The Irish wolfhound is the best friend of Saint-Patrick!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! (Or Saint-Patrice in French). This cultural holiday, highlighted by its green color, its beer, and the 4-leaf clover.  It also has various legends such as: the real Saint Patrick was English and not Irish, that he chased snakes[1] (although, there are none in Ireland apparently[2]), but especially, that he had the power to appease Irish Wolfhounds, a well-known and imposing breed.[3] But where does this last part of the legend come from?

To make a long story short, when Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish pirates led by the warrior king Niall of the Nine Hostages. He lived half-naked for nearly 7 years with only a few sheep and a dog for company. (And yes, don’t they say that the dog is man’s best friend?). One night, his favorite sheepdog appeared in a dream in the form of an angel and told him to run away to a ship 200 miles away, a ship from Gaul full of Irish Wolfhounds. Patrick listened to his dream and made his way to the ship, exhausted and begging to come aboard. He was ignored until someone noticed that he had a gift with the fiery Irish Wolfhounds. They let him on board in exchange for care and training for the dogs.

Patrick made his way onto the ship, but when it crashed in Gaul, all the crew members, including the Irish Wolfhounds, were starving. Patrick, being a devout believer, prayed all night. After a night of prayer, a herd of wild pigs appeared in the forest and the Irish Wolfhounds quickly went after them and they all ate.

Once Patrick returned to Ireland, his legend continued when he met an Irish prince named Dichu, who was hunting with his favorite Irish Wolfhounds. One of the dogs lunged at Patrick, but the dog immediately stopped when Patrick whispered a few words and even licked his outstretched hand.

According to Irish folklore, this kind saint rewarded all his canine friends by allowing the legendary Irish hero Oissain to take his dogs to heaven with him.


Did you know about this legend?