The Gentleman's magazine (London, England) 1841 A Natural History of British and foreign Quadrupeds. By James II. Fennell
In what has been called, and, considering the qualities required, not inappropriately, the " Art of deer-stalking,"* the dog plays a comparatively subordinate part; the 'stalker' trusts rather to the unerring accuracy of his rifle than to the. speed and prowess of his canine followers; but in the olden days of deer-hunting, before rifles were known, or any species of fire-arms dreamed of, it was very different; skill on the part of the hunter was undoubtedly reeded then as now, but with his gallant dogs rested in a great measure the success of the chase. The stag had not then simply to be brought to any particular place, within range of the sportsman's shot; he had to be fairly followed and overtaken by superior swiftness, seized, and overpowered by superior force. It will be evident that dogs of no ordinary kind could accomplish this ; we shall not, therefore, be surprised to find that the Highland deer-hounds were superior to every other known breed for the. combination they exhibited of speed, endurance, courage, and power. But it is a matter of surprise, we may add, it is a matter to be lamented, that their noble race appears to be on the very eve of extinction. In the present paper we propose to give a few notices of its history, appearance, habits, &c, for which we must again express our acknowledgements to Mr. Scrope's recent work.
(• For in account of Deer-Stalking in the Highlands,' see vol. v'ni., p. 106, 119, of our publication.)
Description of the Highland Deer-hound, communicated to Mr. Scrope, by Archibald Macneil, Esq. Vol. IX
This animal has been known by various appellations, as the Irish wolf-dog, the Irish greyhound, the Highland deer-hound, and the Scotch greyhound, for there appears no doubt that all the dogs thus denominated were essentially of the same breed. Its original home is supposed to have been Ireland, from whence, during the proud days of antient Rome, it was frequently conveyed in iron cages to assist in the sports of the city of the Tiber. In Buffon we find the following passage :—" The Irish greyhounds arc of a very antient race, and still exist (though their number is small) in their original climate; they were called by the ancients, dogs of Epirus, and Albanian dogs. Pliny has narrated, in the most elegant and energetic terms, a combat between one of these dogs, first witli a lion, then with an elephant; they are much larger than the mastiff*." Of their size, power, and of their possessing the true greyhound form and appearance, the following quotations from Holinshed and Evelyn offer satisfactory testimonies. The former says, in his ' Description of Ireland and the Irish,' written in 1586, "They are not without wolves, and greyhounds to hunt them, bigger of bone and lim than a colt;" and the latter, speaking of a bear-garden, " The bulls [bull-dogs] did exceedingly well, but the Irish wolf-dog exceeded, which was a tall greyhound, a stately creature indeed, who beat a cruele mastiff."
Of the antiquity of the existence of a similar (and doubtless the same) race of dogs in Scotland, possessing a great general resemblance to the present greyhound, but much larger, stronger, and more courageous, there arc many evidences. In the church-yard of Meigle, a village in Perthshire, are some sculptured stones, representing, in relief, the figures of several animals of this kind: the date, of these sculptures is considered to have been prior to the introduction of Christianity. In various other parts of the country similar representations are found. In England also the breed appears to have been greatlyencouraged. In the Anglo-Saxon times, a nobleman never went out unaccompanied by some of these dogs and his hawk, and so highly were they esteemed, that by the forest laws of Canute it was ordered that no person under the rank of a gentleman should keep one. Until after tlie Norman Conquest the chase was always, even in England, pursued on foot: the nobles of the Conqueror's train introduced the custom of hunting on horseback. As cultivation increased, and the most formidable objects of chase—the wolves—decreased in this country, the breed degenerated in size and strength, whilst the quality now more desiderated—speed—was, on the other hand, still more strongly developed ; the result is the present race of greyhounds. But in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales the rugged character of the country kept up for a much longer time the ancient deer-hunts in all their essential features.
Some of the finest living specimens are described by Mr. Macneil as varying in colour from pale yellow to sandy red, with considerable differences in the length and quality of the hair, and as having one common peculiarity— the never-failing accompaniment of purity of breed—namely, that the tips of the ears, eyes, and muzzle are black, whilst the rest of the body is of one uniform colour, whatever that colour may be. The principal difference between the original deer-hound and the common greyhound consists of the greater height of the shoulders, in the generally larger proportions of the head, neck, and muzzle, and in the quality of the bone, which is coarser. The gentleman we have just referred to estimates their former