Irish Wolfhound Breed Information Guide: Quirks, Pictures, Personality & Facts

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

September 11, 2019

Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.  

Intro / Overview

(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)

Irish Wolfhounds may resemble the Big Bad Wolf, but these pups are truly the gentle giants of the dog world! Known for their calm, dignified demeanor, these former hunters love just about everyone.

Wolfies are welcoming to children, strangers, other dogs, and even cats, making them lousy guard dogs. Thankfully their imposing size and massive bark are enough to deter even the bravest intruder.

Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest of all AKC recognized breeds, with the graceful, muscular build and incredible galloping speed of their Greyhound cousins. These guys love a long walk, but are also happy to curl up and watch Netflix.

Those lucky enough to share their lives with an Irish Wolfhound become completely devoted to the breed. Just remember, it takes a lot of dog food to feed one of these massive pups!

Also Known As…

Irish Wolfhounds have several official nicknames including: Irish Dogs, Big Dogs of Ireland, Greyhounds of Ireland, Wolfdogs of Ireland, and Great Hounds of Ireland.

They are also casually referred to as Wolfies, Shaggy Ponies, Long-Legged Derp-Dogs, and “Holy crap, that’s a big dog!”


The Irish Wolfhound’s history dates back to ancient Rome. They are the result of breeding Middle Eastern coursing hounds with the large native dogs of Britain.

Wolfies are named for their prowess as Ireland’s big game hunters. In fact, they did their job so well that many 15th-century game animals went extinct. Their talent put them out of a job, and people no longer had a need for the breed. In fact, the IW almost vanished right alongside their former prey.

After their brush with extinction, the Irish Wolfhound falls off the map until 1862 when British army captain George Augustus Graham took an interest in them. He vowed to protect and standardize the breed by hunting down and breeding the country’s few remaining specimens.

Graham is still revered as a hero by Wolfie lovers.


Males often reach nearly 3 feet at the shoulder and weigh up to 180 pounds. Females are usually just a tad smaller at 32 to 34 inches and 140 pounds.

Weight Range

Males: 140 to 180 pounds; Females: 115 to 140 pounds.


Here are a few words Irish Wolfhound parents use to describe these big-hearted beauties: gentle, noble, sensitive, easygoing, dignified, and graceful.

Wolfies are model citizens when it comes to interacting with children, strangers, and other dogs. All of these wonderful traits make them excellent candidates for service and therapy jobs.

On the downside, they can be a bit stubborn and slow to respond to commands. While it is an incredible sight to see them run free, they still retain the heart of a hunter and may take off after a bird or squirrel.

More than anything, Wolfhounds crave the company of their humans, and may suffer from separation anxiety or become destructive when left alone too long.

Intelligence / Trainability

Irish Wolfhounds are highly intelligent, and are often very fast learners. However, these playful pups take 18 months or longer to fully mature. As you can imagine, a 100+ pound puppy can be quite a handful!

For this reason it is especially important to provide early socialization as well as plenty of exercise and mental stimulation!

Best Training Techniques For Irish Wolfhounds

As with any breed, early socialization and puppy training classes are ideal ways to teach Irish Wolfhounds the basics. They are extremely sensitive, and may shut down if harsh training methods are employed. Positive reinforcement is best.

Ideal Environment

The most important thing to consider when welcoming an Irish Wolfhound into your life is space. These pups are BIG and not cut out for life in a tiny house or New York City apartment!

Even though they are generally quiet and well-behaved indoors, they need room to stretch out and could definitely benefit from a fenced yard.

As for their ideal outdoor environment, Wolfies definitely prefer cooler climates. If you live in an area that experiences extreme heat, be sure to provide plenty of cool space for your IW to chill.

Good For Families And Kids?

As mentioned above, there are very few humans Irish Wolfhounds don’t warm to! They are patient and gentle with kids, and intuitive enough to serve as assistance dogs to people with disabilities.

However, like any dog, Wolfies should be supervised around small children. It is essential that little ones learn to respect the IW’s size and never attempt to climb on or “ride” them.

Average Lifespan

6 – 8 years.


Like many giant and deep-chested breeds, Irish Wolfhounds are prone to certain serious health problems. Most frightening is deadly Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, commonly referred to as bloat.

