While this site is dedicated to “Hounds of Appalachia” I had to make an exception and talk about a sight hound from Ireland in celebration of St.Patrick’s Day. Irish Wolfhound above by Herbert Thomas Dicksee.
Coming in over 7 feet tall when standing on their hind legs, the Irish Wolfhound establishes itself as the tallest breed in the world. Wolfhounds, as the name implies are sight hounds used to hunt wolves. This hound is one of the oldest breeds. The Irish wolfhounds were used in Gaelic Wars. Wolfhounds were the dogs of nobles, kings, and poets. Individuals’ prestige was determined by the number of wolfhounds they were allowed to own. The dogs were given as gifts. (If this is true for hounds then my dad is on his way to becoming esteemed!).
Below is a poem written about a loyal Irish Wolfhound, Gelert, from the 13th century. King John of England gave a hound to Prince Llewellyn of Wales in 1205 A.D. Read about the life of this famous dog below.
Gerlert by Charles Burton Barber (Image from Wikipedia)
Click here for more paintings of Irish Wolfhounds
William Robert Spencer
The spearmen heard the bugle sound,
And cheerily smiled the morn;
And many a brach, and many a hound
Obeyed Llewellyn’s horn.
And still he blew a louder blast,
And gave a lustier cheer,
“Come, Gelert, come, wert never last
Llewellyn’s horn to hear.
“O where does faithful Gelert roam
The flower of all his race;
So true, so brave – a lamb at home,
A lion in the chase?”
In sooth, he was a peerless hound,
The gift of royal John;
But now no Gelert could be found,
And all the chase rode on.
That day Llewellyn little loved
The chase of hart and hare;
And scant and small the booty proved,
For Gelert was not there.
Unpleased, Llewellyn homeward hied,
When, near the portal seat,
His truant Gelert he espied
Bounding his lord to greet.
But when he gained the castle-door,
Aghast the chieftain stood;
The hound all o’er was smeared with gore;
His lips, his fangs, ran blood.
Llewellyn gazed with fierce surprise;
Unused such looks to meet,
His favourite checked his joyful guise,
And crouched, and licked his feet.
Onward, in haste, Llewellyn passed,
And on went Gelert too;
And still, where’er his eyes he cast,
Fresh blood-gouts shocked his view.
Overturned his infant’s bed he found,
With blood-stained covert rent;
And all around the walls and ground
With recent blood besprent.
He called his child – no voice replied –
He searched with terror wild;
Blood, blood he found on every side,
But nowhere found his child.
“Hell-hound! my child’s by thee devoured,”
The frantic father cried;
And to the hilt his vengeful sword
He plunged in Gelert’s side.
Aroused by Gelert’s dying yell,
Some slumberer wakened nigh;
What words the parent’s joy could tell
To hear his infant’s cry!
Concealed beneath a tumbled heap
His hurried search had missed,
All glowing from his rosy sleep
The cherub boy he kissed.
No hurt had he, nor harm, nor dread,
But, the same couch beneath,
Lay a gaunt wolf, all torn and dead,
Tremendous still in death.
Ah, what was then Llewellyn’s pain!
For now the truth was clear;
His gallant hound the wolf had slain
To save Llewellyn’s heir.
It is said that Prince Llewellyn never smiled again from the day he killed Gelert. The town of Beddgelert marks the grave of Prince Llewellyn’s Gelert.
Gelert’s grave and epitaph. (Images from Wikipedia and Beddgelerttourism.com).
On Irish kings’ coat of arms was the Irish Wolfhound. A saying about the wolfhound is“gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked”.
An excerpt from Erin Go Bark “May your coat be shiny, your nose be wet, and the pavement soft beneath your feet.”
Slainte! Erin Go Braugh!