Breed Standard 

We have made comments regarding our interpretation of the 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. 


The wedge shape of the head should be noticeable.  A narrow skull is not described in this standard.  The "very slight rise" that is "nothing approaching a stop" can--and indeed, should be--somewhat disguised by the eyebrows, which are formed by the "moderately long and softer" hair on the skull.  In the "good mustache" and "fair beard" we interpret "good" as more abundant than "fair" in the gradient from excellent, very good, good, fair, poor.  Although the Deerhound is not a "head" breed, the head goes a long way in establishing type, and a coarse, snipy, or unfurnished head is definitely a fault.


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. 


The most common ear faults are large (long) ears, and ears that don't rose.  Worst are those with both faults!  Most folks strip ears to remove the long, silvery coat.  Ears that are not black or dark don't bother us as much as, say, bad feet or poor movement!  Lovely ears are a nice detail; I'd rather have little ones that rose correctly than dark ones, although, obviously, all three together are lovely.


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. 


This section is pretty clear.  Not looking for giraffes, but for a nice, well-arched neck.  The comment about the mane, though, is important.  The dog should have a mane.  The hair on the back and sides of the neck should be thicker, perhaps even a tad longer, than elsewhere.  The little frill made by the natural cowlicks that run from the ears to the sternum do NOT constitute a mane.


Tail. Should be tolerably long, tapering and reaching to within 1-1/2 inches of the ground and about 1-1/2 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. 


We don't think a tail can be too long.  But a shorter tail, or one that curves a bit, or perhaps has a bump somewhere is only a minor fault in our eyes.  A gay tail draws the eye away from the balance of the dog, and is also a minor fault.  I am never certain whether the standard-writers were trying to avoid a tail with an Afghan-style ring or one with a Basenji-style curl, but many Deerhounds have an Afghan-style ring, and some judges seem to fault it while others don't.  We don't mind a mild ring on the move in a tail that drops down nicely when the dog is standing still.


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. 


Like tail and ear faults, a light eye, or eye rims that are not black are minor faults.  Either detracts from the "soft look in repose" but eye color is a detail--and one that is easy to remedy in a breeding program.  Notice that this paragraph does not say, "the darker the better"! 


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. 


A good, deep chest is not often seen in Deerhounds, and when one does come along, the dog often looks inelegant next to his weedy competitors.  Flat toplines are also a problem.  Of course, it is hard to say exactly what "well-arched" means, but it probably doesn't mean "dead flat".  Another topline fault that is commonly seen is a tendency to have a drop between the withers and the loin, rather than a true rise over the loin.  Occasionally you see Deerhounds that seem to have too much topline--they are unable to stretch out because their backs lack flexibility.  Often this is a reflection of lack of condition.


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. 


One cannot emphasize good legs and feet enough on a coursing hound.  The choice of words in this paragraph, in contrast with the previous one, is striking!  The words "not desirable" indicate a much less serious condition than "very bad faults."  You can't get much worse than "very bad faults" without moving into the range of disqualification.  Often dogs who are not perfectly sound coming and going are dogs in poor condition, or whose puppyhood involved inadequate exercise.  One of the things I wish the standard was more explicit on is the issue of front angulation.  The standard specifically calls for good shoulder layback (back in the Neck and Shoulders paragraph), and this paragraph addresses rear angulation pretty clearly.  But nowhere in the standard is front angulation, in particular, return of upper arm, mentioned.  Note, however, that it is implied, oddly enough in the Height paragraph, in the phrase "or even more if there be symmetry without coarseness."  Since it makes no sense to be talking about left-to-right symmetry, the only symmetry that can be referred to here is front-to-rear symmetry: the front angulation should balance the rear angulation.  And since the rear angulation is at least moderate (those "well-bent" stifles), there should be at least moderate return of upper arm.  We see many Deerhounds with nicely laid back shoulders but little or no return of upper arm, which can give a very striking appearance in the ring, but is incorrect.  It is also less than fully functional.  Dogs use that front angulation to drop their bodies low to the ground on the run, and in particular to lower their center of gravity when turning.  Dogs with poor front angulation don't have agility at speed.


