Irish Wolfhound Times
(Irish Wolfhound Database and Breed information Exchange)
Twentieth Century Dog (Deerhound, Wolfhound,Staghound,)
Herbert Compton 1903
1.2. THE IRISH WOLF-HOUND
The Irish wolf-hound (anciently called the wolf-dog, Irish grehound, or Irish greyhound) enjoys the distinction of being the largest hunting dog in the United Kingdom, and suffers the inconvenience of having nothing to hunt. Its ancestry has been the cause of considerable argument and dispute of recent years, but that it is a "resuscitated" breed admits of no doubt. The honour of its restoration to a place of dignity in the roll of British dogs is due to a few enthusiasts, who set themselves to work to "recover" the practically extinct breed—notably Captain Graham of Dursley. It was in 1863 that he first turned his attention to the matter, instituted inquiries, made researches, and satisfied himself that three distinct strains of the ancient hound, though much deteriorated, still existed—namely, those of Sir J. Power of Kilfane, Mr. Baker of Ballytobin, and Mr. Mahoney of Dromore. From bitches obtained from two of these kennels, from a cross between the deerhound and the Great Dane, from a dash of borzoi blood (the noted Karotat), and from an out-cross with a huge shaggy dog, stated to be a Thibetan mastiff (though I doubt the description being correct, having seen a photograph of the dog in question), the modern breed has been literally built up.
Sentiment goes a long way in the dog-world, and Irish wolf-hound devotees hae more than once displayed indignation at the sneers of the detractors of their favourites, when they have described the modern breed as "faked up." But the best and most crushing retort to such criticism is the hound itself. "If it had emaniated from under a gooseberry bush" said a love of the breed to me, "I should not love and admire it less; and I could not love and admire it more if it traced its pedigree from the hound that issued from the ark!" To paraphrase Shakespeare, in an argument of this sort, "The hound's the thing," and speaking personally, its "ancient and historic" devivation and its "Royal associations" do not appear to me a tithe so directly as the sight of such noble, commanding creatures as are seen on the m odern show-bench.
At the same time there is much in the history of the Irish wolf-hound to fascinate the fancier, and to make the wish fater to the thought, "Our hounds are descended from those of Caesar's dys.". Possibly - nay probably, they are, through a thin streak of female descent; and if Royal pedigrees are contingent on such a delicate link to connect them with the demigods and heroes of the early ages (as we know they are), I think the Irish wolf-hound fancier may take comfort from that precedent. A pedigree is a priceless thing, especially in the dog-world; but few dog-pedigrees go back fifty years. And ifyou want one to go back for a thousand years you must be imbued with something of the spirit of Lootfullah, a Mohammedan gentleman who published his autobiography some forty years ago, and prefaced it with his family tree, which was carried back to Adam by way of Mohammed and Noah, - all in perfect seriousness, as those who refer to that very original and entertaining book may convince themselves.
For the purposes of this section I will assume that the mlodern Irish wolf-hound, through the Kilfane and Ballytobin strains, indisputably has, if it cannot actually trace, a connection with the historic hounds of the dimmest past. Which brings me to the history of the wolf-hound. That it existed in the times of the Roman dominion is asserted by many writers. Our old friend Strabo, who must have been something of a dog fancier in his classic wasy, describes them as having been used in the chase by the Celtic and Pictish nations, and that specimens were imported into Gaul. There are references in other classic authors to dogs both of war (mastiffs) and of the chase (wolf-hounds), that were taken to Rome to display their prowess in the gladiatorial ring. We can only surmise that these breeds were, but then the surmising field is limited, and collaterl evidence and facts point to the two specis amed. In the Welsh laws of the period there is a reference to the Irish greyhound, or Canis Graius Hibernicus, as it was styled. And all writers on the subject of dogs agree that there was a shaggty-coated greyhound in existance, and greatly prized in Ireland, in the earliest days of the history of that composite kingdom.
Coming to later times, we have ample evidence, not only of the breed itself but the esteem in which it was held, and the uses to which it was put. In the middle of the sixteenth century a writers describes it as "simila in shape to a greyhound, bigger than a mastiff, and tractable as a spaniel.: In 1562 The Irish chieftain, Shane O'Neill forwarded a couple to Queen Elizabeth through the Early of Leicester; a little later another couple were sent to the Secretary of Stage, Sir Charles Walsingham, "one black and one white". Coming to the seventeenth century, we find that no less a personage than the Great Mogul desired Sir Thomas Roe, the British Ambassador, to obtain for im some Irish Greyhounds. It is a far cry from Dublin to Delhi, and one wonders how that potentate came to hear of the breed. In Cromwell's days the Irish wolf-hound was legislated for, as the following edict by the Protector, dated "Kilkenny, April 27, 1652," proves ; "Declaration against transporting wolfee dogges - Forasmuch as we are credibly informed that wolves do much increase and destroy may cattle in several parts of this dominion, and that some of the enemy's party, who have laid down their arms and have liberty to go beyo0nd the seas, and others do attempt to carryaway several such great dogges as are commonly called wolfe dogges, whereby the breed of them, which are useful for destroying wolves, would if not prevented, speedily suffer decay, these are are therefore to prohibit all persons whatsoever from exporting any of the said dogges out of this dominion."
Twenty years later Evelyn, in his Diary, mentioned what he saw at an entrtainment at a bear-garden, where, in a dog-fight, "the Irish wolf-hound was a tall greyhound, a stately creature indeed, and did beat a cruel mastiff. The bulldogs did exceedingly well but the Irish wolf-dog exceeded."
Cromwell's protection policy seems to have succeeded, for the last wolf was killed in Co. Kerry in the year 1710. But what was protection against the wolf was not protection for the dog, and thereafter, its occupation gone, the Irish wolf-hound sank rapidly into decadence. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we come to consider the enormous quantity of food these huge creatures eat, rendering them far too expensive to keep when they had ceased to be neccessary. Their history fom 1710 to 1870 is all on the downgrade, until it verged almost into the mists of absolute extinction. By the end of the eighteenth century it had become "extremely rare," and certainly degenerated in size. Lord Altamont is reputed to have had eight Irish wolf-hounds in 1780, "tall, noble dogs, the largest of whom measured 5 feet 1 inch from the nose to the end of the tail, which was 1 foot 5 inches long.
Its height from the top of the shoulder to the ground was 2 feet 4 1/2 inches" The modern fancier would not look at such a specimen nowadays, when it is categorically recommended that anything below 31 inches at shoulder should be debarred from competition, and when 7 feet from nose to tip of tail is a measurement often exceeded. But it is specially noted of Lord Altamont's dogs that they had degenerated in size generated in size." Goldsmith, in his Animated Nature, published in 1774, says: "The Irish wolf-dog is now almost quite worn away, and very rarely to be met with in Ireland. The wolves being destroyed, the dogs also are wearing away, as if Nature means to blot out the species when they had no longer any service to perform." In 1803 Reinagle depicted an Irish greyhound, and the splendid animal he has left us is one that any modern fancier might be proud to breed, as may be seen from the outline sketch of it which I reproduce. About this time the wolf-dog frequently figures in Encyclopaedias and books dealing with dogs, as being an interesting illustration of a fast dying race. By the middle of the nineteenth century we read, "No pure, unmixed specimens now exist, even in Ireland," and with that the colophon might have been set to the history of the breed, but for the endeavours of Captain Graham, Major Gamier, and others, who rescued it almost at the last moment from an extinction as complete as that of the greak auk. To a most interesting brochure compiled by Captain Graham I am indebted for much of the information contained in the foregoing paragraphs.
