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The Deerhound

The Deerhound is one of the most decorative of dogs, impressively

stately and picturesque wherever he is seen, whether it be amid the

surroundings of the baronial hall, reclining at luxurious length

before the open hearth in the fitful light of the log fire that

flickers on polished armour and tarnished tapestry; out in the open,

straining at the leash as he scents the dewy air, or gracefully

bounding over the purple o
his native hills. Grace and majesty are

in his every movement and attitude, and even to the most prosaic mind

there is about him the inseparable glamour of feudal romance and

poetry. He is at his best alert in the excitement of the chase; but

all too rare now is the inspiring sight that once was common among

the mountains of Morven and the glens of Argyll of the deep-voiced

hound speeding in pursuit of his antlered prey, racing him at full

stretch along the mountain's ridge, or baying him at last in the

fastness of darksome corrie or deep ravine. Gone are the good romantic

days of stalking beloved by Scrope. The Highlands have lost their

loneliness, and the inventions of the modern gunsmith have robbed

one of the grandest of hunting dogs of his glory, relegating him to

the life of a pedestrian pet, whose highest dignity is the winning

of a pecuniary prize under Kennel Club rules.

Historians of the Deerhound associate him with the original Irish

Wolfdog, of whom he is obviously a close relative, and it is sure

that when the wolf still lingered in the land it was the frequent

quarry of the Highland as of the Hibernian hound. Legend has it that

Prince Ossian, son of Fingal, King of Morven, hunted the wolf with

the grey, long-bounding dogs. Swift-footed Luath and White-breasted

Bran are among the names of Ossian's hounds. I am disposed to affirm

that the old Irish Wolfhound and the Highland Deerhound are not only

intimately allied in form and nature, but that they are two strains

of an identical breed, altered only in size by circumstance and


Whatever the source of the Highland Deerhound, and at whatever period

it became distinct from its now larger Irish relative, it was

recognised as a native dog in Scotland in very early times, and it

was distinguished as being superior in strength and beauty to the

hounds of the Picts.

From remote days the Scottish nobles cherished their strains of

Deerhound, seeking glorious sport in the Highland forests. The red

deer belonged by inexorable law to the kings of Scotland, and great

drives, which often lasted for several days, were made to round up

the herds into given neighbourhoods for the pleasure of the court,

as in the reign of Queen Mary. But the organised coursing of deer

by courtiers ceased during the Stuart troubles, and was left in the

hands of retainers, who thus replenished their chief's larder.

The revival of deerstalking dates back hardly further than a hundred

years. It reached its greatest popularity in the Highlands at the

time when the late Queen and Prince Albert were in residence at

Balmoral. Solomon, Hector, and Bran were among the Balmoral hounds.

Bran was an especially fine animal--one of the best of his time,

standing over thirty inches in height.

Two historic feats of strength and endurance illustrate the tenacity

of the Deerhound at work. A brace of half-bred dogs, named Percy and

Douglas, the property of Mr. Scrope, kept a stag at bay from Saturday

night to Monday morning; and the pure bred Bran by himself pulled

down two unwounded stags, one carrying ten and the other eleven tines.

These, of course, are record performances, but they demonstrate the

possibilities of the Deerhound when trained to his natural sport.

Driving was commonly resorted to in the extensive forests, but

nowadays when forests are sub-divided into limited shootings the deer

are seldom moved from their home preserves, whilst with the use of

improved telescopes and the small-bore rifle, stalking has gone out

of fashion. With guns having a muzzle velocity of 2,500 feet per

second, it is no longer necessary for sportsmen stealthily to stalk

their game to come within easy range, and as for hounds, they have

become a doubtful appendage to the chase.

Primarily and essentially the Deerhound belongs to the order

Agaseus, hunting by sight and not by scent, and although he may

indeed occasionally put his nose to the ground, yet his powers of

scent are not remarkable. His vocation, therefore, has undergone a

change, and it was recently ascertained that of sixty deer forests

there were only six upon which Deerhounds were kept for sporting


Happily the Deerhound has suffered no decline in the favour bestowed

upon him for his own sake. The contrary is rather the case, and he

is still an aristocrat among dogs, valued for his good looks, the

symmetry of his form, his grace and elegance, and even more so for

his faithful and affectionate nature. Sir Walter Scott declared that

he was a most perfect creature of heaven, and when one sees him

represented in so beautiful a specimen of his noble race as St.

