Irish wolfhounds, also known as Cú Faoil, are an iconic and rather giant dog breed. Standing 30-32 inches tall at the shoulder, these dogs have a rather lanky but ultimately muscular build and can seem imposing at first glance. However, their calm demeanor and friendly temperament mean that Irish wolfhounds are great family dogs for those with plenty of space. Like other sighthounds, this breed can be sometimes tempted to chase small animals like cats and its large size means it can accidentally knock over or injure small children. Those traits don’t make these dogs inherently bad; rather, they’re ones that need to be taken into consideration if you are thinking of getting an Irish wolfhound but already have small children or other animals.
As their name suggests, Irish wolfhounds have a long history in Ireland. But the second part does refer to their history as wolf hunters rather than their appearance, as Irish wolfhounds were used in hunting wolves (and other large game). These hounds were held in high esteem for a long time, and some were even given as royal presents. However, as boars and wolves became extinct on the island, Irish wolfhound numbers also started to diminish. It was a British army officer named Captain George Graham that helped bring back the breed in the latter half of the 19th century. The American Kennel Club officially recognized Irish Wolfhounds in 1897.
While Irish wolfhounds are generally inactive indoors and love to nap, they’re not recommended for apartment or tiny home life, as they are big dogs that also like having room to stretch. They don’t need extensive amounts of exercise or entertainment but daily walks and the occasional zoomie session would be great. As sighthounds, these dogs do need any yard to be securely fenced in, as they have been known to chase after small animals. Because of their friendly demeanor, they’re not great watchdogs nor are they particularly territorial. They can be playful at times and are always affectionate, which is why these dogs are great family dogs. However, their large size means it’s important to keep an eye on them around smaller children to make sure they don’t accidentally knock someone down.
Like other extra-large breeds, Irish wolfhounds, unfortunately, don’t have particularly long lifespans and generally live 6-8 years. They are prone to certain health issues, like hip/elbow dysplasia, cardiomyopathy, gastric torsion (aka bloat), hypothyroidism, and osteosarcoma. Some of these issues can be genetic but regular vet care, a good diet, and consistent exercise can all help prevent and/or treat health issues that do arise. Given a regular schedule, grooming can be relatively easy for these dogs, even with their large frame and medium-length coat, and can help keep their coat and skin healthy.
Ultimately, Irish wolfhounds are sweet, affectionate dogs that can also stand three feet tall at the shoulder. Their size can be intimidating, which is the only aspect that could make one a good watchdog. Their friendly temperament and desire to be near their people means Irish wolfhounds would not be great outdoor/guard dogs. And their large size means they don’t do well in apartments either. But with the right space, these hounds can be amazing additions to many homes.