To the Irish Kennel Club belongs the distinction of having been courageous enough to establish a class for the resuscitated breed at its show in 1879, thus affording scope for the somewhat crude specimens that were then being fashioned on the traditional lines. One prize was awarded to a cross-breed between a Great Dane and a deerhound—a dog that stood 33 inches at the shoulder, and displayed "much wolf-hound character"; the other prizes went to dogs that had a strain of the " old blood" in them. From this date forward the breed progressed steadily. In 1886 the Irish Wolf-hound Club was founded, and soon afterwards the Kennel Club granted the breed recognition and registration. In the 'Nineties it was awarded a tolerable space on the stage of the dog-showing world, and, what was more to the point, some very fine hounds were born, such as Ch. O'Leary, Ch. Dermot Astore, Ch. Wargrave, Ch. Ballyhooly, and others, who have engraved their mark deep on the modern race. But it was reserved for the twentieth century to see the breed literally galvanised by one of those curious waves of enthusiasm which sometimes arise to push forward a good cause. One or two fortuitous circumstances conduced to this sudden popularity, but the wonderful "levelling up" of the type of the breed had probably more to do with it than anything else. The beautiful hounds that had been gradually perfected out of the chaos of the past, with care, veneration, and devotion, pleaded their own cause. In 1902 it is no exaggeration to say that Irish wolf-hounds were one of the principal attractions at Cruft's, the Dublin, the Richmond, and the Kennel Club Shows; and at the latter, where Captain Graham judged the breed he had done so much to save from extinction, he was complimented with a bench of thirty-six as fine hounds as have ever been brought together in the history of dog-showing. Throughout the year the consensus of expert opinion was unanimous that the breed had come through its difficulties (the greatest of which was to eliminate the Great Dane character and the smooth coat which that cross introduced), and was on the threshold of breeding true to type. This really wonderful result has been due to the patience of a few ardent fanciers in the past, who have found worthy successors in Mr. Crisp, of Playford Hall; Mrs. Gerard, of Malpas (the owner of that splendid bitch Cheevra, of whose death I hear with greats regret as I write these lines, for she was the dam of more living Irish wolf-hounds, including several championship winners, than any other half a dozen bitches); Mr. Martin, of Dublin, to whom the native land of the wolf-hound owes a deep debt; and last, though by no means least, Major Shewell, of Cotswold, Cheltenham, who has brought together or bred a pack of Irish wolf-hounds that is a prize-bench in itself, and in whose magnificent kennels it may be safely predicted the breed will work out its own further perfection.
Before I proceed to quote the contributions I have received upon this breed, it may not be uninteresting to give a few notes I gathered during my short personal acquaintance with it. And more particularly in regard to breeding, of which I have had some experience, and in which, besides the difficulties of rearing whelps, there arises one danger which calls for attention. The whole of the present breed of show Irish wolfhounds are practically descended from two sires, Brian II. and Bran II. Of the thirty-six specimens exhibited at the Kennel Club Show of 1902, eighteen were in the first, second, or third generation descended from Brian II., sixteen from Bran II., and only two from other sources, which could not be described as clear out-crosses. In 1903 there were twenty-five hounds benched; of these seventeen were descended from Brian II, five from Bran II, and of the remaining three, two were of the former sire's blood on the dam's side, and the third was not a distinct out-cross. So much for the figures relating to the sires. Of the sixtyone dams of the exhibits at these shows I cannot speak with equal confidence, but twenty-five at least were bitches of the strain of Brian II. or Bran II, and I doubt not several more, with whose pedigree I am unacquainted. I think these figures prove that an outcross is highly essential in this breed, and in my own mind I have little doubt that the awful mortality that exterminates whelps in a wholesale way is in some measure due to in-breeding. The loss of a whole litter is no unusual occurrence—the survival of four whelps a very rare one. Although the wolf-hound is generally a magnificently strong, hardy, and healthy animal when it is grown up, it is one of the most delicate of dogs in its growing stage, and personally, from my knowledge of the holocausts that have followed distemper contracted at dog shows, I would never exhibit a youngster under twelve months old. To my certain knowledge distemper contracted at shows within the last two years was the direct cause of a dozen as good hounds as any one could sorrow to see lost to a breed that cannot afford diminution in its numbers.
The following records from my kennel book, relating to the " weights and measures" of growing wolfhound whelps, may be relied on as accurate, and are informatory:—
In the most successful litter I reared, by Wolfe Tone ex Kyltra, of which nine out of ten survived, the aggregate weight of the litter at birth was 23 1/2- lbs., and the weekly weights of the best and weakliest pups as follows:—
I attributed the stamina of this litter to the fact that the dam was a perfect out-cross, she being by a dog unrelated in pedigree to Wolfe Tone for several generations, and a deerhound bitch. Of another litter of eleven born about the same time, and treated in the same way as regards foster-mothers and food, every single one died.
The following tables show the growth of a couple of Irish wolf-hounds, month by month, from weaning to a year old :—
The comparative "pauses in the proceedings" of Wolfe Tone at six months old and of Wolfe O'Brien at four months were caused by attacks of distemper; the 23 lbs. the latter dog put on between his fifth and sixth month was a record in my kennel. The heaviest dog on the wolf-hound bench was the late Finn, belonging to Mr. Walter Williams, weighing 148 lbs.; the tallest hound was one exhibited at the Richmond show, which measured, it was said,—and he looked it,— 35^- inches; unfortunately he was not perfect otherwise. The tallest champion hound I have seen, and probably the best, is Cotswold, the property of Major Shewell, and the subject of my illustration; he can touch the scale at 34 1/2- inches, I believe. There are several dogs measuring over 33 inches, but the clear 34 is very difficult to obtain, and 32 inches is about the average of the breed. Princess Patricia of Connanght and Juno-of-the-Fen—both 33 inches at least—are the tallest bitches.
I now come to my contributors' notes, which read as follows:—
'Captain Graham.—Some of the best specimens of the present day are satisfactory, but, generally speaking, there is a want of size and substance. Also evidence of the Great Dane cross is too pronounced in some specimens.
Mr. Gerard.—I am satisfied with type, but I consider that action and all-round good movement are not sufficiently taken into consideration.
Mr. I. W. Everett.—The type is rapidly getting more regular. Great care should be exercised in selecting sound, big-boned, typical sires (not necessarily tall), and raking, long dams with body and limb formation of the best. There does not seem to be anything like sufficient importance attached to heart and lung room, and if no decided move is made in that direction, there can be little chance of improvement in that almost vital point. I think we should also take a very much firmer stand on the subject of sound and well formed legs, feet, loins, and hindquarters generally, as the breed is essentially a galloping one, and derives most of its speed from its hindquarters. In point values more should be given to sound-limbed dogs (both sexes), as there are both dogs and bitches, well up in the prize lists, that, in my opinion, owing to unsoundness and bad formation of limbs, should not rightly be there. Dogs of this breed should be made to both walk and trot when being judged, which unfortunately is very often omitted.
Mr. Walter Allen.—In my opinion the chief fault is the want of uniformity in type, which time will remedy. Some of the best specimens are lacking in coat, and breeders should give this point more thought when selecting a sire.
