Irish Wolfhound Times
(Irish Wolfhound Database and Breed Information Exchange)

About IWTLibraryBreed OriginsReserved For FutureAfghan Hound TimesReserved For FutureBreed StandardEphemera

Scotch Deerhounds and their Masters by By George Cupples, James Hutchison Stirling, Ann Jane Dunn Douglas Cupples, 1894


IWT Editor Note) - Some of the folklore aspects have been skipped over, such as the prediction of the death of Seaforth's four sons before his death (that happened), and the inheritance of his estate by a woman "from the east" (that happened too), Interesting though the story is, it doesn't provide any history of the breeds origins or development. We have tried to concentrate on the hounds history, rather than propogate folklore and traditional stories. Readers interested in these aspects can download the full book from the Internet.

Summary of contents this extract -

The Scotch Deerhounds at the begining of the century (1800's) and their localities.
Various breeds pure strans, a glance at their history from the rebellion to the Colonsay revival strains of Glengarry
Lochiel, Farquarson of Invercauld, Duke of Gordon, Lord Seaforth etc.
Some of the folklore aspects have been skipped over, such as the prediction of the death of Seaforth's four sons before his death, and the inheritance of his estate by a woman "from the east". Interesting though the story is, it doesn't provide any history of the breeds origins or development. We have tried to concentrate on the hounds history, rather than propogate folklore and traditional stories

True deer-hounds, during the early part of the present century, were maintained in considerable abundance over several different Highland localities; throughout some, until the marked modern extension of Scotch field - sport had well begun. It is of consequence to notice where and how far they ranged at the period referred to. The districts were exclusively situated within a section of the country best described as main clan ground, across from broad West by the Hebrides, up into much narrower space at the head of the Great Glens; the latter a tract at that time shut in upon itself in various ways, being divided, besides, by the long loch that stretches from above Glengarry to near Inverness. Each of these districts was by nature situated apart, specially conditioned as to ground; extent of deer-range, opportunities for the sport, or the like; whilst, in addition, the effect of modern changes was everywhere more and more breaking in between. To these places in common the pure old deer-hound race may be said to have then peculiarly belonged. It had long been formed into the sub-varieties, with minor distinctive traits, often locally called "breeds," according to technical phrase better designated "strains." Perhaps in no other way than in the breeding of deer-hounds did the leading characteristic of intercourse among Highlanders come out so clearly. The respective strains were kept up in connection more or less, most observably so in the open direction of the mid-AVest Coast, near and among the upper Isles: yet the growing result of clanship, joined to that of many outward causes, marked the whole state of the case. That the ancient breed had continued to survive thus far, with vigour sufficient to transmit it onward — if transmitted it really has been—is by no means the least curious part of its remarkable history.

North of the above region there were, practically, no genuine deer-hounds existing. In the upper part of Ross-shire there was a wide space where they and the deer together, and in too many cases the people also, had been wholly displaced by the beginning of what was called "the depopulation of the Highlands for sheep." Beyond, on the opposite side, the extensive disforesting and agricultural improvements came close down to the borders of the Glens. Up in Sutherland, in Lord Reay's country and elsewhere, deer abounded; but the last deer-hound there, "a very powerful animal belonging to Mr Gordon of Achness, had been killed by a stag, which thrust it against a rock, in the year 1798,' some twelve years before the period now in view. At Gordon Castle, in Morayshire, on the Spey, Pennant the antiquary, so far back as 1769, had been shown a single grand specimen possessed by the great duke, and says, "The whole breed is become very scarce." Southward, on the other hand, the lower parts of Argyll seem to have formed a peculiar exception to Highland ownership; for although deer were in considerable number there, and the population Gaelic, we have not discovered any instance of a Campbell district possessing deer-hounds of the genuine kind, either collectively or individually, from the times of the Rebellions up to that of the Colonsay revival of the breed about 1825. On the midland Perthshire border, old keepers of long experience affirm that there were "none much worth below Glenlyon, where the Menzies family of Chesthill had their first-rate kennel of the right sort." Over the whole of the Lowlands there were no requirements for them; the hound ordinarily used there, however, which goes by the name of the "Scotch" or "rough" greyhound, inherited its qualities of hardihood and swiftness from the old Highland breed, so as at times to bear off the palm on the English turf; and it was then often in request for forest use throughout the North and South-west.


