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Irish Wolfhounds at the British Museum
(Compiled by Steve Tillotson)


1. THE LONDON MUSEUM IRISH WOLFHOUND EXHIBIT FROM 1906
(Source British Museum Natural History guides: vertrbrates - Page 158, 1906)

(Narrative from The British Museum guide 1906)
An Afghan hound friend took the photograph below while visiting the Afghan Hound exhibit at the British Museum a few years back. By a bit of good fortune the photograph my friend took also shows an Irish Wolfhound? positioned behind the Afghan hound. Here is the text from the Museums guide about the Irish Wolfhound exhibit -

The Irish Wolfhound had become practically extinct but has revived by careful breeding and selection so that its modern representatives are stated to be very similar to the original type. The modern breed is represented by the skull and mounted skin of 'O'Leary.'a male born in March, 1896, who died in February, 1902. He was bred in England by Mr. G. E. Crisp, who presented the skin and skull. There are also the skulls of a male and female Irish Wolfhound, presented by Capt. G. A. Graham in 1882.

The Irish Wolfhound Exhibit From 1906



1A THE SCOTCH DEERHOUND (No image available, unless the above is a Deerhound?)

The Scotch Deerhound is represented by 'Marquis of Lome' (K.C.S.B., No. 33,118), who was born in November, 1891, and died in February, 1903. Bred by Mr. R. H. Westley,' Marquis of Lome' was the winner of 30 prizes, including 11 firsts and 7 specials. The skin and skull were presented by Mr. Westley in 1903. Besides this, the Museum possesses the skeleton of another celebrated Scotch Deerhound, 'Champion Rufford Bend'Or.' This Dog, which was bom in February, 1896, and died in October, 1902, was bred by Messrs. Holme and Holliday, and was the winner of 50 prizes, including a first prize at Birmingham in 1900, 10 first and challenge prizes in 1901, and 5 in 1902. The skeleton was presented by Mr. F. L. Armstrong in 1902.

2. THE MANCHESTER MUSEUM IRISH WOLFHOUND EXHIBIT FROM 2012/2013

More recently, the British Museum in London (to be specific, the Museum exhibit is located at Tring, Hertfordshire, about 30 miles outside London) loaned their Irish Wolfhound exhibit to Manchester Museum for a several months long event that Manchester Museum was conducting. The photo's and narrative below were posted on Manchester's website here . I am acknowledging Manchester Museums copyright of the photographs and narrative and am hoping by so doing, and by posting the link to the Museums website they won't come after me with guns blazing. If you are in the UK you still have time to visit this fantastic exhibition at Manchester Museum as it is ongoing until April 2013. For those that can't visit, herebelow are the words and photo's from Manchester -


Irish wolfhound display in the exhibition Breed:
The British and their Dogs at Manchester Museum.
2012.

The narrative from Manchester Museum -

On 4 November 2012 The Sunday Times reported that the Irish Kennel Club (IKC) wanted the Irish government to give special protection to the country’s native dog breeds (http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/ireland/article1159270.ece ). Amongst the breeds mentioned were the Glen of Imaal terrier, the Irish beagle, the Kerry Blue terrier, but special attention was given to the Irish wolfhound. Sean Delmar, the President of the IKC, stated that this breed had been ‘kept by the Irish for centuries’ and along with the other dogs should be ‘afforded protection as symbols of our national heritage’. A recent issue of the IKC magazine stated that the origins of the dog ‘stretch back into the mists of Irish time’.

The Irish wolfhound is one of the breeds featured in Manchester Museum’s exhibition on Breed: The British and their Dogs which opened last month and runs until 14 April 2013. The exhibition draws on a project on the history of modern dog breeds in the Victorian era and the display on the Irish wolfhound reveals that its origins are in England in the Victorian era. It was certainly one of the most controversial breeds of the nineteenth century. The history told then was that it once amongst the famous and sought after dogs in Europe, famed for its size and ability to hunt down wolves. However, as the wolf population of Ireland declined, the last pair being killed in 1786, such hunting dogs went out of favour and had disappear altogether by the start of the nineteenth century.

Irish wolfhound as displayed in the exhibition
Breed: The British and their Dogs, Manchester Museum.
The taxidermy specimen is on loan from
the Natural History Museum, London. 2012.


In the 1860s, George Augustus Graham, a Scot and ex-Indian Army officer who lived in Gloucestershire, decided to revive the Irish wolfhound. He had heard that there some dogs in Ireland with wolfhound blood and he set out to find them. He bought three dogs he was assured were of the right descent and took them back to his estate in England. They were a motley lot and proved hard to breed from; one was infertile and the others produced weak dogs. However, there was a question about what type and size of dog Graham should aim to revive. No one alive remembered the dogs, so Graham turned to books, poems, travelogues and paintings. No consistent type was represented. Some descriptions emphasised size ( 4-5 feet in height!); others described a greyhound-like form, but this competed with views that it had been a mastiff or deerhound. There were also varying views on its colour, type of coat and character.

On this basis of his research Graham decided on a particular form, height, colour and coat, and a life size model was said to have been made; although the only direct record we have is the ideal dog overdrawn on a photograph of Graham (see the image below). A dog of the appropriate form was eventually produced, allegedly with Graham introducing blood from Scottish deerhounds (for shape), Great Dane (for size), borzois (for its greyhound shape) and Tibetans (for a rough coat).

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