The Scottish Deerhound is one of the world’s largest breeds, almost as tall as the Irish Wolfhound. It is tall and rangy, with a short but shaggy coat giving it an unkempt look. This is a very old breed, used by Scotlands’ clan chiefs to hunt and bring down big Red Deer, which could weigh up to 400lbs.
In general appearance, the Deerhound has the look and proportions of a Greyhound, but is much bigger, more solid, and with that 3 inch-long shaggy grey coat. This longer rough coat is the result of being bred in the rough and cold, damp terrain of the Scottish Highlands.
Scottish Deerhound – Temperament
This is a breed that is placid, friendly and gentle. They are keen to please their human family, and they are good family dogs. While very good and patient with children, their sheer size and weight may intimidate or knock over a small child by accident.
Scottish Deerhounds are sight hounds, which means they belong to the same group of dogs as Afghan hounds, Salukis, Greyhounds and Rhodesian Ridgeback. They hunt by sight rather than by scent. This means they have been bred over generations in the past to chase moving animals, and they will always have the tendency to take off after any animal that is moving.
Having been bred to run fast over long distances, particularly over soft, uneven ground, they are athletic dogs, and need plenty of exercise. This particularly important for puppies and young dogs of this breed.
They need access to open spaces where they can run off-leash, to develop properly. This does not mean that a big house or backyard is necessary, it’s actually better to have a big open space where they can run as fast or as slowly, and as much or as little as they want. But if you have a really big fenced yard, that may be enough for young dogs.
Like most breeds, young dogs will become destructive if they don’t get enough exercise, and become bored. They are likely to chew the furniture, shoes, the garden hose, in fact just about anything if they are bored enough!
Adult dogs still need a good long run each day, but after that they are content to stretch out indoors in a favorite spot, and sleep the day away.
Scottish Deerhound – History
A certain type of Scottish hunting dog became known as the Scottish Deerhound around the beginning of the 19th century, to distinguish it from the Highland Greyhounds and other Stag hounds that were around then.
The Deerhound was bred to hunt big Red Deer by coursing and deer-stalking. Commonly, the hunter would get 2 dogs as close to the deer as possible, before releasing them to run the deer down. The dogs had to bring the deer down within a few minutes – if it managed to stay ahead of the dogs for longer than that, it would generally get away.
For that reason, the Scottish Deerhound was bred to be fast, especially over soft, wet and uneven ground. They had to catch up with the deer as quickly as possible.
By the end of the 19th century, the big estates were getting smaller as they were split up into smaller estates for sporting use, and the Scottish Clan system gradually declined. In addition, the gun was introduced, and so smaller tracking dogs began to be preferred over the larger fast-running Deerhounds.
The new sport of tracking and shooting only required a tracking dog, and so the Scottish Deerhound started to fall out of favor, although many estates still kept a few dogs for when they could be used in big open spaces.
And so the Deerhound became reliant on breed enthusiasts who liked the dog’s demeanor and appearance, and they were bred for the show ring.
Scottish Deerhound – ease of training
Such a big dog needs to be well-behaved and well-trained, otherwise it will take over the house! Fortunately the Scottish Deerhound is not a difficult dog to train, especially the basics. Although it is very athletic, it is not an energetic or excitable breed in the way that some others are, like the Labrador or Flat-Coated Retrievers.
This more docile nature means that they don’t get bored quite as quickly during training as, say, a Saluki. Nevertheless, it’s best to keep training sessions to under 10 minutes while the dog is under 12 months old, for 2 or 3 times a day.
As with all dog breeds, the most important thing is to be consistent in the commands you use and what you expect the dog to do.
32 inches (males)
28 inches (females)
That rough coat is actually quite low-maintenance. It only needs a thorough brushing about once a week, depending how many bushes and hedges your dog runs through! They are seasonal shedders, and this weekly brushing will keep the worst of the dog hairs at bay.
As with all breeds, their claws should be trimmed from time to time if the dog spends most of it’s time on soft ground, and the ears should be checked regularly for any foreign bodies, lumps or problems.
As with most sight hounds, the Scottish Deerhound can be slightly aloof and distrustful of strangers at first. But if the newcomer is friendly and not intimidated, the dog may welcome them in on its own.
It’s far more likely that any intruders WILL be intimidated by the Deerhounds’ size and stature. If the person displays any nervousness at all, the dog will become suspicious very quickly, and bark loudly. So this breed will make a good watchdog (if they are awake), and may well scare off most would-be intruders, but perhaps not the best guard dog if you want some protection. They are simply too docile. It’s not in their breeding to be defensive, like a German Shepherd. They were bred to chase, and to them it’s a game.
There are a few conditions that the Scottish Deerhound may be susceptible to;
- Bloat is the most common.
We recommend getting an anti-gulping bowl to slow down your dog’s eating, and reduce the chances of a dangerous bloat episode.
The National Breed Club also recommend the following tests;
- Factor VII DNA test
- Cardiac exam
- Bile acid test
- Encourages eating and drinking at a slower pace
- Dishwasher safe
- Encourages pet to eat or drink at a slower pace preventing indigestion, vomiting and bloating
- Suitable for wet or dry food; Great solution for dogs who eat and drink quickly
Famous Scottish Deerhound dogs
A Scottish Deerhound appeared in 2 Harry Potter films, playing the part of Padfoot.
Danish writer Karen Blixen had several Deerhounds in Africa.