(Breeder and Exhibitor)
The Resuscitation of an Ancient Breed - The Pioneers in this Work - Their Difficulties and Success - Some Famous Wolfhounds - Points of the Breed -Care and Treatment of the Puppies Prices of Pups and Adults
The wonderful story of the phoenix applies to more creatures than that bird. It is a true allegory of perhaps the noblest of living dogs, the great Irish wolfhound, for from the ashes of past greatness he has arisen to fresh power and beauty.
About thirty years ago, interest revived in this ancient breed. Bards and historians of the dim past had chronicled the beauty and prowess of the mighty hound of Ireland, used by kings and chiefs to hunt the wolf and wild deer; but it was supposed that with the last wolf had died the last tall hound.
For several years previously, however - in fact, since 1863 - it had been the object of Captain Graham, of Durs1ey , to revive, if possible, the glory of this ancient race, in which work he was nobly seconded by Major Garnier. Their efforts were crowned with complete and deserved success, though their task was by no means easy.
Mrs. P. Shewell's Champion Cotswold Patricia, a magnificent specimen of the great Irish wolfhound, and a daughter of the famous Wolfe Tone
There were, it is true, no fewer than three strains still existing in Ireland, but none of their representatives could approach at all near the standard of the past, as described in old writings and drawings, either in size or type. It remained, therefore, to cross the best representative bitches that could be obtained from these strains with the Great Dane, the Scottish deerhound, and, finally, the Borzoi, or Russian wolf-hound. Of these, the nearest in type to the ideal wolfhound was the Scottish deerhound; but the aim of the breeders was a more powerful and much larger dog, yet one devoid of coarseness or clumsiness. The earliest results of this crossing were, of course, curious, but gradually the ideal type began to evolve and become fixed, and 2374 by 1881 there were once again real Irish wolfhounds.
The names of a few of these first wolf-hounds proper may be found interesting. They include Brian, Sheelah, and Banshee, followed by Champions O'leary, Dermot Astore (sire of Champion Gareth), and, later, that wonderful bitch, Champion Artara, and Mr. Compton's Wolfe Tone, sire of the famous Champion Cotswold Patricia.
A seal to the popularity of the breed was affixed by the presentation by the Irish Wolfhound Club of Rajah of Kidnal, renamed Brian Boru, in 1902, to the then newly formed regiment of Irish Guards as regimental pet.
As laid down by the club, the standard of points for this breed is as follows : In general appearance the dog should resemble the Scotch deerhound, on a larger and more powerful scale, being less heavy and massive than the Great Dane. The minimum height at the shoulder should be, for a dog, 31 inches; for a bitch, 28 inches. In weight, a dog should scale at least 120 lb., and bitch 90 lb. But the ideal at which to aim is from 32 to 34 inches for the dog and a corresponding height for the bitch.
In appearance an Irish wolfhound should be commanding, strong, and muscular, yet active and graceful, an embodiment of strength, courage, and symmetry.
The head should be long, with a slight indentation between the eyes; the skull should not be over-broad, and the ears should be small, and carried in greyhound fashion. The neck should be fairly long, muscular, and well arched, free from dew-lap or loose skin about the throat.
The chest should be very deep; the back long rather than short, with arched loins.
The tail should be long, with a slight curve, well covered with hair; the hindquarters muscular, with hocks that are well let down.
The forequarters should be muscular, with well-set shoulders; the legs straight and strong, with fairly large, round feet, well arched toes, and strong, curved nails.
The texture of the coat should be hard and rough, especially long and wiry over the eyes and under the jaw. In colour the wolfhound may be grey, brindle, red, black, fawn, pure white, or any colour that appears in the greyhound.
Irish wolfhound dog. one of a breed famous in ancient history, and for a time threatened with extinction, but now restored to its pristine glory
Photo, Terry Hunt
The names of some of the breed's enthusiastic supporters should be chronicled, for to devote money and time to the perfecting of a dog practically unknown means more than the tyro might suspect. Among such keen supporters are Major and Mrs. P. Shewell, whose hounds bear the prefix "Cotswold," Mr. Everett, of Felixstowe, Mr. Martin, Mr. Crisp, Lady Kathleen Pilkington, Miss Mccheane, Mr. Hamilton Adams, Mrs. Gerard, as well as others known to the "doggy" world.
From any of these kennels can be selected with confidence a puppy or adult of this ancient race. The last traces of the Great Dane's smooth coat and other signs of crossing have disappeared, and the disinterested work of the early pioneers is complete.
As with all large breeds, wolfhound puppies require great care, both as regards exercise and feeding. Size is almost the chief point at which to aim, and, therefore, feeding must be on a generous scale, and the dietary must consist of abundance of sound flesh for the most part, or the result will be a hound of crooked bone, poor sub-stance, or small size, and most likely ricketty as well.
Exercise, too, must be most methodical and well-judged - in fact, many breeders of large dogs advocate plenty of play in a paddock for pups, rather than regular walks. It is, perhaps, as injurious to a puppy of a heavy breed to over-exercise him when young as to neglect to do so. Discipline, also, with such big dogs is imperative, for if spoiled by over-indulgence, or rendered fierce by severity, they may become a source of danger.
Even for a very young puppy several guineas will be asked, and for an older dog a large sum will have to be paid. Reflection will show the justice of such demands; the prospective buyer is apt to forget that the price of the dam, the large stud fee of the sire, the feeding of the mother before and after the advent of the puppies, as well as their own food when weaned, are most serious items in a kennel book. The wolfhound is emphatically the rich fancier's dog, but he is worth his keep, for, if properly trained, he is affectionate, faithful, an excellent guard, and the most stately of companions.