The Scotch Deerhound of History

Found at the following website the often referred to book on British Dogs by Hugh Dalziel, frequently forming a part of the sometimes testy argument against overly large deerhounds. The description of the ideal construction and coat for a deerhound is even today a topic of much discussion as it was more than a hundred years ago. I can’t but help agree with Hugh Dalziel in terms of size and coat, preferring a somewhat shorter wiry coat. One must wonder at what age the coat is measured in some of the discussions of coat length. At 3 years and a bit Cailean’s coat is looking its best yet and just approaching 3 wiry inches on her back quite dark with a silver undercoat, and I have no doubt that by 5 it will be really gorgeous.

http://chestofbooks.com/animals/dogs/British-Dogs/index.html

Description

This section is from the book “British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition”, by Hugh Dalziel. Copyright 1897 Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.

Chapter II. The Scotch Deerhound

This article has been specially contributed to this volume by a gentleman who has chosen to veil his identity under the worn de plume of “Senex.” He is a popular judge, and one whose extended experience and observation of exhibition dogs, as well as that of a breeder, and as one who has had the advantage of working deerhounds on their proper quarry in their native glens, lends great value and weighty authority to his opinions. He says:

” The rough Scotch greyhound is, perhaps, as old a breed as any extant, not excepting the fabulous pedigrees we read of in the mastiffs; but whether their lineage traces back from the time that Noah made his exit from the ark or is of more recent origin it matters little. Few will deny that it is a most striking and picturesque breed of dogs. As an ardent admirer of the true breed, and having kept them some five-and-thirty years or more, perhaps a few lines from me will not come amiss to instruct the inexperienced what kind they are to try to obtain. The deerhound of the present day is very difficult to get quite pure, so many crosses have been resorted to. Some have tried the foxhound, others the bulldogs, and then again the colley.

“The deerhound stands from 28in. to 30in. or 31in. high; lately, I believe, one has been exhibited 33in., but then what use is such a hound? His immense size, to the tyro, may be taking on the bench, but let him only consider what he is wanted for, viz., to hunt and pull down the stag. Can a lumbering, overgrown animal (for such a hound of the size would be) gallop over all kinds of ground at a rapid pace and be active likewise ?No. For real work choose a hound about 28in. or 29in., not more.

“The deerhound resembles in form the common greyhound, only his build is more massive. His head should be long, and broad between the ears, the jaws very powerful, and the teeth strong, white, and regular; the hair on the sides of the lips forms a sort of moustache. Whenever one is seen with a narrow skull be assured at some time or other Persian or Russian cross has been resorted to; this is apparent in many of the specimens one sees on the show benches at the present day. The ear should be small, set on very high, and at the back of the skull more like the rat’s, and when at rest the flaps should be turned a little outwards, so that one sees inside the ear; this I have always noticed in the best bred ones. Avoid a large ear, it is an abomination, and look for a black fringe on the tips of the ears; it is seen in the best specimens. The neck should be moderately long, and very muscular, and the shoulders broad and deep and obliquely set; this is of great importance, as anyone must understand that a dog with an upright shoulder cannot have any pace; the fore legs should be straight, with plenty of bone, and well set on the feet, which should not be spreading, but the toes well held together.

In an old rhyme on greyhounds one line is, “a back like a beam,” which holds equally good with the deerhound, for without strength in this department it is impossible to maintain a high speed long, and a deer-hound is required to have speed, endurance, and strength; where the loins are weak the animal is useless for the purpose the breed denotes; the loins, then, cannot be too strong, which applies to the hind quarters likewise, as they are the chief element of progression. Strong stifle joints and hocks, with great length between them, and from the stifle to the hip, in conjunction with a short leg, is to my mind the beau ideal of hind quarters.

