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Irish Wolfhound

Published on 22 Jun 2021

Irish Wolfhound Close up portrait.

The Irish Wolfhound is often referred to as a “gentle giant” due to their calm and affable nature. These former medieval game hunters are model canine citizens, and are generally welcoming to children, strangers, other dogs, and pets.

They’re ancient dog breed, possibly dating back to Ireland in 7000 BC, though the oldest written record of the Wolfhound is from Rome dating to 391 AD, when seven dogs were given to Quintus Aurelius as gifts. Irish Wolfhounds were treasured for their ability to hunt the wolves that preyed upon livestock, as well as giant Irish elk. For centuries, these dogs were reserved for nobility. The traditional practice of giving them as presents to foreign nobility, along with the extinction of the wolf in Ireland, contributed to the decline of the breed’s numbers in the 18th century. By the 19th century, they were almost extinct, and the Irish famine of 1845 further decimated the breed. However, in the 1860’s, restoration of the breed began with infusion of Scottish Deerhound, Great Dane, Borzoi, and Tibetan Wolfdog bloodlines to increase the gene pool. The first breed standard was adopted by the Irish Kennel Club in 1885.

The tallest breed in the world, some males can reach 89 cm at the shoulder and weigh up to 81.6 kg. The average male stands up to 86 cm at the shoulder and weighs a minimum of 54.5 kg and females are a little smaller at around 76 cm at the shoulder and weigh between 40.5 and 48 kg. Irish Wolfhounds possess a hard, rough, wiry haircoat with a soft, dense undercoat that comes in brindle, grey, red, black, fawn, and white. Their average lifespan is 6 to 8 years.

Dog Breed Facts & Characteristics



Also known as 

Irish Wolfhound, Cu Faoil, Big Dog of Ireland, Greyhound of Ireland, Great Hound of Ireland, Wolfdog of Ireland


Giant: 71 to 86 cm height; 40.5 to 54.5 kgs minimum weight

Weight Range

40.5 to 54.5 kgs


Red, brindle, black, fawn, gray, white

Life expectancy

6 to 8 years 


Wiry, rough coat, low shedding  


Patient, easy going

Activity levels

Moderately active 

Best suited for

Active households, with space for a large dog  

Apartment friendly

Better suited to larger properties


Adult dogs are generally calm, easygoing, and patient. Bred for running with great speed and stamina, they need daily exercise and space to frolic and are better suited to larger properties than apartment living. Although they are usually good with other animals and children, they do have a strong chase instinct and play should be supervised. Their strength and size may make them a better choice for families with older children as toddlers may get knocked or pulled over. Early training is important to help facilitate a great relationship between owner and Irish Wolfhound to avoid battles of strength. At home, Irish Wolfhounds need ample room to stretch out, with access to soft furniture and bedding to prevent calluses and pressure sores. As for all dogs, early socialistion to help them become used to other dogs, animals and people will help the Irish Wolfhound to grow into a well-adjusted adult dog. 


With a wiry rough coat of the Irish Wolfhound has a soft undercoat. It is fairly low maintenance but will benefit from weekly or more frequently brushing with an undercoat rake and a pin brush. Excessively long hair around the genitals, toes and eyes may need trimming every now and again. Flea control all year around is recommend as is tick control if in a tick area. 


When choosing a food for your Irish Wolfhound, select a premium large breed dog food appropriate to your dog’s life stage. Follow the recommended feeding guides on the food appropriate to your pet's size. Make sure your dog always has a supply of fresh, clean water available.

Irish Wolfhound puppies sitting on rock together in the garden.

Common Health Concerns 

The five most common reasons for an Irish Wolfhound to visit the Vet (excluding routine care visits) according to PetSure data over the past five calendar years (2016-2020) included skin problems such as allergic skin disease, cancers including osteosarcoma, musculoskeletal problems like lameness and spinal pain, tumours, and gastrointestinal upsets. 

RankConditionAverage cost for single treatment
(average pet insurance claim amount)
Highest cost for single treatment (highest pet insurance claim seen for this condition)
1Skin problems including allergic skin disease, pododermatitis$236$1,683
2Cancers, including osteosarcoma and lymphoma $496$13,631
3Musculoskeletal complaints, including lameness and spinal pain $244$3,894
4Tumours, including hygromas$368$5,994
5Gastrointestinal problems, including Canine Haemorrhagic Gastroenteritis$307$2,605

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.


Irish wolfhound lying down on black dog bed.

Most popular Irish Wolfhound names (PetSure data 2020)

Most popular names

  1. Sadie
  2. Archie
  3. Frank
  4. Lola
  5. Alaska
  6. Alfie
  7. Apollo
  8. Biggie
  9. Bosco
  10. Bronte

Most popular female names

  1. Sadie
  2. Lola
  3. Alaska
  4. Daisy
  5. Elsie
  6. Hazel
  7. Maui
  8. Mishka 
  9. Miss
  10. Nala

Most popular male names 

  1. Archie
  2. Frank
  3. Alfie
  4. Apollo
  5. Biggie
  6. Bosco
  7. Bronte
  8. Buddy
  9. Butters 
  10. Charlie

Did you know?

The Irish Wolfhound was originally a war dog, used to pull armoured warriors off chariots in Rome, and knock knights off their horses in Ireland. While they may be brave in battle, Irish Wolfhounds are generally not aggressive in nature and make loving companions.

Where can I get an Irish Wolfhound?

Although they are a pure breed of dog, breed specific rescues may have Irish Wolfhound’s for adoption. It may also be possible to find a wonderful giant dog for your family at the local shelter or rescue organisation who is looking for a loving home. 


  1. Australian National Kennel Council 2021, Breed Standard of the Irish Wolfhound, Accessed on 11/05/2021
  2. Irish Wolfhound Club of America 2021, Early History of the Breed, Accessed on 11/05/2021
  3. American Kennel Club, Irish Wolfhound, Accessed on 26/05/2021 is general insurance issued by the insurer The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) (Hollard); is promoted and distributed by Pet Insurance Pty Ltd (ABN 38 607 160 930; AR 1234944) (PIPL) and PIPL’s authorised distribution partners (including Pet Culture Group Pty Limited ABN: 69 644 613 098; AR 001284860) (PetCulture) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) (PetSure). PIPL and PetCulture are authorised representatives of PetSure. Any advice provided is general only, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. Consequently, before acting on this information, you should consider the appropriateness of this information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain and consider the product disclosure statement (PDS) in deciding whether to acquire or continue to hold, Pet Insurance.

Kylie Mitchell

Kylie Mitchell


Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie Mitchell's Pets

  • MeekaMeeka
  • Bei BeiBei Bei
  • NoahNoah

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