Thursday, October 22, 2015

Irish Wolfhounds in Medieval England: Guest Post By Regan Walker

"Mesmerizing medieval romance! A vivid portrayal of love flourishing amidst the turbulence of the years after the Norman Conquest."
Kathryn Le Veque, USA Today Bestselling Author

York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest

The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.


Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.

Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.


War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?


Irish Wolfhounds in Medieval England
Guest Post By Regan Walker

When I first began my latest medieval novel, Rogue Knight, I saw the heroine in my mind with a great hound trotting beside her. And so Magnus, the Irish hound, became a much-loved character.

The nameIrish wolfhound” is a recent one but the hound itself goes back far in time. Ancient woodcuts and writings have placed them in existence as a breed by 273 BC. They were bred as hunting dogs by the ancients, who called them CĂș Faoil (variously translated as hound, Irish hound, war dog and wolf dog). They are mentioned in Irish laws and in Irish literature which dates from the 5th century or, in the case of the Sagas, from the old Irish period, 600-900 AD.

The Romans had them. Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, in a letter to his brother Flavianus, thanked him for the gift of seven Irish hounds that had excited the Roman people. A hound named Ailbe was famed throughout Ireland to the extent that his owner received an offer from Connaught for the hound of “three score hundred milch cows at once and a chariot with two horses and as much again at the end of the year.”

Apparently Patrick MacAlpern, or St. Patrick as you may know him, had a way with them and because of that gained passage to England on a ship full of panicked, stolen hounds.

In the Bayeux Tapestry that documents William the Conqueror’s victory, there are hounds pictured that some believe to include Irish wolfhounds.

During the Norman conquest of Ireland, only kings and the nobility were allowed to own them. They are sighthounds bred for long solitary hunts based solely on the dog's ability to visualize its landscape and perceive, unlike scent hounds.

They were used as war dogs and as guards of property and herds. They were also used to hunt deer, boar, and wolves and were held in such high esteem that battles were fought over them. Wolfhounds primarily defeated their game by breaking its spine with their jaws. The hound is otherwise gentle and trusting, but when the occasion arises it can be intimidating and swift, qualities echoed in an ancient Irish king's motto, "gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked."

The 13th century monument at Beddglert Priory in Wales shows how highly regarded and valued a good wolfhound was. It is believed to have been erected by Welsh prince, Llewellen Fawr, in tribute to his beloved and favorite wolfhound, Faithful Gelert, a gift given to him by his father-in-law, King John.

During the 14th through 16th centuries, English monarchs requested these dogs, referred to as "large greyhounds, rough greyhounds or wolfdogs" and "like powerful shaggy greyhounds, but a good deal larger" to be sent from Ireland to England. In 1658, Oliver Cromwell ordered a ban on the export of the hounds from Britain, as their numbers were on the decline and they were needed in England to keep the wolf population under control.

The Viking's Daughter etching by Dicksee
As for their temperament, I particularly like this story of Olaf, son of an Irish princess, who offered his friend Gunnar a hound that was given to him in Ireland:

He is big and no worse than a stout man. Besides, it is part of his nature that he has man’s wit, and he will bay at every man whom he knows to be thy foe, but never at thy friends. He can see, too, in any man’s face whether he means thee well or ill, and he will lay down his life to be true to thee.”

Yep, it describes Magnus perfectly.

Lest I forget, I must acknowledge the considerable expertise of Hilary and her wonderful website ( She was one of my beta readers, assuring I portrayed Magnus as he should be.

Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 bestselling, multi-published author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romance. She has three times been featured on USA TODAY's HEA blog and twice nominated for the prestigious RONE award (her novel, The Red Wolf's Prize won Best Historical Novel for 2015 in the medieval category). Regan writes historically authentic novels with real history and real historic figures where her readers can experience history, adventure and love.

You can see the trailers for her novels on her website. Regan loves to hear from her readers--you can also email her via her website.


  1. Hi, M.K. Thanks so much for having me and the hounds on your blog. I loved learning about Irish Wolfhounds and creating the character "Magnus", my heroine's constant companion.

    1. Welcome to Books & Benches, Regan! It's always a pleasure to have you visit. All I knew about Irish Wolfhounds before this was that they're a cool dog and I really liked the one featured in Nora Roberts', "Irish Born" series. So, thank you for this great post!

  2. Lovely article about the Irish Wolfhound. Lots of great information about a stunning breed.

    However, the photo here of the dog is a Scottish Deerhound. You can tell in close up images because of the narrower head ;-)

    1. lovely article, and ditto beautiful deerhound photo