Irish Wolfhound Times
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Art and life - Volume 11, Issues 1-9 1919
Irish and Russian Wolfhounds By T. C. Turner


Marie, Queen of Romania. Accompanied by the Crown Prince Nicholas and the Princess Marie
with her favorite Wolfhounds in the gardens of the Summer Palace near Bucharest
Irish Wolfhound Times photo -  Irish and Russian Wolfhounds By T. C. Turner


In ancient and in modern history Wolfhounds seem to have been especial favorites among the race of regal dogs. This has applied equally to the Russian, and to that very interesting, although until recent years almost extinct type, the Irish Wolfhound.

One of the very first persons in modern times to take an interest in the Borzoi or Russian Wolfhound, was the Dowager Queen Alexandra. Some twenty years ago Queen Alexandra and the Duchess of Newcastle owned the finest specimens of the breed in England. Another instance of royal interest in Wolfhounds is that of Queen Marie of Rumania, who, at the present time, has an interesting kennel of the Borzoi breed. The accompanying illustration pictures Queen Marie accompanied by some of these dogs. So exclusively, in early days, was the Irish Wolfhound the property of Royalty that this dog was to be found pictured as the supports of the coat of arms of the old Monarchs of Ireland.

A type of Russian Wolfhound has been established for centuries, but the Russians themselves do not seem to have an exact idea as to the origin of the breed. The Russian Wolfhound is of the variety of the greyhound, but with a long silky coat, and resembles more closely the Persian greyhound, from which breed it is, in all probability, descended. Glancing at the engraving after the painting by Hamilton, of the Persian greyhound shown in Jesse's Anecdotes, one can hardly doubt this theory of origin. With the exception of the large drooping setter-like ear shown on the Persian dog, the Russian resembles it remarkably. The dog shown in Hamilton's picture was a study from life, and evidently quite a dark-colored specimen. Many of the dogs of the Imperial Russian kennels were dark—of hound coloring. At the present time we are inclined to favor the white dog with lemon or orange markings, and with few dark spots. Queen Alexandra's champion, "Alex" had but few dark patches, and the Duchess of Newcastle's "Velsk" was almost all white.

The first dog of note, shown in this country was champion "Marksman" owned by Mr. T. Turner about twenty years ago. This dog was fairly free from color, although about the same time several dogs were shown quite heavily colored. A few years later Mr. J. B. Thomas, Jr., entered the field in a most enthusiastic manner, and after acquiring all the best stock he could in America, he imported many good specimens, both from the English kennels and from Russia. This stock included "Bistri" a very large dog, and a famous winner at all the shows of his day. Mr. Thomas with Dr. De Mund and a few other enthusiasts organized the Russian Wolfhound Club of America, and from that time on the breed made rapid strides in popularity. Indeed, it is one of the most picturesque specimens of the canine race.

In general appearance the body of the Russian Wolfhound is peculiarly different from that of the other members of the hound family. Viewed from the front, it forms a sort of V, i.e., narrow at the chest, and as the ribs rise they broaden out a good deal, so that the back becomes broad. In general the dog should resemble a large long-haired greyhound, the head should be long and lean, the skull flat and narrow. From the forehead to the tip of the nose the head should be so fine that the shape and direction cf the bones and principal veins can be seen. The profile should appear somewhat Roman-nosed, the eyes should be dark and expressive, ears small and thin, placed well back on the head, with the tips when thrown back, almost touching, the neck should be not too long, i.e., not so long as that of the English greyhound, the coat should be silky (not woolly) and either flat or wavy. On the head, ears, and front legs it should be short, on the neck profuse, on the chest and hind quarters long, and the tail should be well-feathered. The height should be about twenty-eight to thirty inches, and the weight from seventy-five to one hundred pounds.

The Irish Wolfhound gradually lost popularity by reason of a quite natural cause, for history records that the last wolf was exterminated from the Emerald Isle in 1710. Thus it came about that no natural incentive presented itselt for the cultivation and development of a dog especially adapted to wolf-hunting. In consequence interest in the breed waned, although for a long time the Irish Wolfhound was kept for his ornamental interest, being bold and majestic in appearance, yet mild and gentle in disposition, and always ready to defend those to whom he is attached. Probably no dog loves human companionship more than he.

