It might sound like the start of a politically incorrect joke, and to be quite honest, as a spectacle, it is hilarious. But Sgt Brian Curley (R Irish) is attempting to persuade a pair of huge Irish wolfhounds to come to heel to pose for a photograph. Soldier is at the home of Nutstown Irish Wolfhounds, the birthplace of The Royal Irish Regiment’s mascot, Brian Boru X – or Conri for short – to get some answers about how and why a dog the size of a small horse is linked so strongly with troops.
The farm belongs to world-renowned breeder Kathleen Kelly, who came to the attention of the regiment when it was searching for a new mascot.
Capt Nathan Reid, the formation’s adjutant, says: “The regiment has had a wolfhound as its mascot since 1972 and we had two dogs die quite young so we were searching for one with the best bloodline to ensure it would be strong.
“Irish wolfhounds have such elegance and an imposing stature and we wanted to know we were getting a pure breed that was actually from Ireland.”
After almost two years without a mascot, Conri was received by his new military owners last May.
In keeping with the formation’s close links with the community the dog’s pet name, which is Celtic for “the wolf king”, was chosen by pupils at Dundonald Primary School.
Historically the breed was used in war to drag men off horseback or chariots, but as we walk past the kennels and into the farmhouse it is evident that these modern-day descendants are good-natured, loveable animals.
However, the question is: why have one as an Army mascot? In fact, why have a mascot at all?
“The Irish wolfhound really defines who we are,” says Sgt Curley, who works on the regimental support team.
“Being led out by the pipes and drums and the dog brings it home to our lads that we are unique.
“It bonds the troops, whether from Northern Ireland or south of the border.
“These days you look at the likes of the US Army and everyone looks the same, whereas the British Army has its quirky traditions like having a mascot and it is a big part of what makes us proud.”
Read the full story in this month’s magazine.