A History and Description Of The Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland (Irish Wolfhund, Deerhound sections) By Rawdon B Lee 1897
The Irish Wolfhound by Arthur Wardle
THE IRISH WOLFHOUND.
Some there are who believe that this historical hound became extinct soon after the last wolf was killed in Ireland, which happened in 1710. Others hold the opinion that it never became extinct at all; but survives in the Scotch deerhound, with which they say it was identical. A third division have equally strong opinions, something between the two, which are to the effect that so recently as eighty or ninety years ago very few real Irish wolfhounds remained, and these not readily traceable back to the oldest strains; and some advocate the smooth greyhound as the true article. Then, to complicate matters still further, the Great Dane has become mixed up in the controversy, and one great authority has stated that the original wolfhound, or the dog from which he sprang, was brought over to Ireland in the sixth century, B.C., by the Celts, during their migration from the shores of the Black Sea. It has also been urged that the wolfhound and the Great Dane, as we know them now, had a common origin, and that they were the foundations of the mastiffs and other large dogs which, at a later period, had in a measure made Great Britain famous for its powerful and ferocious varieties of the canine race. Many authorities of the past generation write to prove that the Irish wolfhound, if not a Great Dane, was a smooth-coated creature very like him; and additional evidence that such was the case is to be found in the following instance.
Some eight or nine years ago, I was shown by the Earl of Antrim a life-sized painting of an enormous hound which had been in his family for about a hundred years. Through generations this had been handed down as a true Irish wolfhound, a noble creature that had saved the life of one of his lordship's ancestors under peculiar and extraordinary circumstances, so the faithful creature had its portrait painted. Now this dog was a huge southern hound in appearance, marked like a modern foxhound, with long pendulous ears, possibly an animal identical with the matin of old writers. The painting, which I believe is in the Kennel Club, gives the idea that the subject had, in life, stood about thirty-four inches high at the shoulders.
It was but natural, when I introduced this interesting discovery to the public through the columns of the Field, that discussion and controversy thereon would arise, and such was the case. Little new material as to the history of the Irish dog was elicited, and it was to be regretted that Lord Antrim could afford no further particulars as to the animal to which attention was first drawn.
The following is one of the many stories extant of the Irish wolfhound " at home." "In the mountainous parts of the county Tyrone, some time in the sixteenth century, the inhabitants suffered much from the wolves, and gave from the public fund so much for the head of one of these animals. There lived an adventurer, who, alone and unassisted, made it his occupation to destroy these ravagers. The time for attacking them was long after dark, and midnight was fixed upon for doing so, as that was their wonted time for leaving their lairs in search of food, when the country was at rest and all was still; then, issuing forth, they fell on their defenceless prey, and the carnage commenced. There was a species of dog for the purpose of hunting them called the wolf dog; the animal resembled a rough, stout, half-bred greyhound, but was much stronger. In the county Tyrone there was then a large space of ground inclosed by a high stone wall, having a gap at each of the two opposite extremities, and in this were secured the flocks of the surrounding farmers.
Still, secure though this fold was deemed, it was entered by the wolves, and its inmates slaughtered. The neighbouring proprietors having heard of the noted wolf hunter above mentioned, by name Rory Carragh, sent for him, and offered the usual reward, with some addition, if he would undertake to destroy the two remaining wolves that had committed such devastation. Carragh, undertaking the task, took with him two wolf dogs and a little boy twelve years of age, the only person who would accompany him, and repaired at the approach of midnight to the fold in question. 'Now,' said Carragh to the boy, 'as the two wolves usually enter the opposite extremities of the sheepfold at the same time, I must leave you and one of the dogs to guard this one, while I go to the other. He steals with all the caution of a cat, and you will not hear him, but the dog will, and will give him the first fall. If, therefore, you are not active enough when he is down to rivet his neck to the ground with this spear, he will rise and kill both you and the dog. So good night.' 'I'll do what I can,' said the little boy, as he took the spear from the wolf-hunter's hand.
"The boy immediately threw open the gate of the fold, and took his seat in the inner part, close to the entrance, his faithful companion crouching at his side, and seeming perfectly aware of the dangerous business he was engaged in. The night was very dark and cold, and the poor little boy, being benumbed with the chilly air, was beginning to fall into a kind of sleep, when at that instant the dog, with a roar, leaped across, and laid his mortal enemy upon the earth. The boy was roused into double activity by the voice of his companion, and drove the spear through the wolf's neck as he had been directed, at which time Carragh appeared, bearing the head of the other."
One might have expected to find something reliable and convincing as to what the Irish wolfhound really was in the "Sportsman's Cabinet," published in 1803. Here we have an excellent engraving from a picture by Reinagle, of a huge dog, an enormous deerhound in fact, the identical creature popular reputation stated such a dog to be. Unfortunately the letterpress describes quite a different animal— more of the Great Dane type than of the deerhound. And so the authorities who wrote at the time differed quite as much on the matter as do the admirers of the variety at the present time.
To Captain G. A. Graham, of Dursley, Gloucestershire, we owe considerable gratitude for the trouble he has taken to resuscitate the Irish wolfhound. Enthusiast though he be, he is not like so many other enthusiasts, led away to say things he cannot prove, or, indeed, to lay claim to his hounds being descended in a direct line from those animals which may have or may not have killed the last wolf near Dingle over 200 years ago. The gallant gentleman acknowledges that the breed in its original integrity has disappeared, but he believed, when first writing on the subject twenty years since, that so much of the true strain remained that, with the aid of the modern deerhound, and with judicious management, the breed in its "pristine grandeur" could be recovered.