Marie, Queen of Romania. Accompanied by the Crown Prince Nicholas and the Princess Marie
with her favorite Wolfhounds in the gardens of the Summer Palace near Bucharest
Irish Wolfhound Times photo -  Irish and Russian Wolfhounds By T. C. Turner


So highly estemmed was this dog some three hundred years ago that poets lent their pens not infrequently to his praise. In fact it may be asserted that he is a notable accessory to the poetical traditions of Ireland. Probably the most interesting poem in his honor was that by Mrs. Catherine Philips, written in 1660:

"No fondling play-fellow is he,
His master's guard he wills to be:
Willing for him his blood be spent.
His look is never insolent. He hath himself so well subdued,
That hunger cannot make him rude;
And all his manners do confess
That courage dwells with gentleness."

Arbury, A fine Irish Wolfhound
owned by Mr Robert M Barker
Irish Wolfhound Times photo -    ARBURY. A FINE IRISH WOLFHOUND OWNED BY MR. ROBERT M. BARKER


The Irish Wolfhound resembles a rough half-bred greyhound, but much stronger than the English coursing-dog. He is much like the Highland Deer-dog, but is built on a larger scale; in fact he is as tall as the Great Dane. The Scotch historian, John Mayor, tells us that Scotland was early populated by people from Ireland, and it is probable that they brought their dogs with them, and that after the days of wolves (the deer still remaining) these very dogs proved themselves useful as deer-hounds, hence the resemblance between the old time Irish Wolfhound and the Scotch Deerhound.

The color of the Irish dog varied. The color most esteemed was that which resembles the color of the present Scottish deerhound, dark iron-grey. They were, however, found in a tawny or yellowish sandy hue, and brindle. The breed in the days of its full popularity was sought after by many dignitaries of toreign lands. Pliny relates a combat in which the Irish Wolfdog took part. He calls these dogs "Canes Grail Hibernice," and describes them as taller than a mastif.

Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, was presented by King John with a specimen of this sort of dog, the animals in those days being permitted only to the ownership of princes and of chiefs. In the old Welsh laws of the Ninth century, we find heavy penalties exacted for the maiming or injuring of the dog, the value of which was then set at more than double that of the ordinary greyhound. Jesse tells us that "Scottish noblemen were not always content with such specimens as their own country produced, but frequently sent tor them to Ireland, conceiving doubtless, that they would be found better and purer in their native land." The following is a copy of a letter addressed by Deputy Falkland to the Earl of Cork in 1623: "My Lord, I have lately- received from my Lord Duke of Buccleuch, and others of my noble friends, who have entreated me to send them some greyhound dogs and bitches, out of this kingdom, of the largest sort, which I perceive they intend to present unto divers princes and other noble persons, and if you can possibly, let them be white, which is the color most in request here. Expecting your answer by bearer, I commit you to the protection of the Almighty, and am your Lordship's attached friend, Falkland."

From 1710 to about 1850, this grand old breed was allowed almost to die out, and in this it shared the fate of other old time breeds, that had served their usefulness, among them the mastif, and had it not been for Capt. G. A. Graham of the English army, and a few enthusiastic English dog men, it probably never would have been perpetuated, in fact we may safely say that we owe the return of the dog as we know him today to the tireless efforts of Capt. Graham. We quote from one of his articles in The Country, for February 1876. "The breed in its original integrity has apparently disappeared cannot be disputed, yet there can be equally little doubt that so much of the true breed is forthcoming both in the race still known in Ireland as the 'Irish Wolfhound,' (to be met with however, in one or two places only) and in our modern deerhound, as to allow of a complete recovery of the breed in its pristine grandeur, with proper management in judicious hands."

