Irish Wolfhound History

The Irish Wolfhound and Coursing

The Irish wolfhound was used in other countries for hunting wolves, bears, cougars, wild boar, and other creatures.

I couldn't bring myself to read through "Extinct Pennsylvania Animals" [a reprint in one volume of several books by Henry W. Shoemaker, President of Altoona Tribune], to find any specific mention of the Irish wolfhound being used in their extinction - skimming through a few paragraphs was enough to make me feel ill - but it does have this picture of 'Chieftain, Famous Irish Wolfhound owned by General Roger D. Williams, Lexington':-

 From Wolf Days in Pennsylvania, published 1914

In 1912 it was reported in 'Our Dogs' that "Mr. I. W. Everett, of Felixstowe, has sold the Irish Wolfhound, Ch. Felixstowe Gweebarra, to America, for what is probably a record price. He is to be used for breeding to raise hounds for hunting bear and other big game on a big game reservation in South Carolina."

(For an article by A. Croxton Smith on this subject, click here ) (The amount he was sold for was £300 - the equivalent in 2009 of £22,128.50 using the retail price index, or £116,730.95 using average earnings) .

 Ch. Felixstowe Gweebarra
 Ch. Felixstowe Gweebarra

(To the Editor of "Our Dogs") 1911

Sir, I was much interested in reading the late correspondence re wolf-coursing with the Borzoi. I had a letter recently from a brother in Canada, who keeps two Irish Wolfhounds, a dog and a bitch. In his letter he describes two fights with those hounds and the prairie wolf. A wolf was seen several hundred yards away from the farm, and he and the dog went in pursuit. The dog soon sighted the wolf and gave chase. He overtook it very quickly and tackled it at once. When my brother got up at the scene of action the wolf was hors de combat. The dog had broken its hind leg and practically torn the throat out of it.

Next day another wolf was seen lurking about the bush near the house and the boys got the dogs and went after it. After a good spin in the open prairie the dog ran it down. This wolf, however, proved stronger and cuter than their quarry of the previous day. The dog fought gamely, but it was doubtful whether he could kill this one singlehanded, so the bitch was slipped, and she charged into the fray, catching the wolf by the forearm. Almost immediately, before the wolf had time to bite the bitch, the dog had it by the throat, severing the jugular vein. Both dogs were so infuriated that they almost tore the beast to pieces before they could be called off.

I have seen both these dogs on a recent visit to Beausejour, Man., and they are typical Irish Wolfhounds.

I am of the opinion that they are more suitable for the purpose than any Borzoi I have seen in this country. They have plenty of temper and speed, and are much stronger than the Borzoi as known here. - Yours truly,


[We were told by an English lady and gentleman resident in Russia, when we paid a visit to the St. Petersburg Show, that Irish Wolfhounds, which they kept and with which they hunted the wolf, were better for the purpose than the native wolfhound, being more powerful and more game. Indeed, we were assured that very few Borzoi will tackle a wolf single-handed. - Ed.]

On October 17th, 1914 A. Croxton Smith wrote:


Many an Englishman taking up residence in some lonely part of the Empire is perplexed to know what dogs would be most suitable to accompany him as companions. A man who is shortly proceeding to a thinly populated district of British Columbia has just purchased from Mr. I.W. Everett a brace of young Irish wolf-hounds. He could not well have chosen more wisely, for these powerful animals, apart from being excellent friends, are also formidable guards, while being strong enough to tackle marauding wolves. Personally, I should feel perfectly safe anywhere with two of them about me. The steady demand for these dogs from foreign sources proves how genuinely they are esteemed in the outposts of the world. No matter where the average Englishman goes, he carries his sporting taste with him, and we find British dogs in every part of the habitable globe........"

 Ch. Lindley Lupin

In 1919 the following report appeared in I.W. Everett's Wolfhound Whines column in 'Our Dogs' -
"I have received a very interesting letter from a French sportsman who is a great hunter of wild boar, and who has a very great opinion of Irish wolfhounds for this sport. In the letter announcing the death of Patrick, he says:- "I had noticed for some time that the hound was becoming sad and losing his appetite, and he looked neurasthenic. One day I took him with me to hunt wild boar. He again became gay, ate well, and helped me to kill 15 wild boars: he was the only hound with me. One evening I was coming back late from a hunt, when I saw him prick up his ears before a big hole and rush into it; at the same moment I heard the significant grumbling of the wild boar. I rushed up as quickly as I could, and I saw Patrick who, contrary to his habit (he had never before done it), was holding the boar by the left hind leg. I was unable to shoot and the inevitable happened. The boar, seeing me approach, turned suddenly and sent Patrick rolling. I was then able to shoot and kill him, then I went over to Patrick; the poor dog was completely ripped up and there was nothing more to do for him. The boar was a huge male weighing over 300 lbs. And I have never seen one like him.