Mr. Walter Williams.—There are too many types. Owners should endeavour to breed from sires and dams of the approved type only.
Miss Aitcheson.—I think the breed still lacks uniformity,— so many are either too shaggy, or show too much of the Great Dane in type and coat.
Other Fanciers (who desire to remain incognito).—I consider the question of type a difficult one to answer, as it varies so much under different judges. I think we now go in too much for size, instead of insisting on soundness and freedom in action. Dogs with crooked legs are awarded prizes, and half-bred boarhounds, with short bodies and out at elbows are passed, if above the average height. — I am not quite satisfied with type. I think a great deal more attention should be paid to shape of head, which is too often inclined to be Roman or snipey; and the ears require much more careful attention. The ear is a great beauty when it is small and carried lightly. In point values I do not think enough is given for legs and hindquarters, which are very bad in some winners.—Heavy leathers spoil a lot of hounds, and the greyhound carriage of the ear is the exception, not the rule. Many of the hindquarters are as bad as in St. Bernards. But the youngsters coming on are a distinct improvement upon the older generation, and when judges have the courage to put down some of the patriarchs, and put up some of the young 'uns that are much their superiors, we shall have breeders going to these young dogs, and the logical result will be an improvement in the pups born. The judge who gives a championship to an unsound dog probably does more harm to a breed at large than he can be conscious of. It is hopeless to expect the average exhibitor and breeder to go to the dog that suits his bitch; he must go to a champion if he wants to sell his stock, and he does so in the face of the miserable wastrels that are often produced by such unions. There are many better dogs for breeding than some of those at stud, and not until breeders are guided solely by soundness in the first instance (of course avoiding mongrels) will the breed assume the place those who love it ought to desire to see it in—namely, amongst the sound breeds of dogs. Breeders should go steady for a generation or two, and get the breed sound before they seek to elaborate points. And for height, I consider that the struggle after it is the curse of the breed at present. The taller some of them grow, the more wobbly they become.
Personally, I am inclined to think some of the above strictures a little hard, though I agree with the last writer that, as a breed, the present generation is superior to the last one. But with regard to diversity in type, to which so many make reference, I consider that the Irish wolf-hound has reached a development wherein there is less diversity than in most other breeds, and that you could parade the leading specimens in a pack, and create a conviction in the eyes of people, not expert, that they were not only all of one breed, but that they were unlike any other breed. The sternness of the judicial note has been pleasantly counterbalanced by the sympathy of the remarks that apply to the breed from the dog-lover's rather than the dog-fancier's point of view. Here everything is in its favour, as witness: "The Irish wolf-hound combines the best characteristics of all the large breeds of dogs. He is gentle, forgiving, plucky, most faithful, gifted with a wonderful memory, whilst his keen sense of humour and almost human intelligence makes him a perfect companion and guard." —" The noblest dogs living. They are the largest, and at the same time combine size with gracefulness. Most affectionate and quiet, with perfect tempers, they are perfect gentlemen in every sense of the word."—" Why do I prefer it to other breeds? Because I am an Irishwoman, and an Irishwoman cannot but love the Irish hound."—" They extort admiration, confer distinction, are invaluable to a lady unprotected, and cannot be stolen."—" To me the great fascination of the Irish wolf-hound lies in the nobleness both of his disposition and appearance, and his absolute single-mindedness in his devotion to his one human friend, though courteous, even friendly, to all well-behaved specimens of humanity. He is courageous, but not quarrelsome, with nothing small or mean about him; marvellously intelligent in understanding the speech and actions of so-called superior beings (ourselves), and has a very keen sense of humour. A perfect companion, faithfully shadowing, yet never obtrusive. His good traits are innumerable, and I don't know a bad one. His natural sense of honour and obedience render him, with all his strength and keenness, very easy to control."—"The great pleasure in keeping this breed is, to my mind, derived from its beautiful and majestic appearance, and its affectionate and companionable disposition. Usually peaceable, it can acquit itself with courage, and in foreign countries to which it has been exported, has proved itself a fine hunting hound."—" The king of all dogs, and in disposition there is absolutely no other to equal it."—" It has always been my idea of the grandest dog known to mankind for almost every reason, and has had the whole of my attention for the past forty years."
It has been objected to the modern wolf-hound that he is not sufficiently agile and active. This is certainly true of him in the show-ring, where he has not room to stretch himself. But those intimately acquainted with the breed are perfectly satisfied with his speed, jumping powers, and endurance. Major Shewell's pack (he tells me) put up an inconsequent buck, irrelevantly browsing in the suburbs of Cheltenham, whither it had strayed from a contiguous park. The hounds sighted it, ran it close for 6 miles, when it had the bad taste to disappear over some park palings about 8 feet high, which obstructed the hounds that had taken several five-barred gates in their stride. Mrs. Gerard mentions an instance when her life was probably saved by her beautiful hound Rajah of Kidnal and his brother Rashleigh. During a country walk one day she was attacked and thrown to the ground by a savage sow; her hounds immediately tackled it, and made it very sorry for itself, whilst their mistress effected her escape. Finn, the heaviest dog in the breed, was a demon to cats and rats, and old Bran II. was a famous ratter, and killed one in his kennel the evening before his death. I do not instance these as acts of prowess, but as acts requiring agility. My own dogs accounted for many a rabbit, and I never observed any lack of activity in them; but the quick turning incident to such chases is risky, and I know of two hounds which met their death by overreaching themselves in awkward twists and breaking their backs. Wolfe O'Brien, although he hated being weighed, was so consumed with a sense of duty that he always elevated himself, with an injured look on his face, on the luggage-weighing platforms at the railway stations he visited, long after his first year's monthly record was completed. More than once I have missed him, only to find him glued to a machine, appealing to the crowd around to weigh him quick and get it over. He was an adept at shamming, and conscious, I am sure, that indisposition led to better fare; for he often used to pretend to be feeling "a bit off," with a view to a treat for dinner. The reference above to Rajah of Kidnal reminds me that I ought to mention he was an Irish wolfhound presented to the Irish Guards by the Irish Wolf-hound Club, as a regimental pet, at the Kennel Club Show of 1902. He now proudly precedes the regiment on the march, and has an uncommonly good time of it.
In the following description I have attempted to depict
An Ideal Irish Wolf-hound.—He was born, christened "Wolfe Terror," and died at the early age of six months. Many tears were shed over his premature departure to that other land, wherein I trust he will experience the consolation so touchingly predicted by Luther in the apostrophe—" Be comforted, little dog! Thou, too, in the Resurrection shalt have a golden tail!"
I used to picture what he would grow into; it is all cut and dried in my recollection. As a puppy he was as near perfection as he could be, and dowered so often with the following good qualities in anticipation, that I can recall them as if they had been facts.
He was that puppy " Perfection," which, alas, we have nearly all bred and buried, loved and lost once in our kennel experience. A giant in size ("gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked"— as the old couplet runs), standing almost 36 inches at the shoulder, measuring 8 feet from the nose to the tip of the tail, girthing 40 inches, and weighing 1 50 lbs.
His colour was the grey of a thunder-cloud, shading to black on the ears and paws, and with a black muzzle. There was not so much as a white hair on chest or toes. His coat was strong, harsh, and rather rough, the hair about three inches in length, but longer on the hackles, which, when erected, gave the suggestion of a mane, adding greatly to his apparent height and imposing figure.
