Celtic Hounds

Hard to find but gorgeous!

celtichoundsHere is one that I have to admit that I had never seen until I started to go to the Ren Faires:  The Celtic Hound.  Done with the Celtic Knot and Knotwork in mind, the Celtic Hound is a beautiful symbol from the Celtic lands of the British Isles.  Found on jewelry. in manuscripts and even emblazoned on armor, the Celtic hound is a symbol from Irish and Scottish legend.  And of course, the Celtic hound is in fact tied to the hounds that were used for hunting and as companions in Ireland and Scotland.

In Legend

There are lots of Celtic legends that include hounds.  From the hounds that you can hear calling to fallen warriors in Welsh mythology – the hounds of Gwyn ap Nudd to the famous Irish warrior Cuchulainn who offered to take the blacksmith’s dogs place to guard the forge – thus earning the name The Celtic Hound, hounds are strewn all through the Celtic world.  The dogs that the people used as working hounds became mythical beats, the people figured that if they enjoyed the work of an animal in the their waking life then certainly the Otherworldly cast that made up their pantheon would use hounds as well.  It is no wonder then that the people decided that the Celtic Hound would appear in their art.

In Reality

In reality, the Celtic hound was probably a version or taken from two candidates in real life.  Some people would also include the Greyhound in this list but seeing as both of these working dogs have a little greyhound in them, I am taking that as being assumed.

The Irish Wolfhound

iwhThe Irish Wolfhound could have been seen for the first time in 7000 bce.  These hounds were used to defend the farmsteads and homes in pre-modern Ireland.  The Wolfhound is one of the tallest hounds in the world.  Measuring more then 32 inches for males and weighing more then 120 pounds for males, this is a big dog.  A big working dog.  A dog that was used to hunt wolves at one point in Ireland’s history.  They would have packs of these dogs, they would see the wolves, they would separate one from the pack and lead it back to the hunter for the hunter to kill – at first with a spear, then a bow then a gun as time progressed.  Though the wolfhound almost passed out of existence, the breed has made a resurgence

The Scottish Deerhound
sdhThe Scottish Deerhound is only slightly smaller then the Wolfhound from Ireland.  The Deerhound was around before the time of recorded history and this sighthound was bred to hunt game, to provide a protein rich diet for their owners.  The Deerhound was used to run down deer.  Alone or in pairs, the Deerhound are silent, stalking hunters.  They get as close as they can to the deer – in Scotland, the Red Deer – and then they run them down.  Deerhounds were used to hunt game as small as a hare up to the size of a deer.  In Australia, the Deerhound is used to hunt Kangaroo and Boar and in America they were used to hunt wolves at one point.

In Art

In art, the Celtic hounds are often interwoven like other knotwork of the same period.  The speed and cunning of the actual animal made the Celtic hound a good motif for warriors weapons, shields and armor.  You will also see the Celtic Hound used in literature and adorning some houses and other buildings.  At Ren Faires, though they are not as common as other Celtic symbols, you will find them.  Whether they are worked into jewelry or whether they are part of a circlet for your wrist or neck, the Celtic Hound is always a great find.  Here is a hint though, if you find something you like at a good artisan at the faire, you might ask them if they can do the hounds on the item, usually, most vendors will be glad for the custom work.