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Scottish Deerhound Breed Information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More

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Last Updated: August 9, 2023 | 10 min read | 2 Comments

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The Scottish Deerhound is a rare dog in America. And it isn’t easy to understand why once you learn about this lovely pup. They are sweet, gentle, and well-mannered. Maybe it’s their giant size and incredible height. Or perhaps it’s because they are always confused for their doggy doppelganger, the more popular Irish Wolfhound. Whatever the reason, this pooch is a gem in our eyes.

The Scottish Deerhound is known as the ‘Royal Dog of Scotland’, and they are an ancient breed. Supposedly older than the Scotts themselves! These dogs are now more common in family homes rather than hunting deer in the field. Still, they need lots of exercise. They are sensitive dogs who hate to be left alone, so they need a family with lots of time to dedicate to them.

We explore everything you need to know about the Scottish Deerhound. If you are thinking about welcoming this tall pup into your home, it’s essential to do your research. Let’s take a wee look at their grooming needs, nutritional requirements, how much exercise they need, and much more.

Scottish Deerhound
    • weight iconWeight75-110 pounds
    • height iconHeight28-32 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan8-11 years
    • color iconColorsBlue gray, brindle, gray, gray brindle
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

History

Scottish Deerhound in the wild
The breed is so old that no one knows much about their origins.

Canine historians believe that they were around long before the Scotts arrived in Scotland in the ninth century. We know they were traditionally used for hunting and killing sizeable red deer weighing nearly 400 pounds with huge antlers. Evidence of this breed and their name appears in artifacts from the 16th century. A famous Scottish writer, Sir Walter Scott, described Scottish Deerhounds in his novel The Talisman as “the most perfect creature of Heaven.”

Deerhounds have always been prized for their gentle nature in the home and explosive power in the field. So much so that no one of rank lower than an earl was allowed to own one. However, the desire for exclusive ownership nearly led to their extinction in the mid-1700s. Thankfully, noblemen Archibald and Duncan McNeill revived the breed in the early 19th century and are famous for saving them. The McNeill bloodline is one of the oldest Deerhound strains.

Deerhounds are usually hunted singularly or in couples, and they are sighthounds that hunt by sight rather than scent. Today in the U.S., this pooch is rare, typically ranking anywhere between 150th and 170th out of 280+ breeds registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). The first Scottish Deerhound registered by the AKC was a pup named Bonnie Robin in 1886.

Temperament

There is a phrase to describe the Scottish Deerhound (and the Irish Wolfhound), and it is “gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.” They are courageous but not aggressive unless required to protect their family or hunt. Most Deerhounds are super sweet and gentle with their family, forming close bonds with their humans. They are also very affectionate and crave cuddles and rubs from their family.

Regarding strangers, they are neither bothered nor intrigued by them. They let strangers walk in without batting an eyelid and aren’t big barkers. This means if you’re looking for a guard dog, this is not the pooch for you. But for those seeking a relatively calm, dignified, and regal hound, you’re in for a sweet treat.

Deerhounds are social pack dogs that crave the company of their loved ones, and this isn’t a pup that enjoys alone time. Instead, you can find them enjoying snoozes on the sofa or sprawled across your lap if you let them. It’s not like you can pop your Deerhound in your purse, so if you travel a lot or work long hours away from home, this is not a compatible breed.

Size & Appearance

Scottish Deerhound laying down outside
Overall, they look like larger and rougher-coated Greyhounds.

The Scottish Deerhound is a bog doggo, and they typically measure between 28 and 32 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. And they usually weigh between 75 and 110 pounds, making them a large to giant breed. If you think this is big, you should check out their Irish Wolfhound cousin, who they regularly get confused with. Even professionals in the dog world confuse the two breeds.

Deerhounds have deep chests and narrow waists like many sighthounds, indicating a large lung capacity and a streamlined body. Their skull and muzzle are long, carried high by their strong neck, and their eyes are usually dark brown or hazel. All their features, such as lips, eyelid rims, nails, and paw pads, should be black. Compared to their body, their ears are small but frame their sweet and dignified faces.

If you want to show your Deerhound in the conformation ring, they must adhere to the appearance criteria set out in the Scottish Deerhound breed standard. Here you’ll find points of importance for the judges. These standards aren’t particularly important if you plan to keep your Deerhound for only companionship or hunting purposes.