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.


Coat is quite carefully described in terms of length; desirable texture, in just this short paragraph, is described as harsh, wiry, hard, and crisp, while silky and wooly are undesired textures, with wooly being worse than silky.  The wooly coat being described here is highly unlikely to be seen in the show ring; every wooly I have known (and I would describe it as almost cottony rather than wooly) has been cut down because the coat is impossible to maintain.  Coat is, to us, an important element of type.  A two-inch long coat that resembles that of many wire Ibizans or broken-coated American Staghounds is not, in our eyes, a good Deerhound coat.  But in the end, I would rather have a good Deerhound with an inadequate coat than a mediocre dog with a spectacular coat.  Too much coat is just as bad as too little.  I don't trust my eye, so I put a tape measure to my fist to see how much hair I can grab!
The line about the climate of the US tending to produce a mixed coat is, in my opinion, so much self-serving pap.  Climate affects the thickness of a coat, and especially the thickness of the undercoat.  It does not turn a harsh coat silky.  In any event, the climate of the US is far too varied to tend to produce any particular coat.  The warmer climate of the southern and southwestern states will tend to reduce thickness, by comparison with the British climate.  The climate of the Pacific Northwest is very similar to the British climate, as is the mid-Atlantic climate.  Much of the middle of the country, as well as New York and New England, have a somewhat colder winter than does Britain, which will tend to thicken the coat slightly.  Coat texture is largely invariant.


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. 


This has got to be the worst paragraph ever!  If color is a matter of fancy, then how can we have such a detailed ordering of color preferences??  I happen to be partial to brindles.  The dislike of white goes back to the late 1800s, when Deerhounds were regularly crossed with (Border) Collies, who tended to pass on their white neck and head markings, so that a lot of white was perceived as less pure.  All things being equal, I would rather have less white--but they never are equal.  Although yellow, sandy red and red fawn are described in the standard, they have not been seen for many, many years.  Deerhounds are gray, at least in adulthood.  Some heavily brindled pups give promise of retaining some of that color in adulthood, but what little they do retain is very subtle.  


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. 


Height is a very interesting issue in Deerhounds.  The original standard called for dogs to be 28 to 30 inches and bitches over 26 inches; the size increase was approved in the US in 1935--and the original standard also made the remark about large dogs being too big for work.  One wonders, what work?  By the late 1800s--indeed, by the early 1800s, the true work of the Deerhound had been eliminated by the advent of accurate long-range rifles with exploding bullets, and dogs (often not dogs recognizably of Deerhound type) were used to track the wounded game rather than to course it.  The historical dogs who did course the Red Deer were markedly smaller than today's Deerhounds, but proportionally heavier; the boundary between Deerhounds and irish Wolfhounds was far more blurred than today.  Perhaps the early fanciers believed that a taller Deerhound would have Wolfhound-like mass.  We will never know.  Clearly, however, the framers of this standard never envisioned bitches of 31 inches, which are not uncommon today!
This paragraph is also noteworthy in that it refers obliquely to one of the most interesting features of the Deerhound, namely pronounced sexual dimorphism.  Deerhound dogs should be noticeably larger than bitches (or bitches noticeably smaller than dogs).  Today, based on a sample of 40 dogs and 34 bitches measured at the 2004 National Specialty, dogs range from 30 inches upwards to 35.5 inches and bitches from 28.25 to 31.25, with the average dog at about 32 inches and the average bitch at about 29.5 inches. 