His eyebrows were long and shaggy, curving over the eyes, but without obstructing the vision; he had a workmanlike beard, not too long; and plentiful strong hair on his muzzle. His nose was large, and his mouth and teeth positively alarming when he yawned.
His eyes were dark, and in his gentler moods moist and tender in expression. His ears were small and velvety in substance; in repose carried neatly tucked back, close to the head; but cocked elegantly and well above it when alert. Their different carriage, combined with the flash of his eye and the uprearing of his hackles, absolutely changed him in an instant from a lamblike to a lion-like being.
His head (which had a comical similarity to an Irish terrier's when he was a baby) was over 14 inches long, but that was because he was so tall. The head must bear artistic proportion to the body, and a 14-inch head on a 32-inch dog would be altogether too exaggerated. Wolfe Terror's head had not the slightest suspicion of dome or peak; the skull followed the configuration, on a massive scale, of a deerhound's; the stop was sufficiently indicated to avoid plainness; the muzzle very full and strong. In this particular he was totally free from snipeyness, and from the weakness of the borzoi, the coarseness of the Great Dane, and the lack-power of the deerhound.
His neck was muscular, moderately long, well-arched, and his throat clean. His body long, the ribs grandly sprung, the belly tucked up, but not so much as to suggest slenderness, yet enough to announce agility. His tail was very long—it could touch the ground when perpendicular—well-covered with hair, yet avoiding suspicion of feather, set rather high than low, and carried slightly below the level of his back, with a half-twist and the extremity curving out to the left.
His shoulders sloped like a race-horse's, and were well-supplied with muscle; his chest was very deep, and his breast presented a broad front. His loins were strong, full of substance and slightly arched. Everywhere he avoided straight lines and angles, and revelled in curves that suggested grace, suppleness, and harmony of anatomy.
His fore legs were straight, well set under, big-boned, and parallel as Corinthian pillars; his hind legs carried a long second thigh, with sound, set-apart hocks, well let down, which, taken all round, was perhaps his strongest point in comparison with the breed as it exists to-day, for it is inclined to be woodeny behind. The muscles on the fore arm (which girthed 10 inches) and the thighs were as hard as a prize-fighter's. The feet were compact, and tending to cat-like, but the springy pastern carried this rigidity off. The strong, curved nails were black and even. His bone all over was enormous, and he was well-furnished, but did not carry an ounce of fat.
His trot was a long swinging gait, and he had a sideways action, as though he meant business with his shoulder if you got in his way. He did not lift his legs high, but accomplished a grand stride; extended at full gallop, he travelled low to the ground, but, when necessity required, negotiated a five-barred gate like a Grand National winner.
His temperament was courteous, yet reserved to strangers. He must have a formal introduction ; this accorded, he behaved benignly, but with a proper dignity. In private life he possessed every good quality of a gentleman, and the acutest sense of humour. Nothing delighted him more than a little private joke with any one he was fond of. Pin pricks had no effect upon him, and he equally ignored the snap of a small dog, the scratch of a cat defending her kittens from intrusion, and the irritating remarks of small, facetious village boys.
But when duty called—which it too seldom did for his taste in our peaceful England—he proved himself as gallant as he was gigantic, as unconquerable as he was noble, and as dangerous as he was daring. And there ran in his veins—thin though it might be—an indubitable streak of that ancient blood which, in his distant ancestry, protected him from proprietorship by any but the Kings of Ireland.
And lest any one should suppose this magnificent creature is only the creation of fancy, let me confess I manufactured him out of the following ingredients. He borrowed his noble head, long body, and fine lashing tail from Cotswold, his aristocratic appearance from Marquis of Donegal, his small ears, straight legs, perfect feet, and sound constitution from Wolfe Tone, his kind, dark eyes from Ballyhooly, his height from Brian Asthore, his solidity of body and savage temper (when aroused) from Finn, his graceful action from Felixstowe Emo, his coat from Atara, his castiness from Nuala, his speed from Juno-of-the-Fen, his sense of duty to his generation from Cheevra of Kidnal, his Irish humour from Wolfe O'Brien, and his affection from Dermot Asthorc.
The interests of the Irish wolf-hound are well looked after by the Irish Wolf-hound Club, which numbers about sixty members, and has done a great deal for the breed. The entrance fee is a guinea, and membership entitles subscribers to compete for a forty-guinea challenge shield and five ten-guinea challenge cups, besides special prizes, in apportioning which the club is very liberal. Financially there is no similar institution so soundly, not to say opulently, established, for it has a reserve fund of a hundred pounds. Another club, the Northern Irish Wolf-hound Club, is a kindred institution, whose aim is to cater for fanciers in the north of England. With the strides that the breed is making in popularity there seems room for the existence of a third club in Ireland, where a considerable body of fanciers have lately sprung into existence.
The following are the Irish Wolf - hound Club's Standard of Points of the breed :—
STANDARD OF POINTS OF THE IRISH WOLF-HOUND
1. General Appearance.—The Irish wolf-hound 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 inches and 120 lbs. ; of bitches 28 inches and 90 lbs. 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 32 to 34 inches 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. Forequarters.—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. Hindquarters. — 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 straight back; bent fore legs; overbent fetlocks; twisted feet; spreading toes; too curly a tail; weak hindquarters and a general want of muscle; too short in body.
I am able to present my readers with a very fine illustration of Irish wolf-hounds, thanks to the kindness of Major Shewell and the perseverance of Mr. F. Parsons of Cheltenham, who took more photographs than I should like to commit myself to numbering, before he obtained the absolutely perfect one of two unleashed-up hounds, in an alert attitude, which I reproduce. Unfortunately, owing to their great size, they are out of proportion to the " scale" adopted for illustrations in this volume, and would require a double page to do their dimensions justice.
Ch. Costswold was bred and is owned by Mrs. Percy Shewell. His sire was O'Leary and his dam Princess Patricia of Connaught, and he was born in March 1902. He weighs 142 lbs., stands 34^ inches at shoulder (being the tallest dog figured in this work), and is a wheaten colour, with a long head, great bone, hazel eyes, and long tail, well carried; good coat, and lots of it; straight on his legs, and with great freedom of movement; a long body and good girth, but is not yet fully filled out. He has won three championships, and is, without doubt, the most typical hound in the breed.
Wolfe Tone, also the property of Mrs. Percy Shewell, is by Ch. Wargrave ex Wolfe Colleen, and was born in August 1900. He is a black and grey dog, weighing 139 lbs., and standing 33J inches at shoulder. His owner describes him as "a fine upstanding hound, with lots of courage, splendid legs and feet, good bone and perfectly straight; good coats and lots of it; has a wonderful nose and hunts well; small ears and carries them well; wants length of head and tail, and his eyes are somewhat light. Winner of a championship and many prizes, and sire of Cotswold Desmond and Cotswold Paddy, and many other whelps."