Ronan's Rhyme, for example, or Talisman, or Ayrshire, one is tempted

to echo this high praise.

Seven-and-twenty years ago Captain Graham drew up a list of the most

notable dogs of the last century. Among these were Sir St. George

Gore's Gruim (1843-44), Black Bran (1850-51); the Marquis of

Breadalbane's King of the Forest, said to stand 33 inches high; Mr.

Beaseley's Alder (1863-67), bred by Sir John McNeill of Colonsay;

Mr. Donald Cameron's Torrum (1869), and his two sons Monzie and Young

Torrum; and Mr. Dadley's Hector, who was probably the best-bred dog

living in the early eighties. Torrum, however, appears to have been

the most successful of these dogs at stud. He was an exceedingly grand

specimen of his race, strong framed, with plenty of hair of a blue

brindle colour. Captain Graham's own dog Keildar, who had been trained

for deerstalking in Windsor Park, was perhaps one of the most elegant

and aristocratic-looking Deerhounds ever seen. His full height was

30 inches, girth 33-1/2 inches, and weight, 95 lbs., his colour bluish

fawn, slightly brindled, the muzzle and ears being blue. His nearest

competitor for perfection was, after Hector, probably Mr. Hood

Wright's Bevis, a darkish red brown brindle of about 29 inches. Mr.

Wright was the breeder of Champion Selwood Morven, who was the

celebrity of his race about 1897, and who became the property of Mr.

Harry Rawson. This stately dog was a dark heather brindle, standing

32-3/8 inches at the shoulder, with a chest girth of 34-1/2 inches.

A few years ago breeders were inclined to mar the beauty of the

Deerhound by a too anxious endeavour to obtain great size rather than

to preserve the genuine type; but this error has been sufficiently

corrected, with the result that symmetry and elegance conjoined with

the desired attributes of speed are not sacrificed. The qualities

aimed at now are a height of something less than 30 inches, and a

weight not greater than 105 lbs., with straight fore-legs and short,

cat-like feet, a deep chest, with broad, powerful loins, slightly

arched, and strength of hind-quarters, with well-bent stifles, and

the hocks well let down. Straight stifles are objectionable, giving

a stilty appearance. Thick shoulders are equally a blemish to be

avoided, as also a too great heaviness of bone. The following is the

accepted standard of merit.

* * * * *

HEAD--The head should be broadest at the ears, tapering 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 with nothing approaching a stop. The skull

should be coated with moderately long hair which is softer than the

rest of the coat. The nose should be black (though in some blue-fawns

the colour is blue) and slightly aquiline. In the lighter-coloured

dogs a black muzzle is preferred. There should be a good moustache

of rather silky hair, and a fair beard. EARS--The ears should be set

on high, and, in repose, folded back like the Greyhound's, though

raised above the head in excitement without losing the fold, and even,

in some cases, semi-erect. A prick ear is bad. A big, thick ear,

hanging flat to the head, or heavily coated with long hair, is the

worst of faults. The ear should be soft, glossy, and like a mouse's

coat to the touch, and the smaller it is the better. It should have

no long coat or long fringe, but there is often a silky, silvery coat

on the body of the ear and the tip. Whatever the general colour, the

ears should be black or dark-coloured. NECK AND SHOULDERS--The neck

should be long--that is, of the length that befits the Greyhound

character of the dog. An over-long neck is not necessary, nor

desirable, for the dog is not required to stoop in his work like a

Greyhound, and it must be remembered that the mane, which every good

specimen should have, detracts from the apparent length of neck.

Moreover, a Deerhound requires a very strong neck to hold a stag.

The nape of the neck should be very prominent where the head is set

on, and the throat should be clean-cut at the angle and prominent.

