Celtic Hounds

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Celtic Hound
Hilton of cadboll stone Andrew Gibb 1856.jpg
Other namesIrish Greyhound
Scottish Rough Hound
OriginIreland/United Kingdom
Breed statusExtinct
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
Denario de la Gens Postumia (74-73 a.C.).jpg
The Corbridge Lanx, 4th century AD, from Corbridge, Northumberland, Roman Britain, British Museum (15524675676).jpg

The Celtic hounds were a breed of dogs in Gaelic Ireland described in Irish legend. They may have corresponded to the Greyhound, Scottish Deerhound, Irish Wolfhound, or ancestors of all of 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. One of 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 household, the young Setanta offered to take the dog's place for a year, while training a pup to replace the dead dog. This gained Setanta the nickname of 'the Hound of Culann' or Cú Chulainn. Cuchulainn went on to become one of the greatest warrior legends of that era.

Bran and Sceolan were the most famous dogs of the poet warrior, Fionn mac Cumhaill. The mother of Bran and Sceolan was Tuiren, Fionn Mac Cumhaill's aunt, transformed into a hound by a Sidhe woman Uct Dealbh, irritated by Tuiren's marriage with Uct Dealbh's husband.

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.


Irish Wolfhounds were used to hunt wolves, and as war dogs to attack men on horseback and drag them from their saddles in order to be killed.

Scottish Deerhounds, being more placid, were reluctant war dogs and were more used for hunting game, especially red deer. Greyhounds, lighter and smaller, were used to hunt hares and small mammals. Celtic hounds were called the Irish Greyhound and the Scottish or Rough Hound, and had other names according to area.

The Galgo Espanol breed is thought to be descended from the Celtic hounds, as is the Austrian Black and Tan Hound and the Tyrolean Hound.

See also[edit]