Coat & Colors

The Scottish Deerhound’s coat reaches about three to four inches long on their body. Its harsh and wiry texture protects them against the elements, particularly the harsh ones in Scotland. The hair on their face, chest, and belly is much softer. Although Deerhounds can have several coat types, including silky and woolly ones, the ideal coat is a thick, wiry coat that is harsh and crisp.

Deerhounds usually have dark-colored coats, and the dark blue-gray coat color is the most favored in the ring and by breed aficionados. The second-best coat colors are the darker grays or brindles, followed by the lighter coats. Their coat also comes in a red fawn or sandy red, which are just as beautiful, especially with black ears and muzzles. Some Deerhounds have a small white mark on their sternum, although the less white coloring they have in the ring, the better.

Exercise & Living Conditions

Scottish Deerhound running outside
Scottish Deerhounds are natural-born hunters, so you can expect them to need a fair bit of exercise.

They need around one hour of daily activity. Their long and powerful legs need stretching, and although they love regular walks, they love to run freely. But, and it’s a big but, they shouldn’t be let off-leash in a public area. No matter how obedient they are, they’ll be off if they spot a rabbit.

They are calm pups, but only when given the proper exercise. In addition to the hour of outdoor activity, they also need regular and interactive playtime throughout the day. Not only to stimulate their mind but also to please their need for companionship. They have active and curious minds, too, so providing them with dog toys to play with throughout the day is essential. If they can take down a 400-pound deer, you can be sure they’ll ruin your sofa with no trouble.

They also have an incredibly high prey drive and aren’t the best choice for multi-pet households. Anything smaller and furrier than them, which is pretty much any non-doggo pet, is prey to chase. They’d appreciate the company of another dog if socialized well, so if you’ve got the room, why not get two Deerhounds? They are very sweet with most children too and naturally draw towards them. But because of their sheer size, it’s important to supervise them with kids at all times.

Training

The Scottish Deerhound is sometimes a stubborn dog breed, making training tricky. They want to know what’s in it before agreeing to anything. But with early training and consistency, you can transform them into well-trained pets. Deerhounds are sensitive pups who respond best to positive training rather than overly harsh or loud methods.

Socialization is a crucial part of the Deerhound’s training. They need to learn how to interact with other humans and dogs politely. It also builds their confidence, creating a happier and healthier dog. Without it, you might find an unruly and obnoxious giant canine on your hands, which is not a good outcome for anyone. Don’t expect them not to chase small animals because it’s in their blood. Instead, focus on leash-training them.

Deerhounds don’t like to be left alone for long periods, so it’s essential to crate-train them. This gives them a safe space to call their own, and it helps to lower their anxiety. It also means you can keep them out of trouble and away from your favorite sneaker collection. Find a large, strong crate that can keep them safe and secure.

Health

Scottish Deerhound face up close
Like all purebred dogs, they are predisposed to several health conditions.

The Scottish Deerhound is a relatively healthy dog breed with a life expectancy of 8 to 11 years. Not all Deerhounds experience these issues, but it’s worth being clued up on them if you are about to welcome one of these pups into your home.

Cardiac Conditions

Deerhounds are prone to several cardiac conditions, mainly dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM.) DCM is a heart disease that causes the walls to thin, meaning it cannot pump blood efficiently. This can shorten your dog’s lifespan and cause extra stress on their body and other organs. Symptoms include rapid breathing, restless sleeping, increased coughing, lethargy, fainting, depression, and death. Regular visits to the vet can help identify heart concerns early.

Cystinuria

Cystinuria is a condition that causes an amino acid called cystine to build up in the urine, which can eventually lead to bladder or kidney stones. If you find your dog straining to urinate, having accidents in the home, or finding blood in their urine, they need immediate medical attention. It can be excruciating and cause dangerous complications if left untreated.

Factor VII Deficiency

Factor VII Deficiency is a type of blood clotting disorder. Affected dogs might seem generally healthy but experience unusually heavy or prolonged bleeding. It is life-threatening, especially if they become injured or have surgery. Breeders should submit their dogs for a DNA test to identify if they carry the gene, and if they do, they shouldn’t breed them.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, also known as bloat, is more common in large dogs with deep chests. Bloat is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. It usually occurs when a dog gobbles a large meal, typically close to a session of exercise, and causes the stomach to dilate and expand. This can cause many problems, such as restricting blood flow, rupturing the stomach wall, leading to shock, which causes other organs to shut down, and eventually death. Make yourself aware of the symptoms and act immediately.

