Royal Irish Regiment's famous Brian Boru X Wolfhound gets up close and personal

He cuts quite a dash on the lawns of Palace Barracks, Co Down, blond hair flowing in the wind, stopping only to sniff a tree and lift a rather long leg.

Brian Boru X is a soldier like no other: pure bred Irish Wolfhound, iconic mascot of Royal Irish Regiment, mood enhancer and man’s best friend.

Last week after training he was mostly free of duties and uniform at the high security Holywood barracks.

But on Saturday, he was leading the soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment from the front with his with his handler, Wolfhound Major Robert Moore, as the Duke of York, regimental colonel-in-chief, presented the Royal Irish with new colours - or flag.

And as expected this two year hound was on best behaviour, regal head held high, deep chest covered by his No1 uniform, his strides long and free flowing.

Nicknamed Conri, for Wolf King, this Irish Wolfhound has a very special place inside the regiment and his handler’s home.

Wolfhound Major Moore explained: “We all love him. There’s just something about this big dog that makes people smile.

“He’s still quite young and will probably fill out a bit more but right now he weighs just over 12 stones and on his hind legs he stands at 6ft 3”, he can jump 7ft 2”.

“He lives at home with me and my wife and daughter who’s just about to turn two and without him I’d have left the army.”

Major Moore, 30, had decided to set a plan in place to retire from military life three years ago but the chance of a new role as the Wolfhound Major opened up and his career took a different direction.

He said: “I’d always had big dogs in my life so the chance to look after the new mascot Wolfhound was just too good an opportunity to turn down. I applied for the post, got the promotion and Conri has changed everything.

“He was born on January 11, 2016 at Nutstown Irish Wolfhounds, north of Dublin and made his first appearance with the regiment was at Old Soldiers’ Day on June 4, 2016, the second anniversary of the death of Brian Boru IX - Finn.

“I’d got him when he was about four months old and he had been living a family pack life so we had to start the training right away.

“He took to Army life well and knows the routines inside out. We train every day but when I put on my No1 uniform and he has his on, something changes in us both. We both walk two inches taller. He picks up on the atmosphere, he loves it.

“If he needs to go to the loo while we are on parade we have it down to a look from him, or he head buts me in the thigh and we step out.

“He knows how to behave in all circumstances we put him in and I believe, out of all the regiments, we at the Royal Irish have the best mascot in the British Army in Conri. There’s a lot of competition, and I’m biased - but, well we win.

“But he’s also a good down-time pet too. He is spirited and a bit mad at times and just loves my daughter. She is at that hectic, toddling stage but Conri takes it all in his stride and deals with her with great patience.

"He’s a sight hound which means his instinct is to hunt and kill, but most of his hunting is the counter tops in the kitchen which are just the right height for him.

“My daughter now feeds him his giant dog biscuits, one at a time which slows him down which is good news because like all hounds he’d be prone to bloat and that could be deadly.

“I have full responsibilty for Conri and I know and love all his quirks. He doesn’t like the rain, he’s very stubborn, he doesn't like the dark either and sleeps with the cooker light on and he'd would chose the settee over a walk in the rain. Conri is quite emotional and petted on me, which is pretty typical of hounds.”

And that tendency in hounds got him into all sorts of bother when he was eight months old.

With his handler recovering from surgery, Conri was sent to live temporarily with his breeder outside Dublin to be cared for over a number of weeks.

Major Moore explained: “His health deteriorated fast. He lost weight, was fading and generally sick but not even the specialists at the School of Veterinary Surgery in Dublin could work out what was wrong with him.

“They tested him for meningitis and loads of other conditions and diseases. He was slowly slipping away but all the tests proved negative.

“They vets now believe he had a broken heart. The big fella was pining for me and the life he’d had and as soon as he was back with us, he got better very quickly. He might be the Wolf King but he’s a big softie and loves cuddles and belly rubs.

“And he pretty much loves everyone around him - unless you’re a rabbit and then you’re doomed."

The soldier is the first Wolfhound Major to complete the Patrol Dog Handlers’ Course and the Kennel Managers’ Course in the British Army and the pair were recently awarded the first Welfare Award.

He said: “My career took a completely different turn when Conri moved into my regiment, my home and my heart.

“ He’s my best mate and constant companion.When he is retired, thankfully I’ll be given the first chance to keep him. I’d never be parted from him. We're in this together - for life.”

Brian Boru’s daily routine

  • 6.30am wake

  • 7am feed

  • 30 minute break for digestion

  • 15 minute toileting break

  • 8.30am barracks work

  • Short walk

  • 10am running and time in 60ft run and shed

  • 20 min play

  • 45 min lead work

  • Continued training throughout the day followed by sofa surfing.

Brian Boru has :

  • A British Army identity card with his photo and official staff number under the name ‘B Boru X’.

  • Two uniforms including his camouflage coat and the No1 piper green cape with silver braid lead and sterling silver breast plate brooch at the neck of the coat. The brooch was designed and made in 2016 to Regimental specification by Graham Harron, a silversmith in Killyleagh, Co Down. To complete the ceremonial dress, Conri has a choice of dark brown leather collars, one displaying the Regimental cap badge, the other with his name engraved on a silver plate.

History of the Brian Boru Wolfhounds :

  • 1971: Shortly after the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers returned from Gibraltar to Watchet, Major Alistair Hayes marked his retirement by presenting the Battalion with an Irish wolfhound. The dog was named Brian Boru after the High King of Ireland. The dog’s first handler was Lance Corporal ‘Tip’ Norris.

  • 1974: He moved with the Battalion moved to West Germany and was later posted to the Depot in Ballymena.

  • 1977: Brian Boru I was pensioned off and lived out his days on a farm in Wexford.

  • 1977: Brain Boru II was purchased from a breeder in Whitehead, Co Antrim but he never took to life with the military. He went AWOL from the Depot and was never seen again. A nationwide search failed to find him.

  • 1980: Brian Boru III - known as Shane - joined the soldiers in allymena, employed mainly with the Regimental Recruiting Team. He died in 1984.

  • 1984: Brian Boru IV was a two and a half year-old bitch called Kelly. She was the gift of a local Co Antrim family and although smaller than any of her predecessors, she soon settled into the military way of life.

  • 1989: Brian Boru V, called Tallow, was also a bitch and was donated to the regiment by Tullygirvan Kennels in Bangor and played a prominent role in the Tercentenary Celebrations.

  • Research is ongoing in knowledge of mascots between Brian Boru V and VIII.

  • Brian Boru VII however was known as Victor. Brian Boru VIII was Merlin Brian Boru IX was Finn. Merlin and Finnwere kept as pets with the 1st Battalion by Major Hughie Benson.

  • 2011: Brian Boru IX was born at Driftcot Kennels in Cambridgeshire, England. He died of a heart attack on 4 July 2014 aged only three years.

  • 2015: the Regiment took a decision to find its Regimental mascot exclusively from the island of Ireland.

  • 2016: Brian Boru X, pet name Conrí, meaning Wolf King, was born on 11 January Nutstown Irish Wolfhounds, north of Dublin. His kennel name is Ronan of Nutstown and he was received by the army in May 2016 after almost two years without a Regimental mascot. Brian Boru X’s first appearance with the Regiment was at Old Soldiers’ Day on June, 4, 2016, the second anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Brian Boru IX (Finn).

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