The Irish Wolfhound has long been regarded as one of the Emerald Isle’s most cherished breeds. To celebrate National Dog Day, we examine the history of this beloved creature. 

Easily one of the most recognizable emblems of Ireland, the Irish Wolfhound boasts a long and noble history. From the ancient high kings to First World War Irish military regiments, the Wolfhound has been a constant and loyal companion for the Irish through the centuries.

Irish Guards' Band Drummer Boy, pictured at Waterford Barracks with the regiment's mascot, an Irish Wolfhound. Image Source: National Library of Ireland on The Commons, Flickr
Irish Guards’ Band Drummer Boy, pictured at Waterford Barracks with the regiment’s mascot, an Irish Wolfhound. Image Source: National Library of Ireland on The Commons, Flickr

An Ancient Animal

The Irish Wolfhound is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence. Historical artifacts indicate that this particular dog breed has been in Ireland since at least 273 BC. Descended from wolves, these beautiful dogs were terrifyingly enormous in size and so they were perfect for hunting large animals such as deer, boar, and even gigantic elk.


A True Blue Blood

Due to its hunting prowess, the Wolfhound was the pet of choice for Ancient Irish nobility. In fact, Brehon Law only permitted Kings and Chieftans to own these magnificent creatures. The amount of dogs one could possess was also dictated by status.

Wolf hunt with Wolfhounds. By Thomas Miller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Wolf hunt with Wolfhounds. By Thomas Miller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Gentle when Stroked, Fierce when Provoked”

The Irish Wolfhound was also a renowned war dog. Celtic warriors would go into battle with their canine companions at their side. The huge dogs would prove themselves in battle by dragging men off horseback and chariots. In fact, Wolfhound was so highly prized for its fighting abilities that battles were fought over them. It was also considered a mark of honor for ancient warriors to have their name prefixed with “Cú” – the Gaelic word for hound.

Limited Edition Belleek Classic Round Tower Centerpiece
Limited Edition Belleek Classic Round Tower Centerpiece

A Symbol of Ancient Irish Nobility and Integrity

Through the centuries, the great Irish Wolfhound  has remained a potent symbol of Irish identity. It has appeared on world-renowned Irish products such as Tulamore Dew whiskey and Belleek Pottery. It also featured on the old Irish sixpence coin and a specially-designed stamp. If you look closely you can also spot the Wolfhound at the the base of Daniel O’Connell’s statue in central Dublin and on top of the Dublin GPO.

Limited Edition Belleek Classic Irish Wolfhound Figurine
Limited Edition Belleek Classic Irish Wolfhound Figurine
Posted by:Molly

Hi there! I'm a Digital Marketing Specialist here at Blarney Woollen Mills. I love learning all about Irish culture and history, and sharing everything I've learnt through our blog!