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

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(With an editorial by Steve Tillotson about "Wolfdogges" and "Wolfhounds")

(IWT Editor Note. The Richardsononions tell us that in 1652 that a declaration had to be issued, by the Privy Council of Cromwell's Government, against the export of "such great dogges as are commonly called Wolfdogges". However The Richardsononions fail to provide the context for this statement. That context is that during the "Cromwellian Settlement" period of the 1650's, whereby Cromwell took land from the Irish and rented it to English Gentry. Ireland in that era was over run by Wolves, plus the Cromwellian Settlements displaced hundreds of thousands of native Irish who either died of starvation, famine, or the plague that hit Europe, including Ireland at that time. Bodies were to be found rotting in the ditches and became food for the Wolves. Cromwell was concerned to establish an effective counter to the ever increasing and devastating population of Wolves. Thus he established a payment system whereby cash was paid by the Goverment to those people who killed wolves and brought their heads back to the local English Governer. As part of Cromwells campaign to eliminate the Wolf, he required that packs of "Wolfdogges" be established and maintained in pursuit of his objective. The reference to "Wolfdogges" as presented by the Richardsononions implicitly, and incorrectly suggests this is a reference to "The Irish Wolfdog". It is not. It is Cromwells reference to packs of dogs (or whatever breeding), that in conjunction with men bearing firearms hunt out and eliminate the wolf. Naturally Cromwell would seek to discourage the exportation of any wolf hunting hounds at the time of his declaration. The Richardsononions have exploited the Cromwell declaration for their own purpose, ignoring history, context and the facts of the declaration. For avoidance of all ambiguity, this editor believes that the reference to "Wolfdogges" is a generic term and not a specific reference to the Irish Wolf Dog as the Richardsononions would have us believe.

Another aspect ignored and not mentioned by the Richardsononions are the facts of history of Famine in Ireland. There is the famine and plague of the 1650's, and the even worse "great famine" of the 1850's due to the failure of the potato crop due to potato blight. The famine of the 1650's, by some estimates, reduced the population of Ireland by as much as 80%. The second famine of the 1850's reduced the population by an estimated 25%. It is said that the 1850 famine, coupled with the mass migration out of Ireland "changed the culture of Ireland forever". If anybody thinks that during these two famines, Ireland was particularly concerned to cultivate and preserve a breed of dogs, they are living in cloud cuckoo land!. Living in Ireland for most people in these era's was about "survival". To ignore such important facts of history, to exploit a word (wolfdogge) for their own ends, merely serves to weaken the creditability of those who write in such misleading terms. Ed)


Ireland, in the language of Scripture, now lay void as a wilderness. Five-sixths of her people had perished. Women and children were found daily perishing in ditches, starved. The bodies of many wandering orphans,* whose fathers had embarked for Spain, and whose mothers had died of famine, were preyed upon by wolves. In the years 1652 and 1653, the plague and famine had swept away whole countries, that a man might travel twenty or thirty miles and not see a living creature. Man, beast, and bird were all dead, or had quit those desolate places. The troopers would tell stories of the place where they saw a smoke, it was so rare to see either smoke by day, or fire or candle by night. If two or three cabins were met with, there were found there none but aged men, with women and children ; and they, in the words of the prophet, " become as a bottle in the smoke ; their skins black like an oven, because of the terrible famine." They were seen to pluck stinking carrion out of a ditch, black and rotten; and were said to have even taken corpses out of the grave to eat. A party of horse, hunting for Tories on a dark, night discovered a light; they thought it was a fire which the Tories usually made in those waste counties to dress their food and warm themselves; drawing near, they found it a ruined cabin, and, besetting it round, some alighted and peeped in at the window. There they saw a great fire of wood, and sitting round about (*1) it a company of miserable old women and children, and betwixt them and the fire a dead corpse lay broiling, which as the fire roasted, they cut off collops and ate.* Such was the depopulation of Ireland, that great part of it, it was believed, must lie waste many year?,—much of it for many ages.f But these great wastes were haunted by three burdensome beasts, that troubled the, comfort of the English. In the first united Parliament of the Three Kingdoms, at Westminster, in 1657, Major Morgan, member for the county of Wicklow, deprecated the taxation proposed for Ireland, by showing that the country was in ruins; and, besides the cost of rebuilding the churches, court-houses, and market-houses, they were under a very heavy charge for public rewards, paid for the destruction of three beasts. " We have three beasts to destroy (said Major Morgan), that lay burthens upon us. The first is the wolf, all whom we lay five pounds a head if a dog, and ten pounds if a bitch. The second beast is a priest, on whose head we lay ten pounds, —if he be eminent, more. The third beast is a Tory, on whose head, if he be a public Tory, we lay twenty pounds ; and forty shillings on a private Tory. Your army cannot catch them : the Irish bring them in ; brothers and cousins cut one another's throats.(*4)

