A Short Chat on the Breed
H.M. Durand, the Irish Wolfhound Club Yearbook, 1926
One is frequently asked by people who do not know the lrish Wolfhound, "But what do you use him for? We have no wolves in England now.? Quite true, we have no wolves, but as the march of civilisation has crowded out the wolves and dangerous animals, it has altered the conditions under which human beings live. Instead of being herded up in walled towns and having to travel in parties if we want to avoid wild animals and lawless armed men, we can wander nowadays about the country at will, and select our homes for the beauty of their surroundings, instead of first having to consider their vulnerability to attack by man and beast. But, this very freedom to wander about and live in our own quiet homes also gives the burglar, tramp and beggar a much greater freedom of action than he used to enjoy in former days, and, from the attentions of such gentlemen, I am quite sure the dog is our best and surest protector.
Personally, having kept most kinds of dogs at one time and another, I think as a companion and a guard the lrish Wolfhound, as a breed, stands pre?eminent. He is large and looks most formidable, and the instinct to protect those he loves, at any risk to his own life, has been bred in him for hundreds of generations. At the same time be is not a quarrelsome dog, and will not attack other dogs or men except under grave provocation, and he is particularly gentle and reliable with chüdren. He is an active dog and hardy. In fact I had one of mine for a considerable part of the War, in France ; he used to march with the regiment, and though naturally he used to share father's room when there was one to be got, I can remember many a night he spent in the mud and snow in the horse lines. It's a mistake to think the Wolfhound requires a great deal of long exercise, he can do long distances if trained up to them, but he really does better when taken for ordinary country walks, and it is when walking along the roads and lanes near home that one appreciates a really reliable friend who by his appearance protects one from being pestered by beggars and tramps, and yet can be relied on not to embroil one in rows with one's neighbours by chasing their dogs, cats, chickens, and so forth.
I live close to a main road which is notorious for the number of tramps that stream along it, and the late occupant of this house told me that seldom did a summer's day pass without two or three of these gentlemen of the road calling in to ask for something?since the hounds have been here I have never had a single tramp through the gate, and yet there is not a tradesman or workman who has ever been molested or who has a bad word for the hounds. Once, during the War, a tramp did come to the house we then lived in in Gloucestershire. 1 suppose he knew full well that there were only three women in the house, so he quickly opened a conservatory door and walked in?the next second something big and heavy hit him on the chest and he went flat on his back on the floor. He there lay very still, for every time he moved an eyelash a most unpleasant rumble came from somewhere close to his chin. The lady of the house, hearing a crash, came to see what was happening and found our old Wolfhound bitch, Mistress Biddy, standing over a prostrate man. The lady stood about five feet high and the man was a burly great scamp with a very varied vocabulary, which he proved from the other side of the garden gate, but no churchwarden ever walked more soberly or quietly than he did when he got the order " Get up, don't talk, walk slowly down to the gate and shut it behind you."
I admit I nearly lost a friend through an lrish Wolfhound once. He is a dignified high official now who retums from dining out in a Rolls Royce with a wife and grown?up family, but this alas was years ago, before the Great War, and we were young officers at Aldershot?my friend and I and my lrish Wolfhound had two rooms at the top of a long flight of uncarpeted stone stairs. One night, and a very cold one at that, my friend who was dining in London unfortunately missed the last train back at night and had to come down by a milk train in the very early hours next morning. Arriving in barracks as the chül grey dawn was breaking he came to the flight of stone stairs, and, being a kindly fellow and not wishing to wake us all, he slipped off his shoes and crept noiselessly up the first flight?and there he stayed till my servant brought my early tea - my Wolfhound sat there steps above him, and was quite friendly but firm. No one walked about father's house in their socks, and if they tried to they sat quite still till father came to see about it.
Though, as I said before, too much exercise with a horse is not good for Wolfhounds, I must admit I used to take two or three of them from time to time with a pony and a rifle and wander for hours over the plains ? a very fine sight it is to see these hounds pick up the line of a buck, take it at a gallop for half a mile or more, and run into it in the open. There are few hounds or dogs of any breed that I know of that can hunt a line and are also fast enough to catch a buck.
For two thousand years the Wolfhound has been proverbial for his loyalty to man and as a mighty hunter, and these characteristics are as strong in him to?day as when Caesar sent his forefathers and ours to shew the Romans how the pick of their respective breeds could fight and die.
H. M. DURAND.
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Last Update: 13 Jan 2007