Visions of the Breed by IW Breeder-Judges

We asked several long time breeder/judges for their vision of the breed as they entered the ring to judge.

Gretchen Bernardi
Berwyck Irish Wolfhounds

When the opportunity to test a dog’s ability to perform the work for which it was originally created is lost, that breed is in danger of succumbing to the tides of fashion and passing fads. The Irish Wolfhound was a hunter, a killer of wolves, or else he would be named differently. If we do not keep that foremost in our minds as breeders and judges, we will completely lose the dog that Captain Graham dreamed of recreating.

When judging our breed, I look for a rough-coated Greyhound, only more: more size, more power, more strength, all required to meet a more formidable prey. I look for the “remarkable” dog in the ring, the one with that difficult balance between power and speed, with all of the parts fitting together in harmony and balance. I look for the one that exudes confidence. And when found, I hope the dog looks at me with that expression we all love as if to say: “Here I am. You’ve found me!"

Jill Bregy
Wildisle, reg., Irish Wolfhounds

My vision of the breed — what I look for as I enter the ring to judge.

A rough-coated greyhound like breed — very muscular, strong though gracefully built. This is the image that I have in my mind and what our standard calls for.

Balance — slightly longer than high, as depicted from earliest pictures.

Length of leg, depth of chest, absolutely correct topline with a smooth line coming off the neck, which should have a slight arch of muscle, flowing into the topline which has neither sag nor roach; into the slight rise of the loin supported by length of ribcage, and then, with the pelvis set forward, down into the croup of 30 degrees to the tail set.

The scapula should be laid back with moderate angulation to the upper arm — all providing for reach and fluid movement.

The rear assembly should have equal length of femur and tibia with moderate — not extreme — angulation and correctly articulated joint at the hock so there is angulation above the hock at the rear. This is critical in a sight, scent hound dog, herding, working and sporting dog.

Depth of chest is key with forechest and moderate rib spring. Tight round feet and a crisp outer coat. A beautiful elliptical shape to the head, with balanced foreface and backskull and with those ever elusive small folded ears of thin ear leather. Great DEPTH of expression in the eyes.

Finally, the ever elusive PRESENCE ... owning the ground they stand on, and over which they move freely and soundly.

All of this makes up the elusive hound of "Quality". Hard to find but when found, it takes your breath away.

Jocelyne Gagné
Starkeeper Irish Wolfhounds

When I enter the show ring to judge Irish Wolfhounds I look for a powerful dog of great size, with the typical gazehound shape, that has the ability to run. I want a classic sighthound outline and that is all about smooth, flowing lines; a long, strong neck that flows into well placed shoulders; a deep chested dog, well drawn up at the flanks, with a slight rise over the loin that connects into strong rear quarters. I want to see smooth curves in an athletic dog, and one that is in hard condition. Good running gear is a necessity, and movement is high on my list of considerations when judging Irish Wolfhounds.

A wolfhound is only as good as its legs, which is true of all sighthounds. To me this means that an Irish Wolfhound has to cover a lot of daylight both standing and on the move. Balance is critical, and in order to move efficiently, the front angulation has to match the rear angulation. Obviously, good angles both front and rear are desired.

And my vision of an Irish Wolfhound also includes a typical head. I love a “houndy” head, with level planes, equal lengths to the muzzle and backskull, and minimal stop. The jaws should be powerful, and the head should never be coarse looking. Dark, oval shaped eyes mirror that soulful IW expression that can melt your heart.

John Lewington
Greycroft Irish Wolfhounds

When judging Wolfhounds I have a picture in my mind of the ideal Irish Wolfhound and it is as follows.

Head planes parallel with a long strong punishing jaw and a strong underjaw.

Strong powerful neck flowing from the crest in an unbroken line to a slight rise over the loin; the unbroken line continuing over the croup (not sloping as in the Deerhound). For me the top line is the overall shape of the Irish Wolfhound and this should hold true on the move. I look for a deep chest but not prominent as in the gundog.

Strong deep bone (not round) and a slight lean on the pasterns. Hindquarters well angulated but not overdone.

Movement should show reach and drive but not to excess as they are a galloping hound and should give the impression that they would be able to gallop with great power and strength.

In younger dogs I look for something that will eventually grow into that beautiful stallion hound in all his glory that I hope to find. That strong, powerful, athletic dog that looks like he could do the job he was bred for but still retain that soft loving expression that says I would protect you with my life.

I try to pick an Irish Wolfhound that would ensure that our beautiful breed survives. My vision for the breed is that we, as breeders, take a close look at nature and not just breed the show winners but look a bit deeper for strength and power and retain that wonderful hunting instinct that makes the Irish Wolfhound the King of the Dog World.

