Had it not been for these facts, the courage to write this article might have been wanting; but they appear to be so clear to the writer, that he can proceed, with the feeling that most of his readers will perceive that he is amply justified in undertaking a history and description of this very magnificent example of the canine race-that, indeed, may be said to have been its king.
There have been several very interesting and clever essays written on this subject. Two of the ablest and most valuable were written by Mr. A. McNeill, of Colonsay, in 1838, and Mr. H. D. Richardson, in 1841. These treat exclusively of the Irish Wolfhound, though in Mr. McNeill's case it is more to show the identity of the breed with the modern Deerhound that he writes. Richardson, on the other hand, proceeds to show us that, though undeniably of the same stamp, the Irish dog was far superior in size and power, and that from him is descended, in these later days, the modern Deerhound. Both these authors have shown considerable ability and ingenuity in their arguments, and no one can deny that they are worthy of every consideration. Richardson would appear to be in error on some points, but in the main his ideas would certainly appear to be reasonable and correct. That Richardson was highly qualified to offer a sound and most valuable opinion on the subject is proved by the very admirable manner in which he has treated of and described almost every known breed of dog, whether British or foreign. As yet, his book is by far the best published on the dog-none excepted-though it is a modest and unpretending production.
That we have in the Deerhound the modern representative of the old Irish Wolfdog is patent, of less stature, less robust, and of slimmer form; the main characteristics of the breed remain, and in very exceptional instances specimens occur which throw back to and resemble in a marked manner the old stock from which they have sprung.
It is not probable that our remote ancestors arrived at any very high standard as to quality or looks. Strength, stature, and fleetness were the points most carefully cultivated-at any rate, as regards those breeds used in the capture of large and fierce game.
It is somewhat remarkable that whilst we have accounts of all the noticeable breeds from a remote period, including the Irish Wolfdog, we do not find any allusion to the Deerhound, save in writings of a comparatively recent date, which would in a measure justify us in supposing that the Deerhound is the modern representative of that superb animal.
It is a matter of history that this dog was well known to and highly prized by the Romans, who, we are led to understand, frequently used him in, their combats in the arena, for which his great size, strength, and activity eminently fitted him. It has always been a mooted point whether the Irish Wolfdog was, strictly speaking, a Greyhound, or was of a more robust form, approaching the Mastiff. Let us, then, proceed to investigate the question.
Richardson tells us that
Strabo describes a large and powerful Greyhound as having been in use among the Celtic and Pictish nations, and as being held in such high estimation by them as to have been imported into Gaul for the purposes of the chase.
Silius describes a large and powerful Greyhound as having been imported into Ireland by the Belgae, thus identifying the Irish Wolfdog with the celebrated Belgic dog of antiquity, which we read of in so many places as having been brought to Rome for the combats of the amphitheatre.
Sir James Ware, in his "Antiquities of Ireland", thus writes,
regarding the Irish Wolfdog, about 1630 (?):
I am sensible Mr. Burton (Itinery of Anton, 220), treading the footsteps of Justus Lipsius (epist. ad Belg, Cant. i. p. 44), makes no scruplet to say that the dogs intended by Symmachus were British Mastives. But with submission to great names, how could the British Mastive get the appellation of Scoticus in the age Symmachus lived? For he was consul of Rome in the later end of the fourth century, at which time-and for some time before, and for many centuries after-Ireland was well known by the name of Scotia, as I have shewn before (chap. i). Besides, the English Mastive was no way comparable to the Irish Wolfdog in size or elegant shape, nor would it make an astonishing figure in the spectacles exhibited in the Circus. On the other hand, the Irish Wolfdog had been thought a valuable present to the greatest monarch, and is sought after and is sent abroad to all the quarters of the world; and this has been one cause why that noble creature has grown so scarce amongst us, as another is the neglect of the species since the extinction of wolves in Ireland; and even of what remain, the size seems to have dwindled from its ancient stateliness.
Ware also gives as a frontispiece to his book, an allegorical representation of a passage from the Venerable Bede, in which two dogs are introduced, bearing a very strong resemblance to the Irish Wolfdog, or Scottish Deerdog, in those days doubtless the same animal. The Venerable Bede was born 672, died 735.
It may be as well here to quote the following interesting extract from
Richardson ; culled by him from the Irish Penny journal :
Richardson then goes on to say we may infer then that, as Ireland was peopled by the Belgae, the Belgic dog of antiquity was the source whence we derived our Irish Greyhound.
We are informed by two very eminent authorities, the Venerable Bede and the Scottish historian, Major, that Scotland was peopled from Ireland. We know that by the early writers Scotland was styled Scotia Minor, and Ireland Scotia Major, and it is scarcely necessary to make any remark as to the native languages of the primitive inhabitants of the two countries.
The colonisation therefore of Scotland from Ireland under the conduct of Renda being admitted, can we suppose that the Colonists would omit taking with them specimens of such a noble and gallant dog, and one that must prove so serviceable to their emigrant masters, and that, too, at a period when men depended upon the chase for their subsistence? True, this is but an inference, but is it not to be received as a fact when we find that powerful and noble dog, the Highland Deerhound, a tall rough Greyhound, to have been known in Scotland since its colonisation ? Formerly, it was called the Wolfdog, but with change of occupation came change of name. In Ireland wolves were certainly in existence longer than in Scotland, but when these animals ceased to exist in the former country, the Wolfdogs became gradually lost. Not so in Scotland, where abundant employment remained for them even after the days of Wolf-hunting were over. The red-deerstill remained, and useful as had these superb dogs proved as Wolfdogs, they became perhaps even more valuable as Deerhounds."
