Showsight Presents the Scottish Deerhound

Scottish Deerhound

History and Judging of the Scottish Deerhound

By Allyn Babitch

ty with a sense of humor. The dog should be temperamentally stable, friendly enough without necessarily being effusive, and not offering aggres- sion towards other dogs (or humans, naturally, but that is rare). It has been said that the Deerhound, while sweet and gentle, should still own the ground it stands on. The Standard outlines the various important features of the breed, and should be closely studied by anyone looking to judge the breed. The stan- dard was not reformatted, and is the same as it's been for many many years, so some references are historic and spe- cif ic to the breed. The size of Deerhounds was raised by a couple of inches with the current Standard, but it is cautioned that very large Deerhounds may not be functional; and excessive size is generally not championed in the breed, unless it is accompanied by great quality, which it only sometimes is. Balance is greatly valued, though it also offers a quandry- if a dog is balanced because it is lack- ing on both ends, is that better than a dog who is correct on one end but not the same on the other? As a breeder, I would personally rather only have one end to fix genetically- obviously having both ends match and be proper is ideal. Most often an unbalanced dog has more rear than front angulation, though occasionally it's the other way around. How the dog puts its various parts together on the move can be the deciding factor. Many judges will have the dogs go around the ring together first, to help settle them, and get an idea of how they handle themselves. In the exam functional aspects should be consid- ered more important than cosmetic ones, though of course the best dogs have both. The judges who consider the whole dog, mentally adding up the virtues and then subtracting the faults, and giving those with the high- est "score" the nod, are better; rather than eliminating a dog from considera-

tion just because of a particular fault (being a "fault judge"), unless that fault is excessive shyness or aggressiveness. Puppies and newcomer dogs obviously should be forgiven some nerves or hijinks, and should be be judged com- passionately and patiently. Movement- the standard gives it just three words, but they are telling ones- it says that the Deerhound's movement should be "easy, active, and true". Easy and true are fairly self evident- the easy meaning a nice f lowing side gait, and the true meaning sound com- ing and going. The active is more open to interpretation, but the typical Deerhound trot has a lovely, and rather unique, "lilt" and suspension, covering a little extra ground in the air with each stride, without being extreme or too bouncy. This trait may have descended from ones needed for the rough terrain the Deerhound used to hunt on, in the Scottish moors; where having a certain tendinous and ligamentous elasticity allowed the dog to spring over heather and gorse in the pursuit of its quarry. Active should NOT be interpreted to mean hackneyed gait at the trot- this seems to be one trotting trait that does translate to the gallop, and negatively so; a hackneyed gallop is energy wast- ing, and not fast and ground covering, or especially agile. Hackneyed gait is not often seen in Deerhounds, happily, but should be appropriately faulted when it is seen. It's unknown whether the order of the movement traits (easy side gait, active side gait, and true coming and going) were meant to be put in descending order of importance, but many fanciers consider that a typical side gait is most highly important in a quality Deerhound. Sound coming and going is also important, but if it's at the expense of side gait may not be quite as much so. Deerhounds in gen- eral are sounder now than they were many years ago; but again, it should not be at the expense of the typical way

of moving from the side. For those into horses, a Deerhound's typical trot can perhaps be compared to a Third Level dressage horse doing a working or medium trot- big and open and f low- ing but not excessively fast or f lashy. Other aspects to consider- condi- tioning and musculature are very important in any sighthound, but this can also present another quandry- how to compare a well made but "soft" or underconditioned dog to one who is less well made but well conditioned? Again remember genetics, and value inherent genetic traits more than developed ones, and functional traits more than cosmetic ones. If possible, knowing which traits are easier to fix genetically can help- the more geneti- cally persistent bad traits should per- haps be faulted more heavily than oth- ers which are known to be faster to change. In the case of a good dog with less good developed traits (condition- ing, grooming, show manners, etc.), a brief polite discussion with the han- dler might alert them to what they could do to present their dog better in the future. In conclusion, when judging the Scottish Deerhound, think “Big Deer"- the Deerhound's original prey, the Scottish Red Stag, is like our American Elk, so a formidable foe; requiring enough speed and endurance to catch up to, and enough strength and persis- tence to bring to bay or bring down. This royal hunter also had to be a great companion in the manor or castle, to adult, child, and other animals; and be stable, quiet, and dignified, while still fun to be around. The "fun" part of a Deerhound's personality may not be readily apparent at the show grounds, but at least the dignity, and the look of the original purpose, can be. And finally, thank you for judging our Deerhounds fairly and kindly, we do appreciate it! ■ Allyn Babitch, Sindar Scottish Deerhounds and SkyHorse Sport Curly Horses, San Jose, CA

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

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