Irish Wolfhound Dog Breed: Pictures, Colors, Bark, Characteristics, and Diet

The Irish Wolfhound is an ancient, giant breed of sighthound from Ireland.

It’s the tallest dog in the world, with a typical height of 32 inches (81.3 cm) at the shoulder for males and 30 inches (76.2 cm) for females.

An Irish Wolfdhound sitting on the grass
The sweet-natured Irish Wolfhound

The average litter size of an Irish Wolfhound is six puppies, and they continue to grow until they’re around two years old. 

Wolfhounds were historically used for hunting wolves and other large game due to their size, strength, and stamina.

They’re also intelligent and trainable, making them easy to work with.

In addition, their long legs allow them to cover ground quickly, and their sharp senses make it easy for them to pick up on a scent.

Today, Irish Wolfhounds are no longer used for hunting.

While they may look intimidating because of their size and their strong bite force of 350 PSI, Irish Wolfhounds are known for being gentle, friendly, and loyal.

They make great companions for families with children.

Irish Wolfhounds are slightly more energetic than some other giant breeds, with a running speed of 35 to 40 mph.

Although they have relatively low activity levels, they require 4 to 8 cups and at least 40 minutes of exercise daily, as well as mental stimulation and companionship to keep them fit and healthy.

However, like other large to giant-sized dog breeds, Irish Wolfhounds have a shorter average lifespan of 6 to 8 years.

Their size makes them susceptible to several health problems, such as hip dysplasia. But with proper care, they can live up to longer years.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Irish Wolfhounds.

What is an Irish Wolfhound?

An Irish Wolfhound lying down on white background
The friendly Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are sighthounds. This means that they were bred to hunt using their sight and speed rather than their sense of smell.

They have a history dating back to ancient times and it has been suggested that the original Irish Wolfhounds were derived from the now-extinct Vertragus, the first recorded sighthound in Europe.

They fell to near extinction between the late 18th and the 19th century but were revived. Modern Irish Wolfhound is almost identical to the original, but they don’t share their ancestry.

They’re also closely related to the Whippet, Deerhound, Greyhound, and the Great Dane. 

Why are They Called Irish Wolfhound Dogs?

A close-up image of two Irish Wolfhounds
Two Irish Wolfhounds enjoying each other’s company

The Irish Wolfhound’s name reflects its origin.

They are an ancient Irish breed of dog that was famously used for hunting and controlling the population of wolves in Ireland, resulting in their extinction in 1786.

In Irish, their name is Cu Faoil, meaning wolfhound, and it was often used as an epithet for bravery amongst warriors and kings in the middle ages. 

Where Did the Irish Wolfhound Come From?

The original Irish Wolfhounds were used as hunting dogs by the Gaels, a group of people native to Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, and they were used for hunting large-sized games such as deer and boar. 

Following the extinction of the wolf in Ireland, the Irish Wolfhound also fell into near-extinction as demand for the breed plummeted. 

They were re-introduced as the dogs we know today by Captain George Augustus Graham of Rednock House, Gloucestershire, England.

He was a British Soldier and dog breeder with a love of historic hounds. Every modern Irish Wolfhound is descended from his dogs. 

When Did the Irish Wolfhound Originate?

An Irish Wolfhound in the woods
Meet Trevor, an Irish Wolfhound who likes going to the woods – Image source

The original Irish Wolfhound is thought to date back to ancient times.

In 391 AD, there’s a written reference to large dogs by Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, a Roman Consul who received seven “canes Scotici”, or Gael dog, as a gift to be used for fighting lions and bears.

This is now commonly thought to be the Irish Wolfhound. 

The modern Irish Wolfhound was reintroduced in the 1800s. In 1885, breeder Captain Graham founded the Irish Wolfhound Club, along with a breed standard.

The breed made its way to America a few years later and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1897.

How Many Irish Wolfhounds are There in the World?

