The origin of the Deerhound breed is of such antiquity and the earliest names bestowed on it so inextricably mixed that no sound conclusion can be arrived at as to whether the Deerhound was at one time identical with the ancient Irish Wolfdog and, in the course of centuries, bred to a type better suited to hunt deer, or whether, as some writers claim, he is the descendant of the hounds of the Picts.

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We can definitely identify the breed as Deerhounds as early as the 16th and 17th centuries. From there on the term Deerhound has been applied to the breed, which of all dogs has been found best suited for the pursuit and killing of the deer.

Photographer: Shot on Site

Photographer: Shot On Site

The Deerhound has been greatly valued at all times. The history of the breed teems with romance increasing in splendor right down through the Age of Chivalry when no one of rank lower than an earl might possess these dogs. A leash of Deerhounds was held the fine whereby a noble lord condemned to death might purchase his reprieve. Records of the Middle Ages allude repeatedly to the delightful attributes of this charming hound, his tremendous courage in the chase, his gentle dignity in the home.

It was this high esteem in which the Deerhound was held that the desire for exclusive ownership has at many times endangered the continuance of the breed.As the larger beasts of the chase became extinct or rare in England and southern Scotland, the Highlands of Scotland became the last territory wherein the stag remained numerous in a wild state and, of course, the last stronghold of this breed.

Photographer: Shot on Site

Photographer: Shot on Site

Dr. Caius, in his book Of Englishe Dogges (1576) speaking of Greyhounds, relates: "Some are of the greater sorte, some of a lesser; some are smoothe skynned and some curled, the bigger therefore are appointed to hunt the bigger beastes, the buck, the hart, the doe."

During the 19th century in England the Deerhound became a favorite subject of artists, most pre-eminently, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.

The high valuation of the Deerhound is not the result of rarity so much as the fact that as a hunter he is pre-eminent, with a high aggregate of desirable characteristics. He has a keen scent, which may be used in tracking, but it is that combination of strength and speed necessary to cope with the large Scottish deer (often weighing 250 pounds) that is most valued. The hounds are usually hunted singly or in pairs. Centuries of hunting as the companions and guards of Highland Chieftains have given the Deerhound an insatiable desire for human companionship. For this reason the best Deerhounds are seldom raised as kennel dogs.