I regret the loss of my poor dog very much indeed, he was my faithful hunting companion, and thanks to him I was able to kill a great number of boars. He died a noble death on the hunting field. To hunt the wild boar I proceed in the following way: I put two ordinary dogs on a fresh track, and followed them until they arrived at the place where the boar was hiding. Most of the times the boar would not leave his place, then I let Patrick loose, and by jumping on the boar he would force him out, and that moment I would kill him. You see it is very simple, but I also want to tell you that Patrick, all by himself, without a single other dog to accompany him, hunted a deer for two hours. To me the Irish Wolfhound is a wonderful hunting dog, and the only thing that one might reproach him with is that he is silent, and one does not know where to find him while he is hunting. Next year I shall try hunting with these hounds without the help of any other dogs."

In the Irish Wolfhound Club Yearbook of 1929-30-31 there is an article by Warren A. Depuy entitled Where Dogs Still Guard the Herds with the subtitle Irish Wolfhounds are Found to be Invaluable on the Mountain Ranges of Montana.

"It would seem ridiculous to invite Paderewski to compete in a speed typewriting contest; to put Al Williams at the helm of the Enterprise; to place Bobby Jones on the polo big four; to enter Willie Hoppe in the Olympic ski jump, yet each is something more than a champion in his particular form of endeavour. But, by the same token, all would be completely outclassed were they to attempt to switch to other activities.

(N.B. For those not old enough to know of these people Ignacy Jan Paderewski GBE was a Polish pianist, composer, diplomat, politician, and the third Prime Minister of Poland; Al Williams was a baseball star; Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones Jr. was one of the greatest golfers to compete on a national and international level; Willie Hoppe was an internationally renowned American professional carom billiards player.)

Yet that grand mastodon of dog breeds, the Irish Wolfhound is expected to display his glory in city surroundings when it is obviously impossible to realize the full extent of his capabilities until he is located in his natural habitat. Often the giant Irish hound competes in show rings against breeds that, for generations, have done nothing else but learn the intricacies of displaying their best qualities to judges.

The Irish Wolfhound needs the vast open spaces, where Nature throws countless obstacles in his path, to bring out his true guise. Then he may surmount difficulties and perform feats of strength, speed, grit, and fighting, that mark him as a superlative expression of the canine species.

Such surroundings naturally are not found inthe congested areas where urban life is a matter of brief, spasmodic and often dilettante snatches. It is quite unlike the smoothly flowing rhythm of life that one finds on the ranges and among the mountains that throw their jagged, saw-tooth ridges against azure skies. That is the true abode of such as the Irish Wolfhound. There he finds his answer to life.

At any rate, he seems to have found it on our stock ranch and fur farm which is hidden away among the groves, the roaring streams, and grassy meadows of the Valley of Paradise, in Montana. Ours is a great country, picturesque, beautiful, and inspiring. The stranger to the locality is often so impressed that he will catch his breath as he gets his first glimpse of the scenery and smells the pungent timber and range land fragrance. Even to us who are accustomed to the sight it is a never-ending pleasure to see those great snowy peaks, well over ten thousand feet up, cast their many shadows and form a sawtooth sky line on every side.

It is a picture country, but it is a living picture, and much of that life is provided by the wild animals that make their homes in these mountains. Their presence keeps us forever on the watch; not for ourselves but to guard the stock. Occasionally a stock-killing bear molests our herds and flocks. Now and then a lynx cat dines on mutton, and once in a great while the mountain lion looks us up. But most of our trouble is caused by the prairie wolf or coyote. Just let some of our sheep stray from the flock during a summer fog or winter blizzard, and the next day you will find from four to forty killed by this clever "Captain Kidd" of the range land.

We tried practically every known method to keep this pirate under control, including poison, traps, high-powered rifles, and hounds of nearly all kinds. Yet he continued to more than hold his own.

Then someone suggested the Irish Wolfhound. It was just an idea, and having tried so many other reputedly fast, clever, courageous, and strong hounds, we did not really expect that the Irish variety could do much better. But, finally, we sent out letters to most of America's leading kennels that specialize in this breed. We told them that we were looking for some real throat slitters - honest to goodness killers. And we stressed the need for grit, too, since the lack of this had been a big fault in some of the other breeds.

