Graceful Giants: The World of Scottish Deerhounds

They’re one of the tallest dogs in the world, but they’re also one of the sweetest and gentlest. Let’s learn all about Scottish Deerhounds.

Jan 12, 2024By Natasha Elder

Large, long, lean, affectionate, athletic, all-around adorable: enter the Scottish Deerhound! From their 16th-century Scottish Highland origins to their near extinction, and from their variety of coat colors to their astounding athletic abilities, the Scottish Deerhound is a truly remarkable breed. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this unusual and uncommon breed.

Scottish Deerhounds Are Super Tall

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Let’s start with the obvious: Scottish Deerhounds are BIG and TALL! They’re one of the biggest dog breeds around, and they’ve been around for a while (more on that down below!). This dog breed is on the large side, that’s for sure. Described in the official breed standard as “a Greyhound of larger size and bone”, Scottish Deerhounds are tall and long, but they’re not very wide.

Adult male Scottish Deerhounds will stand 30 to 35 inches tall (75 to 88 centimeters) at the withers, while females typically measure in at around the 28-inch (71 centimeters) mark. Puppies are slow developers, but they’re generally fully grown by three years old.

After Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, and English Mastiffs, Scottish Deerhounds are considered to be the tallest dog breed alive today. They’re quite heavy too, with fully-developed males tipping the scales at 85 to 110 pounds (38 to 49 kilograms) and females at a lighter, but still significant, 75-to-95-pound (34 to 43 kilograms) weight range.

The Scottish Deerhound Originated in the 16th Century

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Scottish Deerhounds have been around since at least the 16th century, and though they’re not one of the oldest dog breeds in history, they’re not exactly the new kids on the dog breed block. Believed to be the descendants of ancient Gaelic hounds, the Scottish Deerhound breed was developed to hunt huge red deer that weighed up to 400 pounds (180 kilograms). And hunt them they did!

The Scottish Deerhound proved itself to be skilled at coursing and stalking, which made them phenomenal hunters. The breed was so good at hunting, and coupled with the fact that it was an eye-catching beast to say the least, that they became highly valued. In the Age of Chivalry, only Earls, Marquesses, and Dukes were able to own and breed them.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

This exclusive breeding amongst the nobility, combined with the rapidly decreasing need for sighthounds in hunting, saw the number of Scottish Deerhound decrease drastically. By the late 18th century, the breed was on the brink of extinction. After conservation efforts of the 19th century stabilized the numbers, Scottish Deerhounds have been popular show dogs. Despite their presence in the world of dog shows, they are generally considered a rare and valuable breed.

Scottish Deerhounds Are Native to Scotland

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Image credit: Wikimedia

As you may have guessed by their name, Scottish Deerhounds come from Scotland. This Gaelic dog breed is revered by Scotsmen and is known as the ‘Royal Dog of Scotland.’ This country has a long history of breeding dogs, and many people are surprised to discover that fifteen different dog breeds come from Scotland – some of which are guaranteed to surprise you!

The Scottish Deerhound is a popular breed, but it is far from being Scotland’s most well-known dog. Outside of the United Kingdom, it’s quite rare to see them at all. But you’re bound to recognize some of these names; here are the fifteen dog breeds that are native to Scotland:

  • Bearded Collie
  • Border Collie
  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Rough Collie
  • Smooth Collie
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Scottish Deerhound
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Skye Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

Average Scottish Deerhounds Live for 10 Years

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Like all other big dog breeds, Scottish Deerhounds do not live very long lives. The average lifespan of a Scottish Deerhound is between 8 and 11 years. The average age that Scottish Deerhounds reach before passing away is 8.4 years for males and 8.9 for females.

The longest-living Scottish Deerhound on record was a male named Samson who lived to the staggering age of 16 years old, which is extremely uncommon for such a big breed. Samson was not a show dog, but rather, the beloved pet of a musician named Rob Bourassa, who shared snippets of his dog’s life on his YouTube channel.

Various Health Issues Plague Scottish Deerhounds

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Some dog breeds are more likely to develop health conditions than others. This is true in the case of the Scottish Deerhound. The Scottish Deerhound, like other sighthounds, is at risk of developing a few breed-specific health issues.