The difficulty, to my mind, would be to exactly define the original Irish wolfhound. The popular idea—and this is not always correct—was of a big powerful dog, with a wire-haired or rough coat, built on the lines of a deerhound, but altogether a heavier and stronger animal. What height a fullgrown specimen should be there is a diversity of opinion. Old writers have said he was as big as a donkey; others that he stood from 36 inches to 40 inches at the shoulders. In the museum of the Royal Dublin Society there are two skulls of wolfhounds dug out of barrows by the late Dr. Wilde. The dimensions of them have been very useful to those who believed in the bigness of the wolfhound. Unfortunately for the side of the latter. these skulls, when carefully measured and compared with others of living dogs, deerhounds, wolfhounds, and greyhounds, could not have been possessed by animals more than 29 inches high at the shoulders.
However, it is not my province here to say what kind of an animal the historical Irish deerhound was, whether there were two, three, or four varieties, or whether any dog that would tackle and hunt a wolf was from the moment he did so called a wolfhound. This would only be similar to that which occurs in our own days; for have we not the ordinary foxhound called a staghound or a buckhound when he is entered to hunt the deer?
Mr. G. W. Hickman, of Birmingham, has written most exhaustively and carefully on the subject on one side; so have Mr. H. Richardson, Captain G. A. Graham, Mr. R. D. O'Brien, Limerick, and others on another side. I have to deal with "Modern Dogs," and so the wolfhound, as he is now resuscitated, must be described by me. There is no doubt that by careful crossing between certain dogs obtained from Ireland about 1841 with the deerhound and the Great Dane, an animal of a certain distinctive type has been obtained, which, in its turn, breeds perhaps quite as truly, up to a certain standard, as most other canine varieties. Captain G. A. Graham, who must be said to be the chief supporter of the modern variety, says that his own strain "he can trace back to those had by Richardson in 1841-42, though not beyond 1862 from father to son. He says the breed had been kept up by Mr. Baker, of Badylohm Castle, and Sir John Power, of Kilfane, from 1840 to 1865, or thereabouts. He further says that on good grounds it was believed that "these dogs were descended from Hamilton Rowan's so called, last of his race, Bran by name, a fine dark grey, rough hound, that was his constant companion." Captain G. A. Graham had a grandson of Kilfane Oscar, a dog he obtained from Sir Ralph Payne-Gall vvey, and from this he traces the purity of the blood as far back as it will go. He advocated a cross with the Great Dane and deerhound, and latterly, on the popularisation of the Borzoi, or Russian wolfhound, has suggested a third cross with that variety.
Some of the Irish wolfhounds seen at modern exhibitions are extremely fine animals, docile and quiet as they recline on their benches, and by no means quarrelsome, evidently quite contented with their lot. Indeed, they possess an excellent reputation as companions, especially such as are not the first cross between the two modern varieties already alluded to. I think it was at Brighton show in 1895, that Mr. W. K. Angelo showed a particularly fine "Irish wolfhound," Goth II., who stood 34 inches at the shoulders, and weighed 134lb. at eighteen months old. An extremely handsome hound this, which, on inquiry, I found had the Borzoi Korotai for his grandsire on one side, and besides he included deerhound and Irish wolfhound blood. In addition his grandsire, on his dam's side, was an imported " Siberian wolf dog or sheep dog." This hound, and others of the same strain in Mr. Angelo's kennels, have been and are used successfully in Scotland for coursing deer.
Never having been the fortunate possessor of any Irish wolfhounds, and being desirous of obtaining the best information about them as companions, I wrote to a friend who at times had kept two or three of them, and who would gladly give me his opinion. That friend says the Irish wolfhound is very good with children, is the best domestic pet of any big dog, and none more useful in a quiet country place. He never had a case of anyone being bitten by his Irish dogs, though, from their size and appearance, they are a great deterrent to bad characters and the tramping fraternity generally. Some of the strains that contain the Great Dane first cross are not quite of the same disposition as the others, being not nearly so dignified in their demeanour, and inclined to steal whenever an opportunity is afforded them so to do. They are exuberantly affectionate, seldom at rest a moment, but still not quarrelsome. The finer strains are generally more lethargic, stately, and sedate; strong in their attachments to an individual, and extremely quiet and good-tempered with other dogs; the latter often approaching to softness. Still, when roused and angry, they can give a good account of themselves, and punish their enemy severely. In no degree are they quarrelsome for they are quite as reliable in temper as the modern deerhound.
This is not a bad character for a dog that one requires to be an every-day companion either in town or country; and certainly, so far as I have studied and noticed the variety, I must agree with the excellent testimonial the Irish wolfhound receives from one who has kept him for half a generation.
This dog has been recommended as likely to be useful with "big game," not elephants and hippopotami, but with wolves, hyenas, and such inferior animals as are to be found in South Africa and other great hunting countries. Whether they would do so well as either the pure Dane or the Deerhound is an open question. They are not sufficiently smart and active to cope successfully with powerful beasts of prey, though perhaps, if brought up to the work and at an early age trained to hunt, they would be able to do as well as any other breed of dog. But it is folly for a young fellow to obtain a hound of any of these varieties—Great Dane, deerhound, or Irish wolfhound—from some of the show kennels, rush him over to the Cape, or into the interior of Africa, and expect him to take as kindly to hunt "the king of the forest" or the leopard as he would to accepting a biscuit from the hand of some fair mistressAn Irish wolfhound requires to be properly entered to game just as carefully as do the pointer, setter, and retriever; and generations passed in kennels or in the drawing-room have no tendency to improve him as a destroyer of wild animals when they come in his way.
