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.
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.
#Failinis-invincible in battle, caught every wild beast & could magically change running water it bathed in into wine! #FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/8QEfKKhUGY
— Lorraine Mulholland (@lorraineelizab6) September 14, 2017
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.
“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.
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.