Richardson then goes on to show us, from Ossian's poems, that such dogs appertained to the chieftains regarding whose prowess, etc., he sings; but the writer does not apprehend that any real value can be placed on Ossian's accounts prior to the date at which they professed to be issued in a collective form by MacPherson, viz., about 1770, as in the judgement of many persons competent to form a just opinion those poems almost entirely owe their origin to the prolific brains of the suppositious translator. Ossian is supposed to have flourished in the third century.
In the ninth century the Welsh laws contained clauses entailing heavy penalties on anyone found maiming or injuring the Irish Greyhound, or, as it was styled in the Code alluded to, "Canis Graius Hibernicus" , and a value was set upon them equal to more than double that set on the ordinary Greyhound.
Camden, about 1568, says,
Holinshed's, or rather Stanihurst's, description of Ireland, about 1560,
contains this short account of the noble wolfdog:
Gough, in his edition of "Camden," published 1789, has this
passage on the Wolfhound:
In November, 1562, the Irish chieftain Shane O'Neill, (possibly an ancestor of the Lords O'Neill, to be alluded to as owning Irish Wolfhounds later on) forwarded to Queen Elizabeth, through Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a present of two horses, two hawks, and two Irish Wolfdogs; and in 1585, Sir John Perrott, who was Deputy of Ireland from January, 1584, to July, 1588, sent to Sir Francis Walsingham, then Secretary of State in London, "a brace of good Wolfdogs, one black, one white." Later still, in 1608, we find that Irish Wolfhounds were sent from Ireland by Captain Esmonde, of Duncannon, to Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury.
When Sir Thomas Rowe was Ambassador at the Court of the great Mogul, in the year 1615, that Emperor desired him to send for some Irish Greyhounds as the most welcome present he could make him. The foregoing are from an article on the Irish Wolfhound, by Mr. Harting, that appeared in "Bailey's Magazine " for September, 1879.
Ware is one of the few old writers (1654) who has said anything on the
Irish' Wolfdog, and his words are scanty.
Evelyn, about 1660-70, says:
Ray, about 1697, describing the Irish Greyhound, says:
The writer would remark in passing that there is but little doubt that the ordinary Greyhound of that date was a roughcoated dog
Buffon, about 1750-60, speaks of these dogs as follows:
From Goldsmith, about 1770, the following is extracted:
Brooke, in his "Natural History" of 1772, states:
Smith, in his "History of Waterford" (1774), uses very similar words:
Pennant (1776-81) informs us that the Irish Greyhound-a variety once very frequent in Ireland, and used in the chase of the wolf, now very scarce-is a dog of great size and strength.
From Bewick (1792) we gather that "the Irish Grey-hound is the largest of the dog kind, and its appearance the most beautiful. It is only to be found in Ireland, where it was formerly of great use in clearing that country from wolves. It is now extremely rare, and kept rather for show than use, being equally unserviceable for hunting the stag, the fox, or the hare. These dogs are about three feet high, generally of a white or cinnamon colour, and made somewhat like a Greyhound, but more robust. Their aspect is mild ; their disposition peaceable ; their strength is so great that in combat the Mastiff or Bull-dog is far from being equal to them. They mostly seize their antagonists by the back and shake them to death, which their great strength generally enables them to do."
Mons. Buffon supposes the Great Danish dog to be only a variety of the Irish Greyhound. About this time (1794) certain dogs, in the possession of the then Lord Altamont, were put forward as being Irish Wolfdogs; but there appears to be no doubt whatever that these dogs were degenerate specimens of the Great Dane. Mr. Lambert, describing them to the Linnman Society, stated that " they were the only ones in the kingdom; their hair was short and smooth, the colour brown and white and black and white." An engraving of one of these dogs is given in the "Encyclopædia Britannica," published in 1810, and it represents an under-bred Great Dane, of dull and mild appearance.
Richardson at one time was in error regarding these dogs, for he accepted them as being true specimens of the Irish Wolfhound; but he was afterwards, from careful inquiry and research, quite disabused of any such idea, and concluded that the Irish Wolfhound was a rough Greyhound of gigantic stature and immense power.
To suppose that these dogs were Irish Wolfhounds was absurd to a degree, as that breed was known to be very scarce, whereas the Great Dane was (and is) to be met with in great numbers on the Continent.
The present Marquis of Sligo informed the writer about twelve years ago that he had often made inquiries from persons who had seen his father's dogs, and as far as their descriptions would enable one to judge, they rather resembled some of the German Boarhounds, being rather like powerful shaggy Greyhounds, but a good deal larger. It is probable that the shagginess was a mistake, as Mr. Lambert distinctly states them to have been smooth.
It is noticeable that Snyders has represented rough dogs of Greyhound character in his pictures of boar-hunts, as well as the smooth, spotted Great Danes. At the same time, though many inquiries have been made, such a thing as a genuine Boarhound with a rough coat cannot be heard of.
