Irish Wolfhound Times
(Irish Wolfhound Database and Breed Information Exchange)


About IWTLibraryBreed OriginsReserved For FutureAfghan Hound TimesReserved For FutureReserved For FutureEphemera


Origins Of The Breed Page 2
Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound
Discussions on Origins and Breed Standards
(Compiled by, Steve Tillotson, January 2013)







1. A Primer on Origins and Breed Standards

As a primer for this topic, readers might like to review an article in Country Magazine dated Nov 1876 on Breed Clubs, Standards and Judges. Another, more modern article on the subject of Breed Standards can be viewed here



2. The Richardson View On Origins


One of the early writers on the breed/s was Major Richardson (known as "HDR"). Check out the library section on this website where we have posted articles written by HDR. Richardson lived most of his life in Dublin, Ireland and was one of the earliest enthusiasts to endeavour to rescue the Irish Wolfdog from extinction. His initiative was eventually superceded by Capt Graham who is responsible for a breed revival program which he initiated in the mid-late 1800's. As a result of Grahams work, we have the Irish Wolfhound we know and love today. Again, check the library section on this website where we have posted articles written by Graham on his revival program. Graham wrote a book "The Irish Wolfhound Revised" which you can download free here. Another enthusiast was Reverand Edmund Hogan an Irish Jesuit Priest who wrote a book "The History Of The Irish Wolfdog" You can download Hogans book free here.

HDR was a prolific writer on all breeds of dogs, thus he assumed a certain reputation and creditability when he wrote about Wolfhounds and Deerhounds. I find it striking that Doggie Hubbard did not mention Richardson in his book on the literature of British Dogs. Doggie Hubbard would surely have known of Richardson's writings but apparently Hubbard didn't deem to include HDR in his list.

Graham seemed empathetic with the majority of Richardson view, allthough they did publically disagree specific points on occasions. Hogan was a disciple of Graham (Hogan dedicated his book to Graham). Thus the "Richardsonian's" comprise of Richardson, Graham and Hogan (and any others who held to the HDR beliefs of the breed/s origins and the Deerhounds relationship to the Wolfdog).

The key points of the Richardsonian's view are-

  • 1. A breed of dog called The Irish Wolfdog existed from Roman times through to the early 1800's when it became very rare (some argue extinct) due to the erradication of the wolf in Ireland (c 1770) and subsequent loss of purpose for the existance of a Wolfdog causing its demise
  • 2. That Scotland was peopled by the Irish around the year 300 and they took their Wolfdogs with them. That a degeneration of these Wolfdogs became the Scottish Deerhound, and thus, the Irish Wolfdog and Scottish Deerhound are one and the same breed save for stature
  • 3. That by Captain Graham gathering the remnants of the old Wolfdog lines and breeding these with Deerhounds he retained the Irish Wolfdog legacy which exists today in the Irish Wolfhound




3. The Hickman View On Origins


Mr G W Hickman of Birmingham, England, was a long term Deerhound breeder from the mid to late 1800's. He and Captain Graham debated via newspaper and periodical discussions the origins of the breeds and the validity of the Graham breed revival program. The key points of the Hickman camps view are -

  • 1. The breed called the Irish Wolfdog was a mongrel, of which there were many varieties. Typically a Greyhound type dog was bred with a Mastiff, Pyrenean or Great Dane etc type dog to produce a heavier and taller greyhound type dog capable of killing the wolf. There was no consistency of breeding and several variations and permutations of crossbreeding were involved
  • 2. That there is no evidence whatsoever proving the Scottish Deerhound to be a descendant of the Irish Wolfdog. The Hickmansonians contend that the Scottish Deerhound developed independently (particularly, in the Highlands Of Scotland) from the Irish Wolfdog



4. Irish Wolfhound Breed Standard (Discussion)


Below in item 5. I have compiled a table containing three breed standards - The current UK Kennel Club standards for The Irish Wolfhound and Scottish Deerhound. In the same table I include the original 1885 Irish Wolfhound Club breed standard, which was largely based on Captain Graham's standard of excellence. I thought this layout would be helpful to readers who may like to compare the earliest and latest Irish Wolfhound standards, as well as compare the Irish Wolfhound standard with that of the Deerhound, the breed from which the Irish Wolfhound received the majority of its genetic material.

Captain Graham drew up his "Standard Of Excellence" which was the initial informal standard of points for the breed. Grahams standard was then submitted to the Irish Wolfhound Club who's committee implemented Grahams standard with some relatively minor changes. So, to all intents and purpose, Graham's standard became the breed standard.