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


This paragraph is especially interesting, as the US and UK standards differ here considerably.  The UK standard only states a minimum height for dogs of 30 inches, but states a weight of  "about" 100 lbs.  Some interpret that as 100 pounds for a 30-inch dog, while others interpret it as an average weight.  Bitches, who, according to the both standards, are at least 28 inches have, in the UK, a standard weight of "about" 80 pounds.  No matter how you interpret these weights relative to heights, if you are consistent between dogs and bitches, the UK standard is describing a dog with greater sexual dimorphism than the US one.  Since the earlier UK standard (also calling for 30-inch and 28-inch minima) had dogs weighing from 85 to 105 lbs and bitches from 65 to 80, our working assumption is that the weights in the current standard represent averages.  Our own experience has adult males ranging from 31 inches and about 100 lbs to 34 inches and about 115 lbs, while bitches range from 28.5 inches and 75 lbs to 31.5 inches and about 95 lbs.


When all is said and done, we don't have a strong feeling about size, except that dogs should be recognizable as such even when their plumbing is obscured, and bitches should be clearly feminine.  While size contributes to the overall impression, it is not the determinant.  That said, if a male is bitchy in appearance, and also small, that is something of a double whammy.  We would rater see a big, doggy bitch than a small, bitchy dog; the bitch will probably make a great brood bitch, and will help to maintain size in a breeding program.




Arranged in Order of Importance 
  1. Typical-A Deerhound should resemble a rough-coated Greyhound of larger size and bone.  [The last phrase is important.  The Deerhound is not merely a rough-coated Greyhound.  While the Greyhound is the premier hare-coursing hound--and hare-coursing was a major spectator sport in Victorian times--the Deerhound was specialized to run in the rocky, hilly terrain of Scotland.  Substantial bone is an important breed characteristic.  And unlike hares, which don't put up much of a fight, the Deerhound had to contend with a large, fairly formidable prey species.]
  2. Movements-Easy, active and true.  [This is the ONLY place in the standard where movement is mentioned!  Easy: not forced, free-flowing, no excess or wasted motion; the dog looks like it could go all day like that.  Active: covering the ground efficiently; hind legs reaching well under the dog.  True: clean both coming and going.  There is a tradition of sorts of a "Deerhound bounce"--a notion that the Deerhound should have some sort of "lift."  At speed, the Deerhound should have a moment of suspension at the trot--alternatives would not be described as "easy"--but I would describe the movement--even in the case of the largest males--as light.  Deerhounds are much lighter on their feet than most other large dogs.  Easy, active and true most emphatically does not describe any sort of hackney gait, nor does it describe an exagerated, goose-stepping movement which is unfortunately too often rewarded in the ring. The absence of movement in the main body of the standard strongly suggests that Deerhounds are not a "movement" breed. We would argue that they are, in fact, an "outline" breed.]
  3. As tall as possible consistent with quality. [Given two equally good specimens, choose the taller one.  But don't choose a dog just because it is tall.]
  4. Head-Long, level, well balanced, carried high. [I've never understood this.  Yes, standing still, a Deerhound holds his head high.  But on the move, the head is held naturally--which is not especially "high" nor should it be.]
  5. Body-Long, very deep in brisket, well-sprung ribs and great breadth across hips.  [The dogs of old were typically 4 inches greater in girth than in height.  Visit a breeder and bring a tape measure.  Educate your eye to what a dog looks like when its girth is at least two inches more than its height.]
  6. Forelegs-Strong and quite straight, with elbows neither in nor out. 
  7. Thighs-Long and muscular, second thighs well muscled, stifles well bent. 
  8. Loins-Well arched, and belly well drawn up. [Well!]
  9. Coat-Rough and hard, with softer beard and brows. [Brows.  Furnishings.  Hair on the face.]
  10. Feet-Close, compact, with well-knuckled toes. 
  11. Ears-Small (dark) with Greyhoundlike carriage. 
  12. Eyes-Dark, moderately full. 
  13. Neck-Long, well arched, very strong with prominent nape. 
  14. Shoulders-Clean, set sloping. 
  15. Chest-Very deep but not too narrow.  [This goes back to the girth thing.]
  16. Tail-Long and curved slightly, carried low. 
  17. Teeth-Strong and level. 
  18. Nails-Strong and curved. 

DISQUALIFICATION White blaze on the head, or a white collar. 

Approved March, 1935