The Irish Wolfhound – The Myth and Legend

Posted in News on 26th September 2018

A Dog breed older than Christ himself, the Irish Wolfhound was depicted on the Coat of Arms of the High Kings and was believed to be a fierce hunter and protector.  In early childhood, we are introduced to the Wolfhound through the stories of Irish Myth and Legend, most notably through the legend of CuChulainn.   In Ireland since at least the time of the Celts, they are a symbol of Irish culture, heritage and Lore.

So the story goes … A young warrior, Finn Mac Cumall 👨, having been denied access to the King by his hound, killed the dog in an epic battle.  After all, being denied entry to the Kings house by the mighty beast was an insult too much to take.  Yet, feeling badly to have killed such an incredible creature, he offered a compensation to the King.  He agreed to spend a year serving the King in place of the slain dog and became known as CuChulainn (The Hound of Chulainn)  Cú being the Gaelic word for Dog or Hound.  This ancient legend and the site of the battle can still be visited today at Emain Mhaca in Co. Armagh, where stories are rife and you will come away with a true sense of the legend of one of Ireland’s mythological heroes.  Tours are so worthwhile and can be arranged here! https://www.heritageisland.com/attractions/navan-centre-fort/

The attached photograph depicts the President of the 1916 Countess Markievitz Cumann na mBan (Anna Harvey) on the Hill of Tara (the seat of the ancient High Kings of Tara) with an absolutely beautiful, loving and gentle Irish Wolfhound.  Loving and gentle aren’t words I would have used until experience taught me that the intimidating size of the animal has nothing whatsoever to do with their gentle and serene nature.  This one was quiet as a mouse and had no objections to being cuddled and photographed.  Due to their size and the space needed to accommodate them, they’re now a rare feature on the Irish landscape.  No longer used as war dogs, hunters and protectors, their nature has mellowed, leaving them mostly pets, Show Dogs and …. in the Scottish hills, they herd sheep!  I kid you not! 🐑🐏

Belonging now mainly on the doorsteps of Irish Castles and grand houses, they draw murmurs of admiration when seen in public.  Such majestic creatures, they embody everything it is to be Irish .. Strong, willful, courageous and protective of their own.  They were the ultimate hunters, used to drag warriors from chariots in ancient times and to bring down Elk on the hunt, they now get to lounge peacefully at the feet of their masters or charm the crowd, much like this beauty did when I met him on Tara’s ancient Hill.