Deerhounds are the gentle giants of the canine world: despite their size and, to some people, fierce looks (never fathomed that one out!) they are docile, kind and trustworthy.
Sometimes known as Scottish Deerhounds, they are one of the oldest and least changed of breeds. Scenes depicting hunting with dogs almost identical in appearance to them can be found on ancient pottery or manuscripts and because they have never become a ‘fashionable’ breed the excesses of inbreeding for the showring has not occurred.
Deerhounds are not for the faint-hearted!
Similar in bone structure to the greyhound, this is most obvious when the dog is wet and its wiry, long coat clings to its body. Although not as fast on the flat, over difficult ground it can easily outrun them. It is also slightly larger reaching 32” in big males and can weigh up to 50kgs. There is little variation in colour, blue-grey being the most prized but in earlier times there were a variety of colours, now all lost.
the dog with the poorly paw
Tarff, my first deerhound and named after a Scottish loch, proved to be a near disaster. Soon after he arrived and playing in the garden, he knocked his leg. After a moment’s yelping it was forgotten by both him and me until his paw started to turn outwards; he had damaged the leg’s growth plate, resulting in the bones growing at different rates. By the time of his first operation his paw faced backwards; treatment and further operations made it gradually turn again towards the front. It never quite made it and as a result he was instantly recognisable by his 45 degree turned out foot. Once strong and hardened it really made no difference to his mobility.
Having been told that he was unlikely to survive the operations and during that time was to have no exercise he was spoilt unmercilessly. Proving the pessimists wrong, he became the deerhound from hell – an unruly and totally undisciplined teenager. An uncontrollable dog with the weight, power and speed of a deerhound can be lethal and a rigorous training regime had to start, carried out in short and frequent bursts. He excelled himself and became a great companion for several years.
the ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ look
It is always heartbreaking when a much loved pet dies, regardless of its age but sadly, as is common with the other giant breeds, deerhounds are not long lived. Tarff died at just seven years old although others that followed lived to thirteen, a great age for a deerhound.
just twelve weeks old, the ‘greyness’ comes later
Would I recommend a deerhound? Probably not, despite their many good traits: they are docile, kind and trustworthy and have no agression in them. They are also quite silent which can be an advantage – but not if you are looking for a guard dog. However, they need frequent, although not especially lengthy, excercising and it is essential that they have free running. Being sighthounds, they are great chasers which can be an issue, especially in suburban areas. Mine have all proved to be great pets but I doubt if I shall have more despite having unlimited access to open countryside from the back door. These days I am content to pet other people’s deerhounds assuming the dog allows it for this is another of their odd traits: a deerhound can be aloof at times. It is the one that decides if cuddles are allowed, if not it will pretend you just don’t exist.
UK The Deerhound Club
USA Scottish Deerhound Club of America
Update: I’ve just come across this great new resource for dog-loving visitors and residents of the Cotswolds alike Dog Friendly Cotswolds
John…she dog is still fine though right? Your blog was a great introduction to a breed I do not know here in Nova Scotia Canada. The breed is now known to me and if she dog is an example as is Tarff, you have had wonderful companions in your life. (photos are beautiful) As to us and our devotion to American Cocker spaniels..ours broke front legs fourteen weeks ago. The end was nigh we thought. What they can do today!! He's good..steel plates and lag screws..bionic dog. Happy as a lark today. Love runs deep when it comes to our pets.
I was going to ask the same about she-dog.
If I were in the market for a large breed, I would love a deer hound. My younger (at 13) bedlington whippet looks rather like a tiny deerhound. I wish I had £1 for every time we have been asked over the years “Are they Irish wolfhound puppies?”.
I enjoyed seeing your photos.
Thanks for your comments. I'm glad to be able to report that She-dog is fine but as she hasn't been up to any antics of late I haven't had anything to write about her! She is refusing to have more puppies which is disappointing.
She-dog has no deerhound in her – she is a whippet/greyhound/bedlington cross.
Glad to hear your cocker is fine. Tarff had bolts through his damaged bone until it was strong enough when they were removed. Amazing what they can do!
Hello John…..Just come across your scribing via the ‘Nature Blog Network’. Only had time to read read a few snippets from it but hoping to read more soon.
Many thanks, John. Hope you’ll be back soon – there is also a Life in the English Cotswolds Facebook page that might be of interest.
Have you come across the natural history writing of the Victorian author, Richard Jefferies? Having read you blog I think that his books The Open Air and The Life of the Fields will be of interest and also be quite helpful. There is something wonderfully calming about his writing. Take care, John
I stumbled across your blog purely be accident. I have two adorable deerhounds and live on the edge of the Cotswolds.
Richard Jefferies also happens to be my favourite author.
I look forward to reading more of ‘Life in the English Cotswolds’….most enjoyable.
Many thanks, Beverley, for taking time to comment which is always appreciated. Envious of your deerhounds and delighted to learn that your a Richard Jefferies fan too. Have you come across the Richard Jefferies Society? Also the RJ museum at Coate, nr Swindon; it’s in the farmhouse where RJ was brought up.
Both myself and the RJ Society have Facebook and Twitter pages if you are that way inclined!