E. Jesse tells us that the late Lord Derby purchased the portrait-in Mr. Lambert's possession-of one of Lord Altamont's dogs. Now, it is a well-ascertained fact that, in the face of this model (!), Lord Derby bred, as Irish Wolfdogs, a very powerful and robust dog of Deerhound character (!!), showing that he set small value on the picture as representing the true breed of Irish Wolf dog.
In the "Encyclopædia Britannica" of 1797 we are shown a drawing of the Irish Greyhound, which represents a very thick-set, tall Greyhound, with a rough coat and massive head; colour apparently brindle or black-and-white.
The "Sportsman's Cabinet", a very valuable old book on dogs,
of which there were but a limited number of copies published in 1803, and which is
illustrated by very good engravings after drawings from life by Reinagle R.A., says:
A remarkably spirited drawing is given of this dog, which, though faulty in some minor parts, gives us an admirable idea of what this grand dog was.
Notwithstanding the undoubted resemblance of this sketch to a gigantic rough Greyhound of great power, the letterpress is continued to the effect that the dog is identical with the Great Dane-a totally different dog in appearance-which is manifestly absurd; and on the letterpress we can accordingly put no great stress, though the portrait undoubtedly has a real value.
E. Jesse coincides in this opinion, as when speaking of the "Sportsman's Cabinet" he
It is a noticeable and remarkable fact that whilst this book professes to treat of every known variety of British dog, it does not make any mention whatever of the Scottish Deerhound or any breed of dog used for hunting or taking deer, save the Stag, Blood, and old Southern Hounds.
A few extracts from this book are given that bear on the subject under consideration, though not taken from the chapter descriptive of the Irish Wolfhound or Greyhound.
There is mention of the Irish Wolfhound in Bingley's "British Quadrupeds" (1809). The illustration is simply a deformed Greyhound, and he endorses Pennant's and Goldsmith's views as to the appearance, etc, of the dog.
Captain Brown (1829) also, in his book on dogs, alludes to the Irish Wolfdog or Greyhound, giving an absurd drawing; his remarks are few and of little worth.
Dr. Scouler, reading a paper before the Dublin Geological Society in 1837, says:
Curious that "a sharper muzzle and pendant ears " should constitute it a very
distinct breed! "
McNeill, in his article on the Irish Wolfhound written 1838, says:
He goes on to argue that
From the "Museum of Animated Nature," published in 1842-45, the following account of
the Irish Wolfdog is taken:
From the very interesting book entitled "Anecdotes of Dogs,"
by E. Jesse, published 1846, the following is gleaned:
" In a poem written by Mrs. Katherine Phillips, about 1660, the character of the
Irish - Wolfhound is well portrayed, and proves the estimation in which he was held:
"The strength of these dogs must have been very great"; a nobleman informed me that when he was staying with the Knight of Kerry, "two Irish Wolfdogs made their escape from the place where they were confined, and pulled down and killed a horse who was in an adjoining paddock."
" The Irish Wolfdogs were formerly placed as the supporters of the arms
of the ancient monarchs of Ireland. They were collared "or," with the motto:
The well-known Mrs. S. C. Hall wrote to Jesse the following interesting account of
an Irish Wolfdog:
Jesse offers his thanks to Mrs. Hall and to Lady Morgan for their assistance on this matter ; the latter introduces the late Hamilton Rowan and his Irish Wolfdog, Bran, into one of her novels.
Richardson tells us that the late Sir W. Betham, Ulster King-at-Arms, an authority
of very high importance on any subject connected with Irish antiquities, in
cornmunicating with Mr. Haffield, who read a paper on the Irish Wolfhound before
the Dublin Natural History Society, about 1841, states as follows:
" The Irish poets call the Wolfdog 'cu,' and the common Greyhound 'gayer,' a marked distinction, the word 'cu' signifying a champion."
The two following anecdotes are given as showing the great courage and power of the Irish Greyhound as compared with wild and ferocious animals with which he was opposed in combat.
From the "Sportsman's Cabinet." It begins by treating on the
possibility of breeding between dog and wolf, and goes on to say:
The second story is taken from "Two Years in Canada," by Major Strickland,
written in 1825:
Some dogs were owned by the late Hamilton Rowan, of Merrion Square, Dublin, which were erroneously asserted to be Irish Wolfhounds. Regarding these dogs the following communication was kindly made to the writer by Mr. Betham, a son of Sir W. Betham, before alluded to My father was very intimate with the late Hamilton Rowan who was the only man possessed of the breed (Irish Wolfhound), and who was so chary of it that he would never give away a dog pup without first castrating him.
I have repeatedly seen the dogs with him when I was a boy, and heard him tell my father how he became possessed of them. He was in Paris about the time of the first French Revolution, and was given a dog and a bitch, and was told that they were Danish. He then went to Denmark, thinking he would see more of the breed. When he got there he was told they were not Danish, but Irish, and were brought over by some one from Ireland-I forget whom. The dogs were of a very peculiar colour-a kind of brindle blue and white, sometimes all brindled, and sometimes a great deal of white with large irregular brindle patches. and were much given to weak eyes. They stood about 2 feet 4 or 6 inches at the shoulder, were smooth haired, and were a most powerful dog.
