Scottish Deerhound

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scottish deerhound profile
Imagine a gentle giant with the grace of a ballerina and the heart of a lion, all wrapped up in a shaggy, lovable package. Meet the Scottish Deerhound, a dog breed that effortlessly combines elegance and power. These regal, yet playful creatures are not only skilled hunters but also devoted companions, winning the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Scottish Deerhound is the perfect match for those who appreciate a calm, gentle, and good-natured companion. Best suited for spacious homes with large fenced yards, this breed thrives in an environment where they can stretch their long legs and indulge in their love for running.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEScottish Deerhound
OTHER NAMESScotch Greyhound, Rough Greyhound, Highland Deerhound
ORIGINScotland
BREED GROUPHound Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT28-32 inches
WEIGHT75-110 lbs
LIFESPAN8-11 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSHigh
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK155th
two scottish deerhounds side by side
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Appearance

The Scottish Deerhound is an impressive and striking breed, known for its tall, lean, and athletic build. Males typically stand between 30 to 32 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, ranging from 28 to 30 inches. Adult males usually weigh between 85 and 110 pounds, with females weighing between 75 and 95 pounds.

They have a deep chest and a slight arch in their back, which allows them to take long strides and run at incredible speeds. Their strong, well-arched neck leads to sloping shoulders and straight forelegs, while their muscular hindquarters provide the power needed for agility and endurance.

One of the most distinguishing features of the Scottish Deerhound is its long, tapering tail. Reaching almost to the ground, it is thick at the base and gradually tapers towards the end, often with a slight curve. The tail’s length and shape contribute to the breed’s elegant appearance.

The head of a Scottish Deerhound is long and narrow, with a flat skull that tapers towards the muzzle. Their large, dark eyes are set wide apart, giving them a gentle and intelligent expression. The ears are small and folded back against the head when relaxed, but they can perk up slightly when the dog is alert or excited.

One of the most notable aspects of the Scottish Deerhound’s appearance is its rough, wiry coat. The coat consists of a dense undercoat and a harsh, somewhat shaggy outer coat, which provides protection from the elements. The hair is longest and thickest around the neck, forming a mane-like ruff, and on the legs, where it forms distinct feathering.

Coat colors may range from blue-gray to brindle, with some dogs exhibiting fawn, red, or yellow hues. Small amounts of white may appear on the chest, toes, and tail tip.

Despite their rugged appearance, the Scottish Deerhound has a dignified and noble air about them. Their overall expression is one of softness, conveying a sense of warmth and friendliness that endears them to all who meet them. This combination of physical traits makes the Scottish Deerhound a truly remarkable breed, embodying both power and grace in equal measure.

scottish deerhound on a park
Photo: nemoris/Getty Images

Temperament

The Scottish Deerhound is a breed that boasts a temperament as majestic and endearing as its appearance. Known for their gentle, affectionate, and friendly nature, these dogs form deep bonds with their families and are eager to please. They are often described as “gentle giants” due to their large size and calm demeanor, making them excellent companions for those who appreciate a laid-back, loving pet.

With people, the Scottish Deerhound is exceptionally good-natured, displaying a warm and amiable personality. They are loyal and devoted to their family members, relishing in their company and thriving on the affection they receive.

Despite their imposing stature, they are typically gentle and patient with children, making them a wonderful addition to families with kids. However, it is essential to teach children how to interact safely and respectfully with such a large dog to avoid any accidental injuries.

When encountering strangers, the Scottish Deerhound is usually polite and reserved. They are not known for being overly protective or aggressive, but rather display an air of dignified aloofness towards unfamiliar people. This quality makes them unlikely to excel as guard dogs, but their sheer size and presence can still serve as a deterrent to intruders.

In terms of their interactions with other pets, the Scottish Deerhound is generally amicable and gets along well with other dogs. They have a strong prey drive, which may make them unsuitable for homes with smaller animals such as cats, rabbits, or rodents.

However, if raised alongside these smaller pets from a young age, they can learn to coexist peacefully. As a sighthound breed, they are instinctively drawn to chase after anything that moves quickly, so it is crucial to be mindful of this trait when introducing them to other animals.

One unique aspect of the Scottish Deerhound’s personality is their incredible adaptability. They can adjust to various living situations and environments, as long as their basic needs for space, exercise, and companionship are met. This adaptability makes them suitable for both rural and urban settings, provided they have access to a securely fenced area where they can safely run and play off-leash.

