The actual origin of the Irish Wolfhound is shrouded in myth and legend. What is known is that "wolfe dogges" of great size and strength can be found in literature and artwork that predate Christianity. In the earlest times, the dogs were called "cu" meaning Irish hound or wolf dog, and they were only owned by royalty or nobility. They served their masters in war, as guard dogs, as hunters of the Irish Elk and wolf, and were often gifted to royalty of other countries. After the disappearance of the elk, the number of Irish hounds began to decline until their export outside of Ireland was banned by Oliver Cromwell in 1652.
In the 1800s, a Scottish deerhound breeder named Captain George Augustus Graham became interested in the old Irish wolfdog. He began to collect as many of the "true" Irish hounds as he could find, and bred them with Deerhound, Borzoi, Tibetan Mastiff and Great Dane crosses in an attempt to resurrect the disappearing breed. In 1885, he founded the "Irish Wolfhound Club" to further protect this beloved breed at which time the Standard was created and accepted by the Kennel Club and Irish wolfhounds began appearing in registered shows. However there was much controversy surrounding the purity of the bloodlines of the dogs that the Irish Wolfhound club was promoting as "true" Irish hounds, with many dog enthusiasts believing that the strain currently produced and touted as Irish Wolfhounds were too diluted from the original "wolfe dogges" of ancient times.
Regardless of whether Captain Graham and his contemporaries revived the breed or manufactured what they felt to be a representative dog of the ancient Irish hound, we have them to thank for the magnificent wolfhounds we see today.