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Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes Of Dogs
by Captain Thomas Brown, 1829.
Scottish Highland Greyhound or Wolfdog (Deerhound),
The Scotch Greyhound, Irish Greyhound


This is a large and powerful dog, nearly equal in size to the Irish greyhound. His general aspect is commanding and fierce; his head is long, and muzzle rather sharp; his ears pendulous, but not long; his eyes large, keen, and penetrating, half-concealed among the long, stiff, bristly hair with which his face is covered; his body is very strong and muscular, deepchested, tapering towards the loins, and his back slightly arched; his hind-quarters are furnished with large prominent muscles, and his legs are long, strongboned, and straight,—a combination of qualities which gives him that speed and long duration in the chase for which he is so eminently distinguished. His hair is shaggy and wiry, of a reddish sand colour, mixed with white; his tail is rough, which he carries somewhat in the manner of a stag-hound, but not quite so erect.

This is the dog formerly used by the Highland chieftains of Scotland in their grand hunting parties, and is in all probability the same noble dog used in the time of Ossian.

The Scottish Highland Greyhound will either hunt in packs or singly.

A remarkably fine and large dog of this description was long in the possession of our distinguished countryman and lover of antiquity, Sir Walter Scott, Bart., and was a most appropriate guardian for his tasteful, unique, and magnificent seat at Abbotsford. This splendid dog was presented to Sir Walter as a mark of the highest respect and esteem by the late chieftain, Macdonell of Glengarry, a gentleman distinguished for his zeal in keeping up the dress, national character, and ardour of his native mountaineers, as well as every thing that appertained to their ancient sports, manners, and customs. He preserved this race of dogs with much care; and, in order to prevent the degeneracy which arises from consanguinity, he was in the practice of crossing the breed with the blood-hound from Cuba, and also with the shepherd's dog of the Pyrenees, which is distinguished for its size, beauty, and docility.

Sir Walter Scott's Maida was the offspring of a sire of the latter species, and a dam of the Scottish Highland race, and certainly was one of the finest dogs of the kind that was ever seen in this country, not only on account of his symmetry of form and dignified aspect, but also from his extraordinary size and strength. So uncommon was his appearance, that he used to attract great crowds in Edinburgh, to look at him .whenever he appeared in the streets; and we are told by Sir Walter, that, when travelling with him through a strange town, it was usual for Maida to be surrounded by crowds of amateurs, "whose curiosity he indulged with great patience, until it began to be troublesome, when a single short bark gave warning that he must be urged no farther." Nothing could exceed the fidelity, obedience, and attachment of this dog to his master, whom he seldom quitted, and to whom he was a constant attendant when travelling.

Perhaps the most striking proof of his magnitude was, that those who practised the unlawful amusement of tracking in Ettrick Forest, (of which Sir Walter is Sheriff), frequently mistook the prints of his feet for the marks of some wild animal which had escaped from a travelling menagerie.

Maida was a remarkably high-spirited and beautiful dog, with black ears, cheeks, back, and sides, extending to nearly the tip of the tail, which was white. His muzzle, neck, throat, breast, belly, and legs, were white. The hair on his whole body and limbs was rough and shaggy, and particularly so on the neck, throat, and breast; that on the ridge of the neck he used to raise like a lion's mane when excited to anger. His disposition was gentle and peaceable both to men and animals; but he showed marked symptoms of anger to ill-dressed or blackguard-looking people, whom he always regarded with a suspicious eye, and whose motions he watched with the most scrupulous jealousy.*

* Sir Walter Scott writes me,—" I looked over your description of the Scottish dog, and have little to add to it either as connected with the species or with the individual Maida,—only the species is different from that of the blood-hound or slouth-hound, though they are also fine-scented, and will not leave a hurt deer.

This fine specimen of the dog probably brought on himself premature old age by the excessive fatigue and exercise to which his natural ardour inclined him; for he had the greatest pleasure in accompanying the common greyhounds; and although from his great size and strength he was not at all adapted for coursing, yet he not unfrequently turned and even ran down hares

Maida lies buried at the gate of Abbotsford, which he long protected; a grave-stone is placed over him, with the figure of a dog cut on it by Mr John Smith of Melrose, and bears the following inscription:

Maida, tu marmorea dormis sub imagine Maida-
Ad januam domini. Sit tibi terra levis!

Amusing Incident

Sir Walter Scott has most obligingly furnished me with the following anecdote of his celebrated dog Maida:

"Maida's bark was deep and hollow. Sometimes he amused himself with howling in a very tiresome way. When he was very fond of his friends he used to grin, tucking up his whole lips and showing all his teeth, but it was only when he was particularly disposed to recommend himself. Nimrod, his successor, has the same manners. He also was a gift of Glengarry."

"I was once riding over a field on which the'reaper* were at work, the stooks being placed behind them as is usual. Maida having found a hare, began to chase her, to the great amusement of the spectators, as the hare turned very often and very swiftly among the stooks. At length, being hard pressed, she fairly bolted into one of them: Maida went in headlong after her, and the stook began to be much agitated in various directions; at length the sheaves tumbled' down, and the hare and the dog, terrified alike at their overthrow, ran different ways, to the great amusement of the spectators.