A modem Irish wolfhound is in appearance just a big and rather coarse deerhound, and, previous to giving his description as drawn up by the Wolfhound Club, the following statistics of the height and weight of some of the best specimens will perhaps not be without interest:—Captain G. A. Graham's Brian, figured in "Dogs of the British Isles" stood 30J inches at the shoulder, and weighed 1 28lb.; Dhulart was 31 inches at the shoulder and 126lb. weight; Banshee, 29J inches and 101 lb. weight; Mask, 30^inches, and 106lb. weight; Tara, 29 inches and about loolb.; Fintragh, 29! inches, and 1 lolb. weight. Colonel Gamier showed a particularly fine young dog at the Kennel Club's Show at Islington in 1888, which unfortunately died soon after the exhibition. The hound, called Merlin, stood 33 inches at the shoulders, and, though unfurnished, .scaled 150lb. He was fawn in colour, and undoubtedly the finest specimen of the race I have seen or has yet appeared at any of our shows. Already have l referred to Mr. Angelo's Goth II., who at eighteen months old measured 34 inches at the shoulder, and scaled 134lb. Another hound of Mr. Angelo's, called Torrum,and who has killed several deer, is 33 inches at the shoulders; whilst Mr. Trainor's Thuggum Thu, shown at the Kennel Club's Show in October, 1896, was quite 34 inches in height, and a well-made dog, too, but, like all of his cousins, inclining very much to the deerhound type. Another very good specimen is Mr. Crisp's Bran, bred by the Earl of Caledon, and standing 33 inches at the shoulder. He is a steel brindle in colour, but, unlike Thuggum Thu, who inclines to the deerhound, shows his Great Dane descent, though in jaw and other particulars he excels. Perhaps a better bitch has never been shown than Captain Graham's Sheelah, described by one admirer of the variety as the best bitch he ever saw. She was about 30 inches at the shoulders, wheaten in colour, with a few black hairs intermingled, and with black points, and showed neither undue deerhound or Great Dane blood. Moreover, she proved an excellent brood bitch, being dam of Dhuartand Mr. Hood Wright's Starno, both excelling in type, which is so difficult to find in the present generation.
It is rather unfortunate that so fine a dog has not attracted popular fancy. Had it done so, there would have been as much a run on the Irish wolfhound as there has been on other and perhaps less deserving varieties. The club to look after its interests is fairly successful, but there is a sad lack of enterprise amongst the general public. Even the natives of the Emerald Isle themselves have refused to answer the call, although, in the national emblem of Erin, an Irish wolfhound is lying beside the harp, and, as a rule, the prizes at Dublin for the national breed of dogs are swept away by the Saxon invader. Their terrier they patronise, but neglect the wolfhound and the Kerry beagle. Had it not been for a Scotsman, Captain G. A. Graham, this canine relic of a mighty race might even now be extinct. To prevent its becoming so, earnest admirers of the dog, such as he, with the Hon. Miss Dillon; Colonel Gamier; Mr. W. K. Angelo, Rev. H. L. O'Brien, Limerick; Mr. Bailey; Mr. G. E. Crisp; Mr. Playford, Ipswich; Mr. J. Trainor, Liscard; Mr. Williams, Llangibby; Mr. W. Allen, Cardiff; and some few others, do their best, and usually possess some few specimens of the article as genuine as it can be obtained. Most of the bigger shows provide classes for Irish wolfhounds, but the competition therein is never strong, and the chief prizes are usually taken by one or other of the gentlemen to whom allusion has been made.
The following is the description of the variety as drawn up by the Club:
1. General appearance. — The Irish wolfhound should not be quite so heavy or massive as the Great Dane, but more so than the deerhound, which in general type he should otherwise resemble. Of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly though gracefully built; movements easy and active; head and neck carried high; the tail carried with an upward sweep, with a slight curve towards the extremity. The minimum height and weight of dogs should be 31 in. and 120lb.; of bitches, 28in. and cjolb. Anything below this should be debarred from competition. Great size, including height at shoulder and proportionate length of body, is the desideratum to be aimed at, and it is desired to firmly establish a race that shall average from 32m. to 34m. in dogs, showing the requisite power, activity, courage, and symmetry.
2. Head.—Long, the frontal bones of the forehead very slightly raised, and very little indentation between the eyes. Skull, not too broad. Muzzle, long and moderately pointed. Ears, small and greyhound-like in carriage.
3. Neck.—Rather long, very strong and muscular, well arched, without dewlap or loose skin about the throat.
4. Chest.—Very deep. Breast, wide.
5. Back. — Rather long than short. Loins, arched.
6. Tail.—Long and slightly curved, of moderate thickness, and well covered with hair.
7. Belly.—Well drawn up.
8. Fore-quarters.—Shoulders muscular, giving breadth of chest, set sloping. Elbows well under, neither turned inwards nor outwards. Leg.—Forearm muscular, and the whole leg strong and quite straight.
9. Hind-quarters.—Muscular thighs, and second thigh long and strong as in the greyhound, and hocks well let down and turning neither in nor out.
10. Feet.—Moderately large and round, neither turned inwards nor outwards. Toes well arched and closed. Nails, very strong and curved.
11. Hair.—Rough and hard on body, legs, and head; especially wiry and long over eyes and under jaw.
12. Colour and markings.—The recognised colours are grey, brindle, red, black, pure white, fawn, or any colour that appears in the deerhound.
13. Faults.—Too light or heavy a head, too highly arched frontal bone; large ears and hanging flat to the face; short neck; full dewlap; too narrow or too broad a chest; sunken or hollow or quite level back; bent fore-legs; overbent fetlocks; twisted feet; spreading toes; too curly a tail; weak hindquarters, cow hocks, and a general want of muscle; too short in body.
FAILING any further information on the subject than we at present possess, it will always be a moot point whether the hounds used for Queen Elizabeth's delectation at Cowdray Park, in 1595, that "pulled down sixteen bucks in a laund," were ordinary greyhounds or Scottish deerhounds. The latter were likely enough to be fashionable animals at the close of the sixteenth century, for they had already been described by Hector Boece, in his History of Scotland, printed in France 1526-7, which by royal command was translated into English in 1531. Thirty years later, Gesner, in his "General History of Quadrupeds," gives an illustration of three "Scottish dogs," one of them answering to our modern deerhound in general appearance. The drawing for this was supplied by Henry St. Clair, Dean of Glasgow at that time, whose family kept the breed for very many years, an interesting story in connection therewith being told on another page.
