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.
This is not a bad character for a dog that one requires to be an every-day companion either in town or country; and certainly, so far as I have studied and noticed the variety, I must agree with the excellent testimonial the Irish wolfhound receives from one who has kept him for half a generation.
This dog has been recommended as likely to be useful with "big game," not elephants and hippopotami, but with wolves, hyenas, and such inferior animals as are to be found in South Africa and other great hunting countries. Whether they would do so well as either the pure Dane or the Deerhound is an open question. They are not sufficiently smart and active to cope successfully with powerful beasts of prey, though perhaps, if brought up to the work and at an early age trained to hunt, they would be able to do as well as any other breed of dog. But it is folly for a young fellow to obtain a hound of any of these varieties - Great Dane, deerhound, or Irish wolfhound - from some of the show kennels, rush him over to the Cape, or into the interior of Africa, and expect him to take as kindly to hunt "the king of the forest" or the leopard as he would to accepting a biscuit from the hand of some fair mistress-An Irish wolfhound requires to be properly entered to game just as carefully as do the pointer, setter, and retriever; and generations passed in kennels or in the drawing-room have no tendency to improve him as a destroyer of wild animals when they come in his way.
A modern Irish wolfhound is in appearance just a big and rather coarse deerhound, and, previous to giving his description as drawn up by the Wolfhound Club, the following statistics of the height and weight of some of the best specimens will perhaps not be without interest: - Captain G. A. Graham's Brian, figured in "Dogs of the British Isles," stood 30½ inches at the shoulder, and weighed 1281b.; Dhulart was 31 inches at the shoulder and 1261b. weight; Banshee, 29¾ inches and 101lb. weight; Mask, 30¼ inches, and 1061b. weight; Tara, 29 inches and about 100 lb.; Fintragh, 29¾ inches, and 110 lb. weight. Colonel Gamier showed a particularly fine young dog at the Kennel Club's Show at Islington in 1888, which unfortunately died soon after the exhibition. The hound, called Merlin, stood 33 inches at the shoulders, and, though unfurnished, scaled 1501b. He was fawn in colour, and undoubtedly the finest specimen of the race I have seen or has yet appeared at any of our shows. Already have I referred to Mr. Angelo's Goth II., who at eighteen months old measured 34 inches at the shoulder, and scaled 1341b. Another hound of Mr. Angelo's, called Torrum, and who has killed several deer, is 33 inches at the shoulders; whilst Mr. Trainor's Thuggum Thu, shown at the Kennel Club's Show in October, 1896, was quite 34 inches in height, and a well-made dog, too, but, like all of his cousins, inclining very much to the deerhound type. Another very good specimen is Mr. Crisp's Bran, bred by the Earl of Caledon, and standing 33 inches at the shoulder. He is a steel brindle in colour, but, unlike Thuggum Thu, who inclines to the deerhound, shows his Great Dane descent, though in jaw and other particulars he excels. Perhaps a better bitch has never been shown than Captain Graham's Sheelah, described by one admirer of the variety as the best bitch he ever saw. She was about 30 inches at the shoulders, wheaten in colour, with a few black hairs intermingled, and with black points, and showed neither undue deerhound or Great Dane blood. Moreover, she proved an excellent brood bitch, being dam of Dhuart and Mr. Hood Wright's Starno, both excelling in type, which is so difficult to find in the present generation.
It is rather unfortunate that so fine a dog has not attracted popular fancy. Had it done so, there would have been as much a run on the Irish wolfhound as there has been on other and perhaps less deserving varieties. The club to look after its interests is fairly successful, but there is a sad lack of enterprise amongst the general public. Even the natives of the Emerald Isle themselves have refused to answer the call, although, in the national emblem of Erin, an Irish wolfhound is lying beside the harp, and, as a rule, the prizes at Dublin for the national breed of dogs are swept away by the Saxon invader. Their terrier they patronise, but neglect the wolfhound and the Kerry beagle. Had it not been for a Scotsman, Captain G. A. Graham, this canine relic of a mighty race might even now be extinct. To prevent its becoming so, earnest admirers of the dog, such as he, with the Hon. Miss Dillon; Colonel Gamier; Mr. W. K. Angelo, Brighton; the Earl of Caledon; Mr. Hood Wright, Frome; the Rev. H. L. O'Brien, Limerick; Mr. Bailey; Mr. G. E. Crisp; Mr. Playford, Ipswich; Mr. J. Trainor, Liscard; Mr. Williams, Llangibby; Mr. W. Allen, Cardiff; and some few others, do their best, and usually possess some few specimens of the article as genuine as it can be obtained. Most of the bigger shows provide classes for Irish wolfhounds, but the competition therein is never strong, and the chief prizes are usually taken by one or other of the gentlemen to whom allusion has been made.
The following is the description of the variety as drawn up by the Club:
The Irish wolfhound should not be quite so heavy or massive as the Great Dane, but more so than the deerhound, which in general type he should otherwise resemble. Of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly though gracefully built; movements easy and active; head and neck carried high; the tail carried with an upward sweep, with a slight curve towards the extremity. The minimum height and weight of dogs should be 31 in. and 120lb.; of bitches, 28m. and 901b. Anything below this should be debarred from competition. Great size, including height at shoulder and proportionate length of body, is the desideratum to be aimed at, and it is desired to firmly establish a race that shall average from 32m. to 34m. in dogs, showing the requisite power, activity, courage, and symmetry.
Long, the frontal bones of the forehead very slightly raised, and very little indentation between the eyes. Skull, not too broad. Muzzle, long and moderately pointed. Ears, small and greyhound-like in carriage.
Rather long, very strong and muscular, well arched, without dewlap or loose skin about the throat.
Very deep. Breast, wide.
Rather long than short. Loins, arched.
Long and slightly curved, of moderate thickness, and well covered with hair.
Well drawn up.
Shoulders muscular, giving breadth of chest, set sloping. Elbows well under, neither turned inwards nor outwards.
Forearm muscular, and the whole leg strong and quite straight.
Muscular thighs, and second thigh long and strong as in the greyhound, and hocks well let down and turning neither in nor out.
Moderately large and round, neither turned inwards nor outwards. Toes well arched and closed. Nails, very strong and curved.
Rough and hard on body, legs, and head; especially wiry and long over eyes and under jaw.
The recognised colours are grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, or any colour that appears in the deerhound.
Too light or heavy a head, too highly arched frontal bone; large ears and hanging flat to the face; short neck; full dewlap; too narrow or too broad a chest; sunken or hollow or quite level back; bent fore-legs; overbent fetlocks; twisted feet; spreading toes; too curly a tail; weak hindquarters, cow hocks, and a general want of muscle; too short in body.