Irish Wolfhound Times
(Irish Wolfhound Database and Breed information Exchange)
From the book
"The Dog With Simple Directions For His Treatment"
By "Idstone" (Thomas Pearce) 1872
(Ed note; Thomas Pearce, went by the pseudonym of "Idstone". He wrote for an English sporting periodical called "The Field". He was also the author of The Idstone Papers and is sometimes referred to as the Rev. Thomas Pierce.)
The Deerhound closely resembles the rough Greyhound in form and coat, but he is rougher at-the muzzle than any specimen of the broken-haired Greyhound which I have ever seen.
Until within the last few years the breed was very scarce, for they were kept by the few men who owned Scotch forests, or wide, wild tracts of deer-park in the less-populated parts of England.
'Until the Deerhound was exhibited, few had ever seen a specimen of this handsome, graceful dog, or entertained the notion of keeping one as a companion only. His harmonious colour, his elegant form and outline, his graceful attitudes, and of his amiable temper, at once made him a favourite with sightseers, and the Deerhound was (to' use a commercial phrase) commonly "inquired for;" and at one of the best London shows, in or about the year 1863, forty or more were exhibited.
There is no doubt that he would bo more generally used as a companion but for his size. A dog of good proportion should stand 30 inches at the shoulder-blades, and girth 34 inches. His fore-arm should be 8J inches, and his weight 100 lbs. or more. He should be long for speed, and there is no surer proof of slowness and degeneracy than shortness. The females are smaller and lighter: 26 inches would be the average size, and the weight from 65 lbs. to 70 lbs.
It is said that Sir St.-George Gore had a dog 34 inches high. Some idea of the size may be formed when we compare him with the American monster dog, "Prince," and remember that he was but an inch higher. But great mistakes are made in measuring dogs, and I have often found that even huntsmen and masters of Hounds make errors with the standards.
I have noticed the charming colours of this species; they are of various shades and mixtures, though all of one sort or tone of colour; there is a strong family likeness. The Marquis of Breadalbane had a kennel of sixty or more, all harmonising in colour, and the last kennel of importance was Lord H. Bentinck's, which was brought to the hammer in 1871. Sir St.-George Gore's were sold off about eight years ago. Other breeders of celebrity have been Colonel Inge, Lord Stamford, Lord Saltoun, M'Kenzie of Applecross, and Campbell of Menzies.
A grand breed existed, or still exists, at Windsor, and they were highly esteemed by the late Prince Albert and Her Majesty. Four grand specimens were shown at the exhibition at Islington in 1869, under the care of Mr. John Cole, the keeper, and all of these specimens were brindled, some dark, others light, and of every tint from black, or nearly black (so close were the markings or bars), to grey-sandy and light-sandy, but all were more or less " barred." The best of these were "Hubert," "Caird," and "Mink" (by "Keildar" out of '' Hag''), "Bran," bred by Captain Graham, of Rednoch (one of the best judges of the Deerhound now living), and Mr. Dawes's "Lufra."
In coat there is some variety. There is the woolly, waved coat, dense and thickly felted, soft to the touch, and pliable or falling. Then there is the silky coat, generally combined with a topknot on the head; but the proper texture is the hard, wiry hair, or pile, about three inches long, harsh to the touch, bristly at the muzzle, and along the back and shoulder-blades almost as coarse as hackles. The stern should be curved, not curled; the chest and brisket deep, the loin powerful, the ear small, and without coat—(for this the breed of Mr. Cameron of Lochiel is celebrated)—or, at most, lightly coated, and pricked forward slightly; in fact, the Deerhound should have the Greyhound ear, the Greyhound neck, and general formation, with more power, more weight, larger stature, and the faculty of tracking by scent.
The fault of the present day with Deerhounds is certainly the short body, the thick and, as the ignorant consider, the necessarily strong jaw, and the open, loose, flat foot. In proportion to the weight the foot "goes," or deteriorates, and the strain upon a Deerhound's foot at speed, amongst stones and boulders "in view," and roused to desperation, is greater than that imposed upon any other domesticated animal. No dog but the " rough-footed Scot" could stand it. They can't pick their way over corries or through hollows and burns, and they have to make up by dash and speed for the cunning and desperation of a wounded hart, who, as he flies before the Hound, takes advantage of his knowledge of the ground, and will often perhaps keep his pursuer at bay, for some considerable time, with his back to a rock, trusting that the Hound, exhausted with barking, will lap his fill of water, and render himself unfit to follow his refreshed and rested quarry. Crystal Palace, 1871, would be scarcely adapted for a Scotch forest.