The East was the region of the regularly preserved deer-forests. These formed a continuous stretch at the back of the agricultural east-coast country, lying together very much as did the middle clan ground itself, but in a downward direction. Taking the date of 1811-12, they did not number above five over Scotland— though of large extent, wholly consisting of what had remained from more extensive formation at a much earlier period, and situated well off the main Highland districts. At the top was Glenfiddich forest in Banffshire, the only one then retained under preservation by the Duke of Gordon—a medium-sized one, where "the work was done with terriers, rough greyhounds, or crosses, and none of the old Glen More stamp were to be had." Immediately below was the largest forest of all, much mixed with sheep, and nearest clan ground, to wit, Farquharson's of Invercauld, "where the deer were seldom driven, and never hunted with dogs unless to recover a wounded animal: the hounds that were slipped came mostly off Glengarry's own: however they were latterly crossed with the fox-hound and also the bloodhound, and the foresters preferred to use small terriers of a very sagacious sort that came from Ross-shire." In Mar Forest, lying off midway, "few of any kind were employed beyond tracking, for a reason of this prejudice against dogs was the narrowness of the forest and the multitude of deer, estimated from 2000 to 3000, though lengthways it was of princely extent: a wounded deer would be run to prevent wandering, whereupon the hounds used were the rough wire-haired Scotch or Irish grew or their descendants." Atholl, next beneath, was the second in size, quite selfcontained; "the hounds were considered to be a breed by themselves, and were carefully improved from various quarters by his Grace the duke." Farthest South lay the Black Mount, round in Argyllshire, surpassed by none for capabilities of first-rate sport, and there the Marquis of Breadalbane "always favoured the true Highland kind when possible." To this number may be added a sixth, as soon afterwards taken again into preservation, namely, Glenartney in Perthshire, the smallest and most distant, belonging to Drummond Castle, the seat of the old Earls of Perth; and there "rough greyhounds and colley-dogs were used, but when Lord Willoughby d'Eresby succeeded, the colleys were the only ones allowed into the forest." Outlying kennels and detached or individual dogs of good blood were then seldom if ever to be found throughout the kingdom at large, and certainly did not exist beyond it; in which case they depended on recourse to some part or other of the native stock.