Good Queen Bess was fond of her dogs and the sport they showed, and there is nothing unreasonable in supposing that those provided for the purpose above-mentioned in Cowdray Park were in reality deerhounds. However, whether my supposition be correct or otherwise, there is no gainsaying the fact that this mention in the Scottish history is the earliest to be met with where the deerhound is actually alluded to.
That he was highly valued by the clans or chieftains of his native country may be judged from the following pretty story told by Boece. On one occasion many of the Pictish nobility repaired to Craithlint, to meet the King of Scots to hunt and make merry with him, where they found the Scottish dogs far excelled their own in "fairness, swiftness, and hardness, and also in long standing up and holding out." The Scottish lords gave their guests both dogs and bitches of their best strains; but they, not contented, stole one, belonging to the king, from his keeper; and this the most esteemed hound in the lot. The master of the leash being informed of the robbery, pursuit was taken after the thievish Picts, who, being overtaken, refused to give up the royal favourite, and in the end slew the master of the leash with their spears. Then the Scots mustered a stronger force including those who had been engaged in hunting, and they fell upon the Picts. A terrible struggle took place, one hundred of the Picts were slain and "threescore gentlemen " on the other side, besides a great number of commoners. The latter, poor fellows, not being deemed worthy of numeration in those bloodthirsty times, and, so long as the hound was recovered, little thought would be given to the dead "commoners" who fought for its possession. Moreover, it was stated few of the combatants knew what they had been fighting about.
Another interesting story is that relating to the family of St. Clair. King Robert Bruce, in following the chase upon the Pentland Hills, had often started a " white faunch deer," which always escaped from his hounds. He asked his nobles if any of them possessed dogs that they thought might prove more successful. Naturally, there was no one there so bold as to affirm his hounds better than those of the sovereign, until Sir William St. Clair came forward. He would wager his head that his two favourite hounds, "Help" and "Hold," would kill the deer before she could cross the March burn. Bruce, evidently of a sporting turn, at once wagered the Forest of Pentland Moor, to the head of the bold Sir William, against the accomplishment of the feat. The deer was roused by the slow, or drag hounds. and St. Clair, in a suitable place, uncoupled his favourites in sight of the flying hind. St. Clair followed on horseback, and as the deer reached the middle of the brook, he in despair, believing his wager already lost, and his life as good as gone, leaped from his horse. At this critical moment, "Hold" stopped her quarry in the brook, and "Help" coming up, the deer was turned, and in the end killed within the stipulated boundary. The king, not far behind, was soon on the scene, and, embracing his subject, " bestowed on him the lands of Kirton, Logan House, Earncraig, &c., in free forestrie." Scrope says the tomb of this Sir William St. Clair, on which he appears sculptured in armour, with a greyhound (deerhound) at his feet, is still to be seen in Rosslyn Chapel.
A common but erroneous idea has prevailed, that the Irish wolfhound and the Scottish deerhound were identical, and, indeed, that the latter was merely an ordinary greyhound, with a rough, hard coat, produced by beneficent Nature to protect a delicate dog against the rigours of a northern climate.
About the end of the sixteenth century (1591), we are told that the Earl of Mar had large numbers of deerhounds, but at the same period the Duke of Buckingham had great difficulty in obtaining Irish wolf dogs, a few couples of which he wished to present to "divers princes and other nobles." So the Irish dog was even then becoming extinct, but the Scottish one survives to the present day, and is now more popular and numerous than at any previous period of his existence. Still, judging from what Pennant, writing in 1769, says, the deerhound must, about his time, have been rare in certain districts, for he says, "he saw at Gordon Castle a true Highland greyhound, which has become very scarce. It was of large size, strong, deep chested, and covered with very long and rough hair. This kind was in great vogue in former days, and used in vast numbers at the magnificent stag chases by powerful chieftains." Even the Kings of Scotland were wont to command those of their subjects who had good hounds to bring them together in order that they should have a suitable hunt, and their commands were freely responded to by the presence of the Earls of Argyle, Huntly, Athol, and others.
Towards the close of the past century and early in the present one the deerhound was by no means so uncommon in various parts of Scotland as some have inferred. A good many were scattered up and down in various holdings, especially in the western portions of the Highlands, extending to the Hebrides. The smaller farmers kept one or two, and so did many of the shepherds, who were never loth to chase and kill a deer, and when a stag, or even hind, was not to be had, the deerhound was trained to hunt and kill foxes and otters, and other small game or vermin. After the rebellion of 1745, a good deal of uneasiness and unpleasantness remained, and the animosity caused thereby was a long time in being allayed. In many instances the Highland residences were neglected, their owners going to reside on the Continent or elsewhere. Their hounds were, therefore, spread abroad in out-of-the-way places, and thus perhaps came the impression conveyed by Pennant of their scarcity. Mr. George Cupples ("Scotch Deerhounds and their Masters") tells us the lowlier families used these hounds in competing against each other, and matches between certain celebrated hounds in adjoining districts were frequent. No doubt the deerhound, under such surroundings, would improve, especially as he was, to a certain extent, more of a companion than when kept in a large kennel.
In Johnson's tour to the Hebrides in 1773, Boswell makes several allusions to the dogs and hounds. He says: "In the Isle of Sky is a race of brindled greyhounds larger and stronger than those with which we course hares, and these are the only dogs used by them (the islanders) for the chase
The deer are not driven with horns and hounds. A sportsman with a gun in his hand watches the animal, and when he has wounded him traces him by the blood." The same quaint volume says that on one occasion the young laird of Coll "was sporting in the mountains of Sky, and when weary with following his game repaired to Talisker. At night he missed one of his dogs, and when he went to seek for him in the morning found two eagles feeding on his carcase." Scottish hounds were by no means uncommon then in the Hebrides and on the western coast, where considerable pains were taken to preserve the strain in its purity and strength, and no doubt, in a great measure, we are indebted to these smaller farmers for preserving a fine variety of the canine race when it was within quite an easy distance of almost entire extinction. It is possible that, had the Irish wolfhound been favoured in a similar manner, and obtained equally warm admirers, there would have been no occasion for the resuscitation of the breed by the introduction of the deerhound and German boarhound cross.
