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St Patrick’s Dogs

The legend of St Patrick and the Irish Wolfhounds.
By The Bark Editors, March 2012, Updated March 2022
St Patrick and the Irish Wolfhounds

Of the many legends surrounding St. Patrick, the ones that resonate for us as dog people involves this most famous of Irishmen and dogs.

Around 400 A.D. legend has it when he was sixteen, Patrick was captured by Irish marauders who enslaved him, he then endured six years as a half-naked shepherd with only a dog and some sheep for companionship.

One day he had a dream that his favorite sheepdog, in the guise of an angel, told him to escape to a ship on the coast that was over 200 miles away—the ship from Gaul filled from stem-to-stern with Irish Wolfhounds. Making his way to the ship, the exhausted Patrick begged to come aboard but his pleas were refused—until someone noticed that he had a calming effect on the feisty Irish canine cargo. So they let him on in exchange for some dog caring and training.

It didn’t take long after that for Patrick to come up with his first miracle. The ship had crashed upon the shore of northwest Gaul, the men and dogs soon were starving, having run out of food. The men, pagans all, turned to Patrick and taunted him to ask his Christian god for help. Patrick prayed all night, in the morning a herd of wild pigs magically appeared from the forest, and he quickly set the hounds on them. The now well-fed crewmembers were so impressed that they became Christian converts.


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After about twenty years spent on the continent, Patrick, who had made quite a name for himself there and became a priest, decided to come back to Ireland. But upon landing on the Emerald shores he was met by Dichu, an Irish pagan prince, out hunting with his favorite hound. Dichu put his Wolfhound, Lauth on attack alert but when the dog lunged for Patrick, he uttered a few words and the dog went into an immediate down-stay and licked his outstretched hand.

According to Irish folklore, this kindly saint repaid all his doggy pals by allowing the legendary Irish hero Oissain to take his hounds to heaven with him. 


Illustration by Herbert Dicksee