Showsight Presents the Scottish Deerhound

History and Judging of the Scottish Deerhound By Allyn Babitch Scottish Deerhound

HISTORY The Scottish Deerhound is an ancient breed, whose exact origins are unknown; but clearly they are a devel- opment from the old coursing Greyhounds, and are related to the larger Irish Wolfhounds. Names for the breed in history have included Scotch Greyhound and Highland Deerhound; reference is made to their development in a passage in English Dogges (1576), referring to Greyhounds: "Some are of the greater sorte, some of a lesser; some are smoothe skynned and some curled, the bigger therefore are appointed to hunt the bigger beastes, the buck, the hart, the doe." By the 17th century the term Deerhound was applied to the type used to pursue and bring down the Scottish Red Stag, which is akin to the American Elk, so a very large deer; and from these came the Deerhound seen today, which is known as the Scottish Deerhound in America. Throughout history Deerhounds were greatly valued for their hunting prowess, and their companionable nature, and were owned primarily by the nobility, who had the large tracts of land needed for deer coursing. Legend has it that a nobleman con- demned to death could buy his free- dom with a "leash" of Deerhounds, a "leash" meaning three in number. As the Stag became rarer in England and southern Scotland, in the 1700s, the breeding of Deerhounds became more conf ined to the northern Scottish Highlands, with the smaller Greyhound being used for hare coursing in other areas. The collapse of the clan system in the mid 1700s further reduced the number of breeders, and Deerhounds; it wasn't until Archibald and Duncan McNeill (later Lord Colonsay) worked

to restore the breed in the 1820s that the numbers began to be gradually increased, and the quality regained. They started appearing at dog shows in England in the mid 1800s- Queen Victoria became a Deerhound fancier, and helped its popularity to expand, as did Sir Walter Scott, a Deerhound owner, who deemed the breed "the most perfect creature of heaven". The breed came to America original- ly for hunting purposes- General American breeders gradually increased, and Deerhounds have been exported to Austral ia (where they are used successfully on kangaroo), and mainland Europe, with a few in other areas of the world. They are still quite a rare breed, though the spectacular Best in Show win by a Deerhound at Westminster Kennel Club in 2011 has made more people aware of the breed. Custer kept Greyhounds and Deerhounds and their crosses, for instance- and was recognized by the American Kennal Club for showing pur- poses in 1886. The World Wars hurt breeders of many breeds, and the numbers of dogs being bred; during World War Two the Deerhound was precariously preserved by a few dedicated British Isles breed- ers- the kennels of Ardkinglas, Rotherwood, Ross, Enterkine, and Geltsdale, being some that worked so

hard to keep the breed alive. American breeders gradually increased, and Deerhounds have been exported to Australia (where they are used suc- cessfully on kangaroo), and mainland Europe, with a few in other areas of the world. They are still quite a rare breed, though the spectacular Best in Show win by a Deerhound at Westminster Kennel Club in 2011 has made more people aware of the breed. It is claimed that the Deerhound of today is still very similar to the Deerhounds of yesteryear, and old prints attest this to be true; though the breed standard of the later 1800s, still used today, did allow for a slight increase in size. The capability to work and do a job of hunting big deer should still be apparent when viewing a modern Deerhound. JUDGING What many judges notice when view- ing the Scottish Deerhound ring, is that the dogs, while having a certain natural presence and elegance, are often not sparkly show dogs. The han- dlers, as well, are often owners and/or amateurs, and while many of them are quite competent, a number of them are not. It is therefore incumbent upon the judge to look past handling ability to the dog itself, and judge each indi- vidual on its relative merits, rather than just their presentation, and to be helpful to handlers still learning the ropes. That said, the dog should be imme- diately identifiable as a Deerhound, that is to say a larger rough coated coursing type Greyhound; with no con- fusion as to whether it's a Wolfhound. One should get a strong impression of a good blend of ruggedness and ele- gance, of strength and speed, of digni-

S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • J UNE 2011 • 201

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