Their fame has most eminently signalised the Glengarry quarter, in the centre of the glen district. They had been there bred pure from time immemorial by the MacDonnells, along with the Grants or others, and used with advantage over a wide deer-tract, commanding every variety of proper ground; indeed, as terms ordinarily stood through Glenmoriston upwards, the chase could be followed for fifty miles on end if required. Practically speaking, by all accounts the merit of this strain in the early years of the century was still such as quite came up to its high repute; many of the dogs were kept about Invergarry House, in constant use on the hills, having the full benefit of immediate personal care from the well-known chief himself, Colonel Alaster Ranaldson MacDonnell of Glengarry and Knoydart (claimant also of the Clanranald chieftainship), who, as need scarcely be said, entered with ardour into all that had to do with hunting. At the same time, over beyond Loch Ness, on Badenoch side, formerly the centre of old royal Scottish hunting, there was Cluny Macpherson's strain, of similar standing, though placed under the drawbacks incident to a more cultivated part of the country, already a good deal broken up by alterations then in progress; with additional disadvantage from being close to preserved forests on the east. A Badenoch man seldom looked upon these, it was true, as any bar to the possession of good "long-dogs "; there, consequently, the habits of the people tended so far to uphold them in purity. It so happened, too, that an officer of a Highland regiment, apparently of southern extraction, Colonel Mitchell of Strathmashie, kept a choice kennel of them, being scrupulous about their quality—a circumstance likewise favourable to their use among neighbouring sportsmen. Lochiel's strain, down in Lochaber, a midland situation also, was otherwise peculiarly placed. In former note it had been second to none: a dog of this strain, when out with the famous Sir Ewen Cameron, had killed the last wolf in Scotland, or at all events the last but one; and the stock had come through the troubles of the '45, yet was of course much scattered during the subsequent expatriation of the Lochiel family. Donald Cameron of Lochiel, the chief, had been born and educated in France, and, after his welcome return, had been absent on military duty; meantime, in the same manner as the exiled Lord Scaforth's people had still paid their rents to him, so Lochiel's clan had not only done likewise, but also at various upland farms and holdings they had taken care of his deer-hounds, and had seen to their excellence. The Camerons of Meouble, a wild hill-farm on the Braes, had reared some of the best, where deer were not always available, for sheep had begun to spread; the training had therefore been chiefly confined to pursuits after hill-foxes and "other vermin, in particular the otters about the burns or small lochs; which practice was like in the end to have cost a good dog, Bran, his life, as at first he tried the same plan as with a stag—namely, to catch it by the back." Another memorable one—whose final exploit is too striking to be omitted in due place afterwards—was kept by the Macdonalds, tenants in the mountain-farm of Annat. At Tirndrish, the clergyman of the parish of Kilmonivaig, the Rev. Dr Thomas Ross, had done much in the cause. Presbyterian ministers did not "ride to hounds"—indeed in the Lowlands the only such recreation considered free to divines was solitary angling, or at most the social curling-game on the ice; but in the Highlands it was by no means uncommon for them to mingle with their parishioners at the deercoursing matches that were still to some extent possible, or to join the stalkers, gun in hand, and breast the hillside afoot before the great bristly pair that were led in leash to the hunt. Dr Ross had some fine ones of his own; he took every opportunity to maintain, recruit, or improve their blood, and he freely imparted of this in turn. He "prided himself most of all upon them because they traced back, in one case at least, to those of the Dukes of Gordon, which had been distinguished for size, keenness, and speed, but were then known to be extinct"—in fact, he seems to have thought more of this possession than even of his own family claim to descent from the old Earls of Ross. He was besides connected by marriage with Cameron of Fassiefearn, another main supporter of the breed. Stress is laid on these and the like details as serviceable to an understanding of later circumstances in connection with the Lochaber district.*1 There were other mid-Highland places in the upper Glen direction whose hounds, in local estimation at any rate, did not fall far short of the best. But their chief range, as regards suitable variety of work, with distribution under a number of hands, seems then to have lain out West on the coast; especially toward Skye and the contiguous isles and sea-lochs, where there was a well-known strain— if merely to be called such—which throve well and sustained its old repute in various places about the lower corner of Koss-shire, over the Kintail, Lochalsh, or Seaforth district. That range included Applecross adjacent, in itself a lordly territory. Some of the islands in the large Seaforth estates contained deer plentifully, and the mainland in general allowed of good sport, enabling all the old Highland modes of the chase to be kept up, in particular that of coursing the unwounded stag, a practice well fitted to test, bring out, and sustain the excellence of deer-hounds. Kennels of them, nowhere surpassed, belonged to the leading proprietors. The widely spread clan MacKenzie had always been great in hunting matters, as was shown in their armorial device of the stag's head, and their badge of deergrass; the stock of the veritable Irish wolf-grew, to which so much legendary renown attaches, is said to have been the source from whence Lord Seaforth's dogs were derived: they were at all events celebrated, and those of Mackenzie of Applecross, bred in the same line, were hardly less so. At the same time, it was frequent among the tenantry, Mackenzies, Macraes, and Macleods, to have each his own thoroughbred one, or more, for trial against the best upon occasion; while others were similarly possessed by island families near hand, or throughout the Hebrides. Hillside or island matches and district "drives" would appear to have been often held for the object, according to very ancient usage, older than even the clan system. The very nature of that part of the coast, broken up though it is into its extraordinary maze of high headlands, deep inlets, and mountainous islands, apparently furthered such intercourse. About the time when Pennant the antiquary had been inferring the speedy extinction of what he calls " the great Highland gre-hound," from its visible condition away over about Gordon Castle, Dr Samuel Johnson had made his "Tour in the Hebrides "; and who that has read the narrative does not recollect the chance touch by Boswell, when, describing the learned doctor in the boat crossing from Coll, it is added that he felt the chill of the breeze off the water, and was fain to keep his back warm against the hairy side of the young chief's large island greyhound. The great lexicographer was thus enabled to ponder the better his arguments against the authenticity of Ossian, while he listened to the Gaelic chant of the Islesmen at their oars, and was struck with its quaint antique refrain. As for the dog, the Doctor wondered at him silently—he was doubtless being brought over to some hunt or match ashore. The fact was that the Islesmen, from being locally cut off, were as yet comparatively free from troubles which bore hard on Highlanders elsewhere. What with the herring-fishery, what with the kelp-burning that was in full activity, the islands supported a large population in comfort and cheerfulness; black cattle, sheep, or deer, could respectively be fed apart as might suit them best; grouse, that nuisance to the stalker, neither throve well with the ground and climate nor were fostered by proprietors; poaching was little to be feared, even from Badenoch men, who, although their expeditions were wide, could not generally command the use of boats. On the adjoining coast, the same habits were promoted by a fortunate state of things subsisting between landlords and people in their various stations in life,—in strong contrast to the course pursued in upper Ross-shire, where the notorious sheep-riots had taken place. Of all this, the customs in regard to field-sport, to the deer, and still more to the dog, were significant. The Macraes, being of distinct Irish origin, and Catholics to a man, were headed at the hunting-matches by their priest, the Rev. Father Finlay Macrae, and after him by Father Philip, his successor, both zealous upholders of the Dogs, and their faithful patrons to the end. These matches served the purpose of shows, also supplying statistics at a period when such were not only difficult to obtain but entangled with divers circuitous native ways. Judicious breeding was thus favoured very much in the primitive manner which had so long kept up the race, and doubtless had at first produced its special points. At all events, the Kintail and Island stock appears to have been at once numerous, excellent, and every way in full vigour; and in fact, until the wider changes that took place after the end of the French war, then in progress, it is undoubted that the dogs abounded in both directions throughout the above-named line of country.

