- Other names by which the Deerhound has been called include Highland Deerhound, Rough Greyhound, and Scotch Greyhound. He is also known as the Royal Dog of Scotland.
- When you look at a Deerhound, you see a dog whose long head is broadest at the ears, with the muzzle tapering to the black nose, and adorned with a mustache of silky hair and a fair beard. The soft, glossy, dark ears fold back, raised up only in excitement. Dark brown or hazel eyes hold a keen, far away expression that softens when the dog is relaxed. The long, tapering tail is carried down or curved.
- The Scottish Deerhound is the second-tallest of all dog breeds, after the Irish Wolfhound. He weighs between 70 and 130 pounds, with females typically being smaller than males.
AKC group: Hound
UKC group: Sighthound
Average lifespan: 9-11 years
Average size: 75-110 pounds
Coat appearance: Wiry and harsh on the body, soft and smooth on the belly
Coloration: Brindle and black, blue, blue gray, gray
Other identifiers: Typical body of a Greyhound, smaller face with longer nose; high-set and folded ears; dark, brown or hazel eyes; long legs and low swooping tailComparable Breeds: Borzoi, Irish Wolfhound
The origins of the Scottish Deerhound are lost in the Highland mists. Over the centuries, they’ve been known as Irish wolfdogs,
Scottish greyhounds, rough greyhounds, and Highland deerhounds. Whether they were originally used to hunt wolves and then repurposed to hunt the great stags of the Highlands is unknown, but we do know that they were used as far back as the 16th century to hunt and bring down deer. The deerhounds were highly regarded for their courage and gentle dignity. A nobleman condemned to death could purchase his life with a gift of deerhounds. And only a nobleman could do so; no one beneath the rank of earl could lay claim to a deerhound, which was commonly known as the Royal Dog of Scotland.
|Scottish Deerhound circa 1910
The breed suffered under its restricted ownership, however, and there were many times it came close to extinction, most nearly when the clan system of Scotland collapsed in 1745 after the fateful battle of Culloden during the Jacobite rebellion against English rule. By 1769 the breed was in dire straits. Efforts were made to restore the breed to its original glory in the 1820s by Archibald and Duncan McNeill. The breed made its way to America as well. The first Scottish Deerhound registered by the American Kennel Club was Bonnie Robin in 1886.
During World War I, the breed suffered another decline in numbers when many large estates in Scotland and England were broken up. The Scottish Deerhound became a rare breed again, enjoyed only by a select few.
Today the Scottish Deerhound is still a fairly uncommon breed, appreciated by those who love sighthounds or have an interest because of their Scottish heritage, but more are coming to learn that this is a versatile breed and an all-around exceptional dog. Today the Scottish Deerhound ranks 135th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.
The Scottish Deerhound can best be described as chivalrous. He’s gentle yet strong, sensitive yet brave. Loyal, devoted, quiet, dignified, and alert are all terms that apply to this dog. He is courageous in the face of danger but never aggressive.
Of course, those characteristics don’t just appear. Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up his littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who’s available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you’re comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, Scottish Deerhounds need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Deerhound puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
The Scottish Deerhound breed, which has an average lifespan of 7 to 9 years, is susceptible to major health issues such as cardiomyopathy, gastric torsion, and osteosarcoma. Hypothyroidism, neck pain, atopy, and cystinuria may also plague this dog. To identify some of the issues early, a veterinarian may recommend regular cystinuria and cardiac exams for this breed of dog.
The Scottish Deerhound breed loves to spend time inside the home with its human family. Nevertheless, the dog can adapt to living outdoors in warm or cool climate. Routine exercise is essential for the breed, ideally in the form of a long walk or running in an enclosed area.
The hair should be clipped on occasion to prevent it from tangling; combing, meanwhile, will help remove any dead hair. Additionally, the hair around the dog’s face and ears should be stripped.
Scottish Deerhounds can do okay in an in apartment if they are sufficiently exercised. They are relatively inactive indoors. If they are taken for walks they can live without a yard, but they do best with a large, fenced yard.
Deerhounds are moderately easy to train. They pick up new behavior quickly, especially when praise and food are the motivation, but some can be quite stubborn and simply choose to ignore the rules. The good news is that they are not particularly destructive or ill behaved, so a Deerhound who doesn’t listen is easier to live with than some other breeds. Practice makes perfect, so patience is necessary, but even the most stubborn Deerhound comes around in time. When your Deerhound isn’t listening, you should never treat him harshly. They are sensitive dogs who will respond to harsh treatment by completely shutting down. Polite praise and encouragement will help motivate him to repeat good behavior and abandon bad.
Housebreaking can be a long process with Deerhounds. They don’t respond well to crating, so as puppies, they require a lot of attention. Some owners prefer the breeder housebreak their dog before bringing him home.
Deerhounds are athletes. They were designed to hunt deer twice their size, so they are built for stamina and endurance. They need several long walks every day and should be allowed to run whenever possible. Joggers enjoy Scottish Deerhounds because they can keep pace on long runs. Though they are well behaved indoors, Deerhounds do not make the best apartment dwellers because they require a bit of room to move around.
The Deerhound’s harsh coat is usually easy to care for, but some Deerhounds have a silkier, longer coat that can become quite tangled. Usually, though, all he needs is a good brushing with a pin brush or slicker brush two or three times a week. Give the coat a going over with a stainless steel Greyhound comb to make sure you didn’t miss any tangles and to comb out the hair on the face and you’re done. Only a few baths a year, when the dog is dirty, are necessary.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails as needed, usually once every week or two, and keep his ears clean and dry. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.
Good dental hygiene is also important. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Introduce your Deerhound to grooming early in life so that he learns to accept it willingly and patiently.
Deerhounds can get along with children, but they’re not really a playmate kind of dog, being more into body slams than playing fetch. They’re best suited to homes with older children who understand how to interact with dogs. Deerhounds aren’t best pleased by the poking, prodding, and pulling of toddlers and will generally stalk off rather than put up with it. Their size also makes them unsuited to life with small children; they can easily knock them over without meaning to.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
While your Deerhound may learn to live peaceably with small dogs or cats indoors, if he sees them running around outdoors it can be a different story.
Is this breed right for you?
A very friendly and pleasing breed, the Scottish Deerhound is a wonderful family dog and companion. Docile and best kept as an inside dog with its own bed, it does well inside of an apartment but will need some space to stretch out and daily exercise. A sensitive dog, it can be shy with strangers but does well with other pets in the home. A natural born hunter, it may chase after animals unknown to it. Requiring weekly grooming, the Scottish Deerhound is prone to calluses.
Did You Know?
Scottish Deerhound GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind made history in 2011 by becoming the first of her breed to win Best in Show at Westminster.
- A Scottish Deerhound named Foxcliffe Hickory Wind won Best In Show at the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show February 14–15, 2011.
- Maida was a cross-bred Deerhound belonging to Sir Walter Scott.
- A Scottish Deerhound named Cleod played the role of Padfoot, Sirius Black’s canine Animagus form, in two films, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2005) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).
A dream day in the life
Waking up to a run around the neighborhood, the Scottish Deerhound will then enjoy a nice breakfast with its family. A watchdog, it will keep a good eye on the home while you are away, although it would prefer to stay in your company. After an afternoon nap, it’ll run about the yard and chase after any four-legged visitors. In the evening, it’ll snuggle up at the foot of your bed on its very own pillow.