What is a Deerhound?

Image by Fiona Erskine (ffire Photography)     © DOGS New South Wales                                         Gr Ch Eilrig Galena owned by Sandra Waugh on the cover of DOGS New South Wales magazine- Sept 2015 issue.  

The Deerhound, or Scottish Deerhound as it is known in some countries, is a member of the hound group of dogs and more specifically the sighthound grouping.

Additionally, Deerhounds are placed in the giant breeds category alongside Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiffs, Pyrenees, and large shepherding breeds. However, whilst being relatively tall the Deerhound is nowhere near as heavy or stocky as other giants.

Sighthounds hunt by sight rather than scent, and are built for the speed and stamina necessary to chase and bring down their quarry. The red deer of Scotland are the quarry that Deerhounds were specifically bred to tackle.

Before the formation of the Kennel Club in Britain in 1873, the Deerhound was more a type rather than a specific breed. For centuries large, rough-coated sighthounds were bred to hunt red deer and were closely related to the other British sighthounds, the Greyhound, and the Irish Wolfhound. The name Deerhound was settled in the late 19th century and previously had also been known variously as the Rough Greyhound, the Staghound, the Scotch Greyhound, the Scottish Deerhound, the Irish Greyhound, and the Highland Deerhound.

The Deerhound Club in Britain was formed in 1886 and the breed standard was written in 1892. These events ensured the survival of the Deerhound as a pure breed and together with stud books, pedigrees and registrations ensured that breeders, fanciers, and judges recognised and preserved the true type.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) was formed in 1884. The Scottish Deerhound was recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1886.

Deerhounds are found world-wide and in addition to hunting deer, have also been successfully used to hunt and control timber-wolves and coyotes in North America, and dingoes, foxes, goats, and kangaroos in Australia. Deerhounds have been present in Australia since at least the mid 1800’s.

The Deerhound in outline gives the appearance of a large, rough-coated Greyhound. He has been described as having a wistful, faraway expression. Adult males stand on average about 32” (81cm) at the shoulder and weigh on average about 110lbs (50kg).

All Deerhounds nowadays are a shade of grey or grey brindle ranging from a very dark grey, almost black, through to a light silver grey. The Deerhound coat has been described as harsh or rough, and 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) in length, however there is some variation in coat texture and length.

The Deerhound is sometimes referred to as the ‘aristocrat of the canine world’ and the ‘Royal Dog of Scotland”. He has an elegant and athletic appearance and has been dubbed with superlatives like

  • dignified
  • majestic
  • noble
  • regal
  • graceful
  • picturesque

Deerhounds were a favourite of artist Sir Edwin Landseer and appear in many of his paintings and drawings.

The famous American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens is quoted as saying of the Deerhound, “I consider him to be the most beautiful dog, possibly the most beautiful animal, that I have ever seen”.

Novelist, Sir Walter Scott described the Deerhound as “The most perfect creature of Heaven”.

Much has been written about the history of the Deerhound and often liberally overlaid with fantasy and romance.

For more on the history of the breed go to the links pages to find web addresses for Deerhound organisations and breeder websites.