get your Irish wolfhound pet insurance rate and enjoy peace of mind and more amazing days with your beloved canine companion.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs and volunteers with a local dog rescue. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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cathy barnette
By Cathy Barnette, DVM

Cathy Barnette, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), is a veterinarian and freelance writer based in Punta Gorda, FL. She graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, then headed to North Carolina, where she spent fifteen years working in small animal general practice. Cathy recently returned to her home state of Florida and now dedicates her working hours to creating educational content for pet owners and veterinary team members for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance LLC & the Healthy Paws Foundation. Cathy is passionate about making complex medical information accessible to pet owners, allowing them to partner with their veterinarians to make informed decisions about their pets' health. Cathy is a member of both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Medical Writers Association. In addition to her human family members, she shares her home with one dog, two cats, and a dove. Cathy Barnette on LinkedIn

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