One or two authors have assumed that the modern deerhound is a cross between the foxhound and the greyhound, or between the bloodhound and the greyhound, but this I consider quite incorrect, nor in my researches have I been able to come across anything likely to sustain such a statement. If the deerhound is to be found in greater numbers now than previously, it is only because more attention is paid to his breeding, and because the many strains that a hundred years and more ago were in the out of the way places of the Highlands have, by better communication, been brought within the radius of canine admirers. Scrope, in his "Deer Stalking," published in 1838, has naturally much to write about the deerhound. He it is recommends the foxhound and greyhound cross, and says that the celebrated sportsman Glengarry crossed occasionally with bloodhounds, still Macneill of Colonsay, who wrote the article in " Days of Deerstalking," that deals mostly with those hounds, confesses that there were still pure deerhounds to be found when he states them to be very scarce at the time he wrote. Maybe they were scarce, but not sufficiently so as to induce people to attempt to reproduce them by such an unhallowed alliance, and perhaps, as stated above, they were not quite so scarce as he imagined. In addition to the hounds kept by the farmers and shepherds, Lord Seaforth had a large kennel, and the strains of the MacDonnels of Invergary House, of Cluny Macpherson, of Colonel Mitchell Strathmaspie, of the Lochiels in Lochaber, one of whose hounds was said to have killed the last wolf in Scotland; of the Dukes of Gordon, of the McKenzies, Macraes, and Macleods, were all of considerable reputation. The pedigrees were carefully guarded, and it is said that Dr. Ross, parish priest at Kilmonivaig, was prouder of the blood of some of his hounds, which were said to be of a pure and rare strain originally possessed by the Duke of Gordon, than he was of his own ancestry, traceable to the Earls of Ross.
A favourite sporting author from my earliest boyhood days has been Charles St. John, who, in his "Highland Sports," writes so charmingly and naturally of all he saw and shot and caught during his excursions. He wrote but eight years after Scrope, still he says that the breed of deerhounds which "had nearly become extinct, or, at any rate, was very rare a few years ago, has now become comparatively plentiful in all the Highland districts, owing to the increased extent of the preserved forests and the trouble taken by different proprietors and masters of mountain shootings, who have collected and bred this noble race of dogs regardless of expense and difficulty." Not a word about Macneill's crosses or of those of Glengarry; and I am happy in the belief that our present race of deerhounds does not contain the slightest taint of bloodhound or foxhound blood. If it did, surely the black and tan colour and the greyhound markings would continually be appearing.
I have yet to see a black and tan deerhound, or one similar to a foxhound in hue.
What a striking and life-like picture St. John draws of Malcolm: "as fine a looking lad, of thirtyfive, as ever stepped on heather," and of his two hounds, Bran and Oscar, whose descriptions tally with what I shall later on give to be those of a deerhound. There was no bloodhound or foxhound stain in Bran and Oscar, and well might such handsome, useful, faithful creatures, or similar ones, be worth the ^50 a-piece they would have brought even fortyfive years ago.
Since St. John wrote, many deer forests have been broken up into smaller holdings, and to this, perhaps, may be attributed the fact that "coursing deer" is not followed so much as in his time. There are still a few forests in which a deerhound may be taken out to assist at the termination of a stalk; but as the red deer is now mostly killed in "drives," a sort of battue in which the shooter can sit at ease until the deer come along, to be shot in a somewhat ignominious manner, the deerhound as such is little used. A stalker will find one useful at times, but even he is supplied with such a perfect rifle, so admirably sighted, and he is such a good shot that the stag seldom requires more than the hard bullet to kill him almost dead upon the spot.
Some few years ago the Earl of Tankerville, in a series of articles he wrote for the Field, made allusion to the deerhound. He said many that he saw '' were beautiful, swift, and powerful. Some are able to pull down a stag single handed, but the bravest always gets killed in the end. The pure breed have keen noses as well as speed, and will follow the slot of a wounded deer perseveringly if they find blood. The most valued are not necessarily the most savage, for the latter (the reckless ones) go in and get killed, whilst the more wary, who have taken the hint after a pug or two, are equally enduring, and will hold their bay for any indefinite time, which is a merit of the first importance."
Lord Tankerville continues, that he was informed of a remarkable deerhound, belonging to a poacher in Badenoch, that never missed a deer. In due course he obtained the hound, and called it Bran. Later on it saved the life of a keeper from the furious attack of one of the wild bulls of Chillingham. After being delivered to his new home, Bran was placed in the kennel, and it was thought that the pallisades with which it was surrounded were sufficiently high to prevent any dog getting over them. However, Bran did succeed in scaling them, and Lord Tankerville, having paid his money and lost his dog, was considerably upset, and never thought of seeing the
hound again. However, in a few days the "poacher" brought back the errant Bran, who had, in fact, reached his old home before his master, who was considerably astonished, on reaching his cottage, to see his old companion rush forward to meet him. The distance between Chillingham and the man's cottage was about seventy miles, and to take the shortest route, which Bran no doubt did or he would have caught his master on the road, he must have swum Loch Ericht.
Naturally modern dog shows have done much to re-popularise the deerhound, now that he is so seldom required for that purpose for which, shall I say, nature first intended him. How little he is used in deer stalking may be surmised by a list that appears in Mr. Weston Bell's monograph of the variety (1892). Here some fifty-eight forests are named, and in but about seven of them is the deerhound kept. The collie is now more frequentlv trained and used to track the wounded stag, because he works more slowly, and is therefore less liable to unduly scare and alarm the deer. From the earliest institution of dog shows, classes have been provided for the deerhound, and these have resulted in a number of excellent animals being benched of a uniformity and quality that our excellent friend Charles St. John would scarcely have thought possible, and Archibald Macneill would have deemed incomprehensible.