In due time we received a stack of literature from each of the kennels. It was all very interesting, but what a weight to hang about the neck of a poor, innocent he-dog. When I took the history of this wonderful canine over to the bunk house, the boys got so much "kick" out of it that they laughed half the night.

According to this literature, the last wolf that had fallen victim to the Irish Wolfhound had departed from this earth when the Irish had a king who was not English and the occasion was a royal family hunt in Ireland. As this scrap took place more than one thousand years ago, and my memory does not go back quite that far, I will have to take the word of the writer of that bit of literature that the wolfhound actually did the slaying. Anyhow, that particular hound is most likely dead by now.

One lady who answered our frantic plea for information stressed the fact that this breed provides "good and uncomplaining foot rests" for the house. Maybe that lady's house is big enough in which to part eight or ten wolfhounds of horse-like proportions, but, in general, it seems as if two of them would fill and ordinary sized kitchen to overflowing. I can assure the reader that most of our ranch lies on the outside, with just about enough space in the house so that we can sit down to meals in fair comfort.

Another party informed us that a distinct virtue of this breed was its lack of having doggie smells when in the house. Still another lady - it seems a lot of women raise the Irish Wolfhound - told how nice and polite she had found this dog to be to the cat. She advised "just give your Irish Wolfhound a cat, tell him to take care of it, and your troubles will be over."

I'll say they will! Now that we actually own some of this breed, we have discovered something about their "protectorate over cats". Our Irish Wolfhounds seem to have inherited the cat-herding trait. Just last spring this pack of warriors kept a neighbour's visiting tomcat up a tree for three days. The kind doggies were no doubt very much worried for fear that if Thomas should attempt to descend with anywhere near the velocity that he attained in his ascension, that said precious cat might suffer a broken limb or two. The Irish Wolfhound is a very conscientious dog.

But to get back to the principal story. We chewed the rag considerably. Sifted through our literature some more. And finally coughed up the price of a small automobile and landed a pair of those "sons of dignity and polite manners." They arrived in good shape and with good appetites.

We named the dog Silver Tip and thus accepted as a naturalized son of Paradise Valley, he made himself right at home. Indeed, the second night he got into a fight over a dead sheep with one of the best of our other dogs and before we could persuade them to join the League of Nations and arbitrate matters, the Irishman had come out the winner. Evidently he had left his visiting manners back in his Eastern kennel. That dog proved right there that he could fight, being a throat hold killer.

While the death of our other dog was regretted, all of us realized that we had something in the "Mick" which seemed destined to end much of our worry over the loss of sheep. So it was not long before we took the wolfhounds out on a coyote hunt.

It was a very cold day when we staged this first drive against the obnoxious prairie wolf. My feet were nearly frozen and there was very little feeling in my hands which grasped the chains to which the wolfhounds were attached. However, it was not long before my partner, on the big rock he was using as a lookout tower, fastened "old lynx eyes" - our name for a pair of powerful Zeiss glasses - upon a pair of coyotes that were feasting upon a dead horse located upon a large plateau, a little below us.

Putting the glasses carefully in their case, he shoved his No. 11's over the edge and came sliding down the 30-foot boulder. Then we mounted our cow ponies and rode over the rim of the mountain. There a small ridge jutted out and its scattering pinon pines furnished shelter until we were within less than half a mile of our game.

Turning the dogs loose we broke cover and started down the mountain on a high lope. The coyotes knew danger was near and started across the flat the instant we were in sight. But the ever-alert wolfdogs had spotted their quarry at the same moment and were off at a mad pace. Their long hind legs reached out far ahead of their front ones in frantic efforts to push still more ground behind them, their backs bowing like barrel hoops. And turning into gray streaks, those coyotes fairly flew in hectic retreat.

Having followed some kind of hounds most of their lives, our horses joined in the fun and the race war was on inearnest. We tore down that steep mountainside and each time these ponies struck groun they raised a cloud of loose gravel, and bits of bunch grass flew through the air. An uprooted Douglas fir of considerable size lay across the trail, but my pony cleared the four feet of trunk and charged through the branches to land many feet below, while large portions of my clothes fluttered from the smaller twigs.

The coyotes split up, one going around a small knoll while the other kept straight ahead. The pack, consisting of one Irish wolfhound and our various other hounds, continued on the straight line, but Silver Tip climbed right over the knoll. My partner and myself rode straight ahead and soon a deep narrow gutter loomed up right in front of us. There was an anxious moment before we knew just what was going to happen, but our faithful chargers hurled themselves for the other bank. Even then it was not a comfortable spot. For one long second I rode in mid-air, and if my teeth had not been clenched tight, I still feel sure that my heart would have bobbled right out.

