The Breed Standard
All pedigree breeds of dogs have a breed standard (usually maintained by a national or international breed association) describing the desirable characteristics that a specimen of the breed should possess in order to fulfil the function that the breed was developed for. The standard will also describe undesirable features that may, at first sight, appear cosmetic but that usually have a functional (or dysfunctional) basis.
In the case of the Irish Wolfhound the original breed standard was drawn up in 1885 by the following the efforts of Captain George Graham to rescue the breed from near-extinction. Since then the substance standard has remained relatively unchanged although there have been refinements in content and format over the years. Any change to the standard is the source of much debate as can be seen in the following link, http://www.fiwc.club/main/en/en_standard.html. Similarly, as of mid-2017, the FCI standard was due to include an overshot bite (the upper canines project beyond the lower canines) as a fault in the standard.
In the case of Irish Wolfhounds in South Africa the official breed standard used by judges is that adopted by KUSA (Kennel Union of South Africa) and published on their website. https://www.kusa.co.za/index.php/documents/breed-standards/hound-group/1040-irish-wolfhound-2 . This standard is the same as that of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) that has developed a standardised format for breed standards.
In the case of the Irish Wolfhound, the FCI breed standard omits the “points in order of merit” that are still used by some breed associations and are dear to the heart of many wolfhound admirers. The points in order of merit serve as a useful overview of the breed and are set out below.
The Irish Wolfhound is a rough-coated Greyhound-like breed, the tallest of the coursing hounds and remarkable in combining power and swiftness.
- Great size and commanding appearance.
- Movements easy and active.
- Head, long and level, carried high.
- Forelegs, heavily boned, quite straight; elbows well set under.
- Thighs, long and muscular; second thighs, well-muscled, stifles nicely bent.
- Coat, rough and hard, especially wiry and long over eyes and under jaw.
- Body, long, well ribbed up, with ribs well sprung, and great breadth across hips.
- Loins arched, belly well drawn up.
- Ears, small, Greyhound- like carriage.
- Feet, moderately large and round; toes, close, well arched.
- Neck, long, well arched and very strong.
- Chest, very deep, moderately broad.
- Shoulders, muscular, set sloping.
- Tail, long and slightly curved.
- Eyes, dark.
For newcomers to the breed a particularly useful link that illustrates what the breed characteristics look like in practise is the Illustrated Standard by the Irish Wolfhound Club of America.