Scottish Deerhound

by Michelle Jones

In the Highlands of Scotland, the Deerhound has been prized by clan chieftans and nobility (”Lairds”) since the 16th century. When the clan system collapsed in 1746, the Scottish Deerhound was threatened with extinction, but revived by legendary breeder Duncan MacNeil…Large, powerful and strong, the Scottish Deerhound was used exactly as his name implies; he is a tireless master at running down deer. In the Age of Chivalry in England, no knight below the rank of Earl was permitted to own a Deerhound. The invention of the breech-loading rifle in the 1800’s caused the Deerhound to be used less for deer hunting. The advent of the First Wold War again caused a serious decline in the Deerhound’s numbers, but today he is firmly established and recognized by the AKC.

The Deerhound resembles the Irish Wolfhound in looks and temperament, but is not quite as large. Still, he is a dog of considerable size and speed with a Greyhound-style body but a rough, wiry coat of medium length. He’s usually dark grey in color, but can also be fawn or red. With his long, bearded muzzle and deep chest, he can take in plenty of air when persuing a deer. Yet when he isn’t hunting, he has a much lower energy level.

In temperament, the Scottish Deerhound is very mellow, calm, and low-key. His gracious manners and well-behaved personality make him a good household dog, provided he has a home and fenced yard big enough for him to be comfortable and not croweded and bored; he is not suitable for an apartment. The Deerhound is eager to please and sensitive, very gentle with children, other dogs and other pets. When outside, his hunting instincts will cause him to give chase to anything that moves and he must be leashed for his own protection. He is not very playful and loves a good snooze on the bed or couch. The Deerhound likes just about everybody at first sight, so he doesn’t do well as a watchdog and has no protection instincts.

Training a Deerhound is a challenge. Although he delights in praise, he’s also independent, with a marked stubborn streak. Being naturally well-mannered, he is disinterested in obedience training. Today he is most often seen in field hunting trials where he excels as a sighthound. He can quickly cover a large area of ground in lure coursing trials where he is likely to rack up many championship points.

Because of his large size, the Deerhound has a life span of only about seven years, although some have been seen at twice that age. His primary health concerns are gastric torsion, heart disease and bone cancer. He does not tolerate anesthetic well, as his vet will know.

The Scottish Deerhound’s dignified and gentle nature makes him a wonderful companion dog for the whole family. Despite his formidable, imposing appearance, he is never happier than when he is with his family.