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Scottish Deerhound
Other names Deerhound
Country of origin Scotland

The Scottish Deerhound, or simply the Deerhound, is a breed of hound (a sighthound), bred to hunt the Red Deer by coursing.





The Scottish Deerhound resembles a rough-coated Greyhound. It is however, larger in size and bone. It is one of the tallest sighthounds, with a harsh 3-4 inch long coat and mane, with somewhat softer beard and mustache, and softer hair on breast and belly. It has small, dark "rose" ears which are soft and folded back against the head unless held semi-erect in excitement. The harsh, wiry coat in modern dogs is only seen in self-coloured various shades of gray (blue-gray is preferred). Historically Deerhounds also could be seen with true brindle, yellow, and red fawn coats, or combinations. 19th century Scottish paintings tend to indicate these colours were associated with a wire haired coat, but, with show breeders prefering a longer coat, these genes now appear to be lost. A white chest and toes are allowed, and a slight white tip to the tail; a white blaze on the head or a white collar are not accepted. The head is long, skull flat, with little stop and a tapering muzzle. The eyes are dark, dark brown or hazel in colour. The teeth should form a level, complete scissor bite. The long straight or curved tail, well covered with hair, should almost reach the ground.


The Scottish Deerhound is gentle and extremely friendly. The breed is famed for being docile and eager to please, with a bearing of gentle dignity. It is however a true sighthound which has been selected for generations to pursue game; consequently, most Deerhounds will be eager to chase. The Deerhound needs considerable exercise when young to develop properly and to maintain its health and condition. That does not mean it needs a large house to live in, however it should have regular access to free exercise in a fenced or otherwise "safe" area. Deerhounds should not be raised with access only to leash walking or a small yard, this would be detrimental to their health and development."Deerhound character"

Young Deerhounds can sometimes, depending on the individual, be quite destructive especially when they are not given sufficient exercise; however, the average adult Deerhound may want to spend most of the day stretched out on the floor or a couch sleeping. They do require a stimulus, preferably another Deerhound, and a large area to exercise properly and frequently. They are gentle and docile indoors and are generally good around company and children (however they require supervision with young children due to their size).


Barring major medical emergencies, Deerhounds can be expected to live to approximately 9-11 years of age[1]. The serious health issues in the breed include cardiomyopathy, osteosarcoma (bone cancer), bloat and torsion (GDV)[2].


Scottish Deerhound circa 1910

The Scottish Deerhound is believed by some to have existed back to a time before recorded history. Its antecedents may have been kept by the Scots and Picts, and would have been used to help in providing part of their dietary requirements, namely from hoofed game (archaeological evidence supports this in the form of Roman pottery from around 1st Century AD found in Argyll which depicts the deerhunt using large rough hounds (these can be viewed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh). Other evidence can be found on standing stones from around the 7th century AD reflecting a hunt using hounds, such as the Hilton of Cadboll Stone). In outward appearance, the Scottish Deerhound is similar to the Greyhound, but larger and more heavily boned. However Deerhounds have a number of characteristics that set them apart. While not as fast as a Greyhound on a smooth, firm surface, once the going gets rough or heavy they can out run a Greyhound. The environment in which they worked, the cool, often wet, and hilly Scottish Highland Glens, contributed to the larger, rough-coated appearance of the breed. The Deerhound is closely related to the Irish Wolfhound and was the main contributor to the recovery of that breed when it was re-created at the end of the 19th century.

The Deerhound was bred to hunt red deer by “coursing”, and also “deer-stalking[3] until the the end of the 19th century. With modern rifles and smaller deer-forests, slower tracking dogs were preferred to fast and far-running Deerhounds.

In coursing deer, a single Deerhound or a pair of were brought as close as possible to red deer, then released to run one of them down by speed, which if successful would happen within a few minutes - rarely were there sustained chases.

With the eventual demise of the clan systems in Scotland, these hunting dogs became sporting animals for landowners and the nobility, but were also bred and hunted by common folk when feasible. As fast and silent hunters they made quick work of any game the size of a hare or larger and were highly regarded by nobility and poachers alike. One of the most precarious times in the breed’s history seems to have been towards the end of the nineteenth century, when many of the large Scottish estates were split into small estates for sporting purposes, and few then kept Deerhounds. The new fashion was for stalking and shooting, which required only a tracking dog to follow the wounded animal, using a collie or similar breed. Although a few estates still employed Deerhounds for their original work, the breed was left in the hands of a few enthusiasts who made them a show breed.

In Australia Deerhounds have been used to hunt the kangaroo and wild boar; while according to Teddy Roosevelt, in "Hunting the Grisley and Other Tales", some American wolf hunters used them, see also [1]


Scottish Deerhounds compete in conformation, lure coursing, and where it is still legal, in some states of the USA, in hare coursing and coyote hunting. A few are trained to succeed in obedience competition but few excel in it, and fewer still excel in dog agility or flyball because the courses and activities are generally designed for smaller dogs with lower body weight and a much shorter stride.

See also


  1. ^ "Health Problems of Scottish Deerhounds". Scottish Deerhound Club of America. Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  2. ^ "Report from the Kennel Club/British Small Animal Veterinary Association Scientific Committee - Summary results of the Purebred Dog Health Survey for Deerhounds" (pdf). The Kennel Club. Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  3. ^ W. Bromley Davenport MP. "Sport". Retrieved 2009-01-20. 

Further reading

  • Almirall, Leon V. Canines and Coyotes. Caldwell, Id.: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1941.
  • Barrett, Kay. Living with Deerhounds [2]
  • Bell, Weston. The Scottish Deerhound. 1892. (Reprinted by Hoflin Publishing Inc., 4401 Sephyr St., Wheat Ridge, Colorado, U.S.A. 80003.)
  • Benbow, Audrey. How To Raise and Train A Scottish Deerhound. Neptune City, N.J.: T.F.H.Publications, 1965, 1993.
  • Blaze, Elzear and Byng Hall, Herbert The Sportsman and His Dog London: Darling 1850 [3]
  • Cassels, Kenneth. A Most Perfect Creature of Heaven: The Scottish Deerhound. K.A.H.Cassels, 1997.
  • Crealock, Lt.-General Henry Hope. Deerstalking in the Highlands of Scotland. London: Longmans & Green, 1892.
  • Cunliffe, Juliette. Deerhound. Dorking, Surrey, U.K.: Interpet Publishing, 2002.
  • Cupples, George. Scotch Deerhounds and their Masters. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1892. (Reprinted in 1978 by Hoflin Publishing Inc.)
  • Dalziel, Hugh. British Dogs - Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management And Exhibition London: The Bazaar Office circa 1879 [4]
  • Grimble, Augustus. Deer-stalking London: Chapman & Hall 1886[5]
  • Hartley, A.N. The Deerhound. 1986. (Available from the Scottish Deerhound Club of America and the Deerhound Club (U.K.))
  • Heidenreich, Barbara. Your Scottish Deerhound Primer, Fern Hill, Ontario, 1989,1999,2005.[6]
  • Macrae, Alexander. A Handbook of Deer-stalking Edinburgh: William Blackwood 1880 [7]
  • Scrope, William. The Art of Deer-stalking. London: John Murray 1839.[8]
  • Shaw, Vero. The Illustrated Book of the Dog. London: Cassell 1881[9]
  • St. John, Charles. Sketches of the Wild Sports & Natural History of the Highlands London: John Murray 1878 [10]
  • Van Hummell: "The Deerhound", in The American Book of the Dog Editor George O. Shields. Chicago: Rand Mcnally 1891[11]

External links


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