Irish Wolfhound Times
(Irish Wolfhound Database and Breed Information Exchange)

About IWTLibraryBreed OriginsReserved For FutureAfghan Hound TimesReserved For FutureBreed StandardEphemera

Irish Archaeological Society 1860
followed by -
Journal Of The Cork Archeological Society 1902
followed by -
Myths, Legends and Reality Steve Tillotson, 2013


IWT Editor update -. Since originally posting this article I came across a book "Latin declension by Whitley Stokes - 1860" which discusses the difficulties of translating Latin into the Celtic (as used in Ireland) language. Further the book differentiates between an "original composer" and a "copyist" version of an ancient document. As late as 1860 scholars were aware that many Latin/Celtic words were unregistered in their dictionaries, thus, documents such as those referred to provided a valuable source of "original" intent and meaning of words, some pehaps not yet registered. I mention Edmund Hogan elsewhere as regards translation of Latin, to Celtic and then to English and I have expressed my concerns about Hogan's accuracy in some instances, particularly when it comes to his translations relating to "wolfdog".

In paragraph 410 of Stokes 1860 publication, Stokes makes a reference to the translation of Wolfdog (or Greyhound) - "0'R. 411. Milchti. (gl. malosus, i . e. molosus, i. e. Kuwv Monottkcos, a wolf-dog, guitter in the Cornish Vocab.) is explained "greyhound" by 0'R., who spells the word miolchu; plur. mflchoin occurs in Lebar na Cert, 252, W. milgi, pl. milgwn. 412." Edward C Ash in The Practical Dog Book, 1930 wrote - "But in the story of the Irish Wolfhound, the name of Hogan must always be connected. First of all, the Reverend gentleman made a prodigious research, and, secondly, apparently claimed, whenever he found the word dog, that it was the Irish Wolfhound. It was he that gave the oft repeated statement that Irish Wolfhounds were mentioned in very early Irish times, in that literature (the authenticity of which is doubted) which deals with Irish heroes." Readers will discern, as implied by Ash's comment that early writers such as Hogan may not have had a sufficient knowledge of Latin/Celtic translations to differentiate between "dog" and "wolfdog" or "greyhound". If nothing else, Stokes book serves to remind us of the huge difficulty of translating and interpreting correctly ancient Latin/Celtic writings, and therefore we should treat such references with caution.

(Extract of Whitley Stokes 1860 paper follows, below)

"The following tract on Latin declension is taken from a volume of parchment MSS. marked H. 2.13, and preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. The volume is unpaged, but the tract commences at the back of the 35th, and ends at the back of the 38th folio from the beginning. Dr. O'Donovan thinks the tract in question was written about the year 1500. Mr. Curry considers it somewhat older. I do not venture to decide on its age. It is clear, however, that the scribe was a copyist, not a composer; and that his original was produced at a period considerably before the transcription.

The chief, indeed the only, value of the tract lies in the large number of Irish words (about 1100) which are placed as glosses to the Latin vocables exemplifying the different declensions. Many of these words are unregistered in our dictionaries; of others, the meaning meaning has hitherto been guessed at rather than known. Still, some persons may ask, why should the Irish Archaeological Society expend its funds in publishing a document which merely illustrates the Irish language? Let such persons try to understand that every contribution to a more accurate knowledge of this Irish language is ultimately a contribution to Irish history. For this can never be written until trustworthy versions are produced of all the surviving chronicles, laws, romances, and poetry of ancient Celtic Ireland. Moreover, immediate results of high historical importance may be obtained by comparison of the words and forms of the Irish with those of the other Indo-European languages.

Latin to Celtic to English Translation/Intepretation

The meaning has hitherto been guessed at rather than known"

"Let such persons try to understand that every contribution
to a more accurate knowledge of this Irish language is ultimately
a contribution to Irish history."

" For this can never be written until trustworthy versions are
produced of all the surviving chronicles, laws,
romances, and poetry of ancient Celtic Ireland."

Whitley Stokes - 1860

Chronicles may, and often do, lie; laws may have been the work of a despot, and fail to correspond with the ethical ideas of the people for whom they were made; romances may misrepresent the manners and morals of their readers and hearers; and poetry may not be the genuine outcome of the popular imaginative faculty. But the evidence given by words and forms is conclusive—evidence of the habitat, the intellectual attainments, the social condition of the Aryan family before the Celtic sisters journeyed to the West—evidence of the period at which this pilgrimage took place as compared with the dates of the respective migrations of their kindred—evidence of the connexions existing between the Celts and other Indo-Europeans after the separation of languages. I trust that the subjoined commentary will be found to have done somewhat towards the attainment of the objects here indicated; and have now only to acknowledge the helpful kindness of my friends, the Rev. Dr. Todd, Mr. Eugene Curry, Dr. O'Donovan, Dr. Siegfried, and the Rev. R. F. Littledale".


I included the extract below (Mr Hackett 1902) as an example of the difficulty of differentiating between mythology and reality. I previously documented some of the difficulties with Legacy writings here because our prime sources on the history of the breed are often writings from the 19th century. Writing in that era excelled in quoting from the classics, poetry, legends etc, irrespective of the value of the quotation, irrespective of the fact that the quotation is open to wide variations in interpretation, not only linguisticly (translating Greek, Latin, Celtic to English) but literarily (ie what the meaning of the orignal was). Unfortunately, some of these early translations of both language and meaning are questionable (a common problem with 19th century writers). Sadly, subsequent writers pick up on these 19th writings and take them as fact, thus proliferating this flow of mis-information. I found the extract below during my research which raises another issue - was there some factual event behind the mythology/legend?

