The Irish Wolfhound Longevity Study is a population study, aiming at establishing the status quo of the Irish Wolfhound Worldwide. Like many purebred dogs, the Irish Wolfhound has been bred within closed registries for approximately a century and a half; since the forming of pedigree issuing kennel clubs during the last quarter of the 19th century. A purebred population of domesticated dogs can be defined as the result of a pedigree recorded, selective breeding program, which frequently is based on limited founding stock. It is no secret that a vast number of present day dog breeds have reached critical points, where the results of human selection processes, inadvertently have caused various breed specific health challenges. Based on our findings, it is our aim that The Irish Wolfhound Longevity study will be able to provide a strategy for the future of breeding pedigree Irish wolfhounds and possibly pedigree dogs in general, where the next best thing to survival of the fittest will be a selection of the fittest.
Findings in various human population studies, combined with our preliminary data on 3.500 Irish wolfhounds, strongly indicate that the potential for longevity contains inherited components. Although, dog owners generally wish for their companion animals to live long lives, longevity in itself has no significance from a biological point of view: We base our study on the assumption, that the greatest drive in all life forms is the competition for the right to reproduce; a process which requires all encompassing vitality and strength. There are numerous examples from a vast number of species, where parental life is sacrificed in the name of reproduction, thus demonstrating how strong this drive can be. As a rule, life is not necessarily sacrificed in the competition for the right to reproduce among canids, however, the process requires good health, vitality and stamina if left without human interference. It is our hypothesis that the potential for longevity is a “by-product” of good health, vitality and stamina. In other words, by selecting breeding stock from long-lived families, theoretically one should reap a series of health benefits in addition to longevity.
From the trial calculations done on our preliminary data of 3.500 dogs we see indications that:
- There is a strong element of heritability in the potential for longevity. This is supported by a number of human population studies.
- In the group of dogs surviving 8 years and above, the sex ratio shows nearly 50% more bitches than male dogs, a gap which grows proportionally with an increase of age.
- The majority of veteran dogs (8 years and above) have at least one veteran parent.
- The potential for longevity increases exponentially according to the number of long lived dogs present in a 4 generation pedigree.