Today, Irish Wolfhounds remain relatively uncommon but are no longer rare or endangered.

They’re well-loved amongst owners, ranking 74th out of 195 breeds in the US according to the AKC.

They have even been adopted as a symbol by two rugby teams and tax authorities in their native country. 

What are the Characteristics of an Irish Wolfhound?

A close-up image of an Irish Wolfhound sticking its tongue out
The loving Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a lovely dog.

Although every dog is different and their temperaments can vary based on their experiences, all breeds have certain characteristics that they tend to display.

These are the most common traits of the Irish Wolfhound.

  • Sweet-natured: The Irish Wolfhound is known for their good nature; they’re sensitive, patient, and rarely aggressive, even under stress.
  • Friendly: They’re also very friendly towards strangers, other dogs, children, and other pets. 
  • Quiet: The Irish Wolfhound is a quiet breed that isn’t known to be hyperactive, boisterous, or vocal. 
  • Loving: They are highly affectionate and love to cuddle with family.
  • Loyal: Irish Wolfhounds are unwaveringly loyal and form close bonds with their loved ones. 
Irish Wolfhound Characteristics Rating 
Relation with Family 5
Good with Children 5
Friendly with Strangers 5
Friendly with Other Dogs 5
Easy to Train 3
Energy Level 3
Barking Level 1
Mental Stimulation Needs 3

What Does an Irish Wolfhound Look Like?

The side profile of an Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound, a beautiful, gentle giant

Irish Wolfhounds are giant dogs with long bodies that are strong and lean. They have long necks, legs, and tails, narrow heads, and floppy ears.

Their faces are pretty with long noses and dark eyes, and their coats are medium with straight, wiry fur and tufty beards and eyebrows. 

How big is the Irish Wolfhound?

The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest breed of dog in the world, with males at 32 inches (81.3 cm) tall and females at 30 inches (76.2 cm) tall.

They need to live in medium-large-sized homes with an outdoor space and are not suited to apartment life.

If you’re going to crate train your Irish Wolfhound, you’ll need a 54-inch-sized crate. 

Irish Wolfhound
Physical Features
Male Female
Height  32 inches
(81.3 cm)
30 inches
(76.2 cm)
Weight 120 lbs 
(54.4 kg)
105 lbs 
(47.6 kg)

How long does an Irish Wolfhound dog grow?

Larger dogs often take longer to grow, and the Irish Wolfhound takes around two years to reach their full adult size.

They should reach adolescence at 6 to 7 months old and sexual maturity at 11 to 12 months old.

They should also reach full mental maturity at two years of age. 

What is the average weight of Irish Wolfhound dogs?

The average male Irish Wolfhound weighs 120 lbs (54.4 kg), and the average female weighs 105 lbs (47.6 kg).

Because they are so large, owners must keep their Irish Wolfhound at a healthy weight to prevent health problems in old age. 

What is the Average Life Expectancy of Irish Wolfhounds?

The average life expectancy of the Irish Wolfhounds ranges from 6 to 8 years.

Like all giant breeds, they’re prone to experiencing joint conditions in old age. Irish Wolfhounds are also prone to heart disease, bloat, and issues with the eyes and the liver. 

What Coat Type Do Irish Wolfhounds Have?

An Irish Wolfhound lying on the grass
An Irish Wolfhound lying in a stone garden

The Irish Wolfhound has a medium-length, rough, hard, wiry double coat that is straight and needs brushing once or twice a week with a firm slicker or rake brush to remove loose hair and tangles. 

They also need bathing every once or twice per year to keep clean, as their fur traps dirt easily.

However, you don’t want to bathe them too often, as it could damage their coat and dry out their skin. 

What is the Irish Wolfhound dog’s coat like?

The Irish Wolfhound’s coat is wiry in texture and rough, and hard to touch.

It tufts out a little on the face around the eyes and mouth, creating a cute beard and expressive eyebrows. 