Another endearing quality of the Scottish Deerhound is their sense of humor. They are known for their playful nature and can be quite entertaining with their antics. Their charming personality, combined with their intelligence and curiosity, creates a delightful and engaging companion.

It is essential to remember that the Scottish Deerhound’s temperament can be influenced by factors such as genetics, socialization, and training.

Early exposure to various people, pets, sights, and sounds will help ensure that your Deerhound grows up to be a well-rounded, confident, and sociable dog. Positive reinforcement techniques work best when training these sensitive dogs, as they respond poorly to harsh methods.

Ideal Environment

The ideal environment for a Scottish Deerhound is one that caters to their unique physical and emotional needs. These large, athletic dogs require ample space to move around comfortably and stretch their legs.

Physical Environment

A home with a large, securely fenced yard is highly recommended, as it provides them with an area to run, play, and explore safely. A rural setting or a spacious suburban property would suit the Deerhound’s needs best, but they can also adapt to urban living if provided with access to nearby parks or open spaces for regular exercise.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate, the Scottish Deerhound has a rough, wiry coat that offers some protection from cold weather. However, they are not well-suited to extremely cold climates, as their lean body and thin coat do not provide sufficient insulation. In such conditions, it is crucial to ensure that your Deerhound has a warm, sheltered place to rest and avoid prolonged exposure to the cold.

When it comes to hot weather, their coat can help protect them from the sun, but they should still have access to shade and fresh water to prevent overheating. Regular grooming, particularly during seasonal coat shedding, will help maintain a healthy coat and keep your Deerhound comfortable in various weather conditions.

Ideal Owner

The Scottish Deerhound thrives in a household that appreciates their gentle, affectionate nature and is committed to meeting their exercise and socialization needs. They are best suited for families or individuals with an active lifestyle who can provide them with daily walks and opportunities for off-leash play in a secure area.

Other Pets

As mentioned earlier, Deerhounds typically get along well with other dogs, making them a great addition to multi-dog households. However, due to their strong prey drive, homes with smaller pets may not be ideal unless the Deerhound is raised alongside these animals from a young age.

scottish deerhound standing
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Grooming

The Scottish Deerhound, with its distinctive wiry coat and rugged appearance, requires regular grooming to keep them looking their best and to maintain their overall health. While they are not high-maintenance compared to some other breeds, there are certain aspects of their grooming routine that should be addressed consistently.

Coat Care

The most prominent feature of the Scottish Deerhound is its unique coat, which consists of a dense undercoat and a harsh, somewhat shaggy outer coat. To keep their coat in good condition, it is essential to brush your Deerhound at least once a week using a slicker brush or a pin brush.

This will help remove any loose hair, dirt, and debris, as well as prevent mats and tangles from forming, particularly in areas where the hair is longer, such as around the neck and on the legs. Regular brushing also helps distribute the natural oils in their skin, promoting a healthy, shiny coat.

In addition to weekly brushing, the Scottish Deerhound’s coat may need occasional hand-stripping or trimming. Hand-stripping involves plucking out the dead hairs by hand or using a stripping tool, which helps maintain the coat’s texture and appearance.

This process is typically done every few months, depending on the individual dog’s coat growth rate. Alternatively, you can trim the longer hairs with thinning shears to neaten their appearance, especially around the face and ears.

Scottish Deerhounds do not require frequent baths, as over-bathing can strip their skin and coat of natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. Generally, bathing your Deerhound every two to three months, or when they become visibly dirty or have an unpleasant odor, is sufficient.

Make sure to use a mild, dog-specific shampoo that won’t irritate their skin, and always rinse thoroughly to remove any soap residue.

Dental Care

Like all dog breeds, the Scottish Deerhound is susceptible to dental issues if proper oral hygiene is not maintained. Regular teeth brushing is essential to prevent plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to gum disease and tooth loss.

Aim to brush your Deerhound’s teeth at least two to three times a week using a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste. In addition to brushing, providing dental chews or toys can help promote oral health.

Nail Care

A Scottish Deerhound’s nails should be trimmed regularly to prevent them from becoming overly long, which can cause discomfort and potentially lead to injury. Ideally, nail trimming should be done every three to four weeks, depending on how quickly your dog’s nails grow. Use a pair of dog nail clippers or a grinder to trim the nails, being careful not to cut into the quick, which can cause pain and bleeding.