The road to Camelot from a painting by G H Broughton. R.A.
The Wolfhound is here shown
Irish Wolfhound Times photo -    THE ROAD TO CAMELOT. FROM A PAINTING BY G. H. BOUGHTON. R. A. THE WOLFHOUND IS HERE SHOWN


What the work of a few enthusiasts had done in ten years may be gathered from the fact that at one of England's leading summer shows, that of 1886, no less than eighteen dogs were entered. It is somewhat curious that although among many authorities there is a general opinion that the original dog had a rough hard coat, such artists as Berwick and Reinagle at the close of the Nineteenth century, depict the Irish Wolfhound as not entirely rough, and Rubens in his picture of the Earl and Countess of Arundel, probably painted early in the Seventeenth century, shows a powerful dog, mostly greyhound, which is believed to be a representation of the Irish Wolfhound.

Much has been written as to the size of the old time breed, Goldsmith referred to it as about four feet high, but it is very doubtful if any breed of dog ever reached that height, except its measurements be taken at the top of head when standing erect, certainly not at the shoulder, as dogs are now measured. Twenty years ago Mr. Trainer showed in England "Thiggum Thu," a very large dog, measuring 34 inches, at the same time Capt. Graham showed a dog 30 inches high. There are and have been for years a few enthusiastic workers on the breed in this country, among them Mrs. T. Douglas Robinson, Miss V. Moore, William H. Leslie, Hugh Murray and R. S. Barker, but the dog has never received the encouragement that it deserves.

Although the largest of the hound family, this dog should be graceful, free and easy in its movements. In appearance the Irish Wolfhound should not be quite so heavy as the Great Dane, but more so than the Deerhound, which in general type it should otherwise resemble. It should be of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly built, the head and neck should be carried high, tail, carried with an upward sweep, slightly curved toward the extremity. Great size, including height at shoulders and proportionate length of body is the desideratum to be aimed at, and it is desired to establish a race that shall average 32 to 34 inches. The head should not be light as in the. Russian, it should be slightly raised, skull not too broad, muzzle long and moderately pointed, ears small, carried like the greyhound, neck strong and muscular, well arched, chest deep, breast wide, feet round and •arge, toes well arched, hair rough and hard, on body, legs and head, wiry and long over eyes and under jaws, color grey, brindle, tawny, or even yellowish white, front legs strong and straight, hind quarters muscular, thighs, hocks turned neither in nor out.

Some additional info on Mr. Robert M. Barker mentioned above (Source; Town & country - Volumes 75-76 - 1919) -

IT is of particular interest in these days when representatives of the huge and ancient Irish Wolfhound breed are so seldom seen- at shows to know that there are still a few fanciers who stand between the breed and utter extinction. Of these Mr. Robert M. Barker of Syracuse is one of the staunchest of devotees, and it is even more gratifying to hear from him that there is a reawakening of interest in this magnificent breed. Of course any rehabilitation of the Irish Wolfhound to its erstwhile popularity is bound to be rather slow as the field of purchasers is limited to those persons who own large country estates where these immense hounds can be maintained under proper conditions. Mr. Barker, who has been breeding Irish Wolfhounds for a number of years, states that the demand of late for good specimens is far beyond the output of his own and his co-fanciers' Kennels. Among the more recent recruits to the cult who have purchased hounds from the Syracuse fancier are Miss Mary R. S. Andrews of New York who now owns the big fawn brindle male Cimbaeth and Mrs. Frederick P. Humphreys of Southampton, L. I., who bought Golden brindle female and left an order for a male puppy. The latter will be delivered shortly as Mr. Barker's beautiful bitch Edain whelped a litter of seven males and one female about a month ago; her first puppies in over a year. The whelps appear to be grays, fawns and brindles, although, owing to early color changes in this breed, little can be said with surety upon this point. The sire of this litter is that enormous hound Ballaghboy owned by Mr. Albert J. Davis, Jericho, L. I., and surely his union with Edain should be productive of something considerably above the ordinary. During the past year Mr. Barker purchased from the Hon. W. Cameron Forbes of Boston a son and daughter of the latter's imported pair of hounds. Lindley Gwynne and Arbury, and they are developing into fine big upstanding hounds. As a further proof that the popularity of the Irish Wolfhound is in the ascendant word has been received from Mr. Everett, the leading fancier of the breed in England and owner of the famous Felixstowe Kennels that he has recently shipped hounds to India, South Africa and Australia and has many other orders which he is unable to fill.

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