How long is the Irish Wolfhound’s coat?

The Irish Wolfhound’s coat is classed as medium-length.

Although their coats are long and textured, they shouldn’t need haircuts. Some pet-quality Irish Wolfhounds have longer coats. 

How thick is the Irish Wolfhound’s coat?

The Irish Wolfhound has a thick double coat that helps to protect him from cold weather and harsh conditions.

The undercoat is soft coupled with a topcoat, which is wiry and longer. 

Do Irish Wolfhounds shed much?

Irish Wolfhounds are average shedders but not enough to be considered hypoallergenic.

They shed a little bit all year round, and interestingly, they don’t shed their undercoat seasonally like other double-coated breeds. 

Can Irish Wolfhounds Live in Hot Weather?

While Irish Wolfhounds are well-suited to colder climates, they can also tolerate hot weather as long as they have access to shade and plenty of water.

Their thick coats provide insulation in cooler temperatures, but in warm weather, they will shed heavily to stay cool. 

Because of their large size, they’re also more prone to heatstroke than smaller breeds, so it’s crucial to ensure they don’t over-exert themselves in the heat.

If you’re considering getting an Irish Wolfhound, it’s important to research whether your local climate suits the breed.

With proper care, however, they can make excellent companions in any climate.

Do Irish Wolfhounds Like Water?

Some Irish Wolfhounds like water but don’t tend to love it as much as other breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers.

They can swim, but more so enjoy paddling and prefer other activities. 

What Colors are Irish Wolfhounds?

Two Irish Wolfhound dogs standing outdoors
Meet Kazoo and Sequoia, two Irish Wolfhounds who are full of love – Image source

Irish Wolfhounds come in a variety of colors, including white, wheaten, red, black, brindle, fawn, and most commonly, gray.

In some cases, there are ones that come in blue, cream, and silver. They’re most often solid-colored but can have markings. 

What Markings Do Irish Wolfhounds Have?

Many dark-colored Irish Wolfhounds have white markings on their muzzles, chests, and stomachs, and many light-colored Irish Wolfhounds have black and gray markings on their ears, muzzles, and backs.

Are Irish Wolfhounds Good Family Dogs?

Irish Wolfhounds are the perfect family dogs. They’re good-natured, gentle, and patient with children and get along with everyone from strangers to other pets.

The family needs to be the right fit for the breed, as they need a lot of exercise every day.

Irish Wolfhound Temperament Rating 
Adaptability 2
Friendliness 5
Mouthiness in Warm Weather 3
Playfulness 4
Family-Oriented 5
Stranger Tolerance 5

Are Irish Wolfhounds good with other dogs?

Yes, Irish Wolfhounds are good with other dogs most of the time. They were bred to hunt in packs, so they were naturally inclined to be social.

However, because of their size and strength, they need to be properly introduced to other dogs. They should also be trained not to pull on the leash, which can easily injure smaller breeds. 

When meeting new dogs, it’s important to let the Irish Wolfhound approach at his own pace and not force him into any situations that make him uncomfortable.

With proper socialization, Irish Wolfhounds can be excellent companions for other dogs.

Are Irish Wolfhounds friendly with other people?

Irish Wolfhounds are very friendly with people.

They’re gentle and sensitive dogs that quickly form close, affectionate bonds with their human family members and are warm to new people. 

Do Irish Wolfhounds get along well with strangers?

Irish Wolfhounds are friendly towards strangers, making them ideal companions for those who want a loyal and loving pet.

In fact, they have even been known to act as therapy dogs, providing comfort and companionship to those in need.

So if you’re looking for a big dog with a big heart, an Irish Wolfhound might be the perfect you. 

Is the Irish Wolfhound good with kids?

Irish Wolfhounds make great playmates for children because they are even-tempered and extremely patient.

However, they could easily accidentally knock over a young child during play because of their size.

Can Irish Wolfhounds Adapt Easily?

