The Irish wolfhound was bred to be a hunting dog. Although they have many talents, they were first and foremost a hunting dog and still are in their blood. When they first were developed, they were used for hunting large and dangerous game. Some of the animals they were known for hunting were the wolves and wild boars. This is partly how they got their name, "wolfhound". They were taught not only to chase the wolf, but to kill it as well. They would shake it by the neck until it was dead. Their drive, courage and endurance are what made them such excellent hunting dogs.
The hunters needed a dog that has great speed and endurance to chase the prey until they caught it. They also had to possess the courage and fight to have to deal with getting literally beaten up by the prey. This happened many times and the Irish wolfhound was a very capable hunter. The Irish wolfhound we know today looks exactly like a dog that would possess those qualities.
Although the Irish wolfhound is a breed of dog bred to hunt, not all of them have the same hunting drive. They are not a "gun dog" in that sense of a hunting dog. Their talents lie more in chasing and catching the prey. Again, while some dogs live for this activity, others are not as proficient. Because the majority of them do have the drive, it is important that the Irish wolfhound not be left to roam free out of his pen or unattended. The dog likes small prey and will chase after them. In their mind, they don't always know the difference between a rabbit and the neighbor's small poodle.
Many owners of the Irish wolfhound have their dog participate in "lure coursing" as an alternative to the hunting they don't do as much anymore. Lure coursing is a very popular sport, a great way to keep the Irish wolfhound healthy and active, and doing what he loves most: chasing things and catching them. In this event, a lure is thrown on a certain obstacle course and the Irish wolfhound has to go down the course, find the lure and bring it back. He is supposed to stay on a specific curved or angled course and not cut across to take a short cut.
The dog is judged on several things such as agility while running through the course, endurance for being able to stick with it to the end, speed for how quickly he can complete the job and "follow", which determines how he stayed on course while watching the direction the lure is going. The Irish wolfhound is also judged on how enthusiastic he is while participating. Most of the Irish wolfhounds are very enthusiastic doing this event.