Ears and Eyes

To keep your Scottish Deerhound’s ears clean and free from infection, check them weekly for any signs of redness, irritation, or a foul odor. Gently clean the outer ear with a cotton ball or soft cloth dampened with a dog-specific ear cleaner, avoiding the ear canal. Similarly, check their eyes for any signs of discharge or irritation and gently wipe the area with a soft, damp cloth if needed.

two scottish deerhounds by the lake
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Exercise

As an athletic and energetic breed, the Scottish Deerhound requires regular exercise to maintain their physical health and overall well-being. These dogs have a natural inclination towards running and hunting, so providing them with opportunities to engage in activities that cater to these instincts is essential.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, a Scottish Deerhound needs at least one hour of exercise per day, which can be divided into two or more sessions. This should include a combination of activities such as long walks, off-leash playtime in a securely fenced area, and mentally stimulating games like fetch or hide-and-seek.

Keep in mind that young Deerhounds may have more energy than older ones, so adjust the exercise routine according to your dog’s age and individual needs.

One of the best ways to exercise a Scottish Deerhound is to allow them to run freely in a large, enclosed space. They are sighthounds by nature, which means they have a strong instinct to chase after fast-moving objects. Providing them with a controlled environment where they can safely indulge in this instinct is not only an excellent form of physical exercise but also helps satisfy their natural urges.

Dog Sports

In addition to daily exercise, Scottish Deerhounds can benefit from participating in various dog sports and competitions. Some popular options for this breed include lure coursing, agility, and obedience trials. Lure coursing, in particular, is an ideal sport for Deerhounds, as it involves chasing a mechanically operated lure across an open field, allowing them to showcase their speed, agility, and hunting instincts.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Scottish Deerhound, always be mindful of their safety and well-being. As a large breed, they are prone to certain joint issues like hip dysplasia, so avoid high-impact activities or exercises that put excessive strain on their joints, especially during their growth phase.

Additionally, ensure that they have access to fresh water during exercise to prevent dehydration, and avoid exercising them during the hottest part of the day to minimize the risk of overheating.

Training

When it comes to training, the Scottish Deerhound is a breed that displays intelligence and a willingness to learn. However, they are also known for their independent nature and occasional stubbornness, which can make training a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, with patience, consistency, and the right approach, it is possible to effectively train your Scottish Deerhound.

As sighthounds, Deerhounds have been bred for their hunting instincts and speed, which means they have a strong prey drive. This instinct can sometimes interfere with training, as they might become easily distracted by fast-moving objects or small animals. To overcome this, it is essential to start training your Deerhound from a young age and establish yourself as the leader in the relationship.

Positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and playtime, work best when training a Scottish Deerhound. These gentle dogs tend to be sensitive to harsh correction methods and may become unresponsive or even fearful if treated roughly. By using rewards-based training, you will encourage your Deerhound to engage with you and create a positive learning environment.

Socialization is another crucial aspect of training for a Scottish Deerhound. Early exposure to various people, pets, sights, and sounds will help ensure that your Deerhound grows up to be a well-rounded, confident, and sociable dog.

Enrolling your puppy in a basic obedience class or puppy socialization group can be a great way to kick-start the socialization process and provide a structured setting for learning.

One challenge that Deerhound owners may face during training is the breed’s tendency to be somewhat aloof or reserved. This trait can make them appear disinterested or less eager to please than some other breeds. However, with persistence and a patient approach, you can build a strong bond with your Deerhound and motivate them to engage in training.

scottish deerhound relaxing on the floor
Photo: Lubo Ivanko/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

The diet and nutrition of a Scottish Deerhound play a significant role in their overall health and well-being. As a large and athletic breed, these dogs require a balanced diet that meets their specific nutritional needs to support their growth, energy levels, and maintain a healthy weight.

What to Feed & How Much

When choosing a suitable food for your Scottish Deerhound, look for high-quality dry, wet, or raw food options that follow the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the food contains the appropriate balance of nutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals necessary for your dog’s health.

The amount of food you should feed your Scottish Deerhound will depend on their age, size, activity level, and individual metabolism. Generally, adult Deerhounds require around 3 to 4 cups of high-quality dry dog food per day, divided into two meals.

