A bit of History....

The " Lydney Dog), um 450 v.Ch.

Very old bone finds in England and Ireland prove the existence of

big houndtype dogs even before the arrival of the celtic tribes.

The oldest find was a crane from the Neopleistocene (ca. 8000-

7000 BC.), dug out in Wales.

In 1840 Skeletons and cranes from the Neolithic age were unearthed

in Dunshaughlin, near Dublin; the size of these dogs must have

been around 75cm, considering the relation crane/body. More from

this age was found in the south of the island. It is very probable,

that the first settlers, that dared to come to the then waste

island, brought their hounds along for hunting and also for

protection.

 

 

Handle of a Celtic Cauldron

The Gaelic celts came to Ireland in 3 main waves: ca. 1650 BC.

the Goidels, at 800 BC the Picts and the Brithons at about 500 BC.

During the great migration those tribes had moved with others

throughAsia Minor and Europe and brought their big hounds,

used for war and hunting, with them. Those hounds must have

been inbred with the native dogs, which resulted in the archetype

of the Irish Wolfdog, Mil-Cu.

These Hounds were in high esteem and were thought to have

human wits. They were only slightly lower in the hierarchy than

humans and in Gaelic tales and Songs they have their fair share

in fame.

For a good hound a price of whole cattle herds were paid and

heavy penalties waited for the person who hurt, crippled or killed

such a dog.

Details from the famous Tapestry of Bayeux ( 1080 AD),

telling the story of the conquest of England by William of Normandy (The Conqueror)

From the Hunting Book"Les Chiens de Chasse" von Gaston Phoebus, Count of Foix 15ctyAD

In the later Middle Ages the Wolfhound could be found in the households of Kings and princes. He did not live in the stables as

other hunting dogs did, but in the living quarters of his master,

very often even slept in his bed to give warmth. He was a precious

gift among princes to gain friendship or maintain it.

King John I brought home some Wolfhjounds from Ireland, where he had been viceroy for his father, King Henry II.

When his daughter Joan married Llewellyn, the Prince of Wales, John made a gift of a Wolfhound, the famous Gelert to the prince.

King Richard III. was known as having a loyal Wolfhound with him

wherever he went.

Emperor Charles V. by Tizian/Seisenegger

Sir Thomas Wentworth,

Earl of Stafford 1620

Sir Neill O'Neill 1680

 

From the Renaissance until the 18th century the breed flourished, but the disappearance of the giant Elan and the wolves brought the breeding numbers low. The pauperisation of the country and the decimation of the Irish Gentry by Cromwells rule gave the rest.

Archibald Hamilton Rowan

1757-1834

"Oisian" by Reinagle

Only some old families and some Clan Chiefs succeeded somehow in spite of the adverse circumstances to keep some Wolfhounds.

Some of those few are the ancestors of today’s Irish Wolfhounds

One of these Irish Gentlemen was Hamilton Rowan. He lived over

40 years with Irish Wolfhounds. His line goes back to Oisian,

the Wolfdog that Reinagle immortalized in his picture.

After H. Rowan’s death Mr Carter of Loughlinstown House,

Bray continued his line. H.D. Richardson, Mr. A.W. Baker of

Ballytobin Castle and Sir John Power of Kilfane kept Wolfhounds

from these old lines and bred in a small way.

But the inbreeding that without fail has occurred, caused also a loss

of size.

Capt. George Augustus Graham

1833-1909

In 1859, when Capt. G.A. Graham of Dursley, a Scotsman

and passionate dog person decided with some friends to revive

and save the breed, only few purebred Irish Wolfhounds were left.

He bred with some of those and crossed them with Scottish Deerhounds Deerhounds are closely related to the Wolfhound, as once it was the same breed and brought over to Scotland by the the Celts settling in Scotland. There it was bred lighter and swifter to keep up with the different game. Also in the times of

Capt. Graham the difference between the two breeds was only

slight and not as distinct as today

Glengarry Deerhound IW about 1820

The Glengarry-Deerhounds, he used were at this time very big, so with them he could not only strengthen the type, but also succeeded in increasing the size, which had diminished in the previous generations.

Around 1880 the breed was sound again and the Irish Wolfhound

was restored to his old splendour again.

Let’s hope that our and the following generations have enough responsibility to safeguard the breed and will keep it safe from all fashionable craze true to the Standard that Capt. Graham left us.

 

©IWCS Info/isv