Irish Wolfhound Times
(Irish Wolfhound Database and Breed information Exchange)
House dogs and sporting dogs, their varieties etc
John Meyrick - 1861
Deerhound, Scottish Greyhound, Irish Wolf-Dog
The Highland Deerhound.
This breed is gradually dying out, although he is a dog admirably adapted, from his speed, strength, and courage, for the purpose for which he is used, namely, coursing the red Deer; he is also used, in Deer-stalking, to run into wounded Deer; but for this purpose a substitute has been found in a cross between the rough Scotch Greyhound and either the Colley or the Foxhound. This cross, says Mr. Scrope, the author of 'Deer Stalking/ speaking of the cross with the Foxhound, answers the purpose well, as the speed of the Greyhound is combined with the nose of the Foxhound. "In point of shape," he says, "these dogs resemble the Greyhound, but they are larger in the bone and shorter in the leg. Some of them, when in slow action, carry the tail over the back like the pure Foxhound; their dash in making a cast is most beautiful, and they stand all sorts of rough weather."
Notwithstanding Mr. Scrope's encomiums upon this cross, I do not hear that it is much employed in deer-stalking, whereas the cross between the Deerhound and Colley is in many forests of the north preferred to any other breed.
The Queen possesses, or lately possessed, a Deerhound which was said to be thoroughbred. This animal, which I have seen, was nearly 31 inches in height, and measured 36 round the chest; his colour was a dark grey, running into a dusky fawn, with a black muzzle, and slightly pendulous. ears; his coat harsh and shaggy, especially on the jaws and neck. I am not aware of any other really pure-hred Deerhound in this country; if such animals exist they are very rare, and any claims to purity of breed should always be looked upon with suspicion. There are many dogs called Deerhounds by their owners, but these are invariably either the Scotch Greyhound, possessing some of the blood of the true Deerhound, or a cross of this breed with the Bloodhound or some other race. Maida, the celebrated Deerhound of Sir Walter Scott, a dog of extraordinary beauty and strength, of the so-called pure Glengarry breed, was bred by the chief of the McDonnels, who used to preserve this breed with much care, and, to avoid degeneracy from too much "in-breeding," was in the habit of using crosses of the Cuban Bloodhound and the large shepherds' dogs of the Pyrenees; and Maida was a half-bred dog,—his father being one of these Pyrenean sheep dogs.
The Scotch Greyhound.
This dog much resembles the Deerhound in. colour and shape, but is generally below 26 inches in height, while the height of the Deerhound should be 28 and upwards.
I may observe in this place, that when the height of a breed of dogs is mentioned, it is always measured at the shoulder, and to be understood of the dog alone; the bitch generally stands several inches lower. In some breeds this disproportion is greater than in others; as, for instance, in Rough Greyhounds and Deerhounds, the difference is from 4 to 5 inches, the dog being 26 inches, and the bitch 21 or 22; but in Foxhounds and Staghounds the difference is rarely so much as 2 inches. In a kennel of Staghounds, where the standard for dogs is 26 inches, the height of the bitches is over 24 inches, while in some breeds of terriers no difference in height between the sexes is perceptible.
The rough Scotch Greyhound is often passed off for and sold as the Highland Deerhound; but, besides the difference in height mentioned above, the Greyhound is less strongly made, even in proportion to his size.
The rough greyhound is now seldom or never used in public coursing; but great benefit has been derived from crossing the smooth English breed with the rough dogs, and thus obtaining greater strength and hardiness, without any sacrifice of speed. The most signal instance of the success of this cross was the celebrated dog "Gilbertfield," (pupped in 1831), who was the fastest Greyhound of his day, and was by a smooth sire dut of a rough dam. But this cross is now seldom adopted, as it is supposed that the smooth variety has already derived all the benefit it can receive from a cross with the rough greyhound. It has been alleged, with some truth as far as my experience goes, that the rough greyhounds are apt to run cunning. In speed they are somewhat inferior to the smooth breeds, and in stoutness very much their inferiors. The points of the rough and smooth Greyhounds are identical.
The Irish Wolf-dog.
This animal is entirely extinct. I only mention the breed to prove what astonishing results careful selection in breeding can produce. There is even some doubt as to what variety this famous dog belonged to, but it is certain that to have caught and coped with the wolf, he must have been of the greyhound form. Indeed, both Ray and Pennant have described him as a tall, rough greyhound of extraordinary size and power. Ray says it was the "greatest dog he had ever seen." Evelyn, when, describing the sports of the bear-garden, says, "The Bull-dogs did exceedingly well, but the Irish Wolf dog exceeded all, which was a tall Greyhound, a stately creature, and did beat a cruel Mastiff." Oliver Goldsmith, no very reliable authority perhaps, says, in his loose way, that he once saw about a dozen of these dogs, and that one was about four feet high, or as big as a yearling heifer. Another account represents them as sufficiently tall to put their heads over the shoulder of a person sitting down.
But the most singular, and perhaps the most reliable proof of the gigantic size of this extinct breed, is a skull, eyidently, from its shape, that of a greyhound, discovered by Mr. -Wylam at Dunshauglin. This skull, now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, measures 11 inches in length. As the skull of a common greyhound is not more than 7 inches long, the ancient dog, if his height was in proportion to the size of his skull, would have been upwards of 40 inches in height at the shoulder, a size exceeding by one-fourth part that of the tallest Deerhound, and quite justifying the descriptions of JRay and Pennant.
The Welsh Rough Greyhound
Does not differ in shape or colour from the Scotch breed, of which he seems to be only a variety.
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