Noting all the above and the linked references it is noted that the Irish Wolfhound breed standard is somewhat unique (or at least, unusual) in its conception. Usually when a new breed is introduced, the early fanciers, importers, breeders, etc,. draw up a breed standard based on "existing specimens" of a breed. In the case of the Irish Wolfhound a breed standard did not exist because the "breed" did not exist until a new breed - The Irish Wolfhound arrived as the product of Graham's revival program. This fact is self evident by the specific inclusion of Grahams own words in the General Appearance section of his early standard - "it is desired to firmly establish a race that etc..."

I didn't include the AKC or FCI breed standards simply because that would have made for a very complex table and would be difficult to represent in a readable form in a single format such as the below. Whilst the wording of the AKC and FCI standards may contain some variances, the essence of Grahams intent is retained.

(The Compromise Of A Breed Standard)
One might think that drawing up a standard for a breed was a relatively straightforward undertaking, not so! In my other breed (Afghan Hound), achieving agreement by all of those on the standard making committee of a club involved compromise . Also, The Afghan Hound community had to endure a ridiculous situation that prevailed for several years leading into the mid 1930's - the existance of two, different and competing breed standards. One drawn up by the Afghan Hound Club (AHC) and the other by the Afghan Hound Association (AHA). In those early days The Kennel Club was not formerlly responsible for breed standards, I believe they assumed that responsibility in the 1940's. The dual standards situation deteriorated to the point that AHC supporters would not exhibit at AHA shows, or under AHA judges, and vice a versa. There is an interesting article relating to this AHC/AHA issue resultant from a foreign judge (Han Jungeling, Netherlands) visiting England to judge the breed in 1930 and having to separate the exhibits into two different "types', judge them seperately, then judge the winners of each type to arrive at his final decisions. The article includes photos of the exhibits, exhibitors and Judge, full list of results, full catalogue listing and the Judges report, which includes his specific mention of the AHC/AHA situation. You can view the article here. There was also a fierce public discussion between breeders on which "type" was correct, interested readers can view the article here. The reason I included the above Afghan hound situation is that it illustrates that it is not uncommon that founding breeders squabble over what is the right type in other breeds. So the Graham/Hickman squabble is not particularly unusual. What is unusual about the Irish Wolfhound breed standard is that (generally speaking) the standard is the vision of one man - Graham, whereas most other breed standards went through a difficult process, which involved negotiation and compromise as articulated in the above Afghan hound example.

(Breeding to the standard)
In an article in the IWCOA Year Book 1934/35, Florence Nagle (Sulhamstead UK) wrote "I think the standard is a good one and perfectly adequate to convey to any judge what an Irish Wolfhound should be. The Club, over here, is well satisfied with the standard as it is. I think the general appearance should be of a Deerhound, but on much more substantial and powerful lines. We must keep to the curves of the Deerhound and avoid the square cut look of the Dane. At one time, over here, we were getting them too square cut like a Shorthorn Bullock. That type has spring of rib, but is like a barrel without depth of brisket. Also the heads were getting rectangular, like an Airedale. But there has been an improvement back to the head with the right amount of breadth of skull coming to a comparative point as the standard asks for.

(Readers will recall, on the previous page of Origins I commented that it took several generations of breeding before the founding breeders, and the next generation of breeders were able to achieve the correct type, consistently. Here, above we have confirmation of that fact. As late as 1934 (some fifty years after Graham started his breeding program) Mrs Nagle was concerned to maintain the characteristics of the Deerhound and avoid the look of one of the old Wolfdog ancestors (Great Dane). As I mentioned in Origins1, development of the Irish Wolfhound is not entirely the result of Grahams breeding, in fact, and arguably, it is the next generation of breeders, such as Mrs Nagle that really achieved the Graham vision. He sowed the seeds, they cultivated and created the harvest..

In the same publication Mr L O Starbuck (Ambleside, USA) wrote the following on this topic -"However, the standard of the Irish Wolfhound is not the same in principle as the majority of other standards, since our standard describes the ancient hound, and the endeavour is to breed a hound that will approach as near as possible, in the fullest of perfection, this type of hound. Whereas, with many other breeds, they are changed from year to year, and with the passing of the years these fanciers breed to meet present-day requirements. They would be horrified if one were to suggest that they revert to the type of their breed described in the earliest data regarding it. I can almost say, this is true of the majority of breeds, but the opposite is true of the Irish Wolfhound. The desire in this breed is to again produce the old hound in all his glory.

It's interesting to note that Florence Nagle relates the standard to "What an Irish Wolfhound should be", whereas Mr Starbuck relates the standard to the ancient hound and states - "The desire in this breed is to again produce the old hound in all his glory."