2. THE DEERHOUND
The magic pen of Scott and the marvellous brush of Landseer found a subject not unworthy of their genius in the Scottish deerhound, and they may be said to have educated the modern English-speaking peoples into an appreciation of this noble and beautiful breed. Around it hangs the halo of romance; we connect it with Gelert saving its master's infant from the wolf, and with that spendid creature in The Talisman, which is reputed to have saved the life of Richard Cceur de Lion; we admire it in Landseer's matchless canvases, where it is ever nobly used to add to the stories it illustrates the spirit of the chase or the pathos of canine fidelity. It is associated in the minds of the least doggy people with nothing that is ignoble, but on the contrary appeals to them with the humanised instinct of the St. Bernard and the Newfoundland. As a type of dog I doubt whether the mere picture of any other breed can excel it in creating emotion and admiration, or recalling the glow that comes from aristocratic and heroic associations.
And yet, to be just to dog shows, it is indisputable that they arrived just in time to rescue the deerhound from threatening extinction. For as Nero fiddled whilst Rome was burning, so we English—British I should more properly say—gushed into raptures over a shadow whilst the substance was almost in the act of departing. I do not know, on reconsideration, whether the simile is very apposite; but what I wish to convey is that we are rather apt to fiddle-faddle over romantic fiction whilst we ignore cold facts—rather apt to weep over the Song of the Shirt whilst we clothe our soldiers in shirts that are contracted to be sewn for a few farthings. And whilst Scott was being republished in cheap edition after cheap edition, and Landseer's pictures reproduced in inexpensive duplicate, we thought less of the deerhound in the flesh than in the spirit, and if it had not been for dog shows and a few level-headed practical fanciers the noble animal might have died out altogether whilst we were weeping over a pen or pencil portrait of him.
Look through any of the books published about dogs in the first half of the nineteenth century, and you will find but meagre mention of the Scottish deerhound. Even in an edition of Goldsmith's Animated Nature, issued in 1864, with an Appendix on modern dogs supposed to be brought up to date, the deerhound, or "Scottish greyhound," as it is called, is dismissed with a line and a half of description, whilst the Esquimaux dog is accorded a couple of pages, and the Samoyede a page. Two other books at my elbow do not mention it at all, though they dilate on the Irish wolf-dog (as an extinct species) and the Maltese terrier. So much for the practical lessons of Scott and Landseer in the 'Fifties and 'Sixties. It would almost seem from contemporaneous literature that the hound only lived in their pages and canvas about that period. But with the institution of dog shows the fine old breed claimed, and had its claim allowed too, recognition amongst the earliest exhibited varieties ; and if, with the passage of time, it has not gained that wide popularity it deserves, it has at least become firmly established, and is not likely to dwindle back into the obscurity which has engulfed the lost tribes of Israel, and the deerhound had almost shared before dog shows came to fish it out from the waters of oblivion.
Notwithstanding the neglect to which it was subjected in the deathly dull inanition of the inartistic middle Victorian era, the deerhound is an ancient, and, in many ways, a royal breed of dog. We may brush aside the theory that it was descended from the Irish wolf-hound, for assuredly Scotland, with its wild glens and rugged mountain tracks swarming with deer, was well equipped to produce a hunting hound for the chase of them. Nature provides these things; she does not wait for man to invent them; at least she "didn't used to"; in this twentieth century man is a length ahead of nature, and has discovered gramaphones, Marconigrams, and radium. But this is neither here nor there, and I accept the hypothesis that if Nature provided wolves in Ireland and the wolf-dog to exterminate them, she was quite capable of providing the deerhound in the sister kingdom without any help from Erin in their procreation.
One thing I willingly allow: that the Scottish deerhound has a strain of ancient Irish wolf-hound blood in it to the same extent that the Irish terrier has a dash of Scottish terrier somewhere in its pedigree. The two countries could scarcely fail to interchange dogs amongst other commodities. But whatever the deerhound may have borrowed from the wolf-hound in the past, it has returned to the wolf-hound of the present. That it is again beginning to borrow is another matter altogether, and one of which two or three of my contributors hint as true in theory if not in fact. But, after all, wolf-hound and deerhound, are they not both allied breeds—noble breeds—peerless breeds? And shall we find fault with them for claiming a cousinship? Not I, for one; nor, I think, any fancier who loves perfection in a hunting hound, or can appreciate a Dublin Fusilier and a Gordon Highlander side by side, as these two dogs may fitly stand.
As I have said, the Scottish deerhound is an ancient breed. You may read incidentally of it in the earliest chapters of Scottish history. The old English historian, Holinshed, tells us how certain Pictish nobles went a-hunting in the domains of Crainlint, King of the Scots, and when they were departing gave diplomatic praise to certain Scottish greyhounds that were better than their own strain of dogs. Royal hospitality demanded that a gift should be made them of a few couples. But one dog they greatly coveted was not included in the offering, and they had the meanness to steal it. The which gave rise to war and a fierce battle, wherein many on both sides were slain. Whereby you may perceive that even in those far times the deerhound was accounted worth fighting over. Then, again (as Mr. Rawdon Lee recalls in a most instructive and interesting article on the breed), there is mention of the deerhound in the days of Robert Bruce, when a famous couple, called Help and Hold, were the heroes in the chase of a white deer in the Pentland Hills, on their ability to catch which their master, Sir William St. Clair, had wagered his head against a grant of broad acres by the Scottish king,—a most charming and breathless epic, in which the hounds just succeeded in winning for their master a magnificent demesne. I can vaguely enter into the triumph of killing that "white" deer, for it was my good fortune on two occasions to bag a white antelope on the plains of India. In the sixteenth century the deerhound was reported to exist in considerable numbers, but after that they appear to have declined to some extent, notwithstanding that they were fostered by some of the great Scottish chiefs. The Gordons, the Macdonnels, the MacPhersons, the Lochiels of Lochabar, the M'Kenzies, and the MacLeods all had strains of their own. Johnson, in his Tour to the Hebrides, makes mention of a breed of deerhound indigenous to the Isle of Skye, which he describes as "a brindled greyhound larger and stronger than those with which we course hares." Baron Cuvier's description is "a wiry-haired greyhound, with long, curling, stiffish hair, generally white, inclining to a reddish-brown tinge."
Coming to more modern times, we find the deerhound retaining its pristine spirit and courage, and exhibiting a gallantry worthy of Gelert of old. Sir Samuel Baker, in one of his earliest books treating of big game shooting in Ceylon, gives us a fine description of the feats of a deerhound called "Smut," the hero of countless battles, and of one especially in which he bayed and seized by the cheek a wounded elk, hanging on to the powerful and infuriated animal at deadly peril to himself till his master was able to spear it. This happened in the 'Sixties. The feat, however, fades into insignificance compared to the performance of sundry deerhounds in America in quite recent years, as may be deduced from the following spirited account of wolf-hunting, which I excerpt from an article by Dr. Van Hummell, a noted deerhound-fancier in the United States, in the American Book of the Dog:—
A high-bred deerhound, properly trained, has more courage and can stand more punishment than any other dog. He can run fast enough to catch an antelope, jack rabbit, cayote, wolf, deer, or elk; he will tree a mountain lion or bear, and will even fight a grizzly bear long enough for you to place yourself in safety.
Some years since I sold a trained pack of six deerhounds to the Sun River Hound Club of Montana, which was composed of wealthy cattlemen who were losing thousands of dollars worth of cattle annually through the ravages of the large, grey timber wolf. They hired Mr. Porter, an experienced wolf-hunter, to handle this pack of deerhounds on their cattle-range for one year, and I had guaranteed the dogs to kill any wolf in the locality.
