The Breed History
In the 16th century, early breed records first appeared in the British Isles. It is possible that the Irish Wolfhound was the main source of the genes of the Deerhound breed, and that they were crossed with Greyhounds to produce a finer body type. Deerhounds were highly esteemed at certain points in history such that only the aristocracy and Clan Chieftains could keep them. By severely limiting ownership, breed numbers dwindled to the brink of extinction and inbreeding further weakened the Scottish Deerhound, but later fanciers rejuvenated the bloodlines and though still a rare breed, they are once again thriving. AKC recognition occurred in 1886.
Breeding for Function
Bred for coursing or hunting deer alone or in pairs, this breed excels at scent tracking. In North America they were also used for hunting coyotes and wolves. They were also bred to be companions.
Height at Withers: female 28" (71 cm) minimum, male 30-32" (76-81 cm).
Weight: females 75-95lb (34-43 kg), males 85-110 lb (38.5-50 kg).
Coat: The most common color is the dark gray-blue coat, but other shades of grays, brindles, faun and sandy red are accepted. White is not accepted, but the presence of a small white toe mark and white chest are tolerated. The haircoat consists of shaggy, crisp, hard hairs, though the haircoat has a softer texture on the ears and ventral abdomen. Averages about 4" (10 cm) in length.
Longevity: 8-11 years
Points of Conformation: The general conformation is similar to a very large Greyhound, with a wiry coat. They are smaller than Irish Wolfhounds and more refined in bone and in the head. The head gradually tapers through its length to a tapered muzzle, the skull is flat, and the nose black (though in blue fawn coated dogs, it may be blue). A black muzzle is preferred, ears are also black or dark in color, and prominent brows, with moderate whiskers and beard are present. The medium-sized ears are soft and folded, and high set. Eyes are dark brown or hazel in color, with black palpebral margins. The neck is long and well muscled. The thorax is deep and fairly narrow, and the abdomen is well tucked up. The limbs are long and straight boned with a lithe build, and feet are compact with well-arched toes, with little hair. The topline is arched through the loin, and drops off to the tail, which is long and tapering, reaching about 1/2 way down the metatarsals, and is gently curved. The gait is strong, long and low and appears effortless.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: A very alert attitude, requires close human companionship, loyal and possessing high trainability; quiet in the home, and exhibit low energy unless outside on the run. It is best to start obedience training early; tend to be a "one-man" or one family dog. Scottish Deerhounds are sensitive and generally good with other dogs. Overall, they are good-natured and therefore not suitable as a watchdog. Because of the strong chase instinct, it is important that they are off leash in a fenced enclosure only. Deerhounds may exhibit chase reflex with small pets. They will show courageous response when necessary. They have low grooming needs except for the twice annual undercoat stripping. They have a low shedding tendency.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Sight hounds have lower normal ranges for T4 and T3 concentrations compared to other breeds.
Echocardiographic and Electrocardiographic Values: The Deerhounds have relatively large hearts. Left ventricular echocardiographic measurements were similar to those obtained from Irish Wolfhounds. Normal end systolic volume index (ESVI) in the Deerhound was relatively high. It is concluded that an index greater than 70 ml/m2 body surface area could be considered as abnormal. It is suggested that, due to the greater heart size/ body weight ratio, as compared with other breeds of dogs, ECG analysis of Deerhounds produces a greater R-wave amplitude and a prolonged QRS duration than would be regarded normal in common large-breed dogs. In healthy Deerhounds, the mean R-wave amplitude was 3.8 +/- 1.5 mV for lead 2 and the mean QRS duration was 0.061 +/- 0.012 s.
In a UK study, 28.1% of litters were born via Cesarean section.
Anesthesia: Sight hounds require particular attention during anesthesia. Their lean body conformation with high surface-area- to-volume ratio predisposes them to hypothermia during anesthesia. Impaired biotransformation of drugs by the liver results in prolonged recovery from barbiturate and thiobarbiturate intravenous anesthetics. Propofol, and ketamine/diazepam combination are recommended induction agents.
Factor VII Deficiency: Autosomal recessive disorder causing mild bleeding. Affected dogs may exhibit an increased bleeding tendency following trauma or surgery or rarely appear to develop spontaneous bleeding. Carriers are detected worldwide. A genetic test is available.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. Too few Scottish Deerhounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate incidence.6 Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Scottish Deerhounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate incidence.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Scottish Deerhounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Anal Gland Infection: A problem of young hounds, with an average age of onset of just over 2 years old. Males are affected about twice as often as bitches. Reported at a frequency of 11% in the 2000 SDCA Health Survey.