(*1 For these particulars, and various others following, which have practical value in reference to modern field-sport, I am indebted to the late Colonel J. Robertson (of the 79th Cameron Highlanders, eldest son of the late Hon. Lord Robertson, and grandson of Dr Ross) ; also to his uncle, Captain Ewen Ross, Fort Augustus (late of the 2nd Highlanders), who, while a youth, knew "Glengarry " and the other leading sportsmen referred to, and has communicated some characteristic incidents.)

Probably nothing had so much conduced to their immediate benefit as did the war itself during its earlier years, when every source of division was for the time set aside, and a stop so far put to that heart-burning trouble,—due to the previous peace,—the spread of sheep, associated in the Celtic mind with images the very reverse of idyllic or tranquil. The procession of flocks, shepherds, and colleys had in fact too long advanced side by side with the herding apart of deer into forests preserved by law, for open clan-ranges to recover permanently; but the latter meanwhile profited. In the absence of Chiefs, for the most part heading bodies of newly raised local Fencibles on service throughout the three kingdoms, or gone abroad with fresh Highland regiments to the first campaigns, all home affairs were occasionally none the worse managed when left free. An amount of concourse had ensued near hand, through the enlisting, recruiting, or moving of troops, beyond what had been known for above half a century; Highlanders mingled there irrespectively of mere clan kindred; chieftainship was losing hold, except in the few conspicuous instances where "Glengarry" and the House of Seaforth came to the front at that stirring day. At the same time, never was the hillside sport more zealously pursued than at intervals then, nor the chief native hunters keener, nor their hounds more in their glory. That some strains of these were mutually benefited is unquestionable. Throughout their whole history war had always been wont to take turn with hunting, often the one as a cover to the other; else the survival of so unique a breed, notwithstanding countless wars, still more against restricted possession during peace, would be very difficult to explain. Hence perhaps a reason why it often throve most, according to report, with poachers ahout the forests, and Badenoch men. Instinctively, no doubt, from having but their old flint-locked long-barrelled guns of the past century to count upon besides—hardly better than the ancient bow and arrow— they preferred before all other dogs the one that best combined power, speed, and courage, with silence also, and little or no inclination to break off on a ground-scent; yet over and above, there entered into the zest they felt for the sport a certain degree of the warlike element. Consequently ranging far, as heedless of distance as of legal obstruction, they obtained wider knowledge of the stock that was desirable in this particular respect, and they followed it up without much regard to exclusive ownership; while at times there was the further hostile incentive which their dialect added, if it failed as a password among keepers, or had to do with strangers. More generally speaking, any war stir that bore with good effect on the case was of no long duration. Usual . opportunities of the kind were limited to small neighbourly meetings, few and remote markets, or periodical journeys of drovers, with ready aid when wanted from miscellaneous folks of every sort from the hill and loch. Ordinary Highland notions rarely looked further than the requirement of the place, the individual, and the season. The native keenness after game, as in cases like those just mentioned, where the Gaelic came into question, not seldom went over the mark; nor was infection from mongrel blood the sole danger, for a peculiar "dog-ill" and other evils were at least equally to be feared, though as yet little considered. In fact, to common clansmen, the established rules of a strict technical standard were scarcely less unknown than were the "aesthetic" tastes that now influence choice among amateurs.