Jean Malley
Ainsea Irish Wolfhounds

When I am standing in the show ring waiting for the class to enter, I am always optimistic of catching my breath at the sight of an impressive wolfhound moving around the ring at ease with his handler. His head naturally held high, perfect symmetry from all angles, graceful & muscular with easy, economical long strides, showing no effort but full of verve and determination, all this in a commanding, massive hairy greyhound type, who’s presence fills the ring and looks as though he could go all day, hunt and do the job intended. This is my vision of the perfect Irish Wolfhound which I hope to see every time I judge.

To take it further I am looking for a dog which shouts out his breed type, I am an Irish Wolfhound, his type should never be disputed. I like an athletic looking hound, a strong hunter not a shire horse type. His head would demonstrate the wonderful level planes and that typically kind expression with dark eyes and well held rose ears, well furnished and the correct carriage of a true sighthound. He would have great presence with the correct ratio of height to length. Viewed from all angles his stance would be perfect, his feet planted naturally and correctly, head held high and tail carried low, and in between I want a body with a course crisp coat, and one that my hands will flow over, no bumps or angles. This wonderful outline and appearance can only be found on a well made hound, every part of him coordinating as one. He would have a well arched strong neck set onto well laid shoulders. It should go without saying that he must have a correct set on and angulations of the front assembly, giving some forechest with fill, depth and spring giving heart room, and ribbed well back, correct strong topline with rise over a well muscled strong loin into a broad strong croup and well angled hindquarters. I want definition in the outline, athleticism, no sausage like bodies. I like to see plenty of daylight, with good length of well boned legs, wide stifles, strong second thigh and width through well let down hocks giving that special spring to allow good drive from the hocks for forward propulsion, and the required strength to keep the hound upright when turning quickly, and aided also by the thickly coated long strong tail, well set on and carried low, with a slight curve towards the extremity, never curly or carried high. I like to see masculinity in the males and femininity in the bitches, their sex like their breed type should never be in question.

Elizabeth C. Murphy
Carrokeel Irish Wolfhounds

The Irish Wolfhound is a very large, rough-coated, sight-hound. He should be majestic looking, showing size, strength and grace without coarseness.

The coat should be rough and somewhat shaggy in nature. The head to be fairly well covered with hair but not as heavily coated as the rest of the body.  Graham suggested that a reasonable amount of eyebrow, muzzle hair and beard is needed to finish off a nice typical head. The beard should be marked and wiry, but should have no resemblance to that of the Kerry Blue or Schnauzer. The head or coat should not be over groomed. The outline may be enhanced by plucking but use of the scissors should be minimal.

The head should be lengthy and as powerful as is compatible with the greyhound shape. The ears should be small and tucked in greyhound-like when in repose. “An eye of sloe, an ear not low” completes the head. The arched neck to be of fair length allowing the head to be proudly carried.

The body should give the impression of nice length. The top-line should show a nice set of gentle curves beginning with the crest of the neck and blending smoothly over a well-laid shoulder into the back and over the rise of the loins with the tail set fairly low and the adequately angulated hindquarters ending with the bend of the tail. A deep brisket should show good depth of chest, with good spring of rib rising into a nice tuck-up to form the under-line.

As a sight-hound, he needs good length of leg, adequate length and inclination of upper-arm, placing the elbows under the hound and giving a good front which will be accompanied by spring of pastern. The Irish Wolfhound moves with a long low stride and with true movement coming and going. To have real quality, the hound should be typical and sound.

Any trace of shyness or aggression is not acceptable in such a majestic hound which it is our privilege to own and hold in trust for the next generation.

Like Mr Everett, I have not tried to put forward my type save in so far as I gather it is The Type as laid down by many early expects in the breed.

Liz Thornton
Mochras IWs

When I was a child saving up for my first wolfhound my "vision" was a dog who was tall enough to see out of our windows without jumping up to do it. Preferably he would be capable of acts of courage and hunting prowess similar to those done by the fictional Finn of " Finn the Wolfhound", my favourite book. The eleven year old self wasn't to know that this was written by a breeder who knew Captain Graham, so the author Dawson had considerable credibility. The illustrations of a long legged athletic hound from that book (1908 version) added to the words from the early standard stayed with me. The oldest judges I met as a beginner in 1970 insisted on "loose lead" in stance the better to see which hounds posed with confidence, a naturally arched neck and curved stifle — the true commanding appearance. That generation of judges had been mentored in turn by those who knew the founders of the breed, and all of them took pride in its hunting ability.

A four word vision statement, therefore. Has the hound power, activity, courage and symmetry?  Wrap this around the breed standard of today and pick the sighthound who looks best fitted to pulling down and killing the agile European wolf after a difficult chase.

This page was last updated 01/04/2021.