Breed Irish Wolfhound

BreedsAbout the Breed: Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Setter is a superb athlete and an endurance runner.  He’s confident, gentle, and kind.


Irish Wolfhounds, according to legend and history, originated in those long ago days veiled in antiquity when balladeers and story tellers were the caretakers of history and the reporters of current events.  One of the earliest recorded references to Irish Wolfhounds is in Roman records dating to 391 A.D.  Often used as royal gifts they hunted with their masters, fought beside them in battle, guarded their castles, played with their children, and lay quietly by the fire as family friends.  They were fierce hunters of wolves and the oversized Irish elk; so good their prey disappeared from Ireland and the hounds fell upon hard times.  By the 19th Century there were few IWs left in Ireland.

In the 19th Century with few IWs left in Ireland Captain George A. Graham gathered those he could find and began a breeding program, working for 20 years to re-establish the Irish Wolfhound.


Along with its appearance, the Irish Setter’s personality is fun loving, playful and affectionate. The standard calls for a “rollicking” temperament, and anyone who has had the pleasure of raising an Irish Setter puppy can tell you exactly what that means. It is mischievous and independent, intelligent and stubborn, anxious to please and yet determined to have its way if it decides to-go hunting or steal a treasure from closet or drawer. Hunting instinct is strong and the breed enjoys a fine reputation as a reliable companion in the field.

The Irish Setter is a slow maturing dog, both mentally and physically. It stays a puppy for a long time, and retains some of its merry Irish character forever. Some believe that the setter is difficult to train, but this is not so. The Irish Setter is very smart, sometimes smarter than its owner, so one must use care and patience in training this dog. Once learned, a lesson is never forgotten, so it behooves the owner to train a puppy with love and firmness, never harshness or cruelty.

The breed is naturally clean and fastidious and will housetrain quickly, if given the opportunity to go out at regular intervals when it is young. It loves to be with its people and will adapt to riding in a car, preferably in a crate where it can stretch out comfortably and be secure. This breed is not aggressive but it will energetically announce the arrival of all comers, and if put to the test has been known to protect its owners from harm.

One of the primary requisites for owning an Irish Setter is the time and the facilities to exercise it often. This is a high-energy-level breed, needing an area to run and play big enough for it to stretch its legs. This is the single most important factor in raising a happy and healthy dog. Exercise, however, does not mean opening the door and allowing the dog to run free. Irish Setters will follow their noses and cannot be guaranteed to remain within one’s property until they are well along in years. Sometimes this happy state never occurs. Either an ample fenced yard or the means to walk or run the dog daily are a must if you wish to have a happy and adjusted Irish Setter.

Best with:

  • Someone who wants to share his/her home with a constant, loyal canine companion.

Not for:

  • Anyone who wants a “backyard” dog, a dog to “run free”, or who doesn’t have a fenced yard.
  • Anyone who lives in a wildlife area; an unfenced Irish Wolfhound will chase and bring down any wildlife he encounters.


Kindness, gentleness, amiability, and willingness to please and be trained.


  • Short life span.
  • Large size demands large fenced yard, larger car, larger space, and clean up and disposal of large deposits.

More Info:

Irish Wolfhound of America
Irish Wolfhound Club of Puget Sound



An Irish Wolfhound must be “of great size and commanding appearance.  He has a large, muscular greyhound-like shape; he is the tallest of dogs not the heaviest.  His chest is deep his neck long and strong.

Females: The minimum height at the withers is 30 inches, and 105 pounds.

Males: The minimum height at the withers is 32 inches, and 120 pounds.

These are the minimums stated in the Standard of Excellence. Today’s hounds typically EXCEED these minimums. It is not uncommon for a mature male to stand 36” at the withers and weigh 175 pounds.


Most common color is light to dark grey brindle but colors range from light cream to black. A white patch on the chest is common as well as white tips on the toes and a white tip on the tail. Spots on any other part of the body are not allowed.

Energy Level:

Moderate energy level, but consistent exercise (walking, running) is important.

Life expectancy:

Average is 6 years for males, and 7 for females.


Very good with children. Their size may intimidate small children. Their enthusiastic, wagging tails can topple them.

Other animals:

Very kind to other dogs. Can be TRAINED to live peacefully with cats and other household pets.


Companionship. Hiking. Coursing competition. Some do enjoy obedience competition. They are not retrievers… they’re entirely uninterested in fetching anything.


This dog sheds, and it’s a lot of dog to shed. Their rough textured double coat with an undercoat rolls out profusely in the spring and more moderately the rest of the year. A good combing/brushing several times a week is required.


In general, an Irish Wolfhound is a robust, healthy dog that grows fast and ages rapidly. Old age, cancer, and heart disease are the major causes of death. Torsion/Bloat is also a big health consideration in the breed.