Not wishing to be argumentative with Mr Starbucks view, but I feel it appropriate to reiterate what Phyllis Gardner wrote in the preface to the dual volume of Hogans and Grahams books published by The Irish Wolfhound Club Of Ireland in 1938 - "The mass of evidence about the History Of The Irish Wolfdog will probably never appeal to a very great number of readers, but those that do want it, want it very keenly. By its aid they should be able to dispel many false ideas, and to uphold the proud position of our noble hound as the worthy successor of our long continuity of blood and traditions from the remote past"

Seemingly Florence Nagle and Phyllis Gardner were "forward looking" and related the breed standard to the newly established breed that retained as much as possible of any lineage going back to the Wolfdog. We also note that this forward looking position is consistent with what Captain Graham himself stated in his standard of excellence for the Irish Wolfhound, the original of which included his statement - "it is desired to firmly establish a race etc..". (establish = new ie; a "worthy successor").

So we have Florence Nagle, Phyllis Gardner, Captain Graham looking creatively forward (breeding a worthy successor) whilst Mr Starbuck looked backward ("produce the old hound in all his glory"), albeit with undoubtedly good intents, but a totally impossible proposition.



5. Table of Breed Standards, Irish Wolfhound, Deerhound

SCOTTISH DEERHOUND
(The Kennel Club UK)
September 2000
IRISH WOLFHOUND
(The Kennel Club UK)
March 1994
IRISH WOLFHOUND
(Irish Wolfhound Club UK)
1885
General Appearance
Resembles a roughcoated greyhound of larger size and bone.
General Appearance
Of great size, strength, symmetry and commanding appearance, very muscular, yet gracefully built.
General Appearance
The Irish wolfhound should not be quite so heavy or massive as the Great Dane, but more so than the deerhound, which in general type he should otherwise resemble. Of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly 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 minimum height and weight of dogs should be 31 inches and 120 pounds; of bitches 28 inches and 90 pounds. Anything below this should be debarred from competition. Great size, including height at shoulder and proportionate length of body is the desideratum to be aimed at, and it is desired to firmly establish a race that shall average from 32 inches to 34 in dogs, showing the requisite power, activity, courage and symmetry.
Characteristics
The build suggests the unique combination of speed, power and endurance necessary to pull down a stag, but general bearing is one of gentle dignity. Temperament Gentle and friendly. Obedient and easy to train because eager to please. Docile and good-tempered, never suspicious, aggressive or nervous. Carries himself with quiet dignity.
Characteristics
Of great power, activity, speed and courage.
Characteristics
Power, activity, courage and symmetry
Head and Skull
Broadest at ears, tapering slightly to eyes, muzzle tapering more decidedly to nose, lips level. Head long, skull flat rather than round, with very slight rise over eyes, with no stop. Skull coated with moderately long hair, softer than rest of coat. Nose slightly aquiline and black. In lighter coloured dogs black muzzle preferred. Good moustache of rather silky hair and some beard.
Head and Skull
Head long, carried high, the frontal bones of forehead very slightly raised and very little indentation between eyes. Skull not too broad. Muzzle long and moderately pointed. Nose and lips black.
Head and Skull
Long, the frontal bones of the forehead very slightly raised, and very little indentation between the eyes. Skull, not too broad. Muzzle, long and moderately pointed. Ears, small and greyhound-like in carriage. Bite - scissors ideal, level acceptable
Temperament
Gentle, kind and friendly nature
Temperament
Gentle and friendly. Obedient and easy to train because eager to please. Docile and good-tempered, never suspicious, aggressive or nervous. Carries himself with quiet dignity.
Temperament
Temperament not a category in the 1885 standard, but effectively it would be same as current standard - Gentle and friendly. Obedient and easy to train because eager to please. Docile and good-tempered, never suspicious, aggressive or nervous. Carries himself with quiet dignity.
Eyes
Dark. Generally dark brown or hazel. Light eyes undesirable. Moderately full with a soft look in repose, but keen, far away look when dog is roused. Rims black.
Eyes
Dark. Elliptical (regular oval) and full. Eyelids black.
Eyes
Dark.
Ears
Set on high and in repose folded back. In excitement raised above head without losing the fold and in some cases semi-erect. A big thick ear hanging flat to the head or a prick ear most undesirable. Ear soft, glossy and like a mouse’s coat to the touch; the smaller the better, no long coat or fringe. Ears black or dark coloured.
Ears
Small, rose shaped, of fine velvet texture. Preferably dark in colour, not hanging close to face.
Ears
Small and greyhound-like in carriage
Mouth
Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Mouth
Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Level bite tolerated but not desirable.
Mouth
(Bite - scissors ideal, level acceptable)
Neck
Neck.—Rather long, very strong and muscular, well arched, without dewlap or loose skin about the throat. Very strong with good reach sometimes disguised by mane. Nape of neck very prominent where head is set on, no throatiness.
