This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
To Captain G. A. Graham, of Dursley, Gloucestershire, we owe considerable gratitude for the trouble he has taken to resuscitate the Irish wolfhound. Enthusiast though he be, he is not like so many other enthusiasts, led away to say things he cannot prove, or, indeed, to lay claim to his hounds being descended in a direct line from those animals which may have or may not have killed the last wolf near Dingle over 200 years ago. The gallant gentleman acknowledges that the breed in its original integrity has disappeared, but he believed, when first writing on the subject twenty years since, that so much of the true strain remained that, with the aid of the modern deerhound, and with judicious management, the breed in its "pristine grandeur" could be recovered.
The difficulty, to my mind, would be to exactly define the original Irish wolfhound. The popular idea - and this is not always correct - was of a big powerful dog, with a wire-haired or rough coat, built on the lines of a deerhound, but altogether a heavier and stronger animal. What height a full-grown specimen should be there is a diversity of opinion. Old writers have said he was as big as a donkey; others that he stood from 36 inches to 40 inches at the shoulders. In the museum of the Royal Dublin Society there are two skulls of wolfhounds dug out of barrows by the late Dr. Wilde. The dimensions of them have been very useful to those who believed in the bigness of the wolfhound. Unfortunately for the side of the latter, these skulls, when carefully measured and compared with others of living dogs, deerhounds, wolfhounds, and greyhounds, could not have been possessed by animals more than 29 inches high at the shoulders.
However, it is not my province here to say what kind of an animal the historical Irish deerhound was, whether there were two, three, or four varieties, or whether any dog that would tackle and hunt a wolf was from the moment he did so called a wolfhound. This would only be similar to that which occurs in our own days; for have we not the ordinary foxhound called a staghound or a buck-hound when he is entered to hunt the deer?
Mr. G. W. Hickman, of Birmingham, has written most exhaustively and carefully on the subject on one side; so have Mr. H. Richardson, Captain G. A. Graham, Mr. R. D. O'Brien, Limerick, and others on another side. I have to deal with "Modern Dogs," and so the wolfhound, as he is now resuscitated, must be described by me. There is no doubt that by careful crossing between certain dogs obtained from Ireland about 1841 with the deer-hound and the Great Dane, an animal of a certain distinctive type has been obtained, which, in its turn, breeds perhaps quite as truly, up to a certain standard, as most other canine varieties. Captain G. A. Graham, who must be said to be the chief supporter of the modern variety, says that his own strain "he can trace back to those had by Richardson in 1841-42, though not beyond 1862 from father to son. He says the breed had been kept up by Mr. Baker, of Badylohm Castle, and Sir John Power, of Kilfane, from 1840 to 1865, or thereabouts. He further says that on good grounds it was believed that "these dogs were descended from Hamilton Rowan's so called, last of his race, Bran by name, a fine dark grey, rough hound, that was his constant companion." Captain G. A. Graham had a grandson of Kilfane Oscar, a dog he obtained from Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, and from this he traces the purity of the blood as far back as it will go. He-advocated a cross with the Great Dane and deer-hound, and latterly, on the popularisation of the Borzoi, or Russian wolfhound, has suggested a third cross with that variety.
Some of the Irish wolfhounds seen at modern exhibitions are extremely fine animals, docile and quiet as they recline on their benches, and by no means quarrelsome, evidently quite contented with their lot. Indeed, they possess an excellent reputation as companions, especially such as are not the first cross between the two modern varieties already alluded to. I think it was at Brighton show in 1895, that Mr. W. K. Angelo showed a particularly fine "Irish wolfhound," Goth II., who stood 34 inches at the shoulders, and weighed 1341b. at eighteen months old. An extremely handsome hound this, which, on inquiry, I found had the Borzoi Korotai for his grandsire on one side, and besides he included deerhound and Irish wolfhound blood. In addition his grandsire, on his dam's side, was an imported "Siberian wolf dog or sheep dog." This hound, and others of the same strain in Mr. Angelo's kennels, have been and are used successfully in Scotland for coursing deer.
Never having been the fortunate possessor of any Irish wolfhounds, and being desirous of obtaining the best information about them as companions, I wrote to a friend who at times had kept two or three of them, and who would gladly give me his opinion. That friend says the Irish wolfhound is very good with children, is the best domestic pet of any big dog, and none more useful in a quiet country place. He never had a case of anyone being bitten by his Irish dogs, though, from their size and appearance, they are a great deterrent to bad characters and the tramping fraternity generally. Some of the strains that contain the Great Dane first cross are not quite of the same disposition as the others, being not nearly so dignified in their demeanour, and inclined to steal whenever an opportunity is afforded them so to do. They are exuberantly affectionate, seldom at rest a moment, but still not quarrelsome. The finer strains are generally more lethargic, stately, and sedate; strong in their attachments to an individual, and extremely quiet and good-tempered with other dogs; the latter often approaching to softness. Still, when roused and angry, they can give a good account of themselves, and punish their enemy severely. In no degree are they quarrelsome for they are quite as reliable in temper as the modern deerhound.