When the Great Jehovah in his inscrutable wisdom directed the sons of Israel to return to the land of Canaan, where they had been humbly and hospitably entertained for many years, and charged them to kill all the inhabitants without mercy, and divide their ancient inheritances by lot, he warned them against destroying them too suddenly. " Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; but thou must not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee." *4 In Ireland, from too rapidly exterminating the people, the wolves multiplied in the great scopes of land lying waste and deserted in all parts of the country, and increased till they became so serious a public nuisance, by destroying the sheep and cattle of the English, that various measures had to be taken against them. Ireland had of old been celebrated for her wolf dogs, which, with her equally celebrated hawks, were considered fit presents for kings. The officers quitting for Spain in 1652, proud of their dogs, were found to be taking them with them ; but the tide-waiters at the different ports, now crowded with these departing exiles, were directed to seize the dogs, on account of the increasing number of the wolves, and send them to the public huntsman of the precinct.(*3)

(*1) Upon serious consideration had of the great multitudes of poore swarming in all parts of this nation, occasioned by the devastation of the country, and by the habits of licentiousness and idleness which the generality of the people have acquired in the time of this rebellion ; insomuch that frequently some are found feeding on carrion and weeds,—some starved in the highways, and many times poor children who lost their parents, or have been deserted by them, are found exposed to, and some of them fed upon, by ravening wolves and other beasts and birds of prey." " Printed Declaration of the Council, 12th of May, 1653."

(*2) The Interest of England in the well Planting of Ireland with English," p. 31. Small 4 to. Dublin: 1656-. By Colonel Richard Lawrence.

(*3) A-62, p. 202.

(*4) Burtons Parliamentary Diary 10th June 1657

Public hunts were regularly organized, and deer toil brought over from England, and kept in the public store for setting up while driving the woods with hounds and horn for these destructive beasts of prey (*2). Irishmen were occasionally employed, and furnished with passes to go with guns to kill them in particular districts, as in the county of Wicklow. This curse, one of the consequences of the great desolation, the government charged upon the priests. For if the priests had not been in Ireland, the troubles would not have arisen, nor the English have come, nor have made the country almost a ruinous heap, nor would the wolves have so increased. By a similar process of reasoning it is proved that it is the Irish that have caused the ruin, the plundering, and desolation of the country from the days of the first invasion for so many ages.

By a printed declaration of 29th June, 1653, republished on 1st July, 1656, the commanders of the various districts were to appoint days and times for hunting the wolf; and persons destroying wolves and bringing their heads to the Commissioners of the Revenue of the precinct were to receive for the head of a bitch wolf, £6 ; of a dog wolf, £5 ; for the head of every cub that preyed by himself, 40shillings'. ; and for the head of every sucking cub, 10shillings.(*6) The assessments on several counties to reimburse the treasury for these advances became, as appears from Major Morgan's speech, a serious charge. In corroboration it appears that in March, 1655, there was due from the precinct of Galway £243 5s. 4d. for rewards paid on this account.f But the most curious evidence of their numbers is that lands lying only nine miles north of Dublin were leased by the State in the year 1653, under conditions of keeping a hunting establishment with a pack of wolf hounds for killing the wolves, part of the rent to be discounted in wolves' heads, at the rate in the declaration of 29th,June, 1653. Under this lease Captain Edward Piers was to have all the State lands in the barony of Dunboyne in the county of Meath, valued at £543 8s 8d, at a rent greater by £100 a year than they then yielded in rent and contribution, for five years from 1st of May following, on the terms of maintaining at Dublin and Dunboyne three wolf dogs, two English mastiffs, a pack of hounds of sixteen couple (three whereof to hunt the wolf only), a knowing huntsman and two men, and one boy. Captain Piers was to bring to the Commissioners of Revenue at Dublin a stipulated number of wolf heads in the first year, and a diminishing number every year; but for every wolf head whereby he fell short of the stipulated number £5 was to be defalked from his salary

Whereas some money hath been issued on account to Colonel Daniel Abbott and others, for providing of toyles for taking of wolves, which have been brought over for publique use ; and understanding that part thereof is at present at Greenhill, near Kilcullen; ordered that Captain Tomlins, Comptroller of the Traine, do forthwith take care that the said toyles and other materials thereto belonging be brought from Greenhill, or any other place, and laid into the publique stores, and there kept until further direction shall be given concerning the same. Dated at Dublin, 29th August, 1659. Thos. Herbert, Clerk of the Council."

Related content
Irish Wolhound: Breed Protected by Cromwell
(by Barkette,The Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania) June 1938

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