It seems that one of the members of the club had a large flock of sheep, and one certain wolf had been preying on them for four years past; this tremendous wolf was to be the first one the pack was to tackle. If they could catch and kill him, my guarantee was to be considered fulfilled. The rest of the story is best told in the letters Mr. Porter wrote me.
"Dear Doctor—The dogs and I arrived safe—only very sore from long travel. These men are very anxious to see what kind of work these high-priced dogs will do. Last night that big wolf they wrote you about killed four sheep near the house, and I followed him five or six miles, merely to see what he looked like. I saw him, and I want to tell you now that I think my job and you dog-money will be gone when I allow the dogs to go near that wolf! But I can't hold these men much longer, so I promised to go after him the day after to-morrow."
(Two days later.)—" Dear Doctor—Last night, or rather just before daylight, we heard the wolf in the sheep-corral, and went out to scare him away. He had already killed one sheep and eaten of it freely. At daylight myself and three club members took four of the dogs (Oscar and Meta being still too sore to work) and started after the big fellow. We followed him for at least ten miles before we could show him to the dogs. They went to him very quickly, he depending more on his fighting than running qualities. Colonel and Dan reached him first, and struck him with such force that he went down—never to get up again. They killed him in a short time, and neither of the dogs got a scratch. The Colonel took his old hold at the throat, and never let go until I choked him off. Colonel, you know, is just 30 inches high at the shoulder. We stood this wolf up beside Colonel, and he was just one inch taller than the dog. We brought the wolf home to see what he weighed, and he tipped the beam at 107 lbs. To say the club members were delighted at the dogs is putting it too mild. They were simply crazed. The country is alive with wolves and other game."
During that season Mr. Porter killed 148 grey wolves and over 300 cayottes. Amongst many letters extolling the wonderful courage of these grand dogs, the following shows what six dogs, well trained to their work, can do :—
"Dear Doctor—To-day I suddenly came upon a pack of fifteen full-grown wolves. I had all six dogs with me, and they were in good form. I was satisfied that unless we did good work, and that quickly, the wolves would kill the dogs. So I jumped amongst them, and as soon as the dogs got one wolf down I stuck my knife into its heart. In this way we killed twelve out of the fifteen; but I am sorry to say that poor, old, faithful, courageous Dan was killed."
If a tale of derring-do like this does not delight the heart of all deerhound-fanciers, they are hard to please! I know not which to admire most—the daring of the deerhounds or the prowess, so modestly related, of Mr. Porter.
Turning now to the twentieth century deerhound, I have received the following review of the breed from Mr. Hood-Wright, a learned judge of the fancy, the breeder and exhibitor of two of the most successful hounds of modern days, and the Honorary Secretary of the Deerhound Club :—
It is a pity that the raison d'itre of the deerhound, or (as I prefer to hear it called) the Scottish staghound, has vanished. Owing to the subdivision of deer forests, the law that a wounded stag cannot be followed and killed on another man's ground, and last, though by no means least, the use of explosive bullets, that seldom leave a stricken quarry the ability to run away, the deerhound is now scarcely ever entered to his proper sphere of sport, and but very few of the owners or renters of deer forests keep it, or would know the use of it if they did. Thus it happens that the deerhound has come to be kept entirely as a companion or guard in this country, and I dare assert there are more deerhounds kept within a radius of twenty or thirty miles of Birmingham than throughout the whole of Scotland. I am no bigot; there are very few breeds of dogs, especially big dogs, that I have not kept, bred, and shown; but I must say for a good, honest, all-round pal the deerhound comes first in my opinion. The most remarkable thing about the breed is that it has not become more popular, for considering the numbers that were shown thirty odd years ago and at the present time, they have increased very little, and improved nothing. There were as good, if not better, dogs then than there are now, although at the present time there are more and better bitches. I suppose one reason is that they are not easy to rear, a great percentage dying from distemper—caused, no doubt, by in-breeding. I have tried getting a fresh strain from the Highlands, but the result has been coarse, thick skulls, want of size, and light eyes—a fault I detest. Again, I have used a bitch bred by Her Grace the Duchess of Wellington, a cross between the Lochiel strain and the celebrated borzoi Ch. Krilutt, which I considered the most perfectly built dog of any breed of his time. This has been more satisfactory, and the whelps, with one-eighth borzoi blood in them, did not show the slightest trace of, and less white than in the ordinary deerhound. Another reason of the deerhound's lack of popularity may be traced, I fancy, to its gaunt and rugged appearance. I suppose it is an acquired taste, but in the eyes of the deerhound-fancier and artist nothing comes up to this breed in point of beauty and symmetry. Of course exceptions prove the rule; but I have found them most free from vice of any kind—splendid followers of either bike or carriage, good guards for ladies; and although the quietest dogs living, there are none a tramp has a greater horror of; and if you have a deerhound loose about your place you will be free from the visits of these undesirable gentry.
Deerhounds are especially good followers of the horse, and become almost as much attached to it as to its master; and they will wait, without being shut up, beside a horse. I can drive to any strange town with three dogs following, and leave them unattended for hours, certain to find them where I left them when it is time to go.
Although very intelligent, deerhounds do not pick up tricks like Great Danes, poodles, etc. But they are very acute. As an instance, we have one whose dam died when he was a tiny puppy, and he was brought up entirely in the kitchen; consequently, very much spoiled. One day I caught his lordship chasing the Alderney cow, so I corrected him with a new whip. The whip disappeared, and was found some days after under a piece of carpet in Master Glen's box.
Of course there is not such a thing as perfection in deerhounds, and they require watching and checking, as their natural instinct makes them inclined to chase all animals. But being firm once or twice with them soon breaks them of any bad habit. In fact no breed is easier taught command.
In conjunction with an old friend, Mr. Hickman of Birmingham, I drew up the points and description of the deerhound years ago; and at the present time I do not see where I can make any alteration with a view to improvement.
I have received the following criticisms of presentday type and general observations on the breed :—
Dr. Lycett Burd.—I feel strongly that we are getting the deerhound too big, and consequently that they tend towards coarseness, and J are lacking in true deerhound character and expression, which should be essentially aristocratic, gentle, and full of quality. With increase of size we are also, in some degree, losing activity and grace of movement—due partly to the prevalence of small, ill-shaped cow-hocks and straight stifles. I think the values of the points wrong in several particulars—e.g., too much is given to height, feet, and tail, whilst 2 for nails is absurd. Too little is given for substance and girth, and to give the same value practically for tail as for eyes appears to me wrong. I should assign the values thus:—Head, 10; ears, 4; beard, 3 ; eyes, 8; coat, 8 ; neck, 8; tail, 2; nails, 1 ; teeth, 7; height, 7; girth, 1 o; length and symmetry of body, 9; loins and hocks, 10; fore legs, 8; and feet 5—total, 100.
Mrs. M'intyre.—The deerhound seems to me to be getting more of the wolf-hound type—too big and clumsy, with heavy heads. If owners would breed for quality instead of size it would help to improve the breed. A deerhound should be bred for speed, and therefore should be graceful and elegant. The one idea now appears to be to breed for size, and in so doing the elegance is lost, and they are far too heavy to show much speed. I have kept both deerhounds and borzois; the former I much prefer, both for looks and affection; I find them so unselfish, whereas the borzoi always thinks of itself first, and so long as it is happy and comfortable cares nothing for any one else. But unfortunately I find the deerhounds harder to rear than borzois, so I have very few in my kennels. I think the deerhound the most faithful and almost the most intelligent dog there is, and, as a general rule, it is most unselfish.