A misgiving on the matter took rise, nevertheless, with some principal Highland sportsmen up the glens, and was most felt by those who had been absent on foreign or other military service, on their several return home, at various times towards the close of the war.


There was an alleged "degeneracy in certain working points"; another standing complaint had come to bo "infertility "; moreover, an ailment till then almost unheard of in the Highlands, "the distemper," that has since proved so deadly to the race, was said to be spreading,—this, too, in apparent proportion as the lineage was high. In fact, to the eye of adepts, it grew sufficiently clear that, as technical men would say, "the breed was fast coming home "—in other words, it had little likelihood of long continuance on the old system. Foremost to provide a remedy had been "Glengarry." Many of his favourite dogs had been killed, often from deficiency in (muscular) strength to match their speed and courage when overtaking the stag; few had been able to come up to what he wanted of them in respect of endurance over long stretches of rough country, which he himself could so wonderfully well undergo. No man at the time better knew the right mode of recruiting the strain, by recourse to genuine stock elsewhere. His famous Carnach signally proved this, being considered the very best of the day, whilst quite pure bred; and there had been others of like excellence bred by him. Knowledge of how to improve live-stock had been in a manner forced upon chief resident proprietors about the upper glens, if only by management of deer on ground situated between agricultural or grazing country on the one hand and forests on the other, without the legal rights which the latter possessed. An additional incentive to such knowledge arose from the necessity of improving black - cattle, unless the increasing pastoral eviction of the inhabitants was to prevail. Here the chief of Glengarry had on the whole stood by his clan, amidst circumstances that were universally trying; his zeal in supporting old customs was equally conspicuous with his love of the chase, but his actual skill as a breeder is not so well known. This was further shown as to his horses,—regarding which we are told, by an aged keeper of his, "he took pains to have them of the best, very swift, and there was one of them that carried him from Inverness home to Iuvergarry in two hours of time," a distance of more than thirty miles. He manifested it above all in the case of his dogs, but now did so by pursuing a course apart from most of his fellow-sportsmen. During extensive service with his corps of Fencibles, and still more when previously abroad in Italy, Spain, and Germany, he had been struck by the points of other breeds, as likely for his purpose: he bought and imported choice specimens of these, among others of the bloodhound, and of the great Pyrenean mastiff used by the mountain shepherds as guardians against wolves; and he resorted to the expedient of crossing from them. This was done, not in the random manner then common throughout the forests, but with admirable judgment so far as concerned his object, latterly limiting the practice to the use of small well - selected bloodhounds. The effect was such as to surpass all their previous celebrity. It was subsequently and by this means that his greatest hunting exploits were achieved — occasioning those wild out-of-the-way chances where he delighted to dash foremost in, and take the chief hazard on himself, often without other company than his deer-hounds. Some of them, thus produced, especially at first, almost came up to old traditional standards that had been thought fabulous in respect of their size and power; fit either to pull down or keep to bay the largest stag, fresh or wounded, by land or water. As a rule, they were good at retrieving; a conspicuous trait was superiority in general intelligence; another marked feature, not at all slight in value as regards Highland localities, was the variety of colour they severally showed, from the ordinary grey brindled, or sandy, to white, black, or a richly variegated piebald. But most extraordinary of all was the faculty which many of them possessed for taking up a cold scent: "one, named Bran, when held in leash, pursued a wounded stag for three successive days, and that in most unfavourable rainy weather; the deer having been wounded first within nine miles of Invergarry House, was thus traced that night to the estate of Glenmoriston, where at dusk in the evening the men placed a stone on each side of the last fresh print of his hoof, with another stone laid over between; and this they did each consecutive night. Then on the next morning the upper stone was removed, whereupon Bran recovered the scent, and the game was tracked over a great part of Glenmoriston's ground, till on the third day he was traced back to the lands of Glengarry and there killed." THE GLENGARRY STRAIN OF DOGS.