Hamilton Rowan was very proud of being the only possessor of the breed, and seldom went out without one or more accompanying him. I have not seen any one specimen of the breed since his death, when one came into the possession of a poor man in my neighbourhood. It was a pup then, and had all the characteristics of the breed, was very large, and a fine specimen. wrote to the Zoological Gardens in Dublin describing the dog, urging them to secure him ; but they refused, and he was afterwards sold to a gentleman."
In a second letter he goes on to say:
Beyond the shadow of a doubt these dogs were simply Great Danes, as H. Rowan had evidently been told in Paris; the description leaves no doubt on that head. Richardson tells us the fact was that Mr. Rowan owned some of the breed known as Great Danes, and he never by chance called them by a wrong name. He also owned a true Wolfdog, and knew him to be such, calling him " the last of his race." This dog was a large rough Greyhound of irongrey colour.
Mr. Rowan subsequently presented this dog to Lord Nugent. In corroboration of this fact the writer was informed by the late Sir John Power, who recollected H. Rowan and his dogs, and who would have reached man's estate at the time, and been well able to judge of them, being a thorough lover of the canine race, that Richardson's description of the true Wolfdog belonging to H. Rowan was right.
Mr. Betham remembers the dogs only as a boy, and the distinction between the Danish dogs and the true old rough dog would hardly have struck him; hence his misconception on the matter. Mr. Betham's account is only inserted and confuted to remove any impression that certain of Hamilton Rowan's dogs were aught but Great Danes, which has been erroneously otherwise concluded. Mr. Betham confesses, it will be seen, that he is not acquainted with the Great Dane or Boarhound, which are common and plentiful in all Continental countries; he cannot, consequently, be considered a fair judge on the subject.
Youatt has this regarding the Irish Wolfdog:
The assertion made by several authors, that the Irish Wolfhound disdains the chase of stag, fox, and hare is utterly absurd, as it is a well known fact that all dogs of the Greyhound breed will readily chase and attack any animal which flees from I and to pursue which they are encouraged.
Literature and the powers of depicting an animal in its correct form were in such a crude and immature stage amongst the nobility and gentry of the land at the periods when we have our first accounts of the Irish Wolfdog, that it is not in the least to be wondered at that the imperfect descriptions given of the breed by such persons as were equal to the task were allowed to go uncontradicted by the only people in whose hands the breed was likely to be. From the accounts we have, however, we can clearly and distinctly gather that the dog has always been of Greyhound shape, of gigantic stature, and great power : in fact, such a dog as a cross between the Great Dane and present Deerhound would produce, as to form and bulk, but of superior size.
Richardson, to further his views regarding the probable size of the ancient Irish Wolfdog, tells us that certain canine skulls were found by Surgeon Wilde at Dimshanglin13 which were concluded to be those of the Irish Wolfdog; of these the largest was 11 inches in the bone, and from that fact he proceeds to argue that the living dog must have stood about 40 inches. To begin, he takes for his guide a Deerhound dog standing 29 inches, whose head measures 10inches. To the 11 inch Irish Wolfhound skull he adds 3 inches for muzzle, hair, skin, and other tissues, thereby making the head of the living dog, 14 inches; thus getting the height of 40 inches from it, as compared to the 29 inches from the 10 inch head. Here, however, he would appear to be in error, as 1½ or 2 inches at the most would be enough to allow for tissues, c., making the head 12½ to 13 inches only, and so reducing the height to 36 inches; moreover, the measurement of 10 inches for the head of a 29 inch Deerhound is manifestly insufficient, as the writer can testify from ample experience. A Deerhound of that height should have a head of at least 11 inches; so, calculating on the same principles, the skulls would have been from dogs standing about 34 inches. This skull is stated to have been superior in size to the others, so if the argument was of any real worth, we can only gather from it that the dogs would have ranged from 31 to 34 inches in height, which is probable enough.
From the general tenor of the accounts we have of this dog's dimensions and appearance, it is certainly to be gathered that he was of considerably greater stature than any known race of dogs now existing, and apparently more than equal to the destruction of a wolf.
It is an incontestable fact that the domestic dog, when used for the pursuit of ferocious animals, should be larger and apparently more powerful than his quarry if he is expected to take and overcome him singlehanded, as the fierce nature, roving habits, and food of the wild animal render him more than a match for his domesticated enemy, if of only equal size and stature. We know that the Russian Wolfhounds (certainly very soft-hearted dogs), though equal in stature to the wolf, will not attack him' single-handed -and wisely too, for they would certainly be worsted in the combat. The Irish Wolfdog, being used for both the capture and despatch of the wolf, would necessarily have been of Greyhound conformation, besides being of enormous power. When caught, a heavy dog, such as a Mastiff, would be equal to the destruction of a wolf, but to obtain a dog with Greyhound speed and the strength of the Mastiff, it stands to reason that his stature should considerably exceed that of the Mastiff-one of our tallest as well as most powerful breeds. The usual height of the Mastiff is thirty inches; and, arguing as above, we may reasonably conclude that to obtain the requisite combination of speed and power, a height of at least thirty-three inches would have been reached, though we are told by several writers that he exceeded that height considerably, as will have been seen. The subject of the Irish Wolfhound was revived in the New York paper called the "Country" about March, 1878, and some interesting facts were related by a lady of the name of Fremont regarding two dogs of this breed that had been imported to Fort Snelling -as a present to a Mr. Sibley from England about 1838. They appear to have been of a brindle colour, and were much larger and heavier than the Deerhound, while equally quick in their motions ; the coat described as short-haired. Others have been seen at intervals in the United States.