The shoulders should be well sloped, the blades well back, with not

too much width between them. Loaded and straight shoulders are very

bad faults. STERN--Stern 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. When the dog is still, dropped perfectly straight

down, or curved. When in motion it should be curved when excited,

in no case to be lifted out of the 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 very undesirable. EYES--The eyes should be

dark: generally they are dark brown or hazel. A very light eye is

not liked. The eye is moderately full with a soft look in repose,

but a keen, far-away gaze when the dog is roused. The rims of the

eyelids should be black. BODY--The body and general formation is that

of a Greyhound of larger size and bone. Chest deep rather than broad,

but not too narrow and flat-sided. The loin well arched and drooping

to the tail. A straight back is not desirable, this formation being

unsuitable for going uphill, and very unsightly. LEGS AND FEET--The

legs should be broad and flat, a good broad forearm and elbow being

desirable. Fore-legs, of course, as straight as possible. Feet close

and compact, with well-arched toes. The hind-quarters drooping, and

as broad and powerful as possible, the hips being set wide apart.

The hind-legs should be well bent at the stifle, with great length

from the hip to the hock, which should be broad and flat. Cow hocks,

weak pasterns, straight stifles, and splay feet are very bad faults.

COAT--The hair on the body, neck, and quarters should be harsh and

wiry, and about 3 inches or 4 inches long; that on the head, breast,

and belly is much softer. There should be a slight hairy fringe on

the inside of the fore and hind-legs, but nothing approaching to the

feathering of a Collie. The Deerhound should be a shaggy dog, but

not over coated. A woolly coat is bad. Some good strains have a slight

mixture of silky coat with the hard, which is preferable to a woolly

coat, but the proper covering is a thick, close-lying, ragged coat,

harsh or crisp to the touch. COLOUR--Colour is much a matter of fancy.

But there is no manner of doubt that the dark blue-grey is the most

preferred. Next come the darker and lighter greys or brindles, the

darkest being generally preferred. Yellow and sandy-red or red-fawn,

especially with black points--i.e., ears and muzzle--are also in

equal estimation, this being the colour of the oldest known strains,

the McNeil and the Chesthill Menzies. White is condemned by all the

old authorities, but a white chest and white toes, occurring as they

do in a great many of the darkest-coloured dogs, are not so greatly

objected to, but the less the better, as the Deerhound is a

self-coloured dog. A white blaze on the head or a white collar should

entirely disqualify. In other cases, though passable, an attempt

should be made to get rid of white markings. The less white the

better, but a slight white tip to the stern occurs in the best

strains. HEIGHT OF DOGS--From 28 inches to 30 inches, or even more

if there be symmetry without coarseness, which, however, is rare.

HEIGHT OF BITCHES--From 26 inches upwards. There can be no objection

to a bitch being large, unless she is too coarse, as even at her

greatest height she does not approach that of the dog, and, therefore,

could not well be too big for work, as over-big dogs are. Besides,

a big bitch is good for breeding and keeping up the size. WEIGHT--From

85 pounds to 105 pounds in dogs; from 65 pounds to 80 pounds in


* * * * *

Among the more prominent owners of Deerhounds at the present time

are Mrs. H. Armstrong, Mrs. W. C. Grew, Mrs. Janvrin Dickson, Miss

A. Doxford, Mr. Harry Rawson, and Mr. H. McLauchin. Mrs. Armstrong

is the breeder of two beautiful dog hounds in Talisman and Laird of

Abbotsford, and of two typically good bitches in Fair Maid of Perth

and Bride of Lammermoor. Mrs. Grew owns many admirable specimens,

among them being Blair Athol, Ayrshire, Kenilworth, and Ferraline.

Her Ayrshire is considered by some judges to be the most perfect

Deerhound exhibited for some time past. He is somewhat large, perhaps,

but he is throughout a hound of excellent quality and character,

having a most typical head, with lovely eyes and expression, perfect

front, feet and hind-quarters. Other judges would give the palm to

Mr. Harry Rawson's St. Ronan's Ranger, who is certainly difficult

to excel in all the characteristics most desirable in the breed.