There is no handsomer dog than the deerhound— he has the elegance of shape, the light, airy appearance of the greyhound, a hard, crisp, and picturesque jacket, either of fawn or grey brindle, an eye as bright as that of the gazelle, but loving, still sharp and intelligent; and a good specimen has not a bad feature about him. His disposition is of the best; he is sensible and kindly; and friends of mine to whom I gave a puppy, on its death refused to be consoled by any other dog than one of the same variety.
"It's a blooming lurcher," is the yokel's idea of a deerhound, an opinion in which the cockney corner man evidently coincides. Either will pass a rude remark about your aristocratic canine companion. The Scotsman away from home, be he out at elbows, or otherwise, pays compliments to the dog. If his shoes are down at the heels, the chances are he is the sole survival of a chieftain of some great clan, and, on the strength of your possession of one of his native quadrupeds, will seek to allay his thirst, or penchant for Glenlivat, at your expense. Still, I do not fancy that the deerhound is quite so popular as a companion over the border as he is on this side the border. Englishmen have paid greater attention to his breeding; the honours to be gained at shows make it worth while their doing so; and, being more difficult to rear than most other dogs, he requires greater care in bringing up, and, if not allowed continual exercise, will become crooked on his fore legs, and out at the elbows—ungainly enough in little dogs, but a terrible eyesore in big ones. They will not rear well in a kennel.
It has been said the deerhound is uncertain in his temper with children; in some cases this may be so, but not in all. Again, it has been stated that when a puppy he will chase anything that moves in front of him —sheep, poultry, &c. What puppy will not? All young dogs are alike in this particular, and if not carefully watched will, like your favourite little boy or girl, be for ever getting into mischief.
Deerhounds, like all dogs, require careful earlv training, and when once broken off sheep and other "small deer," are as safe and reliable in the fields as any other of the canine race. As a fact, I believe that both pointers and setters, greyhounds, and even the collie himself, is as "fond of mutton" as the often maligned dog about which this article is being written. Many dogs have been spoiled by their manners being neglected during their puppyhood; no doubt others will be so in the future, and it is a pity that one so docile, handsome, sagacious, and aristocratic as the deerhound, should obtain an evil name through the negligence or over-indulgence of its owner.
As already stated, dog shows have been of infinite advantage in raising the deerhound to its present popularity, though prior to this epoch, what Sir Walter Scott writes of his Maida and other favourite hounds, with Landseer's fine paintings, had made the general public anxious to see such handsome hounds in the flesh. The first show at Birmingham, in i860, provided two classes for them, but there were few entries, and both leading prizes were taken by Lieut.-Colonel Inge, of Thorpe, near Tamworth, who, at that time, possessed a capital strain of deerhounds. Later on the numbers increased, and in 1862 there were ten competitors in the dog class, but they were a mixed lot, though the winner, called Alder, bred by Sir John Macneil, was a splendid specimen, which again took leading honours two years later. The succeeding show had, for some reason or other, a capital entry, sixteen in the one class, six in the other, and these included several dogs from the Highlands, one of the latter, called Oscar, now beating Alder, who looked old and worn, and was past his best.
About this period Lord Henry Bentinck took great pride in his deerhounds, and kept a fine kennel of them. In 1870 they were sold by auction in McDowell's rooms, Edinburgh, when sixteen hounds realised 296/. 165. The highest figures were 50 guineas for the thirteen-year-old Factor, 40 guineas for Elshee, 30 guineas for Fury, the others bringing 30, 26, 20, and 19 guineas respectively. Mr. McKenzie, Ross-shire; Mr. J. Wright, Yeldersby House, Derby; Mr. Menzies, Chesthill; Mr. Grant, Glenmorriston; Colonel Campbell of Monzie; Mr. Wright-Omaston; Lord Boswell; Mr. W. Gordon, Guardbridge, Fifeshire; Lord Bredalbane; the Duke of Sutherland; Mr. Spencer Lucy; Mr. George Cupples, author of "Scotch Deerhounds and their Masters "; and Dr. Hadden, have at one time or another had good deerhounds in their kennels, as well as many others of the older Scottish families. The Dukes of Richmond and Gordon for generations kept a fine kennel of deerhounds, and the remnants thereof, which included a couple or two of grand old hounds, were brought from the Highlands to Aldridge's in London, where they were sold by auction in 1895, realising sorry prices, varying only from one guinea to six guineas each.
In 1869 we find a Cameron of Lochiel sending to Curzon Hall and taking a first prize with Torum, who afterwards became the property of Mr. H. C. Musters. Torum had been sent from the Highlands because he was too big for work, and Mr. Donald Cameron was surprised at his winning, for his hound stood 32m. in height, and weighed 12olb The following year he sent Pirate and Shellock, brother and sister to Torum, and both much bettei than he in symmetry as well as in work. However, size again told, as it so often does now, and Torum won once more, with Pirate second, whilst the bitch was first in her class. Sir St. George Gore was a frequent exhibitor, and in 1865 he showed a deerhound that was almost smooth, a big coarse, ugly greyhound in appearance, that of course did not take a prize. Mr. H. C. Musters, Captain Graham, of Rednock; Mr. J. H. Beasley, Northampton; Mr. G. W. Hickman, Birmingham, and a few others who admired the fine form of the Scotch hound, were exhibiting about 1870. The following year had Mr. Dawes' Warrior, who won so many prizes up and down the country, mostly in variety classes. However, prior to him came one or two exceptionally good hounds, Mr. Beasley's bitch Countess especially so; nor must Mr. Hickman's excellent dog Morni be omitted, for he was not only good to look at, but could boast a lineage which contained some of the bluest blood of the day. Indeed, it was said by many good judges that Morni was far ahead of any deerhound they ever saw, and that, even with the accident to his stern, which necessitated his retirement after three years' successes, he was good enough to beat the best. Another almost perfect deerhound was Mr. Hickman's Lord of the Isles, of whom a Cameron of Lochiel said he was beyond criticism. The head of this splendid hound is printed on the little pamphlet issued by the Deerhound Club, and which contains its rules. Unfortunately Mr. Hickman only obtained one litter of puppies by him, but of these Fingal was sire of more good hounds of one uniform type than perhaps any other dog of the variety who has succeeded him; to wit, Enterprise, Earl II., Ensign, Esquire, Rossie Blake, Brian, Bruar, Beppa, Blue Bonnet, and some few others.
