This hybrid is a combination of two giant breeds from ancient history, the massive and powerful English Mastiff and the giant, galloping Sighthound known as the Irish Wolfhound. Mastiff-like dogs have been depicted in ancient artwork from Asia dating as far back as 2500 BC, and these substantial canines were even recorded as marching alongside Hannibal and his armies as they crossed the Alps. Because they are consummate guard dogs and hunting companions, they became favored by landholders and peasants alike for their easy-going and steadfast nature when they reached England. Unfortunately, World Wars I and II had an extremely negative impact on the canine population of Europe’s particularly in regards to larger sized dogs like English Mastiffs. They were often placed in double jeopardy during the wars because they were too big to easily keep fed during rationing and they were also considered useful on the front lines, pulling munitions carts and most likely resulting in many deaths. By the time both of the wars had ended the English Mastiff was nearly extinct, at one point down to just fifteen dogs known dogs worldwide that were able to contribute to the gene pool. Mastiff puppies were imported to England from scant populations in both the United States and Canada to help revive the breed, and they have since seen a resurgence in popularity, becoming the 28th most popular breed according to the AKC. The Irish Wolfhound is also an ancient breed, noted as far back in history as 391 AD, when several of them were gifted to the Royal Consul from Ireland. They were used to hunt down very large prey such as elk, boar, and, of course, the now extinct Irish Wolf that they were named for. Once the last of the wolves was killed in 1786, the population of Irish Wolfhounds also began to dwindle and by the middle of the 1800s, there were very few left. If it hadn’t been for the work of a Captain George Augustus Graham, a Scotsman enlisted in the British army, they may have gone extinct altogether. In 1862 he gathered all of the Irish Wolfhounds he could find and attempted to resurrect the breed. In order to do so, outcrosses with Scottish Deerhounds, Great Danes, Russian Wolfhounds, and other dogs were utilized to bring back the breed’s health and vitality. The Irish Wolfhound was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1897 and by the Kennel Club of England in 1925.
The Irish Mastiff is a large dog, both in height and in girth. This crossbreed typically stands between two and three feet high at the shoulder and weighs over a hundred pounds. The head will be large, although not generally as massive or as wide as the English Mastiff’s head, and although you may see some of the wrinkling that you would find on the face of the Mastiff this trait is usually diminished somewhat by a longer muzzle, courtesy of the Irish Wolfhound. The eyes can be either round or almond shaped and come in medium to dark brown and the ears are small in relation to the head and set high up on the top of the head; depending on which parent breed they resemble their ears may be carried back against the head or hang down, lying close to the cheek. Both parent breeds have thick, downy undercoats protected by a layer of weatherproof fur that can be either straight, short, and coarse or rough and wiry.
In most cases, this will be a calm and well-behaved hybrid, although they can be a little more active and clumsy during their adolescence, which generally lasts for the first three years of the Irish Mastiffs life. Both parent breeds are very tolerant of children and naturally protective; however, these canines are extremely powerful animals and they may get overexcited on occasion, so interactions with toddlers and young children should be carefully supervised at all times. The Irish Mastiff tends to be wary but polite with strangers and socialization is required to ensure that this dog does not become overly shy, timid, or aggressive. The Irish Wolfhound, like most sighthounds, has an extremely high prey drive and in most cases, neither they nor their offspring should be trusted completely with smaller animals, particularly smaller animals that move quickly. They are eager to please and they enjoy training, which should be started as early as possible to get the maximum benefits from the training.
Although the Mastiff is a rather laid-back breed that typically requires less exercise than other large dogs, the Irish Wolfhound is fairly active for their size and at least 40 to 60 minutes of vigorous activity a day is required in order to keep this hybrid in peak condition. Along with daily walks, these dogs are adept at diverse activities, such as drafting and carting activities, coursing ability, and tracking. During your dog’s formative years it is important to keep exercise sessions somewhat short and not overly intense in order to prevent damage to the developing bones and joints. This can be done by breaking exercise sessions up throughout the day and ensuring that your dog doesn’t rough-house or jump from significant heights. This crossbreed prefers the room that a larger house provides, but as they are not given to barking unnecessarily they may be able to adapt to apartment life if given a great deal of extra exercise in several short sessions throughout the day. Slippery surfaces should be avoided, however, in order to avoid joint and ligament damage.