The chase was nearing its end now, the long legs of the hounds having proved too much for the coyote. Right here it might be mentioned that the Irish Wolfhound had been setting a fast pace in this scramble, and the Russian, the staghound, the greyhound, and one of half mixtures of grey and Irish, were tagging right along.

Before that coyote knew what was happening, a pair of gaping jaws were flashing at his side. But as the prairie wolf is much smaller and quicker than a wolfhound, he easily dodged and left the dog a dozen feet to one side. Doing this, however, took a little precious time, and our Russian ran right over the top of him. Too slow in regaining his feet, the coyote was surrounded by four big dogs. Each one got a mouthful of coyote and they stretched him out. Two had fastened into his throat. The fight looked like a tangle of heads and tails and feet, all flying around a circle at once.

In the meantime my partner's horse had stepped into a badger hold, turned a somersault and landed a few rods down the slope. "Pard" rolled over a few times and came on to the right, making almost as good time on foot, his six feet two inches - mostly legs - proving right handy.

Letting the dogs have five minutes of their fun, each of us grabbed a dog by the tail to break them loose before they ripped to pieces a twenty-dollar pelt. Pulling and cussing our hardest, it took ten more minutes to pry those killers loose.

Silver had not turned up, so we set out over the hills to locate the trouble. Finally we discovered that the big dog had run the coyote up a dry creek bed until they came to a cut bank on three sides. Here the wolfhound cornered him and they fought it out. Knowing he was done for, the coyote had locked jaws with the hound. There they were when we found them, the fangs of each locked in the other's jaw. And the big dog, not being able to shake loose this 65-pound coyote, had tussled around until exhausted.

Many pools of blood lay in the snow, and at first glance it looked as if both the dog and the coyote had done for each other. Then the other wolfhound dashed in, clamped his teeth over the entire head of the coyote and exerted such great pressure that the jaws fell apart and the now lifeless coyote dropped limp in the snow. Although cut up pretty badly, Silver was soon on his feet and, by taking it slowly, finally managed to get back to the ranch.

Since that time we have added to our collection of Irish Wolfhounds and do not take them out on a big hunt until they are trained. It takes several years and a hundred chases to develop the eyesight of a hound so that he can spot his game instantly. In general, to be a good hunter a dog should be raised on the range. Then all his faculties develop together. He gets sound, tough feet, better wind and keen eyesight. Usually we use an older dog to train the puppies, for otherwise it takes a much longer time, and a puppy which is whipped is sometimes ruined. Really, training a good wolfhound is an art in itself.

We have discovered that the Irish Wolfhound excels in three ways - grit, ambition and intelligence. He is not a fighting fool. He is not as lazy as most hounds, and he tries to "savvy" things so that naturally he learns more. The gameness and willingness of the Irish Wolfhound was demonstrated very well in an exciting bear hunt we had here some little time ago.

Several years ago a large brown bear developed a dining-car appetite for fat lambs. Each spring, when the sheep were camped in a certain canyon on Pine Mountains, fresh lamb chops were the mainstay of mother-bear's table.

The late May snow storm furnished an excellent tracking snow, and in a few minutes the Irish Wolfhounds were hard after mamma bear and her two cubs. As the big dogs closed in, the bear family took to a fir tree. Getting a glimpse of me as I came through the timber, the old bear jumped out of the tree and ran for the mountain top.

Like great gray flashes the wolfhounds tore after her and soon forced her up another tree. Five times as I approached she would leap far out over the circle of baying hounds and gallop through the timber. Just as she was about to reach another climable fir tree, Blue Boy, the leader and fleetest dog of the pack, made one vicious leap and fastened his teeth in her hind leg.

She wheeled to cuff him loose, but Spottie, a powerful hound weighing well over 100 pounds, hurled through the air and secured a hold on the scruff of her neck. The weight and momentum of the big dog overbalanced the brown bear.

Over and over they went, down the steep hillside, enveloped in a cloud of snow. As she reared up, turning to bite Spottie, Blue Boy fastened on to one of her big ears. The other dogs all tried to get a mouthful of bear at the same time, jointing the mass of heads and tails and snarls and growls, tumbling down into the canyon floor while dog hair and bear fur floated in the air above the bloody, snowy trail.