A heart disease by the name of dilated cardiomyopathy is commonly discovered in Scottish Deerhounds, as are osteosarcoma (cancer tumors found on bones) and a condition called Cystinuria, which causes both kidney and bladder stones. They’re also very difficult to operate on, as they are sensitive to anesthesia, have a slow drug metabolism, and have Factor VII Deficiency, which means their blood doesn’t clot properly.

Breed-specific health issues aside, there are also size-specific health issues to consider. Like all other big dog breeds, Scottish Deerhounds are susceptible to developing hip and elbow dysplasia as well as arthritis. The breed also has a higher chance of developing bloat or GDV.

Scottish Deerhounds Come in Seven Different Colors

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Scottish Deerhounds are double-coated dogs. They have a soft undercoat and a wiry outer coat of medium-length hair that makes them instantly recognizable. Scottish Deerhound coats come in seven color variations, with dark gray coats being the most common. Here are the accepted breed standard colors as laid out by the official breed standard for Scottish Deerhounds:

  • Blue gray
  • Brindle (a brownish color with streaks of other colors)
  • Gray
  • Gray brindle
  • Yellow
  • Sandy red
  • Red fawn

When it comes to shedding, Scottish Deerhounds don’t shed much. Their coats are also very easy to maintain, only really requiring a weekly comb and a wash every now and then when it is visibly dirty or smelly.

Soft, Gentle, and Dignified: Scottish Deerhounds Summed Up

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Image credit: Wikimedia

You may naturally assume that, because of their intimidating size, Scottish Deerhounds might be aggressive, dominating, and even frightening. Thankfully, you’d be wrong, as this breed is quite the opposite. A Scottish Deerhound’s temperament is described as:

  • Affectionate
  • Athletic
  • Dignified
  • Docile
  • Friendly
  • Gentle
  • Reserved
  • Sensitive
  • Soft
  • Of average intelligence

One of the best things about this breed is the wonderful temperament that comes with it. Scottish Deerhounds are great breeds for families with children, and they get along particularly well with older children who know how to handle dogs properly. Due to their history of hunting, high prey drive, and tendency to give chase, if you have cats, rabbits, or other popular small pets, you would need to keep them away from your Scottish Deerhound.

Scottish Deerhounds Need Exercise Every Day

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Image credit: Wikimedia

How much exercise does a dog need?” is a commonly asked question. In the Scottish Deerhound’s case, the answer is 1.5 to two hours each day. This is quite a lot, but it’s because the Scottish Deerhound is an active breed that needs plenty of physical stimulation to remain in good health.

Scottish Deerhounds need considerable exercise for the health of their bones, joints, and muscles. It’s important to exercise them from a young age and keep their exercise levels up, even once they reach the senior dog stage. Brisk walks and off-leash running are the ideal exercise for Scottish Deerhounds, as they can reach speeds of up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour. So, it’s important for them to stretch their legs.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Adult Scottish Deerhounds aren’t playful, so if playing fetch with your dog is your dream, you’ll need to look at another breed. If, however, your dream is to compete in dog shows then the Scottish Deerhound can make that happen! Training for dog shows is a great way to keep your dog fit and healthy.

Some dog breeds make great dogs for apartment living, even big ones like Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds, but Scottish Deerhounds are not. They need a large yard to roam freely and often, and make sure the walls are high – because a Scottish Deerhound makes light work of fence-jumping!

Scottish Deerhounds Are Often Mistaken for Irish Wolfhounds

There’s no denying that Scottish Deerhounds and Irish Wolfhounds look alike. They both have wiry coats of around the same length, they’re both super tall, they’re both hounds, and the most common coat color for both breeds is gray. But there are several key differences between the two that set Irish Wolfhounds apart from Scottish Deerhounds.

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Image credit: Wikipedia

For starters, Irish Wolfhounds are much taller than Scottish Deerhounds and have longer legs. And that’s saying something! Irish Wolfhounds stand 32 to 42 inches (81 to 106 centimeters) tall, while Scottish Deerhounds measure 30 to 35 inches (75 to 88 centimeters). Furthermore, Irish Wolfhounds are slightly stockier and have more muscular necks compared to Scottish Deerhounds. Though both breeds most often have gray coats, Scottish Deerhounds come in fewer colors than Irish Wolfhounds do.

Appearance aside, there are a few notable differences. Scottish Deerhounds live longer than Irish Wolfhounds, are thought to be more sensitive, and have far greater exercise requirements.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership