The Scottish Deerhound


The Scottish Deerhound, the Irish Wolfhound, the Greyhound and the Whippet are descendants of dogs who were used throughout the British Isles to hunt by sight. Dogs of similar body type, the Borzoi in Russia, the Afghan Hound in Afghanistan, and the Saluki in the Middle East, were used similarly. Deerhounds were used to hunt rabbits and other small game, but their forte was the large Scottish red deer.


In appearance, the Deerhound is like a large, rough-coated Greyhound. They give the impression of athletic grace and dignity. Although sandy colors are permitted by the standard, nearly all Deerhounds are some shade of gray. The color ranges from virtually black with lighter shading in the eyebrows and beard, through various brindled shades of gray, to light silver-gray. The coat has been described as rough, wiry, hard and slick, which is sufficient to make it clear that coat texture varies considerably.


The temperament of the Deerhound is, in a word, exemplary. Idstone, a noted 19th century authority on dogs penned this description of the Deerhound, which is still apt today:

Pet dogs, of course, are a matter of taste, and locality and space must have much to do with the selection of a companionable dog. If, however, size is no object, it would be impossible to name any dog superior to the true Deerhound, whether employed in his proper vocation or not. He is gentle in manners, unless roused by the sight of his game and excited to pursue it; he is no sheep-biter; he is a good guard; he “follows” well, he can keep up with a hack or carriage; he is not a self-hunter - that is, he does not skulk off poaching; he is faithful to his master; he is gentle with children, like the far-famed “Gelert,” his prototype; and he is majestic in appearance. Witness the pictures of him by Sir Edwin Landseer, in every variety of attitude, and sharing in all the pleasures - ay, even the sorrows of his master. With the hawk or falcon he made up the equipment of the old baron, and slumbered in front of his Yule-log, shared in his wassail and revelry, and formed a feature of his pageant and procession. He has been the companion of kings and emperors, and pulled down his game in the open by dexterity, force and speed, without the aid of toils or crossbow - immaterial to him in the old days whether it were boar, wolf or hart - no day too long, no game too strong or dangerous, until his eye became dull, his limbs stiff, and his teeth worn down, not so much with years as the hard work, exposure, and wounds inseparable from his occupation, and he was retained at the hall or grange as a pensioner or a companion for the rest of his life.


The Scottish Deerhound Today


Besides being outstanding companions, Deerhounds compete in dog shows in both conformation and obedience. A few Deerhounds participate in agility trials. Deerhounds are best suited, however, to coursing, either live game (when such is legal) or lure coursing and racing. Lure coursing clubs exist all across the US, running lure trials regularly in good coursing weather. An increasing number of lure coursing clubs also sponsor race meets under various rules. Caring for a Deerhound requires little more than common sense.


Though they are large, and require regular opportunities for exercise, Deerhounds spend most of their time curled up (or sprawled out) on the sofa. They do best as house dogs, for they thrive on human companionship. For their size, they are light eaters, though growing puppies require several meals each day. Because they are sighthounds, bred for centuries to chase game, Deerhounds should never be let off-leash unless the area is fenced. Once they have sighted their prey, they are completely oblivious to minor details like roads and cars.


Additional sources of information about Deerhounds include the Scottish Deerhound Club of America, the club’s bi-monthly newsletter/magazine, The Claymore, and Deerhound breeders and owners.