In a subsequent article on the same subject in the New York Countryit is written:
It has been suggested. by a gentleman well known as a great fancier of dogs that the dog in use in Spain for taking wolves is identical with the old Irish Wolfdog; but the specimen, brought over from Spain by him would at once undeceive us, as he is, to all appearance, a Great Dane of a light stamp-possibly crossed with the Wolfdog of the Pyrenees.
For many months past a spirited controversy and correspondence on the Irish Wolfhound has been carried on in the Live Stock journal-a well-known weekly publication -by the writer and others, without, it is confidently thought, in any way disturbing the conclusions on the breed which the writer has, from careful and prolonged consideration of the subject, arrived at, and which Will be set forth presently.
The question as to whether it is desirable to continue and thoroughly resuscitate this superb breed now that his occupation is gone is hardly worth entertaining.
The Mastiff and Bulldog, though no longer used to bait bear and bull, abound in thousands and in a far more perfect form than they were a hundred years ago, the Bloodhound's original use has disappeared, vet who would wish to see these noble hounds allowed to die out?
Have not a dozen breeds-such as St. Bernards, Colleys, etc.-been taken up, cherished, and improved to a marvelous degree ? Why not, then, take such measures to recover the Irish Wolfdog in its original form ? It can be done; the means are at hand if the will be only forthcoming. From the materials forthcoming in such specimens of the breed as are extant and the largest Deerhounds, with judicious crosses for size and power, there 'is little doubt that the breed can be restored to us in much of its original magnificence, and the noble canine giant.--always held to be typical of Erin would be worthily and faithfully represented.
It reflects but small credit on the gentlemen of Ireland that this breed-the national representative dog of their country-should have been allowed to dwindle down to a shadow of its former self. Mastiff breeders with much care and judgment have rescued England's national dog from a very degenerate state, and from Most indifferent materials, and restored him in a form quite equal if not superior, to what he was at his best. Why, then, should not the same be done for their most superb national dog by Irishmen? Let them look to this, put their shoulders to the wheel, and success will surely crown their endeavors.
As the Deerhound of the present day is to the ordinary Greyhound, so is the giant
Irish Wolfhound to the Deerhound. An Irish paper, waxing enthusiastic
on the subject, says, not long ago, regarding the Irish Wolfdog:
In the British Museum there is a Grecian vase, some 450 BC, on which Actæn is depicted surrounded by his dogs. Some of them would appear identical with what the Irish Wolfhound was, save, perhaps, in the matter of coat.
On some ancient frescoes at Easton Neston Hall, near Towcester, are depicted various hunting scenes. In one of these two vast dogs of Deerhound type are represented as seizing a boar, and these frescoes having been painted at a time when the Irish Wolfhound existed, may be looked upon as throwing considerable light on the real type of that breed. They are shown to be vast Deerhounds, with rough wiry coats, of a dark blue-grey colour; -ears small and falling over.
It will have been noticed that several persons owning Irish Wolfhounds in former days were in the habit of styling them " the last of their race." It appears tolerably certain that the breed was gradually being merged into the present breed of Deerhounds, and each successive owner was jealously claiming for his specimen the honour of being the last.
It will be well now to state the conclusions at which the writer has arrived as to the general appearance and character of the Irish Wolfhound, after a prolonged, searching, and careful study of the subject.
Most modern authors and all practical lovers of the canine race whom the writer has consulted are agreed that the foregoing is the correct type of dog beyond question; and although some differ slightly as to the comparative bulk and power of the dog, the difference is- small- when dispassionately looked at.
To anyone who has well considered the subject such conclusions are inevitable, and this impression has been manifestly handed down to us for generations.
It is much to be deplored that this superb and valuable breed of dog has been allowed to fall into such a neglected and degenerate state, presumably owing to the fact of the wolf having become extinct, and consequent less care on the part of the owners in keeping the breed up to its proper form.
Although several writers have incorrectly confounded the Great Dane with the Irish Wolfhound, yet it is probable that the two breeds were not infrequently crossed; indeed, it is possible that in' foreign countries the Irish Wolfhound may have degenerated into the Great Dane and other varieties , as it has into the Deerhound with us. That such was the case Buffon does more than suggest.
Major Gamier, who gave the subject considerable attention at one time
rather holds to this opinion, and says:
These facts may possibly have influenced erroneously the opinions of some of the naturalists of the latter end of the last century, and will also account for the fact of Lord Altamont's dogs having been put forward as Irish Wolfhounds, which they certainly were not.
The last wolf was supposed to have been killed in Ireland about 1710.
Sir Walter Scott was in the habit of calling his dog " Maida," a Wolfhound, and on the
death of that dog he was presented by Glengarry and Cluny MacPherson with a brace of
dogs of the same character, and said:
The former Earls of Caledon at one time owned a breed of Irish
Wolfhounds, regarding which the present peer has obligingly collected the following
It is believed that the late Lord Caledon took two of these Wolfdogs with him to the backwoods of America.
The impression of a seal belonging to the Caledon family has on it the figure of a Wolf hound which shows the tail carried with a curve upwards, as depicted in Reinagle's portrait.
A breed was also owned by the Lords O'Neil, also by Lord Castletown - but no information regarding them has been obtained, although a friend of the writer was presented, many years ago, with a bitch of the former breed which answered very much to the description given above of Lord Caledon's dogs.
The late Sir John Power, of Kilfane, Thomastown (,whose dogs will be alluded to presently), was a personal friend of the writer, and knew Richardson well, and has many times affirmed that Richardson always considered the Irish Wolfhound to have been a gigantic Deerhound of enormous power.
In a very interesting letter from an American gentleman, written to
a gentleman residing in England, published in the Live Stock journal-some months ago,
That it is beyond reason that any dog should have stood 36 inches is not the case as Lord Mount Edgecombe has a picture of a dog taken life-size which measures 36 inches to the shoulder. The skeleton of this dog (apparently a Great Dane), which is also preserved, would corroborate this measurement. A picture was also painted for the Marquis of- Hastings in 1803 by Clifford de Tomson, which represents a dog standing 36 inches at shoulder-also apparently a Great Dane of a buff-and-white colour. The picture measures 7½ feet by 5½ feet, so it will be seen the dog must of necessity have been gigantic. We have also had some enormous dogs " in the life " of late years. The great American dog exhibited to Her Majesty some eighteen years ago was said to stand 36 inches Sir Roger Palmer's Sam was 34. Both were Boarhounds. Several of our Mastiffs have stood 33 and even 34 inches. The great dog brought from America by Mr. Butler, of New York, about four or five years ago, stood about the same height, He was a descendant of the dog shown to the Queen-also owned by Mr. Butler. On the Continent it is not uncommon to find dogs standing 33 and 34 inches, and a Boarhound has been brought to the writer's notice, belonging to a gentleman residing at Cologne, that was reported to stand 37 inches, by a gentleman well accustomed to large dogs. The tallest dog the writer has actually measured stood 34½ inches on the shoulderblade-a giant indeed.
With all these examples before us, and some of them -within our reach, there is no reason why the Irish Wolfhound should not be restored to its original height of from 33 to 35 inches.
It is worthy of remark that whilst some people scout the very idea that the Deerhound is the descendant of the Irish Wolfhound, McNeill is proud to claim such descent for his favourite breed.
The assertion that has been frequently made by writers on the breed that he stood 4 feet high, no doubt applied to the top of his head, as a 33 or 34-inch dog would stand nearly 4 feet at that part.
A friend of the writer's-a Deerhound breeder of considerable experience
and one who had well considered the Irish Wolfhound question-writes:
Major Garnier at one time turned his attention to Irish Wqlfhounds, and produced one or two dogs of great size, but he was unable to carry his projects to an end, being suddenly ordered to the Cape.
He was thoroughly convinced that the recovery of this breed in its pristine grandeur and magnificence was only a question of time if the would-be breeders were steadfast in their endeavours. He had laid down for himself certain rules of breeding, which are given:
1, 2, 3 4, and 5 I have not merely met with as the opinions of other
people, but I have proved them incontestably myself.
He then goes on to give many valuable facts and hints on breeding
Irish Wolfhounds and other dogs, too long to insert here. He concludes by saying:
The writer is not prepared to coincide entirely with the above rules, but in the main he considers them correct, and such as can safely be adopted by breeders. It may be as well to remark that no two dogs of the first cross should be mated together, as the produce will be certain to be most degenerate. The Foxhound, the Pointer, the Shorthorn, and many breeds of sheep and pigs, have been brought to their present excellence by judicious crossing; why should not the same principle be applied to the perfecting of the Irish Wolfhound ? Too much in-and-in-breeding should be especially avoided, as size is thereby eventually lost to an alarming degree, even though character be retained.
About the year 1863 the writer took the Irish Wolfhound question up, and instituted very searching inquiries after any specimens of the breed. For some years he did not meet with much success; but about twelve Years ago three distinct strains were brought to his notice-viz., those of the late Sir- J. Power, of Kilfane, the late Mr. Baker, of Ballytobin, and Mr. Mahoney, of Dromore -alas I now all believed to be lost, save some of the descendants of the first two strains, which are in the writer's and one or two other hands.
Isolated specimens were also heard of, but none came under the writer's personal notice. It is believed that the Kilfane strain owed their origin partly to dogs bred by Richardson,, who, not content with writing, actually set to work to discover the breed; from him Sir John Power had more than one specimen. Richardson obtained bitches from Mr. -Carter, of Bray (whose strain he mentions in his essay) and crossing these with a grand dog, of great height,-produced some remarkably fine dogs. It is also believed that this strain was descended from Hamilton Rowan's dog " Bran " before mentioned.
