Scottish Deerhound

Introduction | History & Health | Temperament & Personality | Breed Standard

Scottish Deerhound

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Introduction

The Scottish Deerhound, also at times known as the Fleethound, Rough Highland Greyhound, Irish Wolf Dog, Scottish Wolfhound, Scotch Greyhound, Rough Coated Greyhound, Rough Greyhound, Scotch Deerhound, Highland Greyhound, Highland Deerhound, Wolfdog and Staghound, is a very ancient breed that was originally bred to hunt wolves, rather than deer. This breed has a strong prey drive for smaller, furry animals. It is a wonderful, calm and gentle family dog, with quiet yet courageous devotion to its family members. The Scottish Deerhound normally does not make a good watch or guard dog, because he is too polite and kind-hearted.

History & Health

History

Large, shaggy and bearded "Greyhounds" have been known in Scotland for centuries. Early in its development, the Scottish Deerhound was virtually identical to the Irish Wolfhound, and that contributed to the Scottish Deerhound's name. Over time, it was bred down in size, as its primary game became the smaller deer rather than the more powerful and larger wolf. However, when the wolves started to disappear from the wilds of Great Britain, the Scottish Deerhound became highly prized as a deer-coursing dog. This breed was definitively identified as a Deerhound as early as the 16th century. From that point forward, regardless of whether the dog was larger or smaller, short haired or wiry, the breed could be recognized as a Deerhound. It should resemble a rough-coated Greyhound of larger size and with more bone. It is very similar to the Irish Wolfhound, but is smaller, much sleeker, lighter in build and reflects the contribution of the Greyhound to its ancestry. Today, in France it is the Levrier Ecossais; in Germany it is the Schottischer Hirschhund; and in Spain it is the Lebrel Escoces. The Scottish Deerhound was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886, as a member of the Hound Group.

The Deerhound has always been versatile and valuable. Early in its development, no person of lower rank than an Earl could even possess one of these hounds, increasing its romantic persona in legend and fact. Nobility condemned to death were said to be able to purchase reprieve by offering their Deerhounds to their captors, so dearly were these dogs valued. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of this breed - and its owners' efforts to retain exclusivity - have at many times endangered its continued existence. In both England and southern Scotland, the larger Deerhounds became rare, while the more delicate smooth-coated Greyhound and similar breeds became increasingly popular. The Highlands of Scotland were the last place where the deer (or stag) remained plentiful in their wild habitat, and this became the last stronghold of the Deerhound breed.

The Highland rulers claimed exclusive ownership of the Deerhounds even during the 1700s, which contributed to the breed's decline in both type and number. The advent of efficient firearms and fenced lands diminished the usefulness of the Deerhound. Thankfully, in the 1820s, two brothers named Archibald and Duncan McNeill began focused efforts to revitalize the breed, and their efforts were largely successful. Queen Victoria became a huge fancier of the breed. The Deerhound regained its status for quite a time, until World War I broke up many of the largest estates of England and Scotland, thus seriously reducing the population and gene pool of the breed. World War II caused so many food shortages that owners were hard pressed to provide for these large dogs. Fortunately, because of the concerted efforts of a few resilient breed fanciers to rebuild the "Royal Dog of Scotland," the future of the Scottish Deerhound is fairly safe now, due to the many devoted enthusiasts who adore this kind and unusual breed.

The Scottish Deerhound is a preeminent hunter, with extraordinary versatility. He has a keen nose and can track and trail as a scenthound with the best of other breeds. He also has the strength, speed, stamina and sight to make him a prized sighthound, capable of tracking and coping with the large Scottish deer, which often weigh upwards of 250 pounds. The Scottish Deerhound can be hunted alone or in pairs. This dog has an intense desire for human companionship and does not thrive when kept kenneled. The Deerhound is calm, dignified, bright, alert, persistent and courageous, with an innate sense of what the right thing to do is in any given situation. He is a polite, elegant dog, and today enjoys most popularity in South Africa and the United States.

Today's Scottish Deerhounds are not permitted to hunt antlered game with their owners in the United States. However, they are used successfully on wolves, coyotes and rabbits under appropriate circumstances. They make tremendously loyal and affectionate family companions, with the utmost devotion to their owners. They have been called "the most perfect creatures of Heaven."

Health Predispositions

The average life span of the Scottish Deerhound is 8 to 11 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus), dilated cardiomyopothy, pseudoachondrodysplasia, cystine urolithiasis, hereditary factor VII deficiency, hypothyroidism, osteosarcoma and pyometra.

Temperament & Personality

Personality

Scottish Deerhounds have often been described as the perfect dog. They are naturally well behaved and quiet animals, which also makes them lousy watchdogs. It would never cross a Deerhound's mind to bark at someone approaching his home, and these friendly dogs will greet everyone they see with a polite wag of the tail. They enjoy exercise and are happy to take long walks and jogs, but when exercise time is over, they can almost always be found curled up on the house's most comfortable sofa. They enjoy the company of other dogs and do well in multiple pet homes, though small dogs and felines often conjure up the Deerhound's urge to chase. They are a wise choice for first time dog owners who live an active lifestyle.

Activity Requirements

Deerhounds are athletes. They were designed to hunt deer twice their size, so they are built for stamina and endurance. They need several long walks every day and should be allowed to run whenever possible. Joggers enjoy Scottish Deerhounds because they can keep pace on long runs. Though they are well behaved indoors, Deerhounds do not make the best apartment dwellers because they require a bit of room to move around.