*1 Lastly, though not least to be noted, the great disparity of size between the sexes in favour of the male—which is generally recognised as distinctive of the pure breed—had ceased to be shown in Glengarry's dogs; judging, at all events, from the reply of his old keeper to a query expressly put regarding this point. "He tried various crosses," says Mr Scrope, "the best being from the bloodhound; probably in this way was bred his famous Hector . . . ; who has not heard of the feats of Hector? and I believe Maida . . . had also a distant cross of the bloodhound in him." It is now known that the parentage of the last mentioned, the most celebrated of all, was from a pure Glengarry dam and a Pyrenean—or perhaps, in reality, an Abruzzian—sire. Maida had a brother named Waterloo, born in 1815, but from various facts it is evident that he himself had been from a former litter, consequently had been a number of years in the glen before he left all the rest behind, to be presented to his illustrious master, which was in the spring of 1816.

(*1 From a communication by "Ranaltlson MacDonncll, Esq. of Glengarry," to Jesse's 'Anecdotes of Dogs.')

It will hence be obvious to any one who knows the dogs in question, that Glengarry had thus gone far to establish a quite distinct strain, and might, under conceivable circumstances, have given rise to a totally new breed. As it was, there is proof from the foregoing statistics of the forests that his method was participated in by the largest of them all, namely, Farquharson's of Invercauld; while others, in like circumstances, either joined in it or produced original crosses of their own. His example was certainly not followed by his principal neighbours, still less did it affect the Kintail and Seaforth stock; the truth being that in other and more serious matters there were causes that had put him in a somewhat isolated position among his compeers. Here neither Glcnmoriston nor Cluny was led by the most friendly social terms to share in his practice; on the other hand, young Lochiel, who had then lately succeeded to chieftainship, might readily have done so, but for contrary influences in the Lochabcr district, among his own relatives, the Fassiefearn Camerons and the Rosses. Dr Ross, before mentioned, had a son, an Indian officer, then at home on leave— afterwards well known in the present connection as Colonel David Ross of Tirndrish, and already noted throughout India for success in wild-sport at "the Hills," where one of his exploits had obtained him the name of "Bear Ross." Throughout his stay in the district he was a keen stalker, and saw carefully to the condition of his father's hounds, and by him, in conjunction with his younger brother and their fellow - sportsmen—in particular with Colonel Mitchell of Strathmashie adjoining in Badenoch—much was done to keep up the pure quality of the whole breed thereabouts.

The effect of the peace (in 1815) was not only to bring Highlanders home, but, along with them, numerous distinguished officers, Lowland, English, and foreign, who were soon sharing in the sport on the hills. The popular and gallant Marquis of Huntly led the way, in throwing open to them the splendid hospitalities of Gordon Castle and Glenfiddich Forest; the same was done at Taymouth, with the Black Mount at command: the Duke of Atholl, too, then first displayed to English sportsmen the spectacle of the real old deer-linchel or "drive " on a grand scale. With their constantly increasing resort, the period of modern field-sport in the North commenced.

Many causes thenceforth concurred to hasten the decay or the dispersion of the pure strains. During the rapid increase in the number of small and medium-sized forests that took place, the dogs first brought into use by lessees or land-proprietors from the South were almost wholly from previously existing forest - kennels, the ordinary rough greyhound foremost. These in most cases by no means came up to the expectations of Englishmen.


The strong prestige of " Glengarry's" hounds, in some instances, obtained them the preference; but in the long-run they were found to be out of the question, unless where the range was unusually wide, and thus, as well as on other accounts, they were among the chief detrimental causes referred to. Deer-stalkers, who had only average opportunities, and understood what the requirements were, fell back upon the use of rough Breadalbane lurchers, or else, if possible, got some of the lighter and better-reputed Atholl breed. The truth was that strangers, fresh to the work, were very much under guidance from a multiplied train of new foresters, stalkers, and gillies; the old Highland families in most cases held themselves apart, and as to the clansman at large, it was with no favourable eye that he looked upon this invasion of alien hunters. When the Cheviot and blackfaced sheep were spreading and the deer were being everywhere bounded in, herded, and watched, according to law, while the cold-mannered Southerners, with the improved rifle of the day, and with leashes of such hounds as they thought best, began to stalk the red-deer, the commonest true Celt was set against them. If there was one possession that still remained to the Gael, unmortgaged, peculiar to themselves, beyond the power of interlopers, it was the pure old Ossianic or Fingalian dog. That they withheld it to no small extent, and that this told prejudicially against the breed, is undoubted. It was as if the lurking memories of by-past misfortune to the clans, with the sense of present trouble, could at all events be wreaked after this minor fashion in close connection with what the southern interloper prized so much—his new opportunities of ground sport among north-country hills.