Neck
Rather long, very strong and muscular, well arched, without dewlap or loose skin about throat.
Neck.
Rather long, very strong and muscular, well arched, without dewlap or loose skin about the throat.
Forequarters
Shoulders well laid, not too far apart. Loaded and straight shoulders undesirable. Forelegs straight, broad and flat, a good broad forearm and elbow being desirable.
Forequarters
Shoulders muscular, giving breadth of chest, set sloping. Elbows well under, turned neither in nor out. Leg and forearm muscular, and whole leg strong and straight.
Forequarters
Shoulders muscular, giving breadth of chest, set sloping. Elbows well under, turned neither in nor out. Leg.—Forearm muscular, and the whole leg strong and quite straight.
Body
Body and general formation that of a greyhound of larger size and bone. Chest deep rather than broad, not too narrow and flat-sided. Loin well arched and drooping to tail. Flat topline undesirable.
Body
Chest very deep. Breast wide. Back, long rather than short. Loins arched. Belly well drawn up.
Body
Back. — Rather long than short. Loins, arched. Chest.—Very deep. Breast, — wide. Tail.—Long and slightly curved, of moderate thickness, and well covered with hair. Belly.—Well drawn up
Hindquarters
Drooping, broad and powerful, hips set wide apart. Hindlegs well bent at stifle with great length from hip to hock. Bone broad and flat.
Hindquarters
Muscular thighs and second thighs, long and strong, good bend of stifle with hocks well let down and turning neither in nor out.
Hindquarters
Muscular thighs, and second thigh long and strong as in the greyhound, and hocks well let down and turning neither in nor out.
Feet
Compact and well knuckled. Nails strong.
Feet
Moderately large and round, turned neither in nor out. Toes well arched and closed. Nails very strong and curved.
Feet
Moderately large and round, neither turned inwards nor outwards. Toes well arched and closed. Nails, very strong and curved.
Tail
Long, thick at root, tapering and reaching almost to ground. When standing dropped perfectly straight down or curved. Curved when moving, never lifted above line of back. Well covered with hair; on upper side thick and wiry, on under side longer, and towards end a slight fringe is not objectionable. A curl or ring tail undesirable.
Tail
Long and slightly curved, of moderate thickness and well covered with hair, carried low with an upward sweep towards the extremity.
Tail
Long and slightly curved, of moderate thickness, and well covered with hair carried low with an upward sweep towards the extremity
Gait/Movement
Easy, active and true, with a long stride.
Gait/Movement
Easy and active.
Gait/Movement
Easy and active.
Coat
Shaggy, but not overcoated. Woolly coat unacceptable. The correct coat is thick, close-lying, ragged; harsh or crisp to the touch. Hair on body, neck and quarters harsh and wiry about 8 cms (3 ins) to 10 cms (4 ins) long; that on head, breast and belly much softer. A slight hairy fringe on inside of fore- and hindlegs.
Coat
Rough and harsh on body, legs and head; especially wiry and long over eyes and under jaw.
Coat
Rough and hard on body, legs, and head; especially wiry and long over eyes and under jaw.
Colour
Dark blue-grey, darker and lighter greys or brindles and yellows, sandy-red or red fawns with black points. A white chest, white toes and a slight white tip to stern are permissible but the less white the better, since it is a self-coloured dog. A white blaze on head or white collar unacceptable.
Colour
Recognised colours are grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey.
Colour
The recognised colours are grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, or any colour that appears in the deerhound.
Size
Height: dogs: minimum desirable height at withers 76 cms (30 ins); bitches: 71 cms (28 ins). Weight: dogs: about 45.5 kg (100 lbs); bitches: about 36.5 kgs (80 lbs).
Size
Minimum height for dogs: 79 cms (31 ins), bitches: 71 cms (28 ins). Minimum weight: 54.5 kgs (120 lbs) for dogs, 40.9 kgs (90 lbs) for bitches. 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 from 81-86 cms (32-34 ins) in dogs.
Size
The minimum height and weight of dogs should be 31 inches and 120 pounds; of bitches 28 inches and 90 pounds. Anything below this should be debarred from competition. Great size, including height at shoulder and proportionate length of body is the desideratum to be aimed at, and it is desired to firmly establish a race that shall average from 32 inches to 34 in dogs
Faults
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog. Note Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Faults
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog. Note Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Faults
Too light or heavy a head, too highly arched frontal bone; large ears and hanging flat to the face; short neck; full dewlap; too narrow or too broad a chest; sunken or hollow or quite level back; bent fore-legs; overbent fetlocks; twisted feet; spreading toes; too curly a tail; weak hindquarters, cow hocks, and a general want of muscle; too short in body


Related content:
An article by Graham published in Country Magazine 1876
Discussion on Grahams essay - G W Hickman
Discussions/lettersCountry Magazine Jan 1876
Discussions/letters another Country Magazine item 1876
An article by H.D.Richardson 1857

Next Page Of Origins
Previous Page Of Origins