Lord of the Isles, bred by Mr. H. P. Parkes, in 1875, was a grandson of Morni, and during his show career was pretty well invincible. Tara, a daughter of Cuchullin and Morna, all with Morni for their sire, were "lions" in their day; and Mr. Hickman subsequently owned Barra, Princess Marjorie, and many more, which were always well able to at any rate hold their own, at the Birmingham, London, Warwick, and other large shows where they were entered. Following a few years later was that fine old hound Bevis (Mr. Hood Wright's), so sober and sedate that in his declining years he took to the stage, and appeared with great success at one or two of the Sheffield pantomimes at Christmas.
There are now, at least a dozen shows held annually, at which classes are provided for this variety, and naturally new breeders have sprung up. Mr. J. Harriott Bell, of Rossie, Perthshire, has got together a' kennel containing a number of splendid deerhounds (this kennel was originally established by Mr. E. Weston Bell, whose untimely death was much regretted); and Mr. W. H. Singer, of Frome, Somerset; Mr. Walter Evans, Birchfield Birmingham; Mr. R. H. Wright, Frome; Mr. W. Gibbons, Stratford-on-Avon; Mr. A. Maxwell, now of Bedford, formerly of Croft, near Darlington; Major Davis, Bath; Miss Rattray, Swindon; the Duchess of Wellington; Mr. M. Goulter, Hungerford, Mr. W. C. Grew, Moseley, Birmingham; and Mr. H. Rawson, Midlothian, all possess deerhounds of the highest merit. Perhaps the best of their race during most recent years have been or are: Sir Gavin, Fingall II., Earl II., Ensign, Shepherd, Swift, Enterprise, Royal Lufra (a beautiful headed bitch, for which excellence she won a special prize at Bath a few years ago), Rossie Blue Bell, Rossie Blue Bonnet, Rossie Beppa, Selwood Morven, and Mr. Jenner's Dinah; the latter one of the old sort, not too big, abounding in character, and possessing a charming look out. And there are many others, almost if not equally good to look at, on the show bench.
The deerhound, in colour, should be either brindled in various shades, blue, or fawn ; white is detrimental, though a little on the chest or feet does not matter very much. Pure white dogs are occasionally found, but it is not a deerhound colour, any more than it is that of a collie, though Mr. Morton Campbell, jun., of Stracathro, near Brechin, had a white hound of considerable beauty; it was obtained from the Highlands, and its pedigree is unknown. I prefer the darker shades of colour; the darker brindles are very attractive, and, in actual work, it is a colour that tones well with the surrounding rocks and dark heather. The largest and heaviest dogs are not to be recommended, either for work or otherwise, they cut themselves on the rocks, and are not nearly so active and lithe on the rough ground as the lighter and smaller specimens. The dog should not, nt any rate, be more than about thirty inches at the shoulder, the bitch from one to two inches less. One or two specimens have been shown, and won prizes too, that measured up to thirty-two inches, and even an inch more, and it is said that Bran, figured in "Dogs of the British Isles," was thirtythree inches! At the Kennel Club's show in October, 1896, Mr. W. C. Grew showed an eighteen months puppy called Kelso which measured 32^ inches in height. This was certainly the best big deerhound I ever saw, for there was no coarseness about him, and he was thoroughly symmetrical, although losing somewhat in character on account of his rather light coloured eyes. He won all the prizes he could win, including one given to the best deerhound in the exhibition.
The following heights and weights of some of the best deerhounds of the modern standard may be interesting, and all are excellent specimens in every way, and perhaps equal to anything that has yet been seen. Mr. Walter Evan's Fingal II. stands 29 inches at shoulder, and weighs 87lb.; his Earl II., 28 inches and 81 lb.; Duke of Brewood, 30 inches, weighs 88lb.; and his bitch, Enterprise, stands 29 inches, and weighs 85lb., a big weight for a bitch. Mr. W. H. Singer's well-known dog, Swift, is 79lb. weight, and 30 inches at the shoulder; and his bitch, She, weighs 72lb., and stands 26 inches.
With eyes of sloe,
And ears not low;
With horse's breast.
And deep in chest;
And broad in loin,
And strong in groin;
And nape set far behind the head—
These were the dogs that Fingal bred.
In general form the deerhound should be like a greyhound: ears similar, loins likewise, legs and feet equally good. In his character he differs from the smooth hound considerably, as he does in coat, which is hard, crisp, and close, not too long, whilst silkiness on the top knot, and elsewhere, is not desirable. In galloping or running he carries his head higher than a greyhound, nor does he lay himself down so closely to his work; he appears, indeed, to be on the look out for contingencies, and does not, as a rule, go at his greatest pace, unless actually required to do so. He hangs back, as it were—maybe to avoid a stroke from the stag, or to look out for the proper place to seize. One hound will seize one part, one another. "Bran's point of attack was always at the shoulder or fore leg, whilst Oscar had a habit of biting at the hind leg, above the hock, frequently cutting through the flesh and tendons in an extraordinary manner, and tumbling over the deer very quickly," says St. John in his "Highland Sports."
