Scottish Deerhound

The Scottish Deerhound looks like a dog out of mythology book. A rough and wiry, prolific coat to go with those hypnotic —dark brown eyes, that lure the mind’s curiosity. Beast or sweet and gentle giant? 

While most experts have the answer, a casual dog fan may need more information. As the name implies, this breed hails from the southern region of Scotland and bred to its current state thanks to the work of English breeders.

Although you may have heard of the Setter, Wolfhound and Terrier, most people are in the dark when it comes to the Scottish Deerhound.

So aside from their appearance, what makes this unique breed a pleasure to own?

Here is what you need to know about the Scottish Deerhound.

History

As you may imagine, the Scottish Deerhound is from Scotland, more specifically, southern Scotland. Also, the breed’s greatest progression derives from that region and England. The breed was bred by the Picts tribe, who had hounds to hunt large red deer. At first, the Deerhound, or as Scotland would refer to them, “the Royal Dog of Scotland,” was a course hound. Their job was to course game either to the game’s death or to retrieve.

Of course, over time, with the improvements in guns, the breed’s role would change into tracking and bringing game back to bay dead or hurt. Even to this day, especially then, the breed was a courageous hunter but calm and polite at home. This is why the elites and hunters fell head over heels for them.

With regards to the breed’s ancestry, most experts suspect a hound of some sort. The likely contributors of the original Scottish Deerhound was the Irish Wolfhound and Scotch Greyhound. 

The first reference of Deerhound was  around the 16th and 17th century. Centuries ago, only certain classes of people could own the Scottish Deerhound. Hence, the name, “Royal Dog of Scotland.” This policy, as well as the growing popularity of the Greyhound, would almost lead to the breed’ extinction. Around 1769, the Highland Chieftains thought that they should be the only people to own this mystical beast. 

With a dwindling population, it was Duncan McNeill and the great, Archibald, who would successfully revitalize the breed’s prominence. This would also mark the addition of different bloodlines. During the 19th century, crosses of Borzoi, Bloodhound, and the Pyrenean would help improve the Scottish Deerhound. 

At the tail end of the 1800’s, the formation of the Deerhound Club, which would lead to a breed standard in 1892, would help generate buzz about the breed. This, and the recognition given by the American Kennel Club in 1886. 

During the early years of the 20th century, the worry of a Scottish Deerhound being too tall had a bearing in the standard. For breeders, the goal was to keep them under 30 inches and a maxim weight of 105 pounds. It wouldn’t last, however, and in 1948, breeders would restore the standard to what enthusiasts of the breed know today.

Moreover, the breed today is a rather rare specimen. In 2016, the breed was the 154th most popular American Kennel Club breed. In 2017,  the breed has become less prevalent and ranks 168th. A Scottish Deerhound can be seen inside a dog show ring. For the most part, they still make for excellent big game hunting hounds.

Size

The Scottish Deerhound is among some of the tallest breeds in the world. As a large breed, the American Kennel Club cites males between 30 to 32 inches. A female may stand from 28 inches and up.

With regards to weight, a male should weigh between 85 to 110 pounds and a female between 75 to 95 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

There is a tale of two breeds when it comes to the Scottish Deerhound. Clearly by looking at this breed, you can put two and two together and see that this is an outdoor dog. Indeed, they do enjoy, perhaps, love playing, even more, a game of chase is always on their list. This may not be as fun for certain animals kicking around, but once outdoors, the wild triggers the Deerhound.

As you can imagine, the breed enjoys galloping about in their backyard. They do get along with other dogs as well.

However, it is inside the house, where the other side of the Deerhound comes out. Or should we say, stay in? This is a docile, calm, and gentle breed when inside. Almost too polite and eager to please. They’ll bark, but only when it is absolutely dire to do so. And, although they are friendly, that doesn’t mean this courageous breed won’t step up to threats. For their family, the Scottish Deerhound won’t think twice.

They do have a bit of an independent side to them when it comes to training. If you’re not a patient person, then the Scottish Deerhound won’t work. Furthermore, it won’t work, because the breed will shut down to any loud commands or mean nature. This is a sensitive breed to that sort of thing.

The most important thing about the Scottish Deerhound is work and family. They don’t care if they are outdoors or inside, as long as family or their lead hand is close by, they are happy. They enjoy affection and attention. 

All in all, throw a ball and watch the Scottish Deerhound track it down without a problem. Good with children and dogs, sweet and loving. It’s easy to see why this loyal breed was so popular with the royal class of Scotland.

Health

Their club from America and the American Kennel Club regard the breed as healthy. They do have some issues, however, but most breeds do. Some of the issues that the Deerhound suffers can be quite serious. Some of them are preventable. 

For starters, when you do buy a Scottish Deerhound from a breeder, make sure purchase from someone who has a sterling reputation. Look up reviews, ask the tough questions, but never settle without health clearances. A reputable breeder should be able to provide you with the proper documents you’ll need to make a good purchasing decision.

In addition, you’ll want to schedule regular veterinarian visits to ensure your Scottish Deerhound’s health. If you can muster that, there’s no reason to believe that you cannot get between 8 to 11 years.