Breaking away from the dogs, the bear made her last stand on top of a fallen log while, though torn and bleeding, the circle of dogs darted in and out. Claws and fangs flashed and tore. A bullet ended the fight.

Knowing that the cubs were cached somewhere near, I looked up every tree she had climbed, discovering them in the very tip of the first tree mamma bear had occupied.

This tree, a Douglas fir, was an oldtimer, some four or five feet through at the base, the top having tried to grow tall enough to see what was over the next mountain.

Deciding to catch the cubs, a brown and a black one, alive, and take them home for the kids to play with, I cut off a string from my saddle and made a noose which I attached to a short stick. I then removed my hunting boots, for a fellow can't climb very well with shoes on.

There were no branches for the first 15 feet, so I had to climb a small tree nearby and get it to flipping, then exchange trees. The branches were few and far between, and I thanked the gods of fate that my distant ancestors had once used the "tree-to-tree" method of transportation. Heredity thus passed down to me a good tree-climbing ability, which comes in mighty handy when hunting bears for both pursuit and when pursued.

As I neared the top the cubs tried to get a little farther up, but the smaller branches would not accomodate their weight, so they sat and squealed and snarled in such a bloodcurdling manner that cold shivers ran up my back, although I knew mamma bear had gone to the happy hunting grounds and one of the gamest packs of Irish Wolfhounds in existence sat on their haunches around the tree grinning up at us.

Still those cubs might have an old maid aunt or some other dear relative in that canyon - you never can tell about bears - and a fellow in his sock feet without even a toothpick for a weapon would sure be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea if some of the Bruin family should decide to stage a rescue.

Half a dozen tries and the loop fell over the black cub's head and we started down the tree. Luckily little bears wear a much larger hat than collar or my noose would surely have slid off. Tying Blackie in a sack, I tried the same stunt on Brownie, but things began to happen.

As there was no other direction to pull, I had to jerk straight down and that scratching little devil landed on top of my hat. Hats went out of style right suddenly. Three rounds with that wild, scratching hyena and my costume would have made a bathing beauty think she was in a Colonial pageant. Once he jerked the string out of my hands and scrambled out on a branch which had no other limb near it, so it was hand over hand until I caught the string; then, holding on by toe nails and eyebrows, I pulled him clear loose and he fell into the branches below. Then it was a merry race down the tree trunk to catch him before he jumped into the waiting jaws of those eager dogs.

Having only one small sack I had to carry Brownie all of the eleven miles home in my arms.

Perhaps I may seem a bit too enthusiastic about the Irish Wolfhound, but it would be impossible to live with these dogs and see what they can do without becoming almost rabid upon the subject of their excellence. They have speed and fighting ability and sense in unstinted degree, but aside from all that they are sturdy, companionable creatures that can stand upon their own feet and do more than their share of any work necessary and which is within the ability of an animal. Their value in our business is inestimable.

Something of this was discovered when we trapped pine marten or sable - America's rarest and most beautiful fur animal - alive for foundation purposes on our fur farm. This animal usually lives high, very high, in the mountains. Naturally their habitat is some distance from the ranch and that makes it necessary to take with us anything needed on the trip. So we packed our Irish Wolfhounds over the high Rockies and these big dogs scrambled around the slide rock cliffs and boulders with an agility second only to that of a wildcat.

We reached a height of more than 13,000 feet at the summit, traversing Sky-Top Creek and over the granite peaks. Yet this climb was a weightcarrying feat, especially for the dogs. Each hound was loaded with two box traps and some bait, which often totalled 40 pounds. Yet I saw Silver jump a 12-foot span across a roaring mountain stream. The heavy pack came down so hard that it completely overbalanced the dog when he landed. But he did not let out a whimper, for these big dogs are game.

We have not tried the Irish Wolfhound as a sled dog, but we have packed the breed everywhere. Also the breed does not mind the cold, as was demonstrated one day last winter, when, with the thermometer standing at 60 below zero, we hauled hay to the stock. The Irish Wolfhounds were with us and they romped and played tag in the snow. Some day it is my intention to mush into that sacred circle of huskies and malamutes, my sled trailing behind six long-geared, gaunt, hardened, galloping dogs of the Range Land, each standing nearly three feet high at the shoulder. And we will pit our muscles, our grit, and our endurance against those trail eaters of the North Land.

If the Gods of fortune give us an even break, I will miss my guess if those fighting Irishmen do not flash past their opponents and on to the trail end, far, far in the lead. For truly the Irish Wolfhound is a he-dog and the best of pals."

