Irish wolfhounds abound in our nation's mythology. The hound of Culann or cú, which was killed by the young Setanta was an Irish wolfhound. The hound was a guard dog, a post then taken up by Setanta thus giving him the name Cúchulainn, The Hound of Culann. The tales of our ancient heroes are peppered with images of these ferocious beasts that would tear man from horseback in battle. Valiant guard dogs and loyal partners in war, the imposing wolfhound of legend seems a far cry from the calm gentle animals which we know today. This is down to the fact that the wolfhounds of old were allowed to almost completely die out along with the beasts which they hunted, the Irish wolf and the great Irish elk.
Many 19th century reports stated that the breed was in fact extinct, but there are others who claim that there were a few wolfhounds left in Ireland, though the breed was on its last legs. A careful programme of selective breeding was undertaken to revive the Irish wolfhound. Dogs were chosen for breeding if they had a prove connection to ancient lines of wolfhounds. These were crossbred with similar breeds, mostly the Scottish deerhound. The man credited with saving this noble breed of dog from the brink of extinction is Captain George Augustus Graham of Redknock, Dursley. The task would take him 20 years starting in 1862. He studied old drawings and descriptions of the animals, which can be found dating as far back as the early Medieval period in the Irish Annals and the Book of Kells. Graham worked tirelessly until at last in 1885 he was pleased that he had brought the breed to a set standard.
Though the manner of the Irish wolfhound is more docile than its ancestors, it must be acknowledged that without the work of Captain Graham, we may have lost this beautiful creature to the history books.