There were already in the country, regularly returning as the autumn came round, numerous eminent followers of the chase, such as the Duke of Richmond, the Marquis of Douro, and their associates, who had practised it in imperial forests abroad: they were becoming versed in northern forest-craft; many of them equalled any Highlander in ability to breast the hill or stand the weather, and were thorough lovers of this most exciting of all sports for its own sake; in general they had an Englishman's quick eye for a good dog, with the characteristic Norman liking for it, and had heard of the true.deer-hound, or even seen genuine specimens; but it was a rare case, to say the least of it, if they had any such at their command. Some deer-stalkers, from what they saw, believed the vaunted pure race to be then extinct; others took for granted that the dogs abounding in the forests were identical with that celebrated breed. Opinion was similarly divided in regard to its value, between exaggerated attributes and the question as to actual utility. When portions of encumbered estates passed into the possession of a wealthy modern magnate, he might have the deer, and might stalk them, with the most .Celtic of gillies to help, and hounds as numerous as heart could wish. The men would even bring their whole skill to bear on the nature of the ground and the direction of the wind; they would fall in with the vein of eagerness and enjoyable effort that the stranger manifested so clearly; but the grudge was sure to come out somewhere, and, curiously enough, it seemed to turn with a peculiar relish upon the character of his dogs. Here his unconscious delusions became frequent object of hidden local contempt and of dry Celtic humour. He and his conceited smart English or Lowland head-keeper did not at all tend to lessen the joke by their own expedients, which were often ludicrous beyond description. He never saw the " brilliancy of the sport,"—never, when his shot failed to bring down the stag at once, did he see it pulled down in its flight by speed and strength combined; it was either brought to bay, and there finished as best might be, or else the "trackers" had to be laid on the scent, shepherds' colleys or what not, till the affair ended away up beyond his view. Ordinarily speaking, he considered the deer-hound inefficient, and, on the whole, an unsatisfactory animal, far from meriting its vaunted fame. His source of supply in this respect had probably been either from doubtful henchmen of broken clans or poachers from over the hill, with perhaps occasional help from passing drovers or neighbouring distillers, who procured for his head gamekeeper, at no small cost, what they styled the real Argyll sort. Such disparagement was, indeed, by no means lowering to the Highland strains in native estimation,—on the contrary, it may rather be said that their value became for the first time fully prized by their owners; and, in order to retain them, there was even a disposition shown in the way of sinking old local differences. No less surely, however, failing any united systematic design, did the aforesaid tendency to degenerate, to become infertile, and to yield under distemper, pursue its course; while of all circumstances the most unpropitious were those that took place in regard to the comparatively thriving West coast and Island stock, best known by the name of Seaforth.

If it cannot be said of the Seaforth property that it had become embarrassed and changed hands through its hunting and deer-holding distinction, like most similar estates, yet the last of the popular Mackenzie families thenceforth began to be overtaken by the common fate of the thorough Highland clans. As they had come in with deer-hounds, so they went out. It were little to say that the dogs disappeared from Brahan Castle; for the breaking up of the whole Kintail and Island strain was hastened, as the forest system, side by side with sheep-farming, took place of the former state of things over Rossshire, while deer from the Islands went in some cases to supply stock for new forests elsewhere. The condition of the island people was at that time very unfavourably affected by the failure of the kelp-burning industry, owing to "the extended use in trade of American barilla," in consequence of which numerous families were compelled to emigrate; in some instances they "took good dogs with them, hearing of fine sport that was to be had in Canada, where there were plenty of Glengarry people and others settled beforehand, and Highland fashions well kept up;" and the same happened in other places about the coast. There were also Highland regiments on foreign service that had done likewise, with a view to similar opportunities abroad. It was already no infrequent thing for troops to be thus accompanied by favourite or representative animals, the Welsh Fusileers having their goat, and others according to what might be locally peculiar. The Sutherland Fencibles had been wont to parade and march with "a gigantic clansman at their head, *1 attended by a mountain deer of uncommon size ;" whereas, instead of having any such pet follower, "it was too often the case in some regiments," says General Stewart, in this connection, "that the men would salute certain officers with imitations of the bleating of sheep." The last of the grand Seaforth dogs that we have heard of were some belonging to officers in a detachment of the 78th (Ross-shire) Highlanders, about to sail for India; and whether or not they returned is unknown. In the then declining state of the breed, such losses counted much beyond their mere numerical effect.