In the 1935-36-37 Irish Wolfhound Club Year Book is an article by Ronald K. Monro entitled Irish Wolfhounds in Australia: A True Story of an Australian Born.

"To overtake, pull down and hold at bay a huge Sambhur stag in rough mountainous country without the aid of any other dogs is truly a wonderful feat of speed, strength and endurance. This is only one of the many notable achievements of "Thunder of Killara", an Australian born Irish wolfhound bred by Miss Bruce Reid at her kennels at Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

Four and a half years ago I was undecided as to which breed of dog to purchase to accompany me on my hunting trips and that would also be a real pal for a bachelor who spent a great deal of leisure time away off the beaten tracks. It was not so much a gun dog that I needed as a hunter, and one that would be heavy enough to negotiate rough country. After much reading of doggy books, and talking with breeders and dog lovers generally, I finally decided on the Irish wolfhound as being the most suitable for my particular requirements. I have never regretted the choice as Thunder has more than fulfilled my wildest expectations. Now rising five years he is a perfectly developed upstanding dog with a kindly quiet nature, wonderfully intelligent and obedient, and above all a dashing hunter and a real killer.

When I brought him home he was just four months old, a loose-limbed straw coloured pup, very shy and just his kennel manners. I started right in to train him very gently and rewarded his efforts with a biscuit or two. He quickly became a well educated dog, obeying my every wish conveyed by word, whistle or sign, every command just being spoken loud enough for him to hear. He was still rather shy in the presence of strangers, so I used to take him out on a lead and walk him among as many as convenient, and in this way he got used to them when in public places, but was still a very good watch-dog at home.

I started him off hunting rabbits and he took naturally to the job. He made his first catch at night by the aid of my car headlamps. Now, as he drives along the country roads at night, taking up the whole of the back seat, he keeps a sharp lookout for game of all kinds, and when let out seldom fails to catch it. He is a splendid jumper and even at night will take five foot fences in his stride. His sight at night seems particularly good. In the day time when I shoot rabbits or hares from the car, I just let him out and he jumps over the fences and brings them back to me.

From rabbits I took him out after wallabies with a pack of other mixed dogs. I can well remember the first one that he saw caught. He just peeped into the sprawling dogs and watched from a safe distance; he was just seven months old then. Now he just picks up the biggest wallaby and kills it as easily as a terrier does a rat. He soon learnt the idea of wallaby and kangaroo hunting together with dingoes and foxes. He not only runs by sight but has a wonderful nose and will run a kangaroo for miles on scent until he catches sight of it, then he soon as it thrown to earth.

Early in his career he was ripped by a 'roo, now he is very careful and never rushes in to an old man Kangaroo that is bailed up and ready to fight for his life. He quickly circles him, then rushing in from behind, grabs him by the butt of the tail and after breaking it kills by either throat or heart grip continually pulling away from the terrible and death-dealing blows from the powerful hind legs.

When Thunder was three and a half years old I took him into the hills deer hunting. After he had seen one caught and pulled down by a pack of fox hounds, he soon learnt that the big deer were even better game than the old men kangaroos. The country in which the big Sambhur deer live in Australia is very mountainour and is covered with a dense undergrowth which is almost impossible to penetrate. Foxhounds are used for trailing the deer in this class of country, then, when a moderately clear section is reached such as a river flat, Thunder joins in the chase and soon has the huge stag at bay in the river bed or pulled down in some thicket. Once last year when being led to a likely spot by my brother (he will not leave me to follow anyone else) a big stag broke cover and Thunder pulled away with six feet of rope tied to his collar. Not-with-standing the handicap this rope must have been in the timber and undergrowth he pulled him down three times and brought him to bay (where he was shot) within five hundred yards of the starting point. The stag was found to have broken off one of its huge antlers when either charging at Thunder or when striking the earth when pulled down by him. So thick was some of the country through which they had run that the antler could not be found, and so a fine trophy was spoilt. Thunder is a very good natured dog and never starts any fights, but when he catches any game, or is with me when I shoot any, he will not allow another dog near his property. He will not let a stranger near me if I am in the bush either sitting or lying down, but as soon as I get to my feet will then let them approach.

I can honestly say that he is a really wonderful pal, always by my side (he is at my feet as I write this), ready for a game or serious hunting or a quiet rest, and understanding all I say to him. He is a thorough gentleman, both at home and abroad, and, above all, a brilliant and natural hunter.