His endurance is great, his scent keen, and Ronaldson Macdonnel, of Glengarry, instances one hound which, held in a leash, followed the track of a wounded stag, in unfavourable rainy weather, for three successive days; then the quarry was killed. The story goes, that this stag was wounded within three miles of Invergarry House, and was traced that night to the Glenmoriston. At dusk, in the evening, the stalkers 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 hunted over a great part of the Glenmoriston ground. On the third day it was retraced on to Glengarry, where a shot at close quarters brought the unprecedented drag to a conclusion.
When hunting, the deerhound runs mute, as he does when coursing, but when the stag is brought to bay, the hound opens, and by his "baying" or barking, attracts his master to the spot, where, maybe, in some pool, with a steep rock at his back, the noble monarch of the glen bids defiance to his foes.
In puppyhood, the deerhound is delicate, and difficult to rear, that scourge known as distemper carrying him off in large numbers. This is, no doubt, owing to continued inbreeding, but with our increasing knowledge of canine ailments, and some slight introduction of fresh blood, which may perhaps come through the Irish wolfhound and his Great Dane cross, the mortality is decreasing.
During 1892 a club to look after the welfare of the deerhound was established, and issued the following description of him:
Head.—The head should be broadest at the ears, tapering slightly to the eyes, with the muzzle tapering more decidedly to the nose. The muzzle should be pointed, but the teeth and lips level. The head should be long, the skull flat, rather than round, with a very slight rise over the eyes, but with nothing approaching a stop. The skull should be coated with moderately long hair, which is softer than the rest of the coat. The nose should be black (though in some blue-fawns the colour is blue), and slightlv aquiline. In the lighter-coloured dogs a black muzzle is preferred. There should be a good moustache of rather silky hair, and a fair beard.
Ears.—The ears should be set on high, and, in repose, folded back like the greyhound's, though raised above the head in excitement without losing the fold, and even in some cases, semi-erect. A prick ear is bad. A big thick ear hanging flat to the head, or heavily coated with long hair, is the worst of faults. The ear should be soft, glossy, and like a mouse's coat to the touch, and the smaller it is the better. It should have no long coat or long fringe, but there is often a silky, silvery coat on the body of the ear and the tip. Whatever the general colour, the ears should be black or dark-coloured.
Neck and shoulders.—The neck should be long— that is, of the length that befits the greyhound character of the dog. An over-long neck is not necessary nor desirable, for the dog is not required to stoop to his work like a greyhound, and it must be remembered that the mane, which every good specimen should have, detracts from the apparent length of neck. Moreover, a deerhound requires a very strong neck to hold a stag. The nape of the neck should be very prominent where the head is set on, and the throat should be clean-cut at the angle and prominent. The shoulders should be well sloped, the blades well back, and not too much width between them. Loaded and straight shoulders very bad faults.
Stern.—Stern should be tolerably long, tapering, and reaching to within i^in. off the ground, and about 1^in. below the hocks. When the dog is still, dropped perfectly straight down, or curved. When in motion it should be curved, when excited in no case to be lifted out of the line of the back. It should be well covered with hair, on the inside, thick and wiry, underside longer, and towards the end a slight fringe not objectionable. A curl or ring tail very undesirable.
Eyes.—The eyes should be dark; generally they are dark brown or hazel. A very light eye is not liked. The eye is moderately full, with a soft look in repose, but a keen, far-away look when the dog is roused. The rims of the eyelids should be black.
Body.—The body and general formation is that of a greyhound of larger size and bone. Chest deep rather than broad, but not too narrow and flat-sided. The loin well arched and drooping to the tail. A straight back is not desirable, this formation being unsuitable for going up-hill, and very unsightly.
Legs and feet.—The legs should be broad and flat, a good broad forearm and elbow being desirable. Forelegs, of course, as straight as possible. Feet close and compact, with well-arched toes. The hind quarters drooping, and as broad and powerful as possible, the hips being set wide apart. The hind legs should be well bent at the stifle, with great length from the hip to the hock, which should btbroad and flat. Cow hocks, weak pasterns, straight stifles, and splay feet very bad faults.
Coat.—The hair on the body, neck, and quarters should be harsh and wiry, and about three or four inches long; that on the head, breast, and belly is much softer. There should be a slight hairy fringe on the inside of the fore and hind legs, but nothing approaching " the feather" of a colley. The deerhound should be a shaggy dog, but not over-coated. A woolly coat is bad. Some good strains have a slight mixture of silky coat with the hard, which is preferable to a woolly coat, but the proper coat is a thick, close-lying, ragged coat, harsh or crisp to the touch.
Colour.—Colour is much a matter of fancy, but there is no manner of doubt that the dark blue-grey is the most preferred. Next comes the darker and lighter greys or brindles, the darkest being generally preferred. Yellow and sandy, red or red fawn, especially with black points, i.e., ears and muzzles, are also in equal estimation, this being the colour of the oldest known strains, the M'Neil and the Chesthill Menzies. White is condemned by all the old authorities, but a white chest and white toes, occurring as they do in a great many of the darkest coloured dogs, are not so greatly objected to, but the less the better, as the deerhound is a selfcoloured dog. A white blaze on the head, or a white collar, should entirely disqualify. In other cases, though passable, yet an attempt should be made to get rid of white markings. The less white the better, but a slight white tip to the stern occurs in the best strains.
Height of dogs.—From 28in. to 30m., or even more if there be symmetry without coarseness, but which is rare.
Height of bitches.—From 26m. upwards. There can be no objection to a bitch being large, unless too coarse, as even at her greatest height she does not approach that of a dog, and, therefore, could not have been too big for work, as over-big dogs are. Besides, a big bitch is good for breeding and keeping up the size.
Weight.—From 85lb. to 105lb. in dogs; from 65lb. to 8olb. in bitches.
The club did not issue the numerical value of the various points, but I should place them as follows:
Head and skull 15
Eyes and ears 10
Neck and chest 10
Body, including loins. 10
Thighs and hocks 12
Legs and feet 10
General symmetry. 15