Porsche Travel Experience Ireland: the hunt for a near-mythical giant
On the trail of the legendary Irish wolfhound
Irish wolfhound from the site, sitting on the shore of a lake
Ireland is a place where stories, both ancient and contemporary, are entwined in the nation’s fabric. Tales of landscape, people and beast. Join us on the Porsche Travel Experience Ireland to discover the story of one particularly special animal
A legendary trail on the Porsche Travel Experience IrelandA fabled landscape. That’s how you’d describe the verdant island of Ireland. Much of that is down to its setting. Bordered by the powerful Atlantic ocean along its western coastline, on its other side by the Irish Sea, itself no stranger in providing inhospitable conditions. Rain, if not an inevitably, never seems too far away here. But the benefits can be seen in the lushness of its vast swathes of green pasture and the bounty this gives us. It includes Irish whiskey and the velvety, malted magic of Guinness – which you’ll have plenty of opportunity to sample on at journey’s end on the Porsche Travel Experience Ireland.These are just some of the gifts that make the Emerald Isle a global icon. But there are others of a more spiritual, mythical nature – some are fairytales, others real. Like the story of the Irish wolfhound. This gentle giant is the largest breed of dog in the world – it can reach up to 86cm (2ft 10in) in height – is a living emblem of Irish culture.
View along rocky granite cliffs, as land meets ocean
Where legends begin: Ireland’s spectacular, rugged coastline
Hunter, warrior, companionAs you will find out on the Porsche Travel Experience Ireland, like so many other things in this most magical of countries, mystery clouds the Irish wolfhound’s beginnings. It was said to be descended from an ancient Celtic hound. What is certain, however, is that it has a long and noble history as a true companion for generations of Irish. As you may have guessed, the wolfhound owes its name to its former job. Back in the 15th Century it was used to protect herds of cattle from wolf packs and every shire had exactly 24 dogs. But its skills on the hunt made this striking creature the dog of choice for accompanying the Irish aristocracy. As well as its hunting prowess, its stately size and imposing appearance added to its popularity among the ruling classes and leaders. Muscular and powerful, wolfhounds provided deer and wild boar for the table, while also developing an enmity for wolves. Despite its size, its elegance and light-footed nature made it a formidable foe.
Young soldier in black and white photo with Irish wolfhound
The Irish wolfhound was also a loyal companion of Irish military regiments during World War One
Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked
E. Jesse | On the wolfhound, from Anecdotes of Dogs (1846)
Loyal and braveCeltic warriors went into battle with these mighty creatures at their side. If provoked, a wolfhound could pull a rider down from their horse. It’s no wonder that it was considered an honour when the title ‘Cú’ – the Gaelic word for hound – was added to a warrior’s name. For centuries, this highly valued breed was reserved for royalty and nobles alone. The great Celtic hero, Finn MacCumhaill, who was famed kingdom-wide as an invincible giant, was said to have 500 of these imposing dogs. A mere nobleman, meanwhile, only had two. The wolfhound was a true status symbol. When you curl up beside a blazing fire with a Guinness after a long day’s driving on the Porsche Travel Experience Ireland, it’s hard not to imagine a wolfhound at your feet. It was a sign of its privileged status that these dogs always had a place reserved by the fireside, next to their lord and master.A majestic symbol of IrelandBut what was once a symbol of the Irish aristocracy looked like it would pass into Irish legend by the early 19th Century. At a meeting of the Geological Society of Dublin in 1836, the wolfhound was declared extinct in Ireland. The Irish wolfhound we see today is in fact the result of a breeding programme carried out several decades after its demise in its original form had been declared. Today’s wolfhound is, in fact, the combination of a number of breeds, including the Scottish Deerhound, Great Dane and Borzoi.
wolfhound on belleek pottery label
Images of the wolfhound can be found everywhere across Ireland – like the trademark of the famous Belleek Pottery company
But that original wolfhound lives on, albeit symbolically. You will find it on the trademark of the famed Belleek Pottery company of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. And you will also see one adorning the base of the statue of the 19th Century Irish politician Daniel O’Connell in Dublin city centre – the wolfhound again sitting at the foot of their master. The legend of this gentle beast will certainly not remain a mystery to anyone who joins the Porsche Travel Experience Ireland. You may even spot it at the end of our trip adorning the label of a brand of Irish whiskey among the top-shelf blends and Irish single malts. But that’s another story… This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.
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