Irish Wolfhound Times
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Outing Magazine Vol. XXXV.October, 1899óMarch, 1900.
The Irish Wolf-hound. Illustrated H. W. Huntington

Brian II


OF all the various breeds of dogs known to the sporting world perhaps none has so much romance attached to its history as the Irish wolfhound, or, as it is properly and anciently called, the Irish wolfdog. Irishmen will descant by the hour about the glories of this, their national dog. Yet, strange as it may seem, the natives of the Emerald Isle had permitted this grand breed to sink almost into oblivion. It was rescued, fortunately, by that most genial English sportsman, Captain G. A. Graham, of Dursley, in Gloucestershire, who is now the President of the Irish Wolfhound Club. From 1864 up to the present date, thirty-six full years, that gallant gentleman has devoted his time and energy to bring the dog back to where it was ere its decline.

Doubts no longer exist as to what its future will be, for it is now well-grounded, and each year sees new faces and grander ones making their appearance before the public. It was a work of love on the part of Captain Graham, and the pride he took in it is certainly most commendable and appreciated. In all his work he was ably seconded by Sir John Power, of Kilfane, and Mr. Baker, of Ballytoban Castle, Ireland.

At the last Crystal Palace show, which took place in London last year, there were twenty-three entries of this breed of dogs, and, strange as it may seem, nearly all the prizes were won by dogs owned by the gentle sex.

Of all the large breeds of dogs, none is so universal a favorite with the ladies as the Irish wolfhound. The fact that his cause and care have been espoused by them speaks volumes for the gentleness of his character and evenness of temper ; for woman is ever the first to recognize nobility of character, whether in man or beast, and, having pinned her faith on the wolfhound, the world may accept her judgment as both correct and final. This loyalty of character and sweetness of disposition of the dog are not a thing of education and recent growth.


Dermot Astore

Even in history he is credited with being the most companionable of all the breeds; and the Earl of Antrim has in his possession a painting,which has been handed down from generation to generation, of an immense wolfhound, which, for having saved the life of one of his Lordship's ancestors, won the everlasting gratitude of his master and his family. As far back as the history of this breed dates the dog was ever spoken of as being of the most lovable disposition, not in any way whatever quarrelsome with other dogs, very docile, the very best of companions and especially fond of children, the last characteristic being developed to a most extraordinary degree. Whether or not the Irish wolfhound of to-day is in outline or size what he was centuries ago, one fact remains true; and that is that in point of disposition he has not changed one whit, as the exhibitors and owners of the dog of to-day will attest that he is possessed of the most charmingly loyal disposition that the most exacting could wish, thus endearing himself to everyone, whether he be a member of the household or not. THIGGUM


With such characteristics, no wonder need be expressed that he is so great a favorite. As a rule, he is not as playful as either the English greyhound or the Great Dane, being rather inclined to be sedate, yet with children, especially the little ones, he seems to throw aside his stateliness, come out of his shell, as it were, and for the nonce becomes as playful as a terrier. His general bearing, however, is sedate, dignified, and at all times quiet. As far as his movements in the field are concerned, he is perhaps not fast enough for chasing the fleetest game, yet at close quarters he is able to render a good account of himself as far as his prowess is concerned. As yet, since his restoration, he has been used simply as a companion, so his field qualities are virtually untried. Colonel Roger Williams, of Kentucky, one of the Captains in Roosevelt's Rough Riders and President of the Kentucky Fox Hunters' Association, has recently imported some six old and young ones for use on the plains and in the mountains of the great West, where he goes each fall to hunt, for, like our gallant Governor, he is a mighty Nimrod. He has not yet given his dogs a fair trial


Ch Wargrave

Wargrave won two first prizes, championship, and three special prizes, and "Dermot Astore" third prize, at the recent Crystal Palace Show. London.

but has advised the writer of this article that he is led by their training and present performances to look for great things from them, especially in attacking the great timber wolf. If he will continue the good work that Captain Graham has carried so near to perfection, and make them as good in the field as they are on the bench, then we shall owe him a great debt of gratitude. As yet we have not been able to find a breed of dogs that can successfully cope with and finally destroy the great fierce wolf of our timber land, and if he succeeds in so training his Irish wolfhounds that they can rid us of this pest, then the breed will know no superiors, and few, if any, equals.

