The Irish Wolfhound is a breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), specifically a sighthound. The name originates from its purpose (wolf hunting with dogs) rather than from its appearance. The breed was originally developed from war hounds to one used for hunting and guarding. Irish Wolfhounds can be an imposing sight due to their formidable size; they are the tallest of all dog breeds.
The standard of The American Kennel Club describes the breed as 'Of great size and commanding appearance, the Irish Wolfhound is remarkable in combining power and swiftness with keen sight. The largest and tallest of the galloping hounds, in general type he is a rough-coated, Greyhound-like breed; very muscular, strong 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'.
In actuality, the Irish wolfhound is the tallest of the galloping hounds as well as the tallest of any dog in any of the seven AKC dog groups (sporting, non-sporting, herding, hound, working, terrier, and toy). The average height of an Irish wolfhound should be taller than that of a Great Dane. However, the wolfhound is not to be confused with being the heaviest, as its structure should be similar to that of a Greyhound, or any sight-hound for that matter (examples being whippets and Afghan hounds). The hound should have a very broad and deep chest that tucks up. The colours allowed by the American Kennel Club are 'grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey'.
The Irish wolfhound was bred for long solitary hunts based solely off of the dogs ability to visualize its landscape and perceive, unlike scent hounds (such as Bloodhounds and Beagles) who rely on scent rather than sight. For this reason, the neck of an Irish wolfhound should be long with the head held high the majority of the time. The Irish wolfhound should also appear to be longer than it is tall. Once used to hunt wolves and Irish elk, an Irish wolfhound’s structure should appear as if it is “fast enough to catch a wolf, and strong enough to kill it”.
The American Kennel Club allows 'any other color that appears in the Deerhound'. The size as specified by the AKC is 'Minimum height for mature males: 32 inches, females: 30 inches. Minimum weight: 120lbs for males, 105 lbs for females(It is not rare to see modern day female hounds reaching the minimal height requirements of those of male hounds; most females are well over 30 inches and in most AKC conformation shows a wolfhound’s height is looked at with as much importance as the hound’s head and face structure. Great size, including height of shoulder and proportionate length of body is to be aimed at, and it is desired to firmly establish a breed that shall average (minimum) from 32-34in. in dogs'. The height/weight standards in Ireland and England are slightly different.
Source of information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Wolfhound
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