Maida disliked artists

Among several peculiarities which Sir Walter Scott's dog, Maida, possessed, one was a strong aversion to a certain class of artists, arising from the frequent restraints he was subjected to in having his portrait taken, on account of his majestic appearance. The instant he saw a pencil and paper produced he prepared to beat a retreat; and, if forced to remain, he exhibited the strongest marks of displeasure.

Ranaldson Macdonell, Esq. of Glengarry, has most kindly furnished me with the following interesting notices and anecdotes of the Scottish Highland Greyhound :—

A hint to be off

"Not many years since, one of Glengarry's tenants, who had some business with his chief, happened to arrive at Glengarry-House at rather an early hour in the morning. A Deer-hound perceiving this person sauntering about before the domestics were astir, walked quietly up to him, took him gently by the wrist with his teeth, and proceeded to lead him off the ground. The man, finding him forbearing, attempted resistance, but the dog instantly seizing his wrist with redoubled pressure, soon convinced him that his attempt was in vain. Thus admonished, the man took the hint, and quietly yielded to his canine conductor, who, without farther injury, led him to the outside of the gate and then left him. The whole of the dogs at Glengarry-House were allowed to go at liberty at all times."

Espirit de corps

"The Highland Greyhounds, or Deer-hounds as they are called in the Highlands, have a great antipathy to the sheep-dogs, and never fail to attack them whenever an opportunity offers. "A shepherd, whose colly had frequently been attacked by the Deer-dogs of Glengarry singly, and always succeeded in beating them off on such occasions, was one day assailed by them in a body, and his life would have been in considerable danger, but for one of the keepers, who happened to pass at the time, and called them off." Determined Sporting

"The following circumstance will prove the exquisite sense of smell possessed by the Deer-hound. One of this breed, named Bran, when held in the leash, followed the track of a wounded stag, and that in most unfavourable rainy weather, for three successive days, at the end of which time the game was shot.

"He was wounded first within nine miles of Invergarry-House, and was traced that night to the estate of Glenmoriston. At dusk in the evening the deerstalkers placed a stone on each side of the last fresh print of his hoof, and another over it; and this they did each night following. On the succeeding morning they removed the upper stone, when the dog recovered the scent, and the deer was that day traced over a great part of Glenmoriston's ground. On the third day he was retraced to the lands of Glengarry, and there shot."

Gallant Achievement

"My present dog, Comhstri, to great courage unites the quality of a gentle disposition, with much fidelity and attachment. Though not so large as some of his kindred, he is nevertheless as high-spirited and determined as any of his race, which the following circumstance will testify:—

"About three years ago, a deer from the wood of Derrygarbh, whose previous hurts had been healed, came out of Glengarry's pass, who wounded it severely in the body with' a rifle bullet. The Deerhounds were immediately laid on the blood-track. The stag was started in the course of a few minutes; the dogs were instantly slipped, and the fine animal ran to bay in a deep pool of water, below a cascade, on the Garyquulach burn. Comhstri immediately plunged in, and seized the stag by the throat; both went under water, surrounded with the white foam, slightly tinged with the deer's blood. The dog soon came to the surface to recover his breath, and before the other could do so, Comhstri dived, and again seized him by the throat. The stag was soon after taken out of the pool dead.

"Comhstri's colour is grey, with a white chest; but we have had them of different colours at Glengarry, such as pure white, black, brindled, and sand-colour.

"When the Highlanders dream of a black dog, it is interpreted to mean one of the clan of Macdonell; but if of a Deer-hound, it denotes a chief, or one of the principal persons of that clan."

Beth Gelert

In a village at the foot of Snowden, a mountain in Wales, there is a tradition that Llewellyn, son-in-law to King John, had a residence in that neighbourhood. The king, it is said, had presented him with one of the finest greyhounds in England, named Gelert. In the year 1205, Llewellyn one day on going out to hunt called all his dogs together, but his favourite greyhound was amissing, and nowhere to be found. He blew his horn as a signal for the chase, and still Gelert came not. Llewellyn was much disconcerted at the heedlessness of his favourite, but at length pursued the chase without him. For want of Gelert the sport was limited; and getting tired, he returned home at an early hour, when the first object that presented itself to him at his castle gate was Gelert, who bounded with his usual transport to meet his master, having his lips besmeared with blood. Llewellyn gazed with surprise at the unusual appearance of his dog.

On going into the apartment where he had left his infant son and heir asleep, he found the bedclothes all in confusion, the cover rent, and stained with blood. He called on his child, but no answer was made, from which he hastily concluded that the dog must have devoured him; and, giving vent to his rage, plunged his sword to the hilt in Gelert's side. The noble animal fell at his feet, uttering a dying yell which awoke the infant, who was sleeping beneath a mingled heap of the bedclothes, while beneath the bed lay a great wolf covered with gore, whom the faithful and gallant hound had destroyed. Llewellyn, smitten with sorrow and remorse for the rash and frantic deed which had deprived him of so faithful an animal, caused an elegant marble monument, with an appropriate inscription, to be erected over the spot where Gelert was buried, to commemorate his fidelity and unhappy fate. The place to this day is. called Beth-Gelert, or the Grave of the Greyhound.