Liver Concerns

Deerhounds are predisposed to liver shunt. Breeders should submit their dogs for a bile acid test which helps to determine if their liver is working efficiently. It can identify portosystemic shunt and severe pancreatitis. Symptoms indicating a liver problem include jaundice, weight loss, vomiting, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite.

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is a primary bone tumor that usually occurs in the limbs, although it can appear in the skull, spine, or ribcage. Some of the most common symptoms include loss of appetite, swelling in the legs, ribs, spine, or jaw, a mass, limping, weakness, or respiratory distress. It can spread rapidly, so be sure to book an urgent appointment.

Nutrition

Scottish Deerhound snout trying to eat grass
Always follow the feeding guidelines on food packaging, and expect them to eat more than the average canine.

A Deerhound’s consumption depends on various factors, including age, sex, activity levels, and size. They must eat a high-quality diet compliant with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines.

Their food also needs to be age appropriate. This is particularly important during puppyhood when their body is growing. Look for puppy food suitable for large breeds during their development. This gives them the nutrients they need and helps control growth, which can lower the chances of skeletal problems later in life. Deerhounds do well on any high-quality diet, including kibble, wet, raw, or fresh foods.

Grooming

The Scottish Deerhound’s coat is harsh and wiry, but it doesn’t require much maintenance compared to other breeds. They only need brushing and combing once a week to keep their locks dirt and tangle-free. The best tools for your Deerhound’s coat are a slicker brush and a fine-toothed metal dog comb. Bath your pooch once every two or three months to control doggy odor. Just be sure to rinse and dry them thoroughly.

Groom time isn’t just about keeping your puppy clean and smelling nice. It also helps to strengthen the bond between dog and owner, which your Deerhound will appreciate. But it also allows you to inspect your Deerhound for any lumps or indications they might have a tumor, which they are predisposed to. Establish a dental health routine at an early age to keep periodontal diseases away.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Finding a responsible breeder is crucial in finding the right puppy for you and your family. They make sure you are the right family for their pups and do everything they can to produce a healthy litter. And they can provide you with health certificates too. This breed is rare in America, so you might have to travel significantly. But this is a small sacrifice for buying a healthy and happy puppy. Be wary of backyard breeders or puppy mills who have no interest in producing healthy puppies.

A Scottish Deerhound from a reputable breeder costs between $1,000 and $2,500. If you are looking for a Deerhound from an award-winning bloodline or champion hunter, you can expect to pay more than this. You need to remember this is just the puppy’s cost, and you need to provide your pup with everything they need to be happy and healthy. Because the Deerhound is a large to giant breed, you can also expect to pay more than the average dog for most things, such as food and medical bills.

Rescues & Shelters

Head out to your local shelter and ask about Deerhounds who may be up for adoption in your local area.

The Deerhound is a rare breed in America, which also means they are rare in rescue shelters. Alternatively, check online rescue organizations that list adoptable Deerhounds nationwide or the Scottish Deerhound Club of America rescue network. The cost of rescuing a dog is usually much lower than buying a pup from a breeder.

As A Family Pet

  • Scottish Deerhounds are large to giant dog breeds that need plenty of room.
  • Most are sweet and affectionate with their family but aloof with strangers.
  • As a sighthound with an extremely high prey drive, you can’t let them off-leash in public.
  • They are courageous when threatened but gentle creatures overall.
  • Deerhounds hate to be left alone for long periods.
  • They need an active family that can spend lots of time with them.
  • This is a top choice for a multi-dog household, but they shouldn’t live with smaller pets.
  • Deerhounds do well with dog-savvy children who understand and respect their vast size.
  • They can be stubborn dogs, but they can be obedient companions with consistent training.

Final Thoughts

The Scottish Deerhound is a beautiful pup who wants nothing more than a family to keep them company, regular exercise, and lots of cuddles. They are sweet and gentle dogs with a courageous and sometimes stubborn streak. They are large dogs, and if you’ve got the room and time for them, they have lots of love to give. And you’ll understand why Sir Walter Scott described them as “the most perfect creature of Heaven.”

Irish Wolfhound in field with small white dog (caption: Irish Wolfhound Guide)

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