Inconsistency Of Description and Illustration of Irish Greyhound, Irish Wolfdog etc, by Steve Tillotson, Jan 2013
One of the difficulties in researching the breed is that of trying to formulate a clear picture of what the Irish Wolfdog was. The situation is made all the more difficult by the 19th century writers who routinely describe the Irish Wolfdog as "Of Greyhound type but larger", which is somewhat vague and ambiguous. Similarly their descriptions of the Scottish Deerhound as being a "degenerative version of the Irish Wolfdog" is equally minimal in description. It also seems that terms such as "Irish Greyhound", "Irish Wolfhound", "Celtic Greyhound" etc are all interchangeable. Is this three names for one breed? Or is it names of three different breeds". To this naming conundrum we then have to consider "Smooth" and "Coated" varieties.
The problem is exacerbated by writers who depend upon the writings of "Naturalists". In today's terms, a "Naturalist" would be a scientific professional, such as a field biologist. Back in the 1800's and earlier, a naturalist was a person who wrote about nature, largely from their observation and/or anecdotal information they obtained from other sources. Supporters of the Irish Wolfdog legacy quote references such as Buffon, Goldsmith, Pennant etc. All of these Naturalists are highly problematical as reliable sources. Buffon's conclusions on "origins' of a breed are entirely an opinion. He looks at one dog and decides (with no knowledge of the breeding behind it) that it's origin is xyz breed. Thats not science, thats not expert knowledge, thats just an uninformed opinion. Oliver Goldsmith is a very interesting person, really he was more of a poet and writer than a man of science. He has been described as an 'entertaining idiot" who was prone to talk too much about any subject, which he usually knew nothing about". Pennant was more of a compiler of other Naturalists work than an originator of new information. He was also a "diarist" and produced 4 editions of his tour of Scotland in which he did record information about antiquities long since lost. Little science here, mainly anecdotal information interdispersed with opinion. Many of the illustrations we rely upon are not produced from real life subjects, but are created by the imagination of an artist in response to a description given by another person. This combined anecdotal source and imaginative artistic output are then included in the books of Naturalists as if they were photographic facts.
From Berwicks "A General History of Quadruped"s 1790 "The Irish Greyhound"
Above is a picture taken from Berwicks "A General History of Quadruped"s and entitled "The Irish Greyhound". To me this dog does not look like a greyhound type at all, it lacks the refinement of the Greyhound and lacks the overall look of a running hound. This dog looks to me more like a fighting dog (ie of Mastiff breeding?). If this picture had been labelled "The Irish Wolfdog" (a hound crossbred with Mastiff and other large dogs), that would have been believable.
Below is the well known picture by Reinagle. Again, to me, its lacking in Greyhound type and is more consistent with the picture above. Apparently this Reinagle picture served as the model for Grahams breed revival program. It's difficult to reconcile the statements of the Richardsononions about the supposed connection between Wolfdog and Deerhound when looking at the "models" that the Richardsononions offer up. And of course, this still leaves open the question of coat - smooth or rough that the Richardsonions have not reconciled on.
Reinagle 1803 "The Irish Wolfdog"
Below are three more illustrations of hounds taken from old dog books. Its striking the elegence of the "Greyhound" compared to the "Irish Greyhound", and "Irish Hound" which yet again look so much heavier in head and lacking in refinement. The former looking like a hound built for the chase, the latter looking like some kind of crossbreed. This legacy expression "Of Greyhound Type" is surely questionable when presented with images such as these?
To conclude this brief article we show below a picture heading an article by Richardson (HDR) on the Irish Wolfdog in the Irish Penny Journal in May 1841. HDR tells us about this hound - "At the head of this article will be found a good engraving taken from a portrait of Oscar, a Highland deer-hound of prodigious size and beauty, the property of my friend J. J. Nolan of White's Avenue, Merrion". (A later comment by HDR in "The Sportsman" Magazine, 1846)
I'll leave it up to readers to decide for themselves how closely the previous pictures of Irish Wolfdogs and Irish Greyhounds resemble/or not, the above Scottish Deerhound engraving provided by Richardson..