I have placed the above under the head of the Scottish Highland dog, as the common greyhound singly is not a match for the wolf; and, besides, the Scottish' dogs were much prized in England from the earliest times, which the following interesting account, taken from Hollinshed'g Chronicles, " Historie of Scotland, page 71, printed in 1586" will show. The circumstance occurred anno Christi 288. "And shortlie after the return of these ambassadors into their countries, divers young gentlemen of the Pictish nobilitie repaired unto King Crathlint to hunt and make merie with him; but when they should depart homewards, perceiving that the Scotish dogs did farre excell theirs, both in fairnesse, swiftnesse, hardinesse, and also in long standing up and holding out, they got diverse both dogs and bitches of the best kinds for breed to be given them by the Scotish Lords; and yet not so contented, they stole one belonging to the king from his keeper, being more esteemed of him than all the others which he had about him. The master of the leash being informed hereof, pursued after them which had stolen that dog, thinking indeed to have taken him from them; but they not willing to depart with him, fell at altercation, and in the end chanced to strike the maister of the leash through with their horsespeares that he died presentlie; whereupon noise and crie being raised in the countrie by his servants, diverse of the Scots, as they were going home from hunting, returned, and, falling upon the Picts to revenge the death of their fellow, there ensued a shrewd bickering betwixt them, so that of the Scots there died three score gentlemen, besides a great number of the commons, not one of them understanding (till all was done) what the matter meant. Of the Picts there were about an hundred slaine."

The above circumstance led to a bloody war betwixt the two nations.


This dog, in point of form, is similar in all respects to the common greyhound, differing only in its being of a larger size, and in the hair being wiry, in place of that beautiful sleekness which distinguishes the coat of the other. Their colour for the most part is of a reddish-brown or sandy hue, although they are sometimes to be met with quite black. I saw some powerful animals of this description in the north of Ireland, in possession of the small farmers and peasants of the mountainous districts. They are said to be the only dogs which are capable of catching the hares which inhabit those mountain ranges,—the common greyhound wanting strength for such a laborious chase. These dogs in Ireland are almost universally dark iron grey, with very strong grizzly hair, and are much superior in many respects to any I have seen in Scotland. I remarked a peculiarity in those Irish hounds, which was that of having very small but extremely brilliant and penetrating hazel-coloured eyes; their teeth were also very strong and long.

We are informed by Topsel, that this dog was used for tracing thieves in Scotland, and also on the borders of England, and that he had an excellent sense of smelling. Even at the present day he has this sense in a more acute state than the common greyhound; and it is probable that in early times he was still more distinguished by an active power of scent.

(Canis Grains Hibernicus, Ray.)

This is one of the largest of the canine race, with an air at once beautiful, striking, and majestic. He has been known to grow to the extraordinary height of four feet, although the general standard is about three feet.

In shape the Irish Greyhound somewhat resembles the common greyhound, only that he is much larger, and more muscular in his formation, clumsy in all his different parts, and is quite unserviceable for hunting either the stag, fox, or hare. His chief use in former times was in clearing the country of wolves and wild boars, for which his great size and strength peculiarly adapted him.

The colour of the Irish Greyhound is a pale cinnamon or fawn. His aspect is mild, and his disposition gentle and peaceable. It is said he is greatly an overmatch for either the mastiff or bull-dog; and when he fights, he generally seizes his antagonist by the back, and shakes him to death, which his great strength enables him to do with ease.

M. Buffon supposes the great Danish dog to be only a variety of the Irish Greyhound; and Mr Pennant was of opinion that the French matin and the Albanian dog were also varieties of the same.

The Irish Greyhound is now rarely to be met with even in his native country.

The Marquis of Sligo is among the few individuals who possess that fine animal in a state of tolerable purity; he keeps a number at Westport, in the county of Mayo, Ireland, where there is a person employed to look after them. It is said that great care is necessary to preserve the breed, and to keep them in good health. Aylmer Bourke Lambert, Esq., one of the vice presidents of the Linnsean Society, took the measurement of one of the Marquis of Sligo's dogs, which was as follows :—" From the point of the nose to the tip of the tail, sixty-one inches; tail, seventeen and a half inches long; from the tip of the nose to the back part of the skull, ten inches ; from the back part of the skull to the beginning of the tail, thirty-three inches; from the toe to the top of the fore-shoulder, twentyeight inches and a half; the length of the leg, sixteen inches; from the point of the hind-toes to the top of the hind-shoulders, thirteen inches; from the point of the nose to the eye, four inches and a half; the ears, six inches long; round the widest part of the belly, (about three inches from the fore-legs,) thirtyfive inches; twenty-six inches round the hind-part, close to the hind-legs; the hair short and smooth; the colour of some brown and white, of others black and white."

They seemed good-tempered animals, but, from the accounts Mr Lambert received, it is obvious that they must have degenerated, particularly in point of size.

Dr Goldsmith says he has seen a dozen of these dogs, and assures us the largest was about four feet high, and as tall as a calf of a year old.

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