St. Patrick's Day Parade in DC (2010) - jef1000

Jeff Malet Photography

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The Irish wolfhound was originally a war dog, used to drag men out of chariots or off horseback, but was also used as a hunting hound and as a guard. There are numerous references in Irish mythology to its prowess in all these fields. It was used to hunt the Irish elk and the wolf and was used singly or in pairs rather than in a pack, hence the need for great size. When the last of the wolves in Ireland was killed (the elk had become extinct long before), the breed dwindled and almost died out. The process was not helped by the demand for this magnificent hound around the world. It was given as a gift to kings and princes, but this was eventually stopped by Oliver Cromwell who brought out a law banning its export

In the middle of the Nineteenth century, Capt. George Augustus Graham undertook the resuscitation of the breed, which he did by collecting what he considered to be the last specimens of the breed and breeding them with Deerhounds, Great Danes, and a Borzoi and Tibetan Mastiff in order to regain the size and type of the original hound.