Puppies have different nutritional requirements and will need more frequent meals (3 to 4 times a day) to support their growth and development. As your puppy grows, you can gradually reduce the number of meals per day. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the ideal feeding plan for your specific dog.

It is essential to monitor your Deerhound’s weight and adjust their food intake accordingly to prevent obesity, which can contribute to various health issues. Regular exercise, combined with a balanced diet, will help maintain a healthy weight for your dog.

Treats & Water

Treats can be a useful tool during training and as a reward for good behavior. However, it is crucial to use them in moderation and ensure that they do not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. Opt for healthy treats such as lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, and avoid those high in fat, sugar, or artificial additives.

Access to fresh water is vital for the health of your Scottish Deerhound. Ensure that they always have clean water available, especially during exercise or hot weather to prevent dehydration.

Health

The Scottish Deerhound is generally a healthy breed, with a life expectancy of around 8 to 11 years. However, like all breeds, they are predisposed to certain health issues. Providing a healthy diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and staying up-to-date on vaccinations are essential components of maintaining their overall health.

Here are common health issues associated with the Scottish Deerhound:

Gastric torsion (Bloat): This life-threatening condition occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. It requires immediate emergency treatment. Preventative measures include feeding smaller meals more frequently, avoiding exercise immediately after eating, and monitoring for signs of discomfort or bloating.

Heart issues: Scottish Deerhounds are prone to heart problems such as dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently. Regular veterinary check-ups and early detection can help manage this condition and improve your dog’s quality of life.

Hip dysplasia: This genetic disorder occurs when the hip joint does not develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain over time. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing joint supplements can help manage this condition. Screening for hip dysplasia should be done by breeders before breeding.

Osteosarcoma: Scottish Deerhounds have a higher risk of developing osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Early detection and treatment are crucial in managing this condition. Regular veterinary check-ups and monitoring for any unusual lumps, swelling, or lameness can aid in early detection.

Factor VII deficiency: This is a rare bleeding disorder found in Scottish Deerhounds, caused by a deficiency of clotting factor VII. Affected dogs may experience excessive bleeding during surgery or after injuries. DNA testing is available to identify carriers of this disorder, and responsible breeders should screen their breeding stock.

In addition to these common health issues, it is essential to provide your Scottish Deerhound with a balanced diet tailored to their specific needs. Regular veterinary check-ups will help monitor their overall health and detect any potential issues early on.

Ensuring that your dog receives all necessary vaccinations and preventative treatments for parasites such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms is also crucial for their well-being.

By being aware of the potential health risks associated with the Scottish Deerhound breed and taking proactive steps to maintain their health, you can help ensure that your canine companion enjoys a long, happy life by your side.

scottish deerhound with shoes
Photo: Antonia Gros/Getty Images

History

The Scottish Deerhound, often referred to as the “Royal Dog of Scotland,” boasts a long and fascinating history, dating back thousands of years. This ancient breed is believed to have originated in the British Isles, specifically in Scotland, where they were bred for their exceptional hunting abilities.

The Deerhound’s primary purpose was to hunt red deer, which were abundant in the region at the time. These large, athletic dogs were highly valued for their speed, agility, and stamina, as well as their keen sense of sight, which allowed them to spot and pursue their prey across vast expanses of rugged terrain.

The breed’s strength and courage enabled them to bring down deer several times their size, making them indispensable companions for Scottish chieftains and nobility during hunting expeditions.

The earliest written records of the Scottish Deerhound date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. However, it is believed that the breed’s history extends much further into the past. Some historians speculate that Deerhounds, or their ancestors, may have been present in Scotland since the days of the Roman occupation, as evidenced by various artifacts and depictions found in archaeological sites.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Deerhound’s popularity began to decline due to several factors, including the dwindling deer population in Scotland and the rise of more efficient hunting methods like firearms.

Additionally, the breed’s association with nobility made them less accessible to the general public, as commoners were often prohibited from owning Deerhounds. This exclusivity further contributed to the breed’s decline.

Despite these challenges, dedicated breed enthusiasts and breeders worked tirelessly to preserve the Scottish Deerhound, preventing their extinction. One such notable figure was Archibald, the fifth Earl of Eglinton, who played a significant role in reviving the breed in the mid-19th century.

The first Deerhound show took place in 1860, and by the end of the century, the breed’s popularity had grown substantially, both in the United Kingdom and abroad.