Another error—one more of "judges" than breeders—is the selecting the very largest specimens as prize dogs, which is mistaking lumber for quality. The extra inch wins with some of these gentlemen, and with many of the public.
Deficiency of muscle and bone in the hind-quarter is a common fault, though in this respect the Deerhound never, or seldom, equals the Greyhound.
The Deerhound is one of the oldest breeds we have. I should be inclined to think that it is au imported breed. He is probably identical with the "strong Irish Greyhound" mentioned as employed in the Earl of Mar's chase of the red deer in 1618, by Taylor, in his "Pennilesse Pilgrimage." He may be, and he probably is, the last remnant of the Boarhound, the most colossal and courageous of the canine race.
Attempts have been made—hitherto unsuccessfully—to bring him up to this size once more, and to reproduce the "tall Greyhound," as Evelyn calls him, which, according to Buffon, was five feet high as it sat upon its haunches. The shoulder of such an animal would be, as he stood by your side, three or four inches higher than the back of an ordinary dining-room chair; his body would be four feet long at least; his head a foot higher than his shoulder, and his neck sixteen inches or more in length.
"Old Glengary" possessed a noted breed, which he got up to considerable stature by crossing, as Richardson says, with the Bloodhound; but Scott, who had two of them given to him by the chief of the M'Donnels, affirms that they were produced by crossing with the Pyrenean. But no breeders have been able to increase the present race to any extent; nor have they any encouragement to do so, as size, whilst adding to power, decreases speed and endurance, and a Hound larger than Mr. Dawes's "Warrior," winner of the first prize at the
In old days, judging from such models as the sculpture of the Hound on the Arch of Constantine, the veloces, or Greyhounds, were 30 inches high (using Trajan's slave with the spear as a scale); but I have seen an engraving from the antique, of Celtic Greyhounds chasing deer, wild boar, and fox, which represents the Hounds as not less than 36 inches in stature. The Greyhound type is frequently to be found upon antique gems, roughly sculptured, it is true, but giving an idea of the fleet dog of the day, especially those on the antique statue of Actseon, in the British Museum, and having in one case the pricked or, possibly, cropped ear, and in the other the pendulous or Terrier ear; and as a couple are sculptured of each breed, it would seem they were of two distinct races.
I must not omit to mention that Marco Polo describes dogs he saw in Thibet, strong enough to contend with any wild beasts, and "o/tlie size of asses," and that other travellers have given the same description of them; in that case they would answer their purpose better than the keepers' night-dogs, taken out by a Lombard Street sportsman to hunt lions in Africa, for he found to his consternation that the king of the forest ate the dogs and then bounded after him!
Pet dogs, of course, are a matter of taste, and locality and space must have much to do with the selection of a companionable dog. If, however, size is no objection, it would be impossible to name any dog superior to the true Deerhound, whether employed in his proper vocation or not. He is gentle in manners, unless roused by the sight of his game and excited to pursue it; he is no sheep-biter; he is a good guard; he "follows" well; he can keep up with hack or carriage; he is not a self-hunter—that is, he does not skulk off poaching; he is faithful to his master; he is gentle with children, like the far-famed "Gelert," his prototype; and he is majestic in appearance. Witness the pictures of him by Sir Edwin Landseer, in every variety of attitude, and sharing in all the pleasures—ay, even the sorrows of his master. With the hawk or falcon he made up the equipment of the old baron, and slumbered in front of his Yule-log, shared in his -wassail and revelry, and formed a feature in his pageant and procession. He has been the companion of kings and emperors, and pulled down his game in the open by dexterity, force, and speed, without the aid of toils or crossbow—immaterial to him in old days whether it were boar, wolf, or hart—no day too long, no game too strong or dangerous, until his eye became dull, his limbs stiff, and his teeth worn "down, not so much with years as the hard work, exposure, and wounds inseparable from his occupation, and he was retained at the hall or grange as a pensioner or a companion for the rest of his life.
Many crosses have been adopted, as I have already observed, and one of the Deerhound and Mastiff has been used by the proprietor of a deer-park in my immediate neighbourhood, where there is a fine herd of red and fallow deer. I also introduced a fine Morocco Deerhound, which has been used successfully to all appearance, but the last cross never has been actually employed in the "retrieving" of a wounded stag since that occurrence.
In the North—by which I would be understood to mean Scotland—the Deerhound is gradually falling into disuse, a Colley, or a cross between Colley and Foxhound, being used to bay the deer which have escaped Mr. Lang's treble-grip rifles; but the Duke of Sutherland, who possessed, and no doubt still has, some of the finest Deerhounds I have ever seen, I believe uses them still; and the late Duke of Athol kept animals perfect in their trade, and on one occasion had seven harts at bay at once, and the sketches of this grand sight, made on the spot by my eminent friend, Mr. Frederick Taylor, were to be seen at the Winter Exhibition of the old Water-Colour Society.