On the list; Bloat or Gastric Torsion. Most people know that reducing their portions to two or three meals can help prevent this deadly and painful disorder. Bloat is when the stomach distends due to an excess of gas, that the dog cannot release. This is a serious problem, in which the Deerhound suffers from along with breeds like; Boxers, Akitas, German Shepherds, Irish Setters and Weimaraners.

Kidney stones or Cystinuria is a problem for the breed. This is an autosomal recessive disorder, which effects a dog’s ability to filter out cystine from the urine. Because this cystine accumulates and builds up, it forms stones, which can be painful and stressful for the dog.

The Scottish Deerhound does have a predisposition to Osteosarcoma, which is a bone tumor. This is very severe. Yet, very common for bone tumor’s found in dogs. Pain and swelling once the tumor progresses is likely and Osteosarcoma can develop in any bone. Large breeds typically suffer the most from this tumor.

Liver Shunts or Portosystemic Shunts are found within the breed. This is due to an abnormal blood vessel that doesn’t allow the blood to carry nutrients, hormones, and waste to the liver before entering the rest of the body. Typically, the liver will take what it needs and filter out the bad. When this doesn’t occur, then the breed may experience weight loss, vomiting and need surgery to correct.

Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease found in the breed. Very common form found in many breeds. When the ventricles of the heart fail to properly pump blood into the lungs, fluid will buildup, possibly causing heart failure as a result. This is common with the breed as well as Cocker Spaniels.

Additionally, the breed does suffer from a clotting disorder, Inherited Factor VII Deficiency, allergies, reactions to certain anesthetics and problems with their necks. Talk to your veterinarian about what to look out for.

Care

As puppies, the Scottish Deerhound can be independent and difficult to deal with. This will entail an effort on your behalf. This is a breed that requires someone with patience, experience and positive reinforcement.  Plenty of mental and physical stimulation is necessary for this breed, as adults and puppies. They’ll need close contact and companionship.

With that in mind, being alone for long periods of time will not work for this breed. It can also generate a world of destruction due to boredom. Be sure to provide them with a playmate or entertain them by keeping them close to the family.

As a breed that is good with the entire family, you will want to supervise interactions between the breed and smaller children. Not that anything will be done intentionally, the Scottish Deerhound is a big breed. They may play too rough, which will spell a world of hurt for a tiny toddler. 

This is a breed with prey drive as they are hunters. If you have smaller animals like mice, birds, and perhaps a cat or two, then watch the Deerhound around them. This is a dog that loves to run, and will if they see something they want to chase. A fence and leash is an absolute must with this breed.

Big spaces over smaller, this isn’t much of an apartment dog. Daily walks will help with neurotic behavior and consistent training will too. Check their eyes, skin and coat regularly. Inspect their ears often and clip their nails monthly.

Feeding

Your Scottish Deerhound may not eat as much as other dogs. This will depend on their activity rate, age, and metabolism, amongst a few things. Like any breed, you should feed your Deerhound a high quality formula — meat as the first ingredient —and quality carbs, crude fat and calories. 

Most owners see results feeding their Scottish Deerhound 3 to 4 cups per day. Again, because the breed has issues with Bloat, you should feed them two to three times instead of one big meal. 

Veggies, fruits, rice, oil, and quality protein sources should suffice their feeding regimen.

As always, you should provide your Scottish Deerhound with fresh drinking water.

Coat

A regular bath and occasional grooming for this seasonal shedder will do the trick. Brushing their coat 1 to 2 times per week will certainly help maintain their coat’s integrity.

The coat for this breed is 3 to 4 inches long along the body and neck, and has a harsh texture. Should feel wiry as well. There is some fringe coating inside their forelegs and hinds. The belly of the Scottish Deerhound should be soft just as their chest and head should be as well.

According to the American Kennel Club, four coat color options are acceptable: Blue gray, brindle, gray brindle, and gray. There are no acceptable markings.

Fun Scottish Deerhound Facts

  • The breed was given recognition by the United Kennel Club in 1949.
  • For a century, the Deerhound had two strains: Lowland and Highland Deerhounds.
  • Unfortunately, the Deerhound is on the U.K. Kennel Club’s “Vulnerable List.” In 2017, the breed had only 266 registrations, which was up from 2016’s total of only 209.
  • The breed is the 89th most intelligent breed on Stanley Coren’s “Intelligence of Dog’s.” This means they obey the first command 50 percent of the time.
  • In 2011, Foxcliffe Hickory took the Best In Show nods at the Westminster Dog Show.
  • Novelist, Sir Walter Scott, had a Deerhound by the name of, Maida.

Closing Words

If you enjoy a dog that runs around and can course with the best of them — yet you don’t like that energy coming back home — the Scottish Deerhound has all of your needs in check.

With their sterling reputation as hunters, the Scottish Deerhound is a loyal and loving companion at home. While it may take them longer to reach that calm, once they mature, this is a quiet breed, that brings energy and calm at the same time.