Breed Group: Hound
Similar in many respects to the larger Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deerhound exemplifies dignity, courage, and charm. They can be a wonderful addition to any family committed to the needs and challenges of owning an extremely large dog. As companions, they are loving, devoted, gentle and affectionate. Although independent, they are eager to please their masters and extremely tolerant. They tend to be docile indoors but require a great amount of space to stretch out for their regular naps. Outdoors, they love to run and chase, so a large, fenced yard is a must. They do need a great deal of daily exercise and make excellent jogging companions. Sometimes classified as one of the 'gentle giants', Scottish Deerhounds are generally good with children and other dogs. But they need proper supervision, especially with children. Not for the child’s sake– but because a Deerhound is so docile they can be injured by children who do not understand how to treat a dog. Some can be reserved with strangers but not aggressive or protective. As a sight hound, they are prone to chase other animals. Because of their easy-going, loving nature, they do not make good guard dogs or watchdogs. They are typically quiet but they do have a unique howl, which they use only sporadically.
The Scottish Deerhound has a rough thick coat covering his large well-proportioned body. At a minimum, a Scottish Deerhound ranges between 28 to 30 inches tall and weighs anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds. This allows them to easily counter-surf on top of an average refrigerator. When running or on the chase, they have great stamina and endurance. Their harsh coat is usually multiple shades of gray (blue-gray is the preferred coloring), but can also be brindle, yellow or red. Some have bits of white on their chest, feet, and tail. Their wiry coat lends itself to fairly easy grooming. Brushing is recommended once or twice a week with a slick brush, followed by a steel comb to remove any dead undercoat and tangles. Stripping of loose and dead hair around the face and ears will keep their appearance clean. Their coat is naturally both dirt resistant and weatherproof. Bathing twice a month should keep their coat from acquiring a doggy odor. They are average shedders. With their course, thick hair, they tolerate temperate and cooler temperatures– even harsh winter conditions. But they do poorly in warmer weather and are always much happier living indoors with their families.
An extremely sensitive and gentle breed, Scottish Deerhounds can become quite shy, even nervous if not properly socialized. Training can be somewhat of a challenge. The key is short, creative training sessions. Extremely intelligent but easily distractible, they tend to bore easily with routine and thus will disengage with their trainer. Like most hounds, they have a certain will of their own and as a result can be slow to obey commands. Because of the difficulty in training them, their need for great amounts of time and space, and their health concerns, this is not a breed best matched with a novice dog owner.
Major health concerns of the Scottish Deerhound include Bone Cancer and Bloat. Feeding 2 to 3 small meals a day rather than one large meal and avoiding exercise before and after eating helps alleviate bloat. Minor health concerns include Cardiomyopathy, Hypothyroidism, OCD, and infections of their anal gland. They typically live less than 10 years.
The Scottish Deerhound is ranked 135th of the dog breeds recognized by AKC, with a mere 140 registered each year. They are widely considered extremely valuable not only because of their rarity but because of their nearly unparalleled hunting abilities, although most serve primarily as companion dogs today.
The Scottish Deerhound’s history is one surrounded by an elitism so exclusive that it almost led to the breed’s extinction. An ancient breed, they did not have their current form until the 16th century. At this time they were used by Scottish chieftains to hunt deer. The breed was so highly prized by Scottish nobility that it became known as the royal dog of Scotland and could not be owned by anyone ranking lower than an Earl. With such tight ownership restrictions followed in the mid-1700s by the collapse of the Scottish clan system, the breed began a long decline in numbers. This decline was fueled by the introduction of the breech-loading rifle, which hunters began using in the 1800s to shoot deer instead of hunting with Scottish Deerhounds. World War I further contributed to the breed’s near disappearance. Still owned primarily by wealthy European estate owners, their Deerhounds were destroyed as their estates fell to the enemy. Alarmed by the threat of extinction, devoted breed lovers began to restore their numbers. The quality of breed has always been a much greater factor than the quantity. They were first exhibited in dog shows in England in the 1860s. The first Deerhound registered with the AKC was in 1886. Today, Scottish Deerhounds are primarily companion dogs but still retain their great hunting prowess.
In the Middle Ages, they were so prized by royalty that anyone condemned to death could receive a reprieve if they paid a Scottish Deerhound. Always considered an aristocratic breed, the Deerhound was fancied by Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott. The National (US) Breed Club is the Scottish Deerhound Club of America.