Extract from the papers of the "Cork Historical and Archaeological Society - 1902"
by Mr Hackett

"Among the Tore legends is the following one. A chief named Gowan sallying out from Gowan Castle met his sister Finngal, who told him of her gloomy forebodings respecting him; he informs her that a monstrous black pig having ravaged Limerick, Leitrim, and Sligo, his wise men announced that where the pig had passed through would be subsequently subjected to horrible cruelties, massacres, and misery. The monster having entered Donegal was now ravaging from Ballyshannon to Glentees; and he was determined to save his country by slaying the pig. His sister, more alarmed than before, urges him to return home; but he resists and follows the pig through the mountains from Glentees to Lough Muc, south of Lough Finn. Finngal follows the cry of the hounds till she reached Glenfinn, where to her right was Lough Finn. There she heard her brother's voice across the lough encouraging his dogs far away on the hills. Turning her steed, she heard her brother's cries of distress, but imagined that they proceeded from the spot she had left. She then determined to cross thp lake, but on approaching the shore her horse stumbled, she fell on the rock, and perished. Her body was buried on the side of the lake, where a mound called Fingal's Grave marks the spot. A stone called Fingal's Stone indicates the place where she died, and from her the lake is called Lough Finn. Gowan overtook the pig at Lough Muc, stabbed the monster with his dirk, but was himself gored to death by the pig, who, rushing into the lake with the dirk in his side, was drowned. Over the grave of Gowan a heap of stones was raised called Gowan's Stones. All the townlands where each hound was killed bear its names. That some remarkable event did occur which gave rise to this legend, Mr. Hackett considers, is beyond doubt. I think, he further says, that the so-called hounds were pagan priests, and Gowan and his sister, Fingal, probably an eminent priest and priestess. It is singular, he continues, how this name Finn enters into so many of these Tore legends. Fionn was asked in the Agallamh why he did not destroy the Piast at Glendaloch as he did all the other Adarachts of Ireland. We may remark also that in the Imokilly legends it was from Ballyfinn he first set out on his expedition against the boars of Imokilly, when he slew the Tore that flourished at Glen Torcin, now Glenturkin, near which is shown the grave where Fionn buried the boar at Fin-ure. It was after that that he crossed Cork harbour and landed at Cuaneenrobert. He then sojourned at Rathfean, and thus far fought single-handed; but at Fahalay (Fatha or Foicead nalaog) all his warriors joined him. There is a Glen-a-muck-dee at Gurtagrenane, near Ringabella (beyond Crosshaven)."

3. MYTHS LEGENDS AND REALITY (by Steve Tillotson, 2013)
My cynicism sometimes gets the better of me. But the above gave me some pause. Mr Hackett states that the story above, may well have some basis in fact (ie some event occured that later became an embellished myth or legend regarding Fingal). Importantly he mentions that the so-called hounds may have been pagan priests, and Gowan and his sister may have been an eminent priest and priestess.

When reading writings by 19th century writers who cite ancient writings in support of their opinion, we should remember that ancient writings can be interpreted "literally" or "literarily,". The below is a good example of this. Reading it literally then hounds are hounds. Reading it literarily then hounds may have been priests. So when we read "stories" about Irish Wolfdogs and conversations between Ossian and St Patrick we would be wise to remember the difference between literal and literary. Mythology and legends are not facts and should not be presented as such, they are "stories". Those writers that quote such stories and use them as "evidence" are usually struggling to make a believable case for their opinions...

Two short modern stories or myths -

This one from Alex Scott, Kennel Manager, Rathmullan Irish Wolfhounds, Santa Fe, New Mexico 1930's
(AKC Gazette, May, 1934)

"One day, Scott had the entire lot of hounds out for a run. Suddenly, he came upon a pack of wild dogs, of mixed breeds, that one finds sometimes in that part of the country. These dogs had been harassing the ranchers, killing cattle and running down horses. As soon as he saw these marauders, Scott called in his hounds. All except a young one, Gareth, came to heel immediately. Curious, Gareth went near the pack, and when he turned his back, two jumped on him.

For a second it seemed that the whole pack of seven would wipe out the lone wolfhound, but Gareth held his own. Within two minutes of the wildest sort of action, he had flung into the air four wild dogs. The three others put tails between their legs, and fled. Discovery proved that all four dogs that Gareth tossed into the air were dead of broken backs."

I find the above entirely believable. I believe a large Irish Wolfhound has the strength to pick up a wild dog and toss it into the air. Can it pick up a "wolf" in its jaws and toss that up in the air... cynicism prevails here on that potential

The breed books written in the 60's and 70's repeat a story that the Afghan Hound "Khan of Ghazni" was a leopard killer and was reputed to have killed a leopard single handed.

In 1970 a group of Afghan Hound enthusiasts visited the person who owned Khan and imported him from Afghanistan to England in the 1920's (Major Amps) and asked him about this story. Major Amps responded "he wouldn't recognize a leopard if he saw one".....

Stories can be fun, but they are not historical facts of evidence..

Library Of Articles