Osteosarcoma: Malignant bone cancer, usually involving the long bones of the extremities. The average age of onset is 8 yrs of age. There is a female preponderance in the breed. Research estimate of 15% affected frequency. Heritability of 0.67. Appears to be influenced by a major autosomal dominant gene on chromosome 34. Reported at a frequency of 5% in the 2000 SDCA Health Survey.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Polygenically inherited, life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported at a frequency of 10% in the 2000 SDCA Health Survey.
Inhalant Allergies (Atopy): Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 6% in the 2000 SDCA Health Survey.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)/Atrial Fibrillation: A high percentage of affected dogs initially present with atrial fibrillation, and progress to biventricular dilated cardiomyopathy. Clinical signs include sudden death, passing out, exercise intolerance, pulmonary edema, or ascites. Average age of onset of heart failure is 6-1/2 years of age. Not all dogs with atrial fibrillation will develop DCM, but these dogs should be carefully followed for the development of DCM and perhaps should be held out of breeding programs. DCM occurs in male Scottish Deerhounds 4x the frequency in females. DCM is reported at a frequency of 5-8%, heart failure at 5% and arrhythmia at 4% in the 2000 SDCA Health Survey. The mode of inheritance is not determined.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.5% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 4% in the 2000 SDCA Health Survey.
Portosystemic Shunt (PSS, Liver Shunt): Abnormal blood vessels connecting the systemic and portal blood flow can be intrahepatic or extrahepatic. Causes stunting, abnormal behavior, and possible seizures. Diagnosis with paired fasted and feeding serum bile acid and/or ammonium levels, and abdominal ultrasound. Treatment of PSS includes partial ligation and/or medical and dietary control of symptoms. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Cervical Vertebral Arthrosis (Deerhound Neck): Unilateral or bilateral arthrosis of the cervical facet joints between C2 and C3 was detected in nine Scottish Deerhounds, causing severe pain during lateral flexion. Lesions were evident radiographically. Myelography did not reveal abnormalities of the spinal cord or canal. Long-lasting relief was gained through intra-articular administration of corticosteroids.
Cystinuria: Cystine bladder stones form in affected dogs at 3-4 years of age. Only occurs in male dogs. Caused by a defect in cytine metabolism. Nitroprusside test is unreliable to diagnose the disorder. Some dogs with stones will test negative. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Ocular Disorders: The frequency of inherited ocular disorders in the breed cannot be determined because too few Scottish Deerhounds have undergone a CERF examination.
Cataracts, and Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Osteochondrodysplasia: The disorder was identified in 5 related Scottish Deerhound pups from 2 litters. At approximately 4 or 5 weeks, exercise intolerance and retarded growth were observed. Kyphosis, limb deformities, and joint laxity gradually developed. Radiograph findings included short long bones and vertebrae, and irregular and delayed epiphyseal ossification. In skeletally mature dogs, osteopenia and severe deformities were seen. A single autosomal recessive mode of inheritance was suspected.
Congenital Hypothyroidism: Two Scottish Deerhound full-siblings had clinical and pathological features of congenital non-goitrous hypothyroidism. The puppies were smaller, had shorter limbs and shorter, broader heads than their littermates. They also had histories of weakness, difficulty in walking and somnolence. Radiographically, epiphyseal growth centers were absent. Both had depressed serum thyroxine (T4) levels and one did not respond to exogenous thyroid stimulating hormone.
Orthostatic Tremor: A four-year-old male Scottish deerhound was presented with a two-year history of pelvic limb tremors, which progressed to the thoracic limbs. Primary OT was diagnosed from the clinical signs, typical electrophysiological findings and the absence of other identifiable disease.
Tests of Genotype: Direct genetic test for Factor VII deficiency is available from PennGen and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes a congenital cardiac evaluation by a cardiologist with echocardiography, and direct test for Factor VII deficiency. Optional recommended test is serum bile acid test at Texas A&M. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, patella evaluation, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies.
- Breed name synonyms: Royal Dog of Scotland, Rough Greyhound, Highland Deerhound (all historical), Deerhound, Scotch Greyhound.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 133 (153 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Scottish Deerhound Club of America: deerhound.org
The Deerhound Club (UK): deerhound.co.uk
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