Celtic Hounds

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Celtic Hound
Other names Irish Greyhound or Scottish Rough Hound
Country of origin Ireland
Classification / standards
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Celtic hounds were a breed of dogs in Gaelic Ireland described in Irish legend. They may have corresponded to Greyhound, Scottish Deerhound, Irish Wolfhound, or ancestors of all these breeds.

Celtic Hounds can be found in Celtic jewelry designs and paintings as far back as the 17th century. Celtic Hounds symbolize hunting, healing, and the Otherworld in Celtic legends. Hounds were the traditional guardian animals of roads and crossways and are believed to protect and guide lost souls in the Otherworld.[citation needed]

The Irish word (pronounced [kuː]) for "hound" derives from the Primitive Irish cuna, which is from Proto-Celtic * ("dog", "wolf"), which in turn derives from Proto-Indo-European *ḱwṓ, "dog."

In legends[edit]

Many Irish myths and legends include mentions of hounds. The most famous involves the Celtic hero Cúchulainn (The Hound of Ulster) or (The Hound of Culann) who killed a blacksmith's Celtic hound in self-defense. When Culann, the blacksmith asked who would now guard his shop the young Cuchulainn offered to take the dog's place thus gaining himself the title of 'The hound of Culann'. The offer was turned down and Cuchulainn went on to become one of the greatest warrior legends of that era, but the nickname stuck. Other famous Irish hounds were Bran and Sceolan who belonged to the warrior, Fionn mac Cumhaill. The mother of Bran and Sceolan was Tuiren, and was Fionn Mac Cumhaill's aunt, transformed into a hound by a fairy or Sidhe.

You can hear an audio podcast of one version of Bran's first adventures with Fionn Mac Cumhaill at http://www.podcasts.ie/armchair-ireland/myths-legends/

In Welsh mythology, Gwyn ap Nudd was the ruler of Annwn (the Underworld) and escorted the souls of the dead there, leading a pack of supernatural hounds, called the Cŵn Annwn (Hounds of Annwn) (see also Wild Hunt). Another well known Welsh legend is that of Prince Llewellyn 's hound Gelert, who was unjustly slain by his master after being wrongly thought to have killed a child.


The Irish Wolfhound was used to hunt wolves, but they were also used as war dogs to attack men on horseback and knock them from their saddles to be killed by others. The Deerhound being more placid was a somewhat reluctant wardog and was more used for the hunting of wild game, especially the Red Deer. The Greyhound being lighter and smaller was more suited to the hunting of hares and small mammals. These Celtic hounds were often called the Irish Greyhound and the Scottish or Rough Hound and had many other names according to area.

Another breed of dog the Galgo Espanol is also thought to be a descended of the Celtic hound as is the Austrian black and tan hound and the Tyrolean Hound.