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Champion Patrick of Ifold

Irish wolfhound Champion Patrick of IfoldPatrick of Ifold was born on the 17 March 1923, St Patrick's Day and died on 8 May 1931, aged eight years old. He was owned by Mrs Beynon of Broadoak, Sutton-at-Hone, Kent.

Patrick was a very famous champion wolfhound during his lifetime. He won his first championship at 14 months old, at the Richmond Show, in 1924.

Patrick of Ifold sired many famous hounds, including International Finbarr Boroimhe, who is believed to be the model for the hound portrayed on the old Irish 6d coin.

Wolfhounds are traditionally associated with Ireland and the famous Belleek china factory used a wolfhound as its mark in 1857. In 1902, the Irish Guards adopted the Irish wolfhound as their regimental mascot.

Wolfhound breeding

The standardisation and purity of breed of pedigree is a relatively modern requirement for most breeds of dog. Until comparatively recently, most dogs were kept as ‘working’ dogs. Little attempt was made to keep breeds pure and crosses were deliberately made in the hope that the offspring would be better suited for their ‘work’. Breeders of large hunting hounds kept their strains going by breeding their hounds with any dog possessing the desired qualities, irrespective of how closely such dogs resembled their own strains.

Early history

Large dogs, known variously as the Irish dog, the wolfdog of Ireland and the great hound of Ireland, are mentioned frequently in Irish history, literature and legend, but whether or not these dogs resembled the modern Irish wolfhound is not altogether clear. What we do know is that whatever their type, these Irish wolfdogs were huge, powerful and very much in demand, not only in Ireland, but worldwide.

In 393 AD, the Roman Consul Quintus Aurelius Symmacchus wrote a letter to his brother Flavian, thanking him for the gift of seven Irish wolfdogs which had been exported to Rome. These dogs were greatly admired by the Romans because of their huge size and strength.

In Ireland, wolfdogs were used on the battlefield and for hunting red deer stags, boar and wolves that lived in the dense forests that covered large areas of the country. During the seventeenth century, so many Irish wolfdogs were exported to other countries, including India and Spain, that the number of wolves in Ireland increased and eventually, an Order of Council was made on 27 April 1652, prohibiting the export of wolfdogs from Ireland.

By the eighteenth century, many of Ireland’s forests had been felled and the wolf quickly became extinct which led directly to the the demise of the Irish wolfdog, whose traditional role of hunting the wolf was now obsolete.

In the early 1860s, Captain George Augustus Graham, of Dursley, Gloucestershire, decided to rehabilitate the Irish wolfdog as a breed – what we now know as the Irish wolfhound. Graham invested a lot of time and money searching for good specimens of wolfhound and travelled long distances to inspect any dog reported to be a true Irish wolfhound. He compiled the pedigree charts of over 300 wolfhounds in his task of resurrecting the breed.

Graham only managed to find a small number of suitable dogs for his breeding experiments, and so a considerable amount of inbreeding was required in order to obtain the traits or ‘type’ of dog he was trying to achieve. As a result, Graham either revitalised this failing breed or recreated it so skilfully that the wolfhound almost exactly resembled the earlier one. In any case, the Irish wolfhound became firmly established as a breed. The Irish Wolfhound Club was founded in 1885 and the Kennel Club eventually recognised the breed in 1925.

Graham himself owned a number of famous dogs, among them Brian 1, Brian 11 and Sheelah, all of which feature in the pedigree of Champion Patrick of Ifold.

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