The Scottish Deerhound was first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1886, making it one of the earlier breeds recognized by the organization. Today, the breed enjoys a loyal following in the United States and around the world, although they are still relatively rare compared to other breeds.

In popular culture, the Scottish Deerhound has made several appearances in literature, film, and television. Sir Walter Scott, a famous Scottish author, was known to be an admirer of the breed and featured Deerhounds in his works, including “The Talisman” and “Guy Mannering.”

More recently, a Scottish Deerhound named Cleod was cast as Padfoot, the animagus form of Sirius Black, in the film adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Despite their storied past and noble heritage, the Scottish Deerhound remains a relatively uncommon breed. However, those who have the privilege of sharing their lives with these gentle giants can attest to their unique combination of grace, courage, and loyalty.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Scottish Deerhound in the United States is the Scottish Deerhound Club of America (SDCA). It was founded in 1935 to promote and protect the interests of the breed. The SDCA works to ensure the welfare of the Scottish Deerhound by providing breed-specific information, resources, and support to owners, breeders, and enthusiasts.

The official website for the Scottish Deerhound Club of America can be accessed here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Scottish Deerhound’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

scottish deerhound leaping on grass
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Scottish Deerhound, it’s essential to research the breed thoroughly and ensure it’s the right fit for your lifestyle. Prepare for their exercise needs, grooming requirements, and potential health issues before bringing one home.

Rescuing a Scottish Deerhound instead of buying from a breeder is a rewarding option that provides a loving home to a dog in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Scottish Deerhound Club of America (SDCA) can assist you in finding a rescue organization or adoption opportunity.

The SDCA maintains a list of reputable breeders and rescue contacts on their website to help you find a suitable match. Always choose a responsible breeder or rescue organization that prioritizes the health and welfare of their dogs. By opting for rescue, you’re not only giving a deserving dog a second chance but also supporting the efforts to protect and preserve this remarkable breed.

FAQs

Are Scottish Deerhounds good pets?

Yes, Scottish Deerhounds make excellent pets for the right family. They are gentle, affectionate, and loyal companions. However, they do require regular exercise and space to run, so they may not be suitable for small living spaces or sedentary lifestyles.

Are Scottish Deerhounds bigger than Irish Wolfhounds?

No, Scottish Deerhounds are generally smaller than Irish Wolfhounds. While both breeds are large, the Irish Wolfhound is typically taller and heavier than the Scottish Deerhound.

Are Scottish Deerhounds aggressive?

Scottish Deerhounds are not known for being aggressive. They are gentle, friendly dogs that tend to get along well with people and other animals. However, their hunting instincts and strong prey drive may cause them to chase smaller animals if not properly trained and socialized.

Are Scottish Deerhounds intelligent?

Yes, Scottish Deerhounds are intelligent dogs. They can learn new commands and tasks relatively quickly, but their independent nature may sometimes make them appear less eager to please than other breeds.

How much exercise do Scottish Deerhounds need?

Scottish Deerhounds require regular exercise to maintain their health and happiness. Daily walks and opportunities to run freely in a securely fenced area are essential for this athletic breed. Keep in mind that their strong prey drive may lead them to chase after small animals, so always ensure they are in a safe environment when off-leash.

How often should I groom my Scottish Deerhound?

Scottish Deerhounds have a wiry coat that requires moderate grooming. Brushing your Deerhound once or twice a week will help remove loose hair and minimize shedding. Occasional hand-stripping or trimming might be needed to maintain their coat’s texture and appearance. Regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing are also essential for their overall hygiene and health.

Can Scottish Deerhounds live in an apartment?

While it is possible for a Scottish Deerhound to adapt to apartment living, it may not be the ideal environment for this large breed. They require plenty of space to move around comfortably and need regular exercise to prevent boredom and restlessness. If you live in an apartment, you must commit to providing your Deerhound with ample opportunities for outdoor activities and exercise.

Fun Facts

  • The Scottish Deerhound’s lineage can be traced back centuries, even appearing in ancient Celtic writings and Roman artifacts depicting large, deer-hunting dogs. This makes them one of the oldest known breeds.
  • Despite their storied history and endearing qualities, Scottish Deerhounds are quite rare today. If you’re lucky enough to meet or own one of these magnificent dogs, know that you’re in the company of a very special breed!

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