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Re: About Irish Wolf Hounds

Poster: "Stephanie M. Thorson" <smt2@st-andrews.ac.uk>

Once more into the breach ...

I've met more than one Irish Wolfhound.  They are nice dogs, although
personally not my cuppa.  I have never yet seen one that was "hyper", nor
have I yet met one that was ill-tempered. They are not a very short-coated
breed, but they don't shed more than any other dog I've ever met, and
their coats will be lower maintenance than any breed of spaniel or setter. 
Yes, I travel the dog show circuits on the East Coast.  As I said in my
note re: Mastiffs and others, I've been playing that game for over 20
years now. 

The modern IW is a reconstructed breed, largely bred back into being from
dogs which might have been part IW and possibly a few other things during
the 19th century.  Wolves went extinct in Ireland in the 18th century, so
the breed's utility was gone.  The modern breed seems to be much larger
and heavier than the medieval, and lacks speed and manoeuvrability.  I
suspect the only way a modern IW could catch a wolf is if it managed to
corner it in Munster. 

What someone said about their health problems is mostly correct.  Many of
the giant breeds (IW, St Bernard, etc) are prone to various cancers,
especially osteosarcomas.  They eat an enormous amount, and they grow
fast.  Many of the giant breeds don't live much past the age of 7 anymore,
either.  *ALL* large dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, which is a
malformation of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip.  There is more
awareness of it in purebred dogs, because people who breed purebred dogs
tend to pay attention to that kind of thing.  But mutts may have it too -
the overweight-at-60 lbs mixed breed across the street from my parents has
it severely, and has been off-and-on lame as a result since she was 4
months old.  Fortunately for her, her owners have the love and resources
to care for her anyway, and paid for very expensive surgery to help her
live without pain. 

The causes of hip dysplasia are not fully understood.  They are at least
partially genetic, and probably also partially environmental.  Careful
breeders in all breeds prone to this affliction screen all their stock
before breeding.  The procedure is fairly simple - when the dog is at
least 2 years of age, an x-ray is taken of the animal's hips and the
radiograph is sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for review by
a panel board-certified radiologists.  If the consensus of the panel is
that the dog is not dysplastic, then a certificate and registration number
are issued, and the dog's hip joint conformation will be given a rating of
fair, good or excellent.  If the consensus is that the dog is dysplastic,
a diagnosis of mild, moderate or severe dysplasia will be issued.  A dog
with mild dysplasia may never display clinical problems, and can be a
perfectly normal pet, but it should not be used for breeding purposes. 
Moderate and severe dysplasia can make a dog lame or even crippled, and a
dysplastic dog will require special care. 

So, if you are interested in buying ANY large breed dog, be sure to talk
to the breeders about health clearances, and ask about OFA certification
on both parents of any litter of puppies you look at.  Not every breeder
is ethical, unfortunately, so be sure you see the certificates.  "My vet
says" isn't good enough.  In Golden Retrievers, most careful breeders can
provide you with several generations of hip clearances in any given
pedigree; I suspect it is much the same for other breeds.  Hip dysplasia
is not a new phenomenon, nor is the OFA a group of novices.  Clearances on
the parents' hips are not a guarantee that your puppy will be free from
dysplasia, but it betters your odds tremendously.  Frankly, I've seen too
much heartache result from careless breedings.  I don't really want to 
see any more.

Sorry if this seems to have gone way off-topic, but this is one of my 
hot-button issues.

Stephanie M. Thorson			|  SCA: Lady Alianora Munro
Dept. of Scottish History		|  Clan White Wing
University of St Andrews		|  Tarkhan, Khanate Red Lion

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