Three Irish Wolfhounds playing in a yard
Meet Mochi, Miso, and Mame, three playful Irish Wolfhounds – Image source

Irish Wolfhounds are not particularly adaptable.

Despite being calm dogs, they need to live in medium-large homes because of their giant size, but they can handle change quite well. 

Are Irish Wolfhound Dogs Aggressive?

Although they may look imposing, aggression in Irish Wolfhounds is extremely rare.

They might react defensively to a threat, but even this is uncommon in the breed. In fact, they’re known to be the pacifists of the dog world. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Dangerous?

Irish Wolfhounds are not dangerous dogs. They’re famously gentle giants and are known for being friendly towards everybody they meet.

However, they can become shy or suspicious towards strangers and other dogs following mistreatment and without socialization. 

Do Irish Wolfhound Dogs Bite?

An Irish Wolfhound standing among plants
An Irish Wolfhound in the summer

Adult Irish Wolfhounds have a bite force of 350 PSI, but they’re not known to snap or bite.

As puppies, they will bite during teething, but this is a normal puppyhood behavior that they will eventually grow out of. 

Are Irish Wolfhound Dogs Protective?

Irish Wolfhounds are not particularly protective dogs. They might use their voice to ward off a threat to their home or loved ones, but they’re unlikely to bite or fight.

This is not because they don’t love their family members; it’s just not in their nature. They’re more likely to get scared and hide behind you! 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Affectionate?

Although every dog is different, Irish Wolfhounds tend to be very affectionate.

They love to spend quality time with their family members and friends they know well and can express their affection in many different ways. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Loyal?

An Irish Wolfhound looking up
Meet Finn, a devoted Irish Wolfhound to his hooman – Image source

Irish Wolfhounds are devotedly faithful dogs that thrive on companionship.

They don’t like being alone and shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours at a time regularly.

Do Irish Wolfhounds Like to Cuddle?

Irish Wolfhounds tend to be very cuddly dogs, but as mentioned above, every dog is different, and not all Irish Wolfhounds will like to cuddle.

Some prefer to express their affection in other ways, like through play. 

Does the Irish Wolfhound Love Freedom?

Irish Wolfhounds like to explore the outdoors as much as any other dog, but they’re not especially prone to running away.

That said, they might be tempted to chase large animals like deer should they run past on walks, so it’s a good idea to practice recall with your dog. 

Are Irish Wolfhound Dogs Easy to Train?

An Irish Wolfhound sitting in a yard
Meet Heni, a therapy Irish Wolfhound dog – Image source

Irish Wolfhounds are bright, responsive, and eager to please. They should be easy to train if you start early and remain consistent.

Try to keep their training sessions short and use clear commands with lots of positive reinforcement.

You should avoid telling off your Irish Wolfhound as they’re very sensitive, and it could cause disinterest during training.

How Smart is the Irish Wolfhound?

According to professor of canine psychology Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs (1994), Irish Wolfhounds are of average intelligence in comparison to other AKC registered breeds. 

Can Irish Wolfhound dogs be used as working dogs?

Irish Wolfhounds aren’t really used as working dogs.

Despite their good temperament and responsiveness, they’re not used as service or therapy dogs because of their size, and they’re not suitable for guard work because of their soft nature. 

Do Irish Wolfhound Dogs Bark a Lot?

Two Irish Wolfhounds lying down in a yard
Meet Gryff and Gregor, two Irish Wolfhounds who love to train together – Image source

The Irish Wolfhound is not known to bark a lot.

They might bark to warn you of a disturbance within the home or growl during play, but they’re not particularly loud or noisy dogs. 

How does an Irish Wolfhound bark?

The Irish Wolfhound’s bark suits their imposing appearance.

The exact decibel level and hertz of their voice are not recorded, but their bark is loud, low, deep, and often described as “thunderous”. 

Do Irish Wolfhounds Have High Energy Levels?