 Early wallaby killing  
 Thunder of Killara (on the extreme right) is watching (very gingerly)
a wallaby being killed by a pack of dogs. He was only seven months
old then. Now he is a dashing wallaby dog, and kills them as easily
as a terrier does a rat.
   Thunder & kangaroo kill
   Thunder of Killara at three years old. Here seen with an old man 'roo
(kangaroo) which he caught and killed single-handed.
The kangaroo is dead in this picture.
 Thunder with stag
 Thunder of Killara with a fine Sambher Stag that he pulled down in a
river bed.
 Thunder and kitten
   Thunder of Killara with his pal. He was eight
months old when this picture was taken.

The following article appeared in the Irish Wolfhound Association Year Book of 1925:

An Adventure in Africa by Mary Beynon

Herewith some of my experiences with Irish wolfhounds. The first I owned was given to me by Col. Ley in 1897 in India. I have always found them to be a strain of proved courage and endurance, very faithful and trustworthy with children, and at their best when treated as house-dogs. They are not rough or clumsy, and will quickly learn to see off any tramp. There has lately been a great increase in the popularity of this breed, and those of us who love this hound must naturally be pleased, having owned these magnificent hounds for so long I am frankly delighted to think their character is getting better known and more appreciated, and I sincerely hope the breed will continue to improve in popularity, number and quality.

I have an old poem written by Mrs. Catherine Philips about 1660. The character of the Irish wolfhound is so well portrayed, and proves the estimation in which he was held at that period.

Behold this creature's form and state !
Him Nature surely did create,
That to the world might be exprest
What mien there can be in a beast;
More nobleness of form and mind
Than in a lion we can find:
Yea this heroic beast doth seem
In majesty to rival him.
Yet he vouchsafes to man to shew
His service, and submission, too -
And here we a distinction have :
That brute is fierce - the dog is brave.
He hath himself so well subdued
That hunger can not make him rude :
And all his manners do confess
That courage dwells with gentleness,
War with the wolf he loves to wage,
And never quits if he engage :
But praise him much, and you may chance
To put him out of countenance.
And having done a deed so brave,
He looks not sullen, yet looks grave.
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.
Few men to do such noble deeds have learn'd,
Nor having done, could look so unconcern'd.

This is quite the best description I have ever come across in any books about my favourite breed. They are full of courage and modesty.

Terry of the Light Eyes 
 "Terry of the Light Eyes"

Montfaucon gives a relation, and a print of a duel between a gentleman and a large Irish wolfhound in the year 1371, in the presence of King Charles V of France. After an account of this fight, in which the dog was victorious, it is added that it has always been observed of this breed of dogs that they have an uncommon alacrity at single combat.

Strabo mentions a tall greyhound in use among Pictish and Celtic nations, which he states was held in high esteem by our ancestors, and was even imported into Gaul for the purposes of the chase. Silaus calls it also a greyhound, and asserts that it was imported into Ireland by the Belgæ, and is the same with the renowned Belgæ dog of antiquity, and that it was during the days of Roman grandeur, brought to Rome for the combats of the amphitheatre. Pliny relates a combat in which the Irish wolfdog took a part. He calls them "Canes Graii Hibernici", and describes them as much taller than the mastiff.

I enclose a photo of the three puppies that saved my life from lions while in Kenya Colony - where I took Bournstream

I enclose a photo of the three puppies that saved my life from lions while in Kenya Colony — where I took Bournstream Faugh-a-Ballagh and Bournstream Biddy in 1920. I walked almost into a lion, lioness and two cubs on a newly killed stag, and they were not pleased. I called out "Tally-Ho" to the hounds — a cry I only used when I viewed game, and they knew it well, and Bournstream Buller, Bournstream Simba (called Tiger by us), and Terry (sold to a lady in Holland), were away hunting in some bushes. Tiger heard me first, came into view, and hesitated for a moment, when up went the lion's tail, and I thought I was to be the dessert. I called Tally-Ho again, and out came Buller — he in a flash gave one roar of fury and galloped at the lion, and Terry and Tiger then joined in — the lion never waited. The hounds followed the lion across the bit of open into some bushes, the lioness crouched down, evidently in doubt, and I walked on. This was Xmas, 1923, 8 a.m.

three hounds 
 The Lion Hunters

I would like to have one thing especially noted by all who care to read my notes. That Buller has light eyes, and several old breeders who, alas, are gone from us, would agree with me. Light eyes are always the bravest, and present day shows are making a big mistake in penalising light eyes, and so helping to breed out courage. If your life depends upon the quick responding to your call for help — even to attacking a lion — if the lion won't run — I would always pick a light-eyed hound if it was to be my life which was to be so tested.