It was the scarcity of Deerhounds which led men to set up a breed for themselves, and made them endeavour to produce an animal which should serve their purpose. I have seen a few very handsome, muscular, speedy, courageous dogs which were examples of this attempt, where by a combination of Mastiff and Deerhound they have obtained specimens which always went at the ear, and never flew at hock or haunch, for a dog that snaps at the hock is almost sure to get maimed.
A remote Bulldog cross has been used also, and though I prefer the Deerhound, it must be granted that whilst the breed was not procurable, such a measure as manufacturing a dog for the work was meritorious. The best I have noticed of this description were produced by the skill and patience of Mr. Norwood, of the South Western Railway, at Waterloo. I have never seen these Hounds in action, but I have been assured that nothing can be finer than their work. They had the racehorse points—the long neck, the clean head, the bright intellectual eye, the long sloping shoulder, the muscular arms, the straight legs, the close, well-knit feet, the wide, muscular, arched back and loin, the deep back-ribs, the large girth, the esprit, the life, the activity which, when controlled and schooled, is essential to every domesticated animal.
The old sort possessed all these points to perfection, with size and bone, which we have lost; and this majestic construction did not interfere with his speed and constitution, the parts were so well balanced, the proportions of his frame were so exact, rendering him one of the most symmetrical animals ever subjected to man's service in the earliest ages of semicivilisation, when man depended upon his four-footed companion to bring down his game, or to drive it within reach of his arrow. For, "unsighted," he could hold to it by his unerring power of scent; he could puzzle out the trail of a "cold" hart in the tangled thickets, dark, impenetrable forests, or dense woodlands, and thick scrub, and make his own "casts," whether he were put upon wolf, deer, or boar. If we may credit the old writers, he was a tough match for these single-handed: at the present moment we have no dog that could face them alone.
With the extirpation of the game the Hound died out. The wolf became extinct, and the Hound disappeared. As the boar is preserved or destroyed in Continental forests, the Boarhound flourishes or deelines. Thus the Wolfhound held his own in Ireland or Wales to a later period than he did so in this country.
The entering and training of these Deerhounds, or of whatever dog is used for tracking, running down, or baying deer, depends, in the main, upon the individual gifts of the dog employed. Example sometimes does good, occasionally harm, to the young pupil; but as a rule he should be entered at from twelve to fourteen months, and if a good opportunity presents itself, he may be slipped two or three months earlier. If a crippled stag is so hit that he can only go at a slow pace, and the puppy is certain to overtake him, he may be slipped in company with a couple of experienced seniors, if he shows any anxiety to join them.
Provided he displays a decided relish for the amusement, he may be allowed to go up and bay him; but, though it will impede his action, he should wear a trace or line, so that he may be restrained, for he may get injured by the brow antlers, or kicked and disabled before he has learnt his business, and this restraint will add to his dash and impetuosity.
After this trial has been once or twice repeated, he may be let go with an old and clever Hound, of about his own speed— at any rate, one should be matched with him which cannot outpace him. Of course he must now be slipped unfettered, with the hope that the old one may attract the hart, whilst the young one gets the ear.
Deer-stalking is the sport of princes, and many thousands of good sportsmen never have an opportunity of witnessing it, but I conceive that all who are devoted to gun or rifle take an interest in the entering and work of dogs of every kind, and in studying the habits, propensities, and education of those fitted by nature for their line of sport.
The best Deerhounds of late years have been the following:—"Keildar," the property of Captain Graham, who also owns "Gelert," nearly his equal; "Bran," "Gelert," and "Puma," the property of Mr. John Wright, Yeldersley Hall; "Corrie," "Gaiscan," and "Lorri," Sir St.-George Gore's, bred by Lord H. Bentinck; "Hector," the late Lord Cardigan's; "Maida" and "Bevis," Mr. Dobell's, of Crickley Hall, Gloucestershire; "Alder," Mr. Beasley's, of Northampton; "Valiant," the property of Colonel Inge, of Thorpe, near Tamworth; "Oscar" and "Loyal," a brace of brilliant Hounds, belonging to the Duke of Sutherland; "Lufra," belonging to Mr. Joshua Dawes, Mosseley Hill, near Birmingham: and of these the Duke of Sutherland's and Captain Graham's are decidedly the best, and in all probability they are the choicest specimens extant.
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