The Irish Wolfhound is relatively energetic for such a large breed.

They’re not hyperactive by any means and are pretty calm overall, but they need a lot of exercise to keep fit and a few play sessions a day to prevent boredom. 

In other breeds, boredom can lead to anxiety and destructive behaviors, but in Irish Wolfhounds it more often leads to disinterest and social withdrawal. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Active?

Irish Wolfhounds are not the most active dogs. However, they need at least 40 minutes of exercise a day.

These dogs can benefit from play sessions and long walks with their owners.

How Fast Can an Irish Wolfhound Run?

The Irish Wolfhound has a running speed that can reach 35 to 40 miles per hour. To put that in perspective, Usain Bolt, the fastest human on record, once ran nearly 28 miles per hour. 

Are Irish Wolfhounds Playful?

An Irish Wolfhound puppy biting on a rope
Poga, an Irish Wolfhound pup, bites on a rope – Image source

Irish Wolfhounds love to play fun games that engage their minds and exercise their instincts.

Below, we’ve listed some popular toys and games owners can use to keep them entertained.

  • Snuffle mats 
  • Treat dispenders
  • Sensory toys
  • Hide and seek
  • Treasure hunt

Does the Irish Wolfhound Drool a Lot?

Although dogs can drool around food, the Irish Wolfhound is not typically a heavy drooler.

Unlike other breeds of dogs, Wolfhounds have relatively dry mouths, which means that they don’t slobber all over your face and clothes. 

However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t ever drool. Like all dogs, they will occasionally produce saliva, especially when they’re excited or nervous. 

But overall, Wolfhounds are much less prone to drooling than other breeds, making them a great choice for people who don’t want to deal with a lot of slobber.

What Does the Family Life of Irish Wolfhound Dogs Like?

The family life of the Irish Wolfhound is close-knit and fun.

They are best suited to laid-back families but can commit to at least 40 minutes of exercise a day with them, plus spending lots of quality time together and not much time apart.

What Kind of Food Should Irish Wolfhounds Eat?

Irish Wolfhounds are a large breed of dog, and as such, they have different dietary needs than smaller breeds.

Adult Irish Wolfhounds should consume 4 to 8 cups of high-quality dry food each day, divided into two meals.

Puppies and senior dogs may need slightly more or less food depending on their activity level and age. 

The best food for an Irish wolfhound is a recipe that’s specifically designed for giant breeds and free from filler ingredients.

They need to eat a diet that is low to moderate in protein and healthy fats and low to moderate in carbohydrates to power their bodies and keep them lean.

What are the Best Dog Foods for Irish Wolfhounds?

An Irish Wolfhound puppy with food
Flynn, an Irish Wolfhound pup, eats only when his hooman is next to him – Image source

Based on the criteria that are mentioned above, we have made a list of the best commercial dry foods for Irish Wolfhounds on the market.

Here are our top product picks for young and adult Irish Wolfhounds.

For Irish Wolfhound puppies:

For adult Irish Wolfhounds:

What Other Dog Breeds Look Like the Irish Wolfhound?

A Borzoi standing in a garden
Meet the Borzoi, an Irish Wolfhound look-alike

The Irish Wolfhound has a very distinctive appearance, with their giant, athletic build, wiry coats, and pretty faces, but they share DNA with many breeds and have a few look-a-likes, as listed below. 

The Verdict: Should You Get an Irish Wolfhound?

If you want a fashionable purse dog or a scary guard dog, the Irish Wolfhound might not be the breed for you.

However, if you want a good-natured, calm, and gentle giant that gets along with everybody, you couldn’t ask for a better breed of dog.

A truly gorgeous breed with a unique and interesting history, the Irish Wolfhound is a genuine family dog.

So long as you can provide adequate living space and commit to the long walks, you won’t regret getting one!

Do you have an Irish Wolfhound? Let us know what you love the most about them in the comments down below.

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