In addition, the breed may be susceptible to heart disease, certain cancers and liver shunt. Wolfies also have a high rate of hip and elbow dysplasia as well as arthritis.


Despite their history running down wolves and other prey, Irish Wolfhounds have average exercise needs. They enjoy a long walk or good run in a safe, confined area, but can also be big old couch potatoes.

Due to their high intelligence, it is also important to provide lots of mental stimulation. You can kill two birds with one stone by getting your Wolfie involved in canine sports like tracking, agility, and lure coursing.

Friendly With Dogs?

Irish Wolfhounds typically get along great with other dogs. They love to romp and play, but may not always be aware of their size. They are gentle by nature, but should be supervised when playing with smaller pups to prevent accidental injuries.

Friendly With Strangers?

To the Irish Wolfhound there is no such thing as strangers, just friends they haven’t met yet! If you are searching for a guard dog, this is not your breed!

Friendly With Cats And Other Pets?

Irish Wolfhounds may be curious about smaller animals, and even give chase if a cat or pocket pet runs. However, they are typically happy to share their home with anyone and anything!

Coat and Grooming

Irish Wolfhounds have a double coat that comes in many colors, including white, gray, brindle, red, black, and fawn. Their outer coat is rough and wiry with a soft undercoat beneath.

Unlike other double-coated breeds, then IW does not “blow their coat” bi-annually. Their shedding level is moderate and they typically only require once weekly brushing to remove loose hair.

Quirks/Fun Facts

  • If an Irish Wolfhound stands on his hind legs, he may be up to 7-feet tall!
  • The Romans gave them the motto, “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.”
  • Herbert Hoover and JFK had Irish Wolfhounds

Toys Irish Wolfhounds Would Like Best

  • Plush toysIrish Wolfhounds love to cuddle, and if a favorite human is not available, a nice plushie is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Thinker toys. These intelligent pups may become bored, anxious or destructive if their brains are not properly engaged. Challenge your IW with a thinker toy to keep them happy and entertained.
  • Tug toys. Wolfies love to play tug. Just make sure you are up for the challenge: these dogs are strong!
  • Super Chewer Toys. While they are not generally toy destroyers, the sheer size of their teeth may make short work of average toys. Try extra tough Super Chewer Toys instead.

Check out this toy-roundup for the Irish Wolfhound’s close cousin, the Greyhound for more suggestions.

Recommended Diet Or Supplements

Diet is one of the most important choices you will ever make on your dog’s behalf, as it affects nearly every aspect of their health. Giant breed puppies like Irish Wolfhounds do best on food specially formulated for their growth needs.

Once they are fully-grown, choose a high-quality diet that meets the needs of their age (adult or senior) and is free from artificial ingredients, fillers, and preservatives.

Because they are at risk for bloat, talk to your vet about when and how to feed your IW. Believe it or not, exercise, quantity, and the type of bowls you choose can all impact their risk for this deadly condition.

Unfortunately, giant breed dogs like Irish Wolfhounds are at high risk for arthritis and other painful joint conditions. In order to help prevent and treat these issues, start your IW on a joint care supplement as soon as he or she reaches full skeletal growth.

Glucosamine Supplement For Hip & Joints

Bark Hip + Joint soft chews are veterinarian-formulated in the USA with powerful ingredients like glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid to keep your Wolfie’s joints strong, flexible, and pain-free. ($32.99.)

Recommended Products

Orthopedic Ultra Plush Memory Foam Dog Bed

Every good dog needs a good bed! Orthopedic dog beds from Bark are made with ergonomic memory foam and gel foam to cradle joints and relieve the stress on pressure points. A good night’s sleep on a high-quality bed can help ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and more. Just be sure to order the XL! ($64.99.)

Notable Rescues to Find The Irish Wolfhound Of Your Dreams

Notable Instagram Irish Wolfhounds

Birka the Irish Wolfhound @Birka_IrishWolfhound

Lincoln the Irish Wolfhound @LincolnTheWolfhound

Odin the Irish Wolfhound @Odin_The_Irish_Wolfhound

Truman the Irish Wolfhound @GoodBoyTruman

Kingsley the Irish Wolfhound @Kingsley.The.IrishWolfhound

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gifts for big dogs 2018

Want More Giant Breed Guides Like This?

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

September 11, 2019