On another occasion, about fifteen years ago, I was walking across a field with a white West Highlander bitch and some Irish wolfhounds, and a bull came charging across. My old bitch (light eyes again) was the first. In a flash she sprang right up at the bull's nose, slashed and tore some part of his face, and turned him, and then, of course, the next second the others joined in.

It is very important to understand the method of an Irish wolfhound's fighting. It is jump in, slash, and jump out. Instance Buller, Tiger and Grim (Faugh-a-Ballagh), were out riding (while in Kenya) with me, when we met a wart hog — this was the one enemy I had always dreaded during our lonely rides or walks over the Kenya plains. The hounds showed the most wonderful agility: as the hog charged they waited till he was almost into them, then they jumped, and as he passed they were round, slash, slash, and away. The pig turned in a flash and charged again and again, and each time he never even touched one of the three hounds. They tore him absolutely to pieces. The Irish wolfhound does not by nature hold on, and he is not good at catching small things, though after a thing is killed he likes to eat it and not give it up. I have had personally several experiences of attacks on humans — and they have all been the same. A spring at the chest — human knocked on to his back, when they will usually stand with their forepaws on the man's chest and wait to hear what is wanted. This happened to me at Bournstream — where I lived in 1917, when old Biddy I. caught a man breaking in. I was also treated once in exactly this way by mistake in the dark. So I can speak with some inside knowledge. They can easily be taught to see anyone undesirable off by walking close behind them, and if they stop, the hound will growl and show his teeth. Grim always did this to any tramps if told to. They are not aggressive but like to care for their master's property. One of mine that I gave Colonel Durand (9th Lancers) during the war, and he took this hound to France, when they were very devoted to each other. One evening Col. Durand went out from his billet to dine with some of his officers. While he was out the dog was let out into the garden, and while he was there, the Frenchman and his wife, owners of the house, wanted to return home — they also had gone out somewhere to dine. The dog, Tiger I, refused to allow them to return, and he refused to go into the house in spite of a fierce snowstorm coming on, till Col. Durand returned. When he did, he found Monsieur and Madam very cold, but furiously angry. Likewise the maids indoors all shivering and crying and imploring Tiger I. to allow their master and mistress to come inside — or to come inside himself! He was quite friendly with them, but till his master returned they remained with him outside. He sat on the steps of the chateau and was very polite, but perfectly firm in his refusal to their entrance.

There is an idea among some owners that Irish wolfhounds hunt by sight. This has been chiefly done by the fact that they have wonderful sight, but they have a wonderful nose also. Some time ago, while in Kenya, about six months after the puppies, Tiger II (Simba), Terry and Buller, had had distemper, and it was a hot day, we shut Tiger II (Simba) into Col. Durand's room, as he was going out into some very dense bush to cut a new road through it, a part of the country none of the hounds had ever been to before. Tiger escaped an hour later (about noon). When the sun was really hot, this hound found Colonel Durand (whom he is devoted to) about two miles away in dense bush. Colonel Durand heard some animals coming at a gallop, and got his rifle ready, expecting to be charged by a furious rhino, at least, as we have several about that part of our property, and in consequence had never before taken the dogs, and then he saw Tiger following his line. Grim (Faugh-a-Ballagh), picked up the line of a wounded impala in a ploughed field, and took the line at a gallop over the open. I was on my horse, and followed the old hound, at a good pace too. He put the buck up in some thick bush, and Col. Durand was able to shoot the poor beast. Buller, Grim andTiger have scores of times picked up the line of a duiker in the garden, and even after the sun has been up for some time they have taken the line at a gallop into thick bush and put the animal up again, and in some cases have got him.

When they are in hard condition they are very hardy. Tiger (No. I) accompanied Col. Durand during the war and did two marches of twenty-five miles and twenty-three miles on two successive days in pelting rain, slept in snow and rain, but, even so, the dog was none the worse.

During the time we were in Kenya Colony the hounds sometimes used to get on to some very thrilling line and disappear for days together. Once they (Grim, Buller and Terry) were gone for four days and four nights; right away in the lonely wild bush of Africa, and came home not a penny the worse.

Their chief pecularities are: (1) Excellent guard, especially at night, (2) very brave in defence of their friends, (3) not quarrelsome with other dogs, (4) very devoted to and fond of children, (5) hunts by nose as well as sight.

I have seen Grim often gallop in and with his nose toss first one of my fighting West Highland terriers to the right, and then one to the left, and so end the fight.

All good luck to the best of breeds, and may their motto always be as it used to be, "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked."

Home page
Site map
History index
Previous page