by James Callan
The history of the Deerhound starts around 2000 years ago when
the Celtic people came to Britain and Ireland. Large Greyhound
type dogs accompanied these travellers. These strong and fast
hunting dogs eventually made their way to Scotland, and evolved
into the Deerhound that we know today.
The Deerhound can best be described as a taller, larger boned
Greyhound with a shaggy coat. The main use for this breed was to
chase down and kill the red deer. Deer hunting with the dogs was
carried out on foot, stalking in close to the quarry and when
the right moment presented itself the hounds were released
towards the deer. To hunt the red deer in the Scottish Highlands
meant these dogs had to have plenty of speed, endurance,
strength and courage as well as excellent eyesight as these dogs
hunt primarily by sight.
Early settlers brought the Deerhound to Australia and used them
to hunt Dingoes, Emus and Kangaroos. They also crossed these
dogs with Greyhounds to produce the Kangaroo Dog and the
Staghound. The Deerhound was also used in the development of the
American Staghound (Coyote Hound), some strains of British
Lurcher and also the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
As Hunting Dogs:
Deerhounds have been used on many game species such as Deer,
Hare, Fox, Wolf, Gazelle, Antelope and Coyote. They are still
used in some parts of Africa by farmers for hunting gazelle,
antelope and jackal. They are used in Britain for Fox, Hare and
Rabbit and some Deerhounds are used to hunt Coyote and Rabbits
in Canada and America. In Australia they are mainly used for
Fox, Hare, Rabbit, Pig and Dingo.
Hunting in Australia:
I started hunting with dogs for around 30 years ago and have
used many different types of dogs. Some of the best were the
Deerhound and Sight Hound Breeds like the Kangaroo Dog and the
I bought my first pure Deerhound 17 years ago and have had them
ever since. I have hunted many types of game with the Deerhound
and they have proven themselves extremely capable showing great
speed, stamina and courage.
It should be remembered that in the past Deerhounds were usually
hunted in pairs and if you don't have two Deerhounds they should
be teamed with another breed when out hunting. We have had great
success using the Deerhound and Rhodesian Ridgeback together.
The Ridgeback would find the pigs then both dogs would chase and
hold. Deerhounds don't use their nose much when hunting, they
rely on their excellent vision and speed. These hounds are good
to have when out spotlighting on open ground or grain stubble as
it is rare that a pig would out run a Deerhound. A simple voice
command is all that is needed and these dogs will let go of a
caught pig and go chase another one.
For a few years we caught wild goats for live export, the goats
had to be healthy and free from bite wounds. Nannies and young
goats were easily rounded up with sheep and cattle dogs but the
large billies would break away from the mob and defy the working
dogs. We used Ridgebacks and deerhounds to catch these billies.
The dogs would grab the goats by the ears, applying only a small
amount of pressure. The goats were then loaded into vehicles and
transported to the holding yards.
It is exciting to watch the Deerhound in full flight after a
fox, especially in open
country such as the rice fields in southern NSW and the wide
open spaces of central
Queensland and NSW. Because of their size they can't turn as
quick as a smaller dog but they more than make up the difference
with their excellent speed and stamina.
When hunting in heavy cover it might be advisable to hunt with
other breeds to flush foxes and use the Deerhound for the chase.
In some states of Australia it is illegal to chase Deer with
dogs however we have hunted
Deer on private land where these animals were causing damage to
vegetation and fences. The Deerhounds true colours shone when
they were in pursuit of a Deer, not only covering great
distances in a short time but showing awesome courage in pulling
down and dispatching anything from Hinds to fully grown stags.
The Deerhound has an excellent temperament. They are trustworthy
with children, pets and livestock. These are the type of dog
that can go out and catch and kill foxes, than come home and
share its food with the family cat. They are obedient and
intelligent and make excellent pets although they do not make
good guard dogs. Purebred Deerhounds have a few faults as pig
dogs as they hunt mainly by sight not smell and their long coat
is not suitable for burr invested country. The ideal height and
weight of the Deerhound should be:-
Minimum Height 76cm and Bitches - 71cm
Dogs - Minimum Weight 45kg and Bitches from 36kg
Acceptable colours include dark blue/grey, darker and lighter
greys or brindles. The
yellow and red colours died out many years ago.
Choosing a Pup:
When choosing a pup of this type it is important to remember
that they grow very rapidly and need plenty of high quality food
to maintain strong bone growth. It should also be remembered
that these puppies, although large in size do not mature
mentally until they are 12 months to two years old and should
not be expected to start hunting as early as smaller dog breeds.
Exercise is very important for the growing pup but it is not a
good idea to over do it in
the first ten or eleven months as over exercise could lead to
bone deformities in the
between the Deerhound and Irish Wolfhound:
The large hunting dogs of the Celts found their way across
England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and were used to hunt deer,
wolf and wild boar. The dogs of Scotland (later to become the
Scottish Deerhound) and the dogs of Ireland (later to become the
Irish Wolfhound) were originally the same type, but were
gradually modified to suit the
different needs of their owners. The Scots needed a lighter,
faster hound to catch and
kill red deer, while the Irish wanted a stronger, heavier dog
better suited to killing
Today the Deerhound and Wolfhound are still confused with each
other by some people. The main physical differences are Irish
Wolfhounds have larger, heavier heads and body than the
deerhounds. The hunting styles are also different. A Wolfhound
uses its nose when hunting and the Deerhound uses mostly
The pure Irish Wolfhound makes a better pig dog than the pure
Deerhound although the
Deerhound is better on all other game being faster and more
I owned Wolfhound/Greyhound crosses for approximately 10 years
and found them excellent but I now use pure Deerhounds as I hunt
a larger variety of game.
It is also very hard to find pure Irish Wolfhounds which come
from hunting kennels and
most hunting Wolfhounds that are advertised aren't pure bred.
I find the Deerhound to be an excellent alternative to the
Wolfhound in regard to cross
breeding for different types of pig dogs. Most pig dogs already
have a good sense of
smell, the deerhounds are certainly a lot faster, cheaper and
more easy to obtain than the Irish Wolfhound.
Our aim is to breed quality Deerhounds which excel on the
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