“A few words may be said not inaptly about coat, as now-a-days one sees so many types even in animals of the same parentage. The Scotch deerhound, unadulterated, has a strong wiry coat, not silken, or any approach of it. Perhaps one of the finest specimens of the breed that has been for years for symmetry is W. Hickman, Esq.’s, Morni, but then he failed in coat, which was very soft, and that is seen likewise in some to the descendants from his sister Brenda, who has thrown a number of winners; and I cannot help fancying, without any disrespect to the good dogs, that within this last ten or twelve years a little foreign blood has been infused. I should always doubt the purity of a deerhound with a head narrow between the ears, or which may have a fine silky coat. Well can I recollect my first, a black grizzle, with a strong wiry coat, and all the good ones I have seen imported from the Land of Cakes had the same texture hair, strong and wiry. I am fully convinced if the advocates of the soft-haired deerhounds would only try their hounds against the hard-coated ones in Scotland, standing on the side of some exposed place and during a driving mist, they would then candidly confess that the wiry had the day.

“I have stated that 28in. was a good size for a deerhound – by that I meant for work; for the show bench an inch or so higher might do, but avoid too much in that quarter, as then, in the majority of cases, a weak loin is the result. Thanks to the kindness of a friend, who, I believe, took the measurements at Birmingham show, 1873, I am enabled to give the measurements, etc, of many of the most famous dogs and bitches of the present day.

Height. in. Girth. in. Loin, in.
Meg…….. 26¼ ………. .28½ ………… 20½
Hilda…….. 27 ……… 29 ………… 23
Teildar……….. 27 ……… ………….. 23¼
Mona……….. 28 ………. 29½ ………….. 22
Braie……. 26½ ……… 30½ …………. 22
Hilda (Miskop) ………. 27 ……….. 30½ ………… 23¼
Morni……. 30¼ ……….. 34 ………….. 26

“There were seven dogs over 30in., whereas the second prize dog was only 26in.

“Somerset, who since that time has made his mark in the show yard, measures: Height, 29¾in.; girth, 35in.; loin, 26½in.; and length, 5ft. 9in.

” The above are the only measures I have been able to obtain; but are sufficient to show that, as a rule, it is not an overgrown hound that the young exhibitor has to look to to obtain honours. Search for an active dog, with good legs, strong loins and haunches, a nice sloping shoulder, and a hard coat, and such a one will take a deal of beating.”

It is but fair to state that in a letter on the above article the owner of Morni, whilst admitting that his dog has not a hard coat, accounts for it by the fact that, being a favourite, he was allowed to sleep in warm rooms on soft carpets and was also periodically washed. This undoubtedly tends to soften the coat in all dogs. He further quoted McNiel, of Colonsay, to show that there are pure deerhounds with coats of a soft texture, but all sportsmen’.will agree with “Senex” that the harsh hard coat is the most useful one. “Senex” has not referred to colour, so we, with his approval, add that this varies from red wheaten to dark and many shades of grizzle.

The measurements given by “Senex” we are now enabled to supplement:

Mr. J. W. Hickman’s Morni: Weight, 1001b.; height at shoulder, 30¼in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 55in.; length of tail, 25in; girth of chest, 34in.; girth of loin, 27½in.; girth of head, 17½in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 11 /2in.

Mr. H. Chaworth-Muster’s Old Torunn: Weight, 1201b.; height at shoulder, 31in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 53in.; length of tail, 23in.; girth of chest, 35½in.; girth of loin, 26½in.; girth of head, 18in.; girth of forearm, 10½in; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 12½in.; girth of thigh, 18½in.

Mr. J. Harris’ Young Torunn: Height at shoulder, 31in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 53in.; length of tail, 26in.; girth of chest, 33½in.; girth of loin, 24in.; girth of head, 17½in.; girth of forearm, 9in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 12½in.; girth of thigh, 18in.

Prince Albert Solms’ Duchess; Age, 2 years and 9 months; weight, 7l½lb.; height at shoulder, 27in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 46in.; length of tail, 22in.; girth of chest, 29¼in.; girth of loin, 21½in.; girth of head, 16in.; girth of forearm, 12in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, llin.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 8in.

