Scottish Deerhound

Breed At A Glance


Quiet, gentle and friendly

Life Expectancy
8-11 years

Average Height
Males 30-32 inches; Females 28-30 inches

Average Weight
Males 85-110 lbs; Females 65-95 lbs

Coat Color
Gray, blue-gray, fawn, or brindle

Coat Length/Texture
Harsh and wiry, weather resistent

Shedding Propensity
Consistently year round

Also known as Deerhound

General Temperament

The Scottish Deerhound is an elegant and gentle breed. Although they are devoted and loyal, they are not considered good guard dogs because they simply like people too much, including strangers. They are very calm and quiet in the home.

Although they known for being extremely docile and patient with children, the sheer size of the Scottish Deerhound may necessitate some supervision when a youthful dog is around toddlers. This breed typically gets along well with other dogs, but given it’s natural hunting instincts, should never be completely trusted with non-canine pets. Socialization during puppyhood can help to minimize this tendency.

The Scottish Deerhound is relatively easy to housebreak, but takes much more patience and diligence to train in obedience. They are want their owners to be happy and will follow commands reliably once learned, but it may take many tries to get the the command to sink in.

This breed is not recommended for apartment life. They will function best in a home with a large yard or, better yet, plenty of acreage where they can safely roam free. Young Deerhounds in particular need plenty of exercise to develop properly. They become much more sedentary as adults, but still need adequate activity to maintain good health. This breed makes an excellent jogging companion.

Breed History

The Scottish Deerhound may once have been identical to the ancient Irish Wolf Dog, although it is more commonly accepted as a descendent of the Greyhound. It is larger than the Greyhound and has longer, coarser fur, an adaptation to the harsh Scottish climate. As it’s name denotes, it was developed as a deer hunting dog for the Scottish Chieftains of the middle ages. As time wore on, this breed became so highly esteemed that it was reserved for royalty, with no one less than an earl being permitted to own one. An unfortunate consequence of this elitism was the near extinction of the breed as a whole. By the end of the 18th century, the breed was all but extinct, it’s last bastion being the Scottish Highlands. In the first half of the 19th century, Archibald and Duncan McNeill ventured to restore the Deerhound to it’s original form and function, a standard which still exists today.

Although the hunting of antlered game with dogs is outlawed in the United States, the Scottish Deerhound is still used to hunt everything from wolves to rabbits. This breed has been recognized by the American Kennel Club since it’s inception.

Body Structure and Composition

Although it may resemble a Greyhound, the Scottish Deerhound is in fact significantly larger and bigger-boned, with longer, coarser hair. The skull is widest at the ears and tapers down to the muzzle. The fur on crown and muzzle is usually softer and silkier than the rest of the body. The ears are folded flat against the head when the dog is at rest, and more erect (but still folded) when active. The long, powerful neck leads down to a topline that slopes as it reaches the hindquarters. The chest is deep, allowing for expanded lung capacity while coursing. The tail is long, reaching almost to the ground. The legs are broad and flat, with the hindquarters being particularly strong to power the dog’s fast gait.

Medical Information

Like most large and giant bred dogs, the Scottish Deerhound is prone to Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), also know as bloat/torsion. Excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by said excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Feeding a Scottish Deerhound two or three meals daily (instead of one large meal) and avoiding heavy exercise following meals may help to prevent GDV.

A condition called Cysturnia can also be a problem for the Scottish Deerhound. This disease is so named for the amino acid cystine, which is caused to build up in excessive amounts due to the kidney’s inability to reabsorb it. The cystine then amasses into kidney or bladder stones. Research is currently being conducted to identify the gene responsible for the development of this disease.

Deerhounds have been known for years to have a problem with uncontrollable bleeding after a major surgery, although the underlying cause has been largely unknown. Recently, though, one potential problem was discovered to be a deficiency in an essential blood clotting factor called “Factor VII.” This genetic disease is autosomal recessive, meaning that both parents would have to be affected or carriers of the gene in order to pass it on to a puppy. Testing for the presence of this gene is currently available from the University of Pennsylvania.

Scottish Deerhounds have been known to be experience heart problems such as Cardiomyopathy (deterioration of the function of the myocardium), as well as the bone cancer Osteosarcoma.

The Scottish Deerhound is a relatively easy breed to care for, although they do require some hand stripping to remove dead hair. An occasional brushing will help keep shedding to a minimum.

Anecdotal Information

As it’s name implies, the Scottish Deerhound is indeed capable of coursing and taking down large antlered game such as deer, although this practice is banned in the United States.

Scottish Deerhounds are rare in the United States. According to registration statistics provided by the American Kennel Club, the breed ranked 137th out of 157 breeds in 2007.

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