(*1 "Samuel Macdonald, called 'Big Sam,' who was 7 feet 4 inches in height and stout in proportion; he afterwards went into the 93d Highlanders, and died at Guernsey in 1802." —General Stew-art's Sketches.)


"When the Highlanders dream of a black dog, it is interpreted to mean one of the clan of Macdonnell; but if of a deer-hound, it denotes a chief, or one of the principal persons of that clan "—so says "Glengarry" in the account given to Jesse's 'Anecdotes.' This power of second-sight was believed to be possessed by the hounds themselves. "The Highland greyhounds, or deer-hounds, as they are called in the Highlands," he continues, "have a great antipathy to the sheep-dogs, and never fail to attack them whenever an opportunity offers. A shepherd, whose colley had frequently been attacked by the deer-dogs of Glengarry singly, had always succeeded in beating them off on such occasions: he was one day himself 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." They had long been thought to see the passing ghost of their master, however remote might be the scene of his death; "his grey dogs," sang Ossian of old, "howled in their distant place." The gathering of the clans had been to a very different field from that of the deer-chase; and those of the main Highland region, having come zealously to the front ever since the beginning of the war, had suffered most throughout its continuance. Among their chief houses a gloomy blank was visible in the place of some who had used to be foremost on the hillside. Some were no longer able to follow the sport; not a few were soon dislodged from the family estates by untoward fortune, or went to seek better in other lands. Young Ross, who had taken so effective a part in maintaining the Lochaber strain of deerhounds, had again left for India; Cameron of Fassiefearn was among those who had fallen at Waterloo; and about Badenoch the principal shootings were under lease to noble English sportsmen. The sure progress of change and embarrassment was already overtaking the ample domains of Glengarry himself, consummated by his lavish expenditure in supporting the grand loyal demonstrations of 1822. It was the Whig clans, the great Campbells above all, that continued steadily rising toward eminence; and, as before stated, the latter would appear to have been marked out by a deficiency of good dogs, in which respect we have heard an old keeper remark that "the Forty-five and Glencoe were aye remembered against them—they could not get the true clan breed,— whereby it proved all the worse, seeing that they kept spreading and spreading the wrong sort." Finally, in a practical sense, the disadvantageous result from romantic association must not be forgotten. The eclat of showy and bulky crosses among sportsmen did not indeed last long; but a strong popular interest attached to them, which bore against the pure race in ways too numerous to particularise.

It is not too much to say that, during the interval from the outset of modern deer-stalking in 1815 until about 1825, all the pure strains were reduced to the lowest point compatible with survival, where they had not become extinct. In the latter years of this period, as careful inquiry shows, they had come to be altogether limited to the home-kennels of a few old mid-Highland families—under whom for the most part they had very insufficient range at command, or none—and of still fewer owners throughout the Islands, far separate from each other, though perhaps better circumstanced as to deer. Little addition requires to be made on account of scattered cases elsewhere existing, which were then all more or less unavailable for the breed. Detached dogs had indeed found their way into forests, or were singly possessed by sportsmen from outside. There is even reason to believe that in England, if not on the Continent too, among supposed specimens taken thither, genuine ones had by chance been acquired, but none of them to any practical benefit. It was somewhat different with those that were dispersed in a similar way among Highlanders. Sundry nondescript hill-men over the central region, down from the professional native " stalker" of a district to the travelling " fox-hunter," had occasion to use the dog; some of them bred it with care, and at times of the purest quality. Most notably, however, this was done by the individual zeal before mentioned, on the part of a very limited number of Highland gentleman, under much disadvantage. They consisted chiefly of one or two Catholic priests, aided by their people, toward the west coast; and about as many retired officers in Badenoch and Lochaber, in concert with the neighbouring parish minister previously named.

Library Of Articles