Of this strain also were the Ballytobin dogs. Mr. Baker was an
enthusiast regarding all old Irish institutions, and having built himself a castle,
he did all he could to increase the size of the deer in his park, also to restore to
their original form the Irish Wolfdogs. To this end he procured the best specimens,
wherever to be had, regardless of cost, and at his death, some twelve years ago, he
left a kennel of really fine dogs. The pick of these-bequeathed to a friend-a bitch
eventually came into the possession of the writer, and from her and from dogs of the
writer's own breeding his present strain has sprung. The strain of Mr. Mahoney was
originally procured from Sir John Power, and Mr.-Mahoney thus speaks of them:
Two of these dogs were given to a lady who resided in the Isle of Wight. The writer has their photographs. The dog is stouter and wider in head than anv Deerhound; but they have a strong look of that dog. Mr. Baker's breed would appear to have been larger dogs than either of the other strains. The bitch that came to the writer stood twenty-eight inches, and some of the dogs were said to stand thirty-one and thirty-two inches, very powerful animals, and thoroughly rough.
Lord Derby, grandfather of the present lord, bred Irish Wolfhounds of
evidently much the same character as the strains just alluded to. One of them is thus
described by a gentleman who often saw her, and to whom was given one of her puppies
by a Deerhound dog:
From her some very large dogs were bred by a Deerhound; some of the
descendants were -nearly black. A very fine female of this breed was owned by a
Mr. Lascelles many years ago. A gentleman who often saw her said to the writer:
A dog was bred from the Ballytobin bitch above alluded to, before she came into the possession of the writer, by a son of a dog Major Garnier bred, which was given to a clergyman residing near Knowsley. It was seen by the present Lord Derby, who, whilst stating it was very like the dogs formerly kept at Knowsley, also considered it was a finer and larger dog than any they had. The sire was a blue and tan in colour, and some of the puppies in the same litter as this dog were black and tan when born turning out eventually blue-gray and tan.' The dog in question was a reddish brindle. He is said to have stood 32 inches high.
The writer has not only studied the subject carefully, but has bred extensively, with more or less success, though death and disease have hitherto robbed him of the finest specimens. Dogs have been bred approaching his ideal closely in looks, though wanting the required height and power; also dogs of very great height, etc, which were somewhat wanting in character. Yet the very certain knowledge has been gained from these efforts that it is perfectly possible to breed the correct type of dog in the course of a few years-bar losses from death and disease. It has been the steadfast endeavour of the writer to get crosses from such of acknowledged Irish Wolfhound blood as were to be found, in preference to simply crossing opposite breeds to effect the desired object.
Several very fine dogs have been bred by the writer, but he has lost all the finest. He succeeded in rearing a remarkable dog that stood 33 inches, and was covered with a thick coat of nearly black shaggy hair. This dog most unfortunately died at seventeen months of age, leaving behind him one litter of puppies, of which few remain.
The Irish Kennel Club was courageous enough to establish a class for the breed of Irish Wolfhounds at their show, April, 1879, and it is strenuously to be hoped- that this step -in the right direction will be followed on the part of other -shows.
At this show several dogs of much Wolfhound character were shown, the prizes going to a son of the 33-inch blackish dog above-mentioned, a cross-bred Dane and Deerhound dog, and the dog whose portrait illustrates this article. Whether the prizes were rightly or wrongly awarded it is not proposed to consider. The first prize dog, Brian, by name, a very fine rough grey dog, the last male of his litter, is, alas ! dead.
Scot, the subject of the illustration, was from a Kilfane sire out of a fine red bitch. He is a powerful dog of strong red colour, deficient in coat, notably on head, and loses much in appearance thereby. Taken on the whole, however, he gives a very fair idea of the breed as to form and bulk; but instead of standing only 29½ inches, as he does, he should be at least 33 inches, and be enlarged in proportion. The blood can be traced back for forty years. His dimensions are:Height, 29½ inches ; girth of chest, 33½ inches; length of' head, 12 inches; girth of head, 18¾ inches ; fore-arm, 8½ inches ; weight, 110 lbs., which will serve to show what the general conformation of the dog is.
The writer has also a very grand bitch, sister to Brian, of most excellent form and great power. She is grey brindle in colour, very deep in chest and big in bone, standing 28½ inches, girthing 34 inches, and weighing 100 lbs. Her speed is marvellous, and activity extraordinary.
A very sensible letter was not very long ago published in the
Live Stock journal by a German gentleman, from which the following extracts will
prove of interest :
The writer has just had painted, under his close superintendence and guidance, a portrait of an Irish Wolfhound of 35 inches, life-size, of a grey colour, and it presents to the vision a most striking and remarkable animal of a very majestic and beautiful appearance, far, far beyond any dog the writer has ever seen in grandeur of looks.
I shall conclude with an authentic statement of how the last wolves
existing in the County of Tyrone were destroyed by means of the Irish' Greyhound.
This account is taken from the biography of a Tyrone family published in Belfast in 1829:
In concluding this article, the writer would express his astonishment that so noble and pre-eminently attractive a breed of dog should have found so few supporters. Of all dogs the monarch and the most majestic -shall he be allowed to drop from our supine grasp ?
Irishmen! -Englishmen! - all ye who love the canine race - let it not be so.