Mrs. H. Armstrong.—The type of the breed to-day is inclined to become too large and coarse, leaning to that of the Irish wolf-hound. In my opinion a deerhound standing 30 inches at shoulder is quite big enough; and with this size the quality and refinement so essential to the breed are more readily obtained. A deerhound, for his size, is perhaps the most gentle of all breeds. Remarkably faithful and affectionate, easily trained, and most obedient; intelligent, as a rule, and quiet and not easily exciteable, as some breeds are.
Mr. Hood-Wright.—There has been no improvement during the last forty years, nor yet deterioration; but no doubt in-breeding has made them much more difficult to rear than they were a score of years ago. They are the most refined and best pals of any of the big breeds, having the cuteness of disposition of the collie, without being treacherous. They easily adapt themselves as household pets, and do not take up more room than a collie.
Mrs. Bedwell. — I am not satisfied with modern type, except in a very few specimens. Prizes are given to great, coarse giants, with no true deerhound character about them. The breed is being ruined by crossing the deerhound with the borzoi and Irish wolf-hound. The over-long, badly-shaped heads of the present day are truly appalling. If judged by the points as laid down by the club, deerhounds would soon improve and the bad specimens be weeded out. But judges appear to differ so greatly in what they consider the true type that it is quite hopeless to try and breed dogs to please all. I consider the deerhound, if a true deerhound, the most elegant and graceful of any breed of dog, and as a sporting companion it cannot be surpassed. It is most intelligent, wonderfully docile, and a clean house-guard.
The Deerhound Club's publication (which appears in a tartan cover that is redolent of north of the Tweed) shows it to be a remarkably flourishing institution of nearly fifty members, with a very strong committee, and Mr. Hood-Wright for Honorary Secretary. The subscription is a guinea per annum. The club owns a couple of fifteen-guinea pieces of challenge plate for the best dog and best bitch in the breed, and is generous in its apportionment of special prizes in the pleasing form of silver medals. It has a very full list of sixteen specialist judges. The following are the points of the breed as adopted by the club :—
STANDARD OF POINTS OF THE SCOTTISH DEERHOUND
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 rather long, the skull flat rather than round, with a very slight rise over the eyes, but 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 slightly 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.—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 and 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 or desirable, for the dog is not required to stoop to his work like the greyhound, and it must be remembered that the mane, which every good specimen should have, detracts from the apparent length of the neck. Moreover, a deerhound requites 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 thein. Loaded and straight shoulders are very bad faults.
Stern.—Should be tolerably long, tapering, and reaching to within an inch and a half off the ground, and about an inch and a half 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 is very undesirable.
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, and good broad forearm and elbow being desirable. Fore legs, of course, as straight as possible. Feet close and compact, with well-arranged toes. The hindquarters 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 be broad and flat. Cow hocks, weak pasterns, straight stifles, and splay feet are very bad faults.
Coat.—The hair on the body, neck, and quarters should be harsh and wiry, and about 3 or 4 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 collie. The deerhound should be a shaggy dog, but not overcoated. A woolly coat is bad. Some good strains have a 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 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 held in equal estimation, this being the colour of the oldest known strains, the McNeil and Chesihill Menzies. White is condemned by all 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 self-coloured 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 tip to the stern occurs in the best strains.
Height Of Dogs.—From 28 to 30 inches, or even more if there be symmetry, without coarseness, which is rare.
Height Of Bitches.—From 26 inches 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 the 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 85 to 105 lbs. in dogs, and from 65 to 80 lbs. in bitches.
(The above description was drawn up by Messrs. Hickman and R. Hood-Wright, arranged and finally approved at a meeting of the club, November 26, 1892, and endorsed at a meeting of the club at Shrewsbury, July 19, 1901.)
Length and shape of head . . . .10
Ears ...... 6
Beard and eyebrows .... 3
Eyes ...... 5
Coat ...... 7
Neck ...... 5
Tail ...... 4
Nails ...... 2
Teeth ...... 5
Height at shoulder . . . .10
Substance and girth .... 9
Length and symmetry of body ... 9
Loin and hocks ..... 10
Fore legs ...... 8
Feet ...... 7
Total . .100
The deerhound breed has been unfortunate in losing some very fine specimens recently. The dogs recognised as the best by my contributors are Champions Selwood Dhouran, Forester, Ranald of the Mist, and Selwood Braie. I selected the first-named for illustration, and Mr. Hood-Wright sent me a photograph specially taken of the fine old hero. As it happened, it was the last, for he died very soon after, full of age and honours.
Ch. Selwood Dhouran, born in June 1894, was bred by Mr. Hood-Wright, whose property he was, from Ch. Swift ex Selwood Morag, and was the direct descendant of eight champion dogs. He was a dark-steel brindle in colour, measured 32 inches at shoulder, and scaled 95 lbs. His owner describes him as having "a good, well-balanced head, small ears with no fringe, laid back like a rat's; dark, sloe-coloured eyes ; hard coat—plenty of it, with rather a rugged look. By no means a drawing - room dog. Perfect in front and in character. He was a litter brother to the equally celebrated bitch Selwood Callack, and between them they won thirty-seven championships, which is a record. Dhouran might have been a trifle more bent at the hocks, but he improved very much in this respect. In the photo the dog of course looks very old. During his show career he won eighteen championships, and over three hundred prizes, including specials and challenge plate of all sorts. He was the sire of Ch. Forester and many other well-known winners. He was passionately fond of horses, and an unequalled pal, and I can truly say of him I shall never look upon his like again."
3. THE STAGHOUND
It is not uncommon for some confusion to exist with regard to the term staghound, by which nomenclature the impression of the breed of deerhounds is often conveyed. In the section dealing with the latter variety, Mr. Hood-Wright, so long and successfully associated with deerhounds, expresses his preference for the name of " Scottish staghound." On the other hand, there is a famous pack of staghounds which goes by the title of "New Forest Deerhounds." Again, by way of further variation, the late Royal pack was always called the "Royal Buckhounds," whilst, to make confusion worse confounded, Staghounds, New Forest Deerhounds, and Buckhounds are, or are said to be, one and all foxhounds, described technically and generically.
The truth is, the modern staghound is only a staghound in that it is used for hunting the stag; many of the packs of to-day are filled up with overgrown hounds drafted from foxhound kennels, and you breed foxhounds to produce staghounds. The foxhound used for fox-hunting runs from 23 to 24 inches at the shoulder; the Royal buckhounds were 24 inches, the bitch pack being only 22 1/2 inches. The Devon and Somerset staghounds (entirely drafted from various foxhound kennels) rise to 26 inches at the shoulder, and are the tallest of all the staghound packs. The tallest foxhound on record was a monster of 27 inches, whelped in the Warwickshire pack. Many masters of staghounds buy, never breed, their own hounds. All of which rather tends to cut away the ground from under an article like this, and leaves me in the awkward position of having to produce the play, sans the character, of Hamlet.