The Scotch deerhound, the English Greyhound, the Borzoi, or Russian wolfhound, have been tried in this country upon this wild animal, and with only indifferent success, due perhaps largely to the fact that they were novices and quite unused to attacking and handling such game. No doubt if the subject of this article is taken well in hand, shown what is expected of him, in two or three generations he would be found to be, par excellence, the dog for wolf and coyote killing. From a commercial point of view, if from no other, Colonel Williams could retire from active business and spend the rest of his life in breeding this dog, so as to save hundreds of thousands of dollars to our large ranchers, who 3'early have their stock depleted.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Ireland was infested with wolves, and it was then that the Irish wolfhound was bred in all its glory. The devastation of the wolves on both flocks and herds caused a general uprising of extermination, but it was not till about 1710 that the last one was said to have been killed in Ireland. Since that time, the dog's vocation being practically gone, he was allowed to die out, as it were, and as decade followed decade he grew more scarce, till, in about 1820,very few of the breed were to be found anywhere. In 1840 the breed once more was sought out, and from then new life was given it.


Ch Chieftain

Until about 1710 that the last one was said to have been killed in Ireland. Since that time, the dog's vocation being practically gone, he was allowed to die out, as it were, and as decade followed decade he grew more scarce, till, in about 1820,very few of the breed were to be found anywhere. In 1840 the breed once more was sought out, and from then new life was given it.

The romance connected with the breed is surely most enchanting. Regarding him, as we find him in 1710, according to varied writings, some claim boldly that the true Irish wolfhound became wholly extinct, others that he lived on and on and was finally merged into, or is, in reality, naught else than the Scotch deerhound of to-day, while a third contingent claim he is the English greyhound of today, shorn of his rough and shaggy coat, with an admixture of Great Dane blood. However this may be, and on whichever horn of the trilemma you wish to impale yourself, the Scotch deerhound of to-day is nearer like the old prints,paintings and drawings of the Irish wolfhound of centuries ago than it is to any other dog living, not excepting the borzoi. While in some respects the latter resembles the former, yet in the main points of comparison they are not alike. The latter is possessed of a long, attenuated head, while the former's skull is decidedly not only heavier, but of less length, and with far more powerful and heavy muzzle. The ribs of the latter are decidedly flat-sided, the back none too strong, while in the former the ribs are well sprung, the back, loins and hind quarters marvelously powerful, and in matter of bone and substance the former far outstrips the latter. Again, the coat is dissimilar, for that of the Borzoi is soft, flat and silky, and in the Irishman it is rough, hard and wiry, it being especially wiry over eyes and under jaw. There is nothing, too, in its historical phase that would lead to a belief in an infusion of Borzoi blood, whereas there is much that might confirm an infusion of Great Dane or German mastiff blood. It is true that the Borzoi is used on the steppes of Russia to kill their great wolves, but that fact would not lead to causes of cross-breeding when what already existed for centuries in Ireland was able to cope with her beasts of prey.

The Irish dog will soon be pitted against the Russian dog. Mr. Richard Tamplin, the leader of British sport at St. Petersburg, Russia, has purchased a brace of very large Irish wolfhounds from Major Richardson's kennels, at Carnoustee, Forfarshire, intending to match them against three Borzois in a wolf-killing contest. The manner of disposing of the wolf is different in Russia to that in any other country. The Borzois are taken in threes and fours in slips where the wolves are known to be. Beaters, somewhat afterthestyleadopted in East India, drive or scare the wolf out into the open, where the Borzois are slipped on them. Then they course their quarry perhaps for miles, for the Russian wolf is not only very large but very fast and strong, and when the dog gets near enough to the wolf he is trained to strike him with his shoulder, knocking him over. The other dogs, coming up, engage him in battle till the mounted huntsmen arrive, and the wolf is killed with their long spears. The Borzois are broken to chase and engage the wolf or hold him till the huntsmen arrive.

As far as speed is concerned, there is little doubt but that the Borzoi, being built on lighter lines, will outstrip the Irish wolfhound in a coursing contest pure and simple; but where the killing has to be done by the dog, as would be the case everywhere except in Russia, it will be found beyond a doubt that the stronger built dog will be the victor.

Referring to the standard adopted by the Irish Wolfhound Club, we find one very pertinent sentence, viz.: "The Irish wolfdog should not be so heavy or massive as the Great Dane, but more so than the deerhound, which in general type he should otherwise resemble." From the foregoing it is seen that the consensus of opinion is that the English greyhound and Borzoi (or Russian wolfhound) type should be discarded. The engraving of a celebrated picture of an Irish wolfdog by Reinagle seems to show little else than an immense Scotch deerhound, with somewhat of Great Dane type about it; and as this appeared in 1803, it is more than likely to be at least a somewhat close representation of the dog then in popular favor. Captain Graham, who has made this breed a life study, expressed himself as confirmed in the belief that in 1875 there was enough of the original and purely-bred Irish wolfhound blood existent, which, if properly bred to the then present Scotch deerhound, would revivify the ancient breed in all its glory. Further, that the dog originally was built on deerhound lines, only of much heavier type. Despite this view, he, however, some years ago, bred his Banshee to the Borzoi Korotoi, but what the outcome of the cross was the writer is unable to say. Korotoi, by the way, seemed at one time as if destined to join the ranks of the American Borzois, but the project fell through, much to the regret of all the fanciers of this beautiful breed of dogs.

While the Irish wolfdog has certainly figured well in history, it is in legend that he is perhaps best known, and many a song is sung of his great value, his stature, his prowess, and his disposition as well. We know full well the legend of how the mighty kings of Ulster and of Connaught fought in battle array for the possession of a wolfdog, whose value was greater than many thousand head of cattle, and how sanguinary the battle was! Then, too, there was Failinis, the favorite of the King of Irnaida, of such wonderful size and power that no living man or beast could withstand him when once he was aroused! Again, we hear tell of Bran, the prime favorite of the old Irish warrior Finn, and Conbec, too, said to be as swift as the wind, as powerful as a lion, with sagacity in equal proportion, and who was so beloved by his master that no kennel could harbor him, his own master's bed being shared with him!

Nor does the dog seem to be less popular in history than in legend. The Rev. Edmund Hogan has written a most charming little book, " The Irish Wolfdog," the result of much study and great research, a book that any true lover of a dog would be delighted to read. The love for the animal that prompted the writing pervades the whole book, and leaves naught at the finish to be desired but the hope that the breed will be soon restored to its pristine glory. That the breed is one of great antiquity no one can dispute with reason, for records and writings go to prove it is no latter-day fancy. The Roman people, ever on the alert for new forms of amusement, and satiated with the old ones, in the year 391 thronged the arena to witness a contest wherein took part the seven dogs that the Consul, Quintus Aurelius, had imported from Ireland to give pleasure to the Roman populace. Almost from time immemorial, according to historical writings, the Irish wolfdog was esteemed as of great value, and this King John of England well knew, as it was he who presented to the Welsh Prince Llewellyn a noted specimen of the breed. Edward I. also appreciated the dog, and royal orders are still extant wherein he commanded the importation of them from the Emerald Isle. Both Edward III. and Henry VIII. admired them, too, and they were found in the royal kennels.

The Irish dog of later days was essentially a worker, not one for exhibition purposes, but for real and live uses; and when the wolves ceased to exist in Ireland little wonder need be expressed that he should have slowly but surely dropped into oblivion. Had dog shows existed then, as now, the breed, in all probability, would have suffered*nothing from the lapse of time. Then, too, there were varied causes why it should degenerate and almost entirely cease to exist. The landed gentry of Ireland have suffered much from famines and floods, from internal bickerings and political strifes. Ancient houses have crumbled and turned to dust, and landed estates have passed into strangers' hands. Little wonder is it, then, that the dog should have shared a similar fate; yes, perhaps even a worse one.

But the breed has been snatched from its obscurity, and now, phcenix-like, rises to demand of the dog-loving world a share of its encomiums. It has slumbered all too long, but now, fostered by true dog-lovers, it will soon gain its proper place. That it has slumbered long no one will deny, for as far back as 1571 it is written of as being "bigger of bone and limb than a colt." In 1595 a Spanish writer of verses calls him "an Irish greyhound of beauteous build, bay colored, dark striped from head to haunch." In the seventeenth century he is spoken of as "very well able to overcome wolves and stags in fleetness, fighting and power; an animal which, by his majesty, great size, marvelous variegation of color and the proportion of his limbs, is so valuable as to be a gift fit to be presented to any Emperor." Smith, in his story of Waterford (1774), says "the dog is bigger than a mastiff, but more like a greyhound, and for size, strength and shape, cannot be equaled." In the ancient frescoes that adorn the walls of Easton Mostyn Hall there are some five frescoes, wherein are represented two dogs of rough greyhound type, and these are claimed to well represent the true type of the old Irish wolfdog.

As before stated, the dog is not unlike the Scotch deerhound, possessed of an equally shaggy coat, but being, all in all, more workmanlike looking than the Scotchman. According to the standard of excellence, as formulated by the Irish Wolfhound Club, the colors given as acceptable are gray, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, or any color that appears in the deerhound. Captain Graham recently exhibited at the Kennel Club show his young dog Osric, whose color, and color only (which is the same as his champion Dhulart and Myshall), was questioned by the critic of the London Stockkeeper. To this criticism the Captain took decided objection in the next issue of the paper, stating that in the thirty-six years that he had devoted to resurrecting and revivifying the breed, one of his greatest efforts was ever devoted to breeding black-and-tans; and while the club's standard did not make note of this color, still he contended it was not only the original color, but that of all the early hound families. It is an indisputable fact that black-and-tans are largely represented in beagles, foxhounds, pointers, setters, the early spaniels, and most of the terriers; and that the Irish wolfhound should be barred from having it is an objection seemingly not well taken. It is true, the Borzoi, with its silky, flowing- coat, is excessively attractive when its coat is pure white, yet this same color is made more brilliant by an occasional splash of black and tan. Argoss, the Borzoi, imported by the writer, was black, tan and white; and the fact that he won some sixty-eight first and special prizes, both here, in Russia and in England, proves conclusively that the colors in question are no detriment. It is also an acknowledged fact that dogs of this color are, as a rule, very hardy, of good constitution and of good heart.

In general appearance the Irish wolfhound should not be quite so heavy or so massive as the Great Dane, but more so than the Scotch deerhound, "which in general type he should otherwise resemble," and also be of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly though gracefully built. His movements should be very easy and graceful, with the head and neck carried high.

The tail should be carried with an upward sweep, and with a slight curve toward the extremity. The minimum height should be, for dogs, thirty-one inches, while for bitches it should be twenty-eight.

As to weight, the minimum should be one hundred and twenty pounds for dogs and thirty pounds less for bitches. The club's idea is that anything below these figures should cause the contestant for honors to be debarred from competition. Great size, including height at shoulders and proportionate length of body, is the desideratum to be arrived at, as it is desired to firmly establish a race that shall average from thirty-two to thirty-four inches in dogs, showing the requisite power, activity, courage, and symmetry combined.

The head, which so often stamps a dog and shows his breeding, should be long, the frontal bones of the forehead being slightly raised, and very little indentation existing between the eyes. The skull should not be too broad, but the muzzle should be long, strong and moderately pointed.

The ears should be small and folding down when at rest, as seen in the English greyhound. As the animal is for the chase and not for the bench, the neck should be rather long, very strong and muscular, clean cut, well arched, and free from dewlap and throatiness. As speed and staying power enter largely into his uses, the chest should be very deep, with the breast broad, thus giving free action to both the lungs and the heart. The back should be rather long than short, with the loins gracefully arched.

The shoulders should be sloping as well as muscular, with the elbows well under the body, and they should be turned neither inward noroutward. The whole leg should be strong and quite straight. Why the club should not insist upon the forelegs being absolutely straight is a question that the writer is unable to explain. As in greyhounds, foxhounds, beagles, English and American foxhounds, harriers and Borzois, the demand is for front legs as straight as gun-barrels. The uses of the Irish wolfhound being almost identical with the before-named hounds, the omission of the " quite straight " quality seems hardly logical. The hindquarters should be muscular, with the second thigh long and strong, as in the English greyhound, and the hocks well let down, but turned neither in nor out.

The feet should be moderately large and round, turned neither inward nor outward, the toes well arched and closed, with the nails not only curved but very strong. The hair on the body, legs and head is rough and hard, and especially wiry and long over the eyes and underjaw. . As before stated, the colors called for by the standard are gray, red, brindle, black, pure white, fawn, and any color that appears in the Scotch deerhound.

In order that the reader may better analyze and compare the dog with the breed mentioned, an illustration is given of Col. John E. Thayer's champion Scotch deerhound, Chieftain, which is perhaps one of the grandest specimens ever seen on the show bench; and, by comparing it with the illustrations of the wolfhound, the analogy becomes certainly very strong and convincing.

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