Prince Albert Solms’ Morven: Age, 2 years and 9 months; weight, 79 1/3 lb.; height at shoulder, 28½ in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 46in.; length of tail, 23in.; girth of chest, 31½in.; girth of loin, 23iu.; girth of head, 16iin.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, ll¼in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 8½in.

Dr. Haddon’s Lufra: Age, 4 years; weight, 7l½b.; height at shoulder, 27½in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 46in.; length of tail, 20½in.; girth of chest, 30in.; girth of loin, 20in.; girth of head, 15½in.; girth of forearm just below elbow when standing, 7½in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 10½in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 8iin.; colour, slate grey.

Dr. Haddon’s Maida; Age, 20 months; weight, 641b.; height at shoulder, 27¾in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 47in.; length of tail, 21in.; girth of chest, 29in.; girth of loin, 20in.; girth of head, 16in.; girth of forearm just below elbow when standing, 7½in; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, ll in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 8iin.; colour, slate grey.

Dr. Haddon’s Boy: Age, 20 months; weight, 841b. fasting; height at shoulder, 29iin.; length from nose to set on of tail, 49in.; length of tail, 22½in.; girth of chest, 32¼in.; girth of loin, 24in.; girth of head, 16in.; girth of forearm just below elbow when standing, 8in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, l1in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 9in.; colour, light brindle.

Dr. Alexander’s Bran: Age, 6 years; weight, 821b.; height at shoulder, 28in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 47in.; length of tail, 19in.; girth of chest, 33in.; girth of loin, 25in.; girth of head, 17in.; girth of forearm, 8¼in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, ll½in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 8in.

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Theory of Deerhound/ Wolfhound evolution

Many books and articles over the years have discussed the origins of these two breeds the Scottish Deerhound and Irish Wolfhound. I believe it would take a lifetime of research and ferreting through archives to compile the most accurate picture of the breeds history.  I don’t claim that the information contained in the following article is the definitive synopsis of deerhound/ wolfhound evolution, I do think it sounds very plausible and interesting.

From Country Life in America January 1916. by Walter A. Dyer (American Author and Journalist 1878-1943 most famous for his writing of dog stories.) The Hounds of Celt and Gael.

The two breeds have been distinct since the twelfth century, though they undoubtedly had a common ancestry and probably the Scottish was an early offshoot from the Irish breed, while the modern Irish wolfhound, as we shall see, is even more closely related to the Scottish deerhound.”

According to W. Dyer the Irish Wolfhound was nearly extinct and through the efforts of Captain G. A. Graham (of Dursley Scotland) using remnant strains of wolfhound in Ireland he bred to Great Danes, Scottish Deerhounds and later Borzoi. Twenty years of breeding succeeding in nearly restoring the breed as to form, another 25 years would pass before a really fine specimen was produced.

All evidence points to the fact that the Scottish deerhound is a more nearly direct descendant of the old Irish wolf-dog than the present Irish wolfhound, though more greatly altered from the original type in size, strength, and conformation.

Whether the original ancestor of the Scottish breed was actually brought over from Ireland is not known, but it may be confidently stated that the Irish and the Scottish were really two strains of the same breed, altered by circumstances and environment, of which the Irish was probably the older, with the Scottish claiming the more direct descent. In any case, the beginnings of the Scottish breed are lost in antiquity, for it was known as a distinct breed and recognized as a native dog in Scotland in early times. They were famous hunters in the days of the Picts and Scots, and were used for hunting wolves as well as deer. The ancient Earls of Caledon are said to have owned Irish wolf-dogs, and it is possible that the Scottish breed sprang from them.

With the decline of sport in Scotland, the deerhound became less in demand and consequently diminished in numbers, but it never approached so near to extinction as did the Irish wolfhound. Prince Albert, Sir Walter Scott, and Sir Edwin Landseer were among those who helped to keep the breed up to standard and to revive hunting with dogs, and succeeded in making the dog popular for its own sake by 1850.

For the full story visit –  http://www.irishwolfhounds.org/celt.htm  Lots of good reading and reference lists too.