Since this article was written -In the Live Stock journal of 20th August,
In the same number of the Live Stock journal there is mention of a paper contributed to the "Zoologist" by Ernest Friedel, entitled "A German View of the Fauna of Ireland." Some extracts are given regarding the Irish Deerhound (sic), but they are of small interest and mostly contained in this article; allusion is made to Lord Altamont's dogs, and a footnote is appended by the Editor of the "Zoologist" to this effect -"It is now generally admitted that the dog described by Lambert here referred to was not an Irish Wolfhound at all but a great Dane " !!!
We are told in the Sportsman's Cabinet, published 1803, p. 26, that Buffon asserts that from the common Greyhound and the Irish Greyhound the mongrel Greyhound was produced, also called the Greyhound with the wolf's hair, showing very plainly that the Irish dog was in his opinion a rough dog, as the ordinary Greyhound of that period was in all probability a smooth dog.
In the World newspaper, late in 1880, it was asserted that Mr. Parnell, M.P., has in his house some banners, carried by the Regiment of Militia commanded by one of his immediate ancestors that was "out" in 1798, on which is depicted the Irish Wolfhound. The writer took the trouble to make enquiries from Mr. Parnell personally, and found that the fact was true, and that the dog depicted was similar to a Scotch Deerhound, but much larger and more massive (apparently), and very rough. Mr. Ronayne Conron, of Lewisham, saw a brace of Irish Wolfhounds about 1847, fierce looking, piercing eyes, shaggy brows and rough dark grey coats, yet so kind a child could play with them. He opines they were of either the Kilfane or Billytobin breed. Barclay tells us that in 1563, at a deer drive given by the Earl of Athol for the amusement of Queen Mary, 360 deer and 5 wolves were slain in one day.
In the month of June, 1882, was erected at Ennis, a statue to the memory
of Allen, Larkin and O'Brien. who were executed at Manchester, 1867.
1884.-The following description of a descendant (immediate) of Hamilton
Rowan's Irish Bloodhounds -not of his Irish Wolfdog, for he owned one of the latter as well
as some of the former-has been given to the writer by a gentleman to whom the dog,
as a puppy, was given by H. Rowan: -
On the 30th November, 1883, a Doctor MacCormack, of Belfast, wrote
as follows to the author of this essay: -
On the 31st August, 1884, an impression was sent to the writer of an old seal, by a gentleman residing in Clonmel, It was the property of an old gentleman to whom it had been given, when young, by another old gentleman, a friend, in whose family it had been for generations. It is believed no traditions attach to the seal, and the breed of dog depicted was not known to the owner of the seal, but there is little, in fact, no doubt in the mind of the writer that the animal shown is the old Irish Wolfhound! In every respect, including the rough coat, it corresponds with the writer's firm conviction of what the dog was -save and except the tail which hangs too much and is too bushy.
About 1860, a fine dog of this breed was owned by a gentleman living in Wales.He has been described by the owner's son to the writer as follows: -About 31 inches high; very powerful, far beyond any Deerhound; head, much more massive; pale fawn colour ; muzzle, somewhat black ; strong rough coat; head, well covered ; ears, somewhat larger and more pendulous than a Deerhound's ; probable weight, about 120 lbs. ; was supposed to have been of the strain of the Lords O'Neill, which however is open to doubt.
The Modern Geographer, published by Thomas Myers in 1882,
has this passage in it :
Mr. Watson, of Ballydarton, Bagnalstown, in Ireland, a well-known Master of Hounds, has informed the writer that Hounds for the pursuit of the wolf were kept there in. the time of his grand~father, and that the last wolf was killed at "Myshall," close to Ballydarton, about 1786 or 1787. The Hounds were described as coarse powerful animals, running by scent.
About the year 1848, an Irish Wolfdog was purchased from a gentleman named Carter, who lived at Loughlinstown, near Bray, in Ireland, by Mr. W. Leigh Clare. He was stated to have stood over 32 inches; like a Deerhound, but stouter and more powerful; very up-standing, blue-grey brindle incolour. Afterwards a bitch was also procured, light fawn colour, stoutly built, but not so rough in hair as the dog. She died whilst pupping and the dog soon after came to grief. Mr. Clare saw many Wolfhounds in this gentleman's kennels; also he kept Irish Terriers, and was celebrated for both breeds. Mr. Clare states his dog was a grand specimen.
During the visit of a lady named O'Brien to America, in the Autumn of 1882, she had pointed out to her in the Museum at Minneapolis, Minnesota, a stuffed specimen labelled as an Irish Wolfhound! It was rough, pure white in colour and of good size.
The fact that the Irish Wolfhound was a rough dog (which some people seem to doubt), has been handed down from generation to generation in Ireland, and all breeders have invariably and firmly adhered to this characteristic.
Quite lately a Club has been formed for the purpose of recovering fully this grand race of dogs. There is every reason to hope that success will attend their efforts, if steadily and carefully persevered in. A great deal of interest has been excited both in England and Ireland, of late, regarding the breed, and if good specimens are forth-coming within the next few years, no doubt it will again take its place as "King of Dogs." The writer of this essay is at present acting Hon. Sec. of the Club and will be most pleased to render any assistance or information to intending breeders of Irish Wolfhounds.