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The Irish Wolf dog – 1914

Connaught Telegraph 12th September, 1914  p. 6

Irish Wolfhound Photo: Dux Wikimedia Commons
Irish Wolfhound
Photo: Dux
Wikimedia Commons

The Irish wolf dogs were formerly placed as the supporters of the arms of the ancient monarchs of Ireland. They were collared with the motto, “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.” It is worthy of note that the Welsh laws of the ninth century made it an illegal act to maim or kill an Irish wolf dog; further, the fine was heavy and larger than most imposed for the wilful wounding or destruction of the ordinary greyhound. The Irish wolf dog was valued among the nations; but he appears to have died out in the eighteenth century. It is supposed that the last wolf was killed at Dingle, Ireland, in 1710.

Rev Edmund Hogan’s History of the Irish wolf dog tells that in the first century of the Christian era the King of Ulster and the King of Connacht each offered the King of Leinster 6,000 cows, a chariot and horses for a famous wolfhound and went to war to decide the issue. Going back over the centuries it is interesting to note that Pliny relates a combat in which the dogs of Epirus bore a part. He describes them as much taller than mastiffs and of greyhound form, detailing an account of their contest with a lion and an elephant. The allusion to the greyhound-like dog, bigger than the mastiff certainly points to the old Irish wolf dog. Strabo B.C. 54 A.D. 24 describes a large and powerful greyhound as having been in use among the Celtic and British nations and as being held in such high estimation by them as to have been imported into Gaul for the purposes of the chase. Selius describes a large and powerful greyhound as having been imported into Ireland by the Belgae, thus identifying the Irish wolf dog with the celebrated Belgic dogs of antiquity, which were taken to Rome.