Charles James Apperley, better known as " Nimrod," who flourished in the first four decades of the last century, and was a most popular and voluminous sporting writer, in his work on The Horse and the Hound has some interesting and valuable observations to make about the staghound of his times, as follows :—
The English staghound, now nearly gone, is little more than a mongrel bloodhound; at least it is reasonable to conclude that the cross which produced him was from the English bloodhound, with some lighter animal of a similar species (perhaps a greyhound or a lurcher) approximating his form. It is asserted in the Sportsman's Cabinet, published in 1803, that the staghound was "originally an improved cross between the old English deeptongued, southern hound and the fleeter foxhound, grafted upon the basis of what was formerly called, and better known by the appellation of bloodhound." But this assertion must have been made without proper reflection, for, in the first place, a cross between the deep-tongued southern hound and the foxhound will not produce an animal nearly so large and strong as the staghound; and secondly, the staghound was known in England long before the foxhound was made use of, or, indeed, before there was an animal at all resembling the one which is now known by that term. We confess we regret the prospect of the total extinction of the English staghound, which, although his form possessed little of that symmetry we now see in the English foxhound, was a majestic animal of its kind, and possessed the property, peculiar alone to the bloodhound and itself, of unerringly tracing the scent he was laid upon, amongst a hundred others.
The illustration to this text (in the third edition of T/1e Horse and the Hound) presents one of those exasperating anomalies which crop up so constantly to confront and confound the researcher after old canine types, for it is nothing less that a very racylooking deerhound—an animal which on the face of it hunted by sight and not by scent, with greyhound ears, body, and neck, and the alert look of the breed. I cannot help thinking this ghastly satire on the letterpress must have been the unhappy thought of some thrifty editor wishing to find use for a spare block. Happily Reinagle has left us an excellent likeness of the staghound as he existed a hundred years ago, and I reproduce an outline copy of it, drawn with the fidelity in which Mr. Desmond excels. Comparing this with Reinagle's engravings of other hounds (Sag-aces) it would appear to be an animal of about 28 inches at the shoulder, and I think that " Nimrod's " description of a " majestic hound" may very fairly be applied to it. In another work published in the middle of the nineteenth century, with illustrations by Harrison Weir, there is an illustration of a staghound and a foxhound standing side by side, the former being certainly 4 inches taller at the shoulder than the latter; and the artist being one we can thoroughly trust in animal portraiture, his representation is interesting as confirming Reinagle's standard of height, though I could have wished Harrison Weir's hound had not curled its tail over its back quite so aggressively. But the lesson to be learnt from these two illustrations of the early and middle of last century, given us by two eminent artists, is that the staghound of our grandfather's times was in its outward conformation a foxhound, perhaps a little more leggy, certainly taller, and with his ears unrounded. He remains pretty much the same to-day.
Neither of these hounds answers to "Nimrod's" description, and I fear the breed he describes is extinct. The which is a pity, for the old English staghound was an ancient and historic animal, and one we can ill spare from our canine category. He is intimately associated with our history from the time of Alfred the Great; associated with the sport of kings and nobles; followed in the field by many an English monarch; favoured by Queen Elizabeth, and patronised by Queen Victoria in the evolution, if not in the actual type of hound. There are writers who ally it to the old Talbot hound, and one rather sanguinely asserts Shakespeare gave a matchless description of the old English breed in the well-known passage in Midsummer-Night's Dream:—
My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So flew'd, so sanded; and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew;
Crook-knee'd, and dew-lapp'd like Thessalian bulls;
Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouth like bells,
Each under each. A cry more tuneable
Was never holla'd to, nor cheer'd with horn.
It would be interesting to know from what strain of hounds the bard took his model for a description which, save in the crook knees, might avail for our modern bloodhounds.
The endurance of the ancient staghound is crystallised in many stirring legends. One feat is related, where two hounds made a famous chase from Wingfield Park in Northumberland to Annan in Scotland and back—a distance of more than a hundred miles.
For some cause or other the whole pack was at fault soon after the stag started, and the chase was taken up and continued by only a couple of hounds. After being seen at Red Kirks, near Annan in Scotland, the stag doubled and returned to Wingfield Park, closely pursued by the hounds. Almost exhausted, the poor animal made a last expiring effort, leapt the wall of the park, and immediately expired. One of the hounds pursued it to the wall, but being unable to get over, laid down and died; the other was found dead with fatigue at a short distance. The distance run has been variously computed, but by the circuitous route taken, it could not have been less than a hundred miles. The horns of the stag, the largest ever seen in that part of the country, were placed against a tree in the park, and the tree was afterwards known as the Hart's-horn tree.
In comparatively speaking modern times the staghound has emulated these feats. In 1822 a stag turned out before the Earl of Derby's pack at Hayes Common, covered fifty miles in four hours before it was finally set up at Speldhurst in Kent. Tradition adds that twenty horses died in the field—an equine holocaust which is a little beyond the legitimate bounds credibility places on sporting achievements.
However, these reminiscences can only shed a vicarious glamour on the modern staghound, between whom and the staghound of the past there remains nothing in common. The disbandonment of the Royal buckhounds, on the accession of his present Majesty, broke a connecting link between the sport of to-day and the sport of long ago. Perhaps better so, for the sport of long ago was the chase of the wild deer, and that of to-day, with few exceptions, is that of the carted stag—not a very ennobling pursuit, and one which the force of public opinion was able to terminate in the case of the Royal pack. Albeit those who have studied the subject are wont to declare there is no cruelty in the pastime, except in fertile imaginations.
The following extract about stag - hunting from "Nimrod's" book is so informatory that I give it in its entirety :—
A kind of technological dictionary is required to almost all sports of flood and field. Thus, in deer-hunting, what we foxhunters call the " ball" or "pad" of a fox on foot, they term the "slot." We "drag up" to a fox, they "draw on the slot," or "walk up a deer." We "find" or "unkennel" a fox, they "rouse" or "unharbour" a deer. "A fox runs up and down a cover," a deer "beats" up or down. With us a fox is "headed" (turned or driven from his point), with them a deer is "blanched." We say a fox "stops or hangs" in cover in a run, they say their game "sinks." We "recover" our fox, they "fresh find" their deer. We "run into" (kill) our fox, they "set up" the deer. The fox goes "a-clicketing," the deer goes "to rut." The fox is "worried," the deer is "broken up." The fox "barks," the deer 'bellows." The "billiting" (excrement) of the one is termed the "feument" or "feumishing" of the other. The "brush " of the fox is the "single " of the deer. The "mask" of the fox is the "snout or nose" of the deer. The view, the tally-ho, the foil, and the who-whoop are common, I believe, to all; but "currant jelly" and "sweet sauce" are not in the fox-hunter's vocabulary.
There are at the present day eighteen packs of staghounds in England and three in Ireland. Perhaps the most famous are the Devon and Somerset (50 couples), which hunt the wild deer, and Lord de Rothschild's (30 couples), and the Ward Union (30 couples), the latter in Ireland, which hunt the carted stag. The New Forest deerhounds claim a long ancestry, and are a strikingly handsome strain. The season for stag-hunting begins on the 12th of August for stags, and at the end of October it is permissible to hunt hinds, and the season ends in April.
The points of the modern staghound are the same as those of the foxhound; the tallest pack in the kingdom is the Devon and Somerset, which ranges from 25 to 26 inches. This pack has killed as many as a hundred stags and hinds in a season, and is probably the only one left to provide the sport in the form our forefathers enjoyed it, which was second to none of all the forms of chase across country.
Herbert Compton Fact and Phantasies
Irish Wolfhounds 1903
Library Of Articles