Playful pup to lead out battalion
To the untrained eye, he is just a rather large, playful puppy - but in a few months, Irish wolfhound Domhnall will be leading the way in high-profile state occasions as the new regimental mascot for 1st Battalion the Irish Guards.
Based at Mons Barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire, the five-month-old is already training for the moment he dons a special silver collar and scarlet tunic to join the guardsmen in their ceremonial role at occasions including the Queen's Birthday Parade.
Domhnall came to the regiment from Ireland untrained and he and his handler, Drummer David Steed, are on a steep learning curve to make sure they look the part when they first fulfil the role for the regiment's grand St Patrick's Day parade next year.
Captain Benjamin Irwin-Clark, adjutant of 1st Battalion the Irish Guards, said an Irish wolfhound had been the regimental mascot for more than a century.
"Quite early in our regiment's history, in 1902, the Irish Wolfhound Club of Northern Ireland offered to provide an Irish wolfhound as the regimental mascot to the Irish Guards. The regiment accepted and ever since then, I think with a few gaps, there has been an Irish wolfhound as the regimental mascot."
Mascots are traditionally named after Irish chieftains and have a ceremonial role in the regiment, parading with guardsmen during ceremonial duties and state ceremonies in London.
"If the battalion is doing a guard or state visit he will march front and centre out in front of the band with his handler, who is usually one of the drummers in the drums and pipes," said Capt Irwin-Clark.
Domhnall will be trained for a few months, with his first appearance expected at the St Patrick's Day parade in March.
"At the moment we're just putting him through a sort of inoculation of the bagpipes among other things, and I think it's going to take a little time for him to get comfortable with that," Capt Irwin-Clark said. "I think it's a nice tradition to have and I think the men like to see the regimental mascot out and about. It's another part of our identity."
Drummer Steed, 24, from Belfast, volunteered for the task of handler. "It's just the honour and the privilege of being the first man that everybody sees on parade, we're basically the face of the battalion."