Irish Wolfhound

Irish wolfhound

If you looked up to see a stunning Irish Wolfhound coming toward you, you’d be forgiven for gasping. This tall, handsome giant breed is not one you see too often.

Irish Wolfhounds are huge dogs with unique needs. Keep reading to find out more about Irish Wolfhound size, lifespan, and potential health issues.

RELATED: Read about other Irish dog breeds …

Irish Wolfhound Breed Characteristics

The Irish Wolfhound’s size is one of the largest of any breed. These tall dogs stand 32 to 34 inches high and weigh 120 pounds or more … certainly not a lapdog! 

How Long Do Irish Wolfhounds Live?

This a big drawback of owning an Irish Wolfhound. Given his large size, the Irish Wolfhound’s lifespan is only 6 to 8 years.

When it comes to quality over quantity, though, the Irish Wolfhound is a calm and vigilant breed. He makes a wonderful watchdog and is affectionate with family.


Irish Wolfhounds are double-coated, with a wiry outer coat and soft undercoat. They shed year-round, but not excessively, and they don’t “blow” their coats. Brushing your Irish Wolfhound weekly to remove dirt and loose hairs should keep the coat in good condition.

Irish Wolfhound Breed Standard

The official breed standard of the Irish Wolfhound describes the general appearance as follows: 

“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.”

The breed standard also requires a minimum height and weight of 32 inches and 120 pounds for males, and 30 inches and 105 pounds. Smaller sizes are ineligible for competition.

Purebred Irish Wolfhounds have a wiry, medium length coat in a variety of colors, including gray, black, and brindle. They are a muscular breed with a long neck and deep chest and have an attention-grabbing appearance due to their height. Their tails are long, eyes dark, and ears small.

Read the full official breed standard for the Irish Wolfhound.  

Best Lifestyle for Irish Wolfhounds

As the name suggests, Irish Wolfhounds were once used to hunt wolves and elks in Ireland. Their tall stature also made them suitable for work during war, due to their ability to pull men off horseback.

Irish Wolfhounds are sight hounds with a strong hunting instinct. This means walks are safest taken on-leash … and when you let them loose it should be in a well-fenced area. 

Many Irish Wolfhounds are quite happy to lounge indoors and share the couch with you! But regular exercise and activities that challenge their minds (such as agility or tracking) will keep them healthy, happy and active.  

Irish Wolfhound Mixes

Because of their low-maintenance coats and imposing size, it’s become popular to cross-breed Irish Wolfhounds with other breeds to produce designer breeds. Designer breeds of all kinds are ill-advised, because the genetic traits can’t be well managed. Designer dogs don’t “breed true” so there’s a lot of variability in appearance as well as increased risk of health and behavior problems. The situation is worsened by unethical producers (including puppy mills) breeding for money, without regard for the health or temperament of the puppies. 

It’s especially fashionable to cross Irish Wolfhounds with other giant breeds like Great Pyrenees, Great Danes or Mastiffs. This only compounds the risk of health issues that are more common in very large breed dogs.

Common Health Issues for Irish Wolfhounds

Every breed comes with certain health risks, and the Irish Wolfhound’s size is a factor in his health. First, rapid growth as puppies can make them prone to injury. And there are a few health problems that are common to Irish Wolfhounds and other giant breeds. 


Like other giant breed dogs, Irish Wolfhounds may be prone to osteosarcoma (an aggressive bone cancer). The risk of this cancer is higher in spayed and neutered dogs as well as dogs weighing more than 66 lbs. Because it’s painful, amputating the affected limb is often first step in any treatment recommendations. After that, there are many treatment choices, both conventional and natural. 

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is an inherited disease of the heart muscle. It can take different forms, but ultimately leads to congestive heart failure (CHF). You will need a vet to diagnose this. 

Since Irish Wolfhounds are susceptible to cardiomyopathy, you may want to take preventative measures by feeding a high-quality raw food diet, providing regular exercise. Regular vet exams may help catch any signs early.

RELATED: Read about congestive heart failure in dogs and how to manage it … 

Hip Dysplasia

This disease is common in large dogs and affects the hip joint. It is painful and can affect either one or both of your Irish Wolfhound’s hips. The main symptoms of hip dysplasia are limping, unusual walking gait, getting up slowly, or loss of muscle in one or both thighs. 

RELATED: Learn how to prevent and manage hip dysplasia in dogs … 

Porto Systemic Shunts

Irish Wolfhounds are prone to this hereditary malformation that causes blood vessels to bypass the liver, which means toxins don’t get removed. 

If your Irish Wolfhound shows strange behavior after eating, paces, presses his head against the wall, is lethargic, or has seizures, you should get him checked out by a veterinarian. Irish Wolfhound puppies should be screened for this condition before going to their new homes. 


This is a painful inflammation of the outer surface of long bones in the legs, and can affect multiple bones at different times, including moving around from one to the other. This is a developmental condition that affects young, quickly growing dogs- especially large breeds like Irish Wolfhounds.

The cause is likely a combination of genetic predisposition and inadequate nutrition. Symptoms include pain in one or more legs, fever, lethargy, and weight loss. The good news is that this condition eventually resolves itself, but the bad news is that it can be very painful for your dog. 

The best way to naturally protect your dog is to feed a whole foods diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

Gastric Dilatation And Volvulus (GDV)

Also known as bloat, this is a sudden, life-threatening swelling of the abdomen that is a risk for all large, deep-chested breeds. It happens when your dog’s stomach fills with gas and then twists, preventing air and fluids from entering or leaving the belly. This increase in pressure can affect breathing and lead to shock in less than 20 minutes.

If you own an Irish Wolfhound, you should know how to recognize the symptoms of bloat, which include agitation, stiff movement, shivering, burping, swollen abdomen, trying to vomit, and loss of consciousness. If you suspect your dog has bloat, it’s a life-threatening problem. So don’t hesitate to go straight to your vet or emergency clinic. 

RELATED: Read more about what causes bloat in dogs, and how to prevent it … 

How To Find Irish Wolfhound Puppies

Irish Wolfhound puppies may be some of the hardest to find breeds out there. Here’s where to start your search for your new family member.

Parent Breed Club

The most reputable place to find purebred Irish Wolfhound puppies is the parent breed club in your country. Here are some places to look:

In the US: Irish Wolfhound Club of America

In Canada: Irish Wolfhound Club of Canada

In the UK: Irish Wolfhound Club UK 

Adopt Or Foster An Irish Wolfhound 

You can find out about Irish Wolfhounds looking for new homes by contacting the Irish Wolfhound Club of America rescue volunteers.

Deciding to welcome an Irish Wolfhound puppy into your household is (literally!) a big decision. Now that you know what to expect, you’re all set to give your dog the happiest and healthiest life possible!

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