I am starting off our around the world trip study of large breed dogs with the massive Irish Wolfhound (Canis lupus familiaris) in part because I love the breed personally and because they are a large dog that has had such a significant place in the history of Europe.
The Irish Wolfhound is a breed that dates back to at least the 4th century, where there is evidence that the Celts of the time used them to sack ancient cities in the area now known as England.
The dogs have been used to hunt wolves (thus the name), bears and lions in Roman coliseums, and humans alongside conquering Celts and others.
Considered by many to be of greater strength than that of bulldogs and even mastiffs, the were at one point in the history of England nearly driven to extinction due to their popularity among the noble and well to do. A significant reason for the dogs being so popular was their mild personalities, a contrast to many other large breeds used for hunting that made them easy to live and hunt with.
I can personally attest to this attitude as I currently have a female Irish Wolfhound named Siobhan (pronounced Sho-vahn, FYI) who is one of the sweetest dogs you will ever meet.
Siobhan loves lounging on the tile in our home’s entryway, which is a good place for a guard dog to enjoy hanging out at, and loves the snow! She is very obedient and loyal, not needy like a few other large breeds, and is great with our two kids who are in their preteen years.
Another thing that makes the Irish Wolfhound an ideal breed for families is their classification as a sight hound breed. A sight hound is a breed of dog that relies more on sight and hearing than on sense of smell, meaning that they are less likely as a breed to react with rambunctious excitement at a smell that is appealing or otherwise.