Trainability

Deerhounds are moderately easy to train. They pick up new behavior quickly, especially when praise and food are the motivation, but some can be quite stubborn and simply choose to ignore the rules. The good news is that they are not particularly destructive or ill behaved, so a Deerhound who doesn't listen is easier to live with than some other breeds. Practice makes perfect, so patience is necessary, but even the most stubborn Deerhound comes around in time. When your Deerhound isn't listening, you should never treat him harshly. They are sensitive dogs who will respond to harsh treatment by completely shutting down. Polite praise and encouragement will help motivate him to repeat good behavior and abandon bad.

Housebreaking can be a long process with Deerhounds. They don't respond well to crating, so as puppies, they require a lot of attention. Some owners prefer the breeder housebreak their dog before bringing him home.

Behavioral Traits

Deerhounds have a strong desire to chase. They should never be left off leash in an unfenced area, as they will give chase to anything that moves quickly, including cars. They shouldn't be trusted around small dogs or non-canine pets, even if raised alongside them as a puppy. Their desire to chase is strong, and havoc will one day ensue if your Deerhound shares space with a feline.

Deerhounds express boredom through chewing. As long as you provide your dog with enough running time every day, he will burn off excess energy and spend his indoor time sleeping and relaxing.

Breed Standard

Head
Should be broadest at the ears, narrowing slightly to the eyes, with the muzzle tapering more decidedly to the nose. The muzzle should be pointed, but the teeth and lips level. The head should be long, the skull flat rather than round with a very slight rise over the eyes but nothing approaching a stop. The hair on the skull should be moderately long and softer than the rest of the coat. The nose should be black (in some blue fawns--blue) and slightly aquiline. In lighter colored dogs the black muzzle is preferable. There should be a good mustache of rather silky hair and a fair beard.

Ears
Should be set on high; in repose, folded back like a Greyhound's, though raised above the head in excitement without losing the fold, and even in some cases semierect. A prick ear is bad. Big thick ears hanging flat to the head or heavily coated with long hair are bad faults. The ears should be soft, glossy, like a mouse's coat to the touch and the smaller the better. There should be no long coat or long fringe, but there is sometimes a silky, silvery coat on the body of the ear and the tip. On all Deerhounds, irrespective of color of coat, the ears should be black or dark colored.

Neck and Shoulders
The neck should be long-of a length befitting the Greyhound character of the dog. Extreme length is neither necessary nor desirable. Deerhounds do not stoop to their work like the Greyhounds. The mane, which every good specimen should have, sometimes detracts from the apparent length of the neck. The neck, however, must be strong as is necessary to hold a stag. The nape of the neck should be very prominent where the head is set on, and the throat clean cut at the angle and prominent. Shoulders should be well sloped; blades well back and not too much width between them. Loaded and straight shoulders are very bad faults.

Tail
Should be tolerably long, tapering and reaching to within 1½ inches of the ground and about 1½ inches below the hocks. Dropped perfectly down or curved when the Deerhound is still, when in motion or excited, curved, but in no instance lifted out of line of the back. It should be well covered with hair, on the inside, thick and wiry, underside longer and towards the end a slight fringe is not objectionable. A curl or ring tail is undesirable.

Eyes
Should be dark--generally dark brown, brown or hazel. A very light eye is not liked. The eye should be moderately full, with a soft look in repose, but a keen, far away look when the Deerhound is roused. Rims of eyelids should be black.

Body
General formation is that of a Greyhound of larger size and bone. Chest deep rather than broad but not too narrow or slab-sided. Good girth of chest is indicative of great lung power. The loin well arched and drooping to the tail. A straight back is not desirable, this formation being unsuited for uphill work, and very unsightly.

Legs and Feet
Legs should be broad and flat, and good broad forearms and elbows are desirable. Forelegs must, of course, be as straight as possible. Feet close and compact, with well-arranged toes. The hindquarters drooping, and as broad and powerful as possible, the hips being set wide apart. A narrow rear denotes lack of power. The stifles should be well bent. with great length from hip to hock, which should be broad and flat. Cowhocks, weak pasterns, straight stifles and splay feet are very bad faults.

Coat
The hair on the body, neck and quarters should be harsh and wiry about 3 or 4 inches long; that on the head, breast and belly much softer. There should be a slight fringe on the inside of the forelegs and hind legs but nothing approaching the "feather" of a Collie. A woolly coat is bad. Some good strains have a mixture of silky coat with the hard which is preferable to a woolly coat. The climate of the United States tends to produce the mixed coat. The ideal coat is a thick, close-lying ragged coat, harsh or crisp to the touch.

Color
is a matter of fancy, but the dark blue-gray is most preferred. Next come the darker and lighter grays or brindles, the darkest being generally preferred. Yellow and sandy red or red fawn, especially with black ears and muzzles, are equally high in estimation. This was the color of the oldest known strains--the McNeil and Chesthill Menzies. White is condemned by all authorities, but a white chest and white toes, occurring as they do in many of the darkest-colored dogs, are not objected to, although the less the better, for the Deerhound is a self-colored dog. A white blaze on the head, or a white collar, should entirely disqualify. The less white the better but a slight white tip to the stern occurs in some of the best strains.

Height
Height of Dogs--From 30 to 32 inches, or even more if there be symmetry without coarseness, which is rare. Height of Bitches--From 28 inches upwards. There is no objection to a bitch being large, unless too coarse, as even at her greatest height she does not approach that of the dog, and therefore could not be too big for work as overbig dogs are.

Weight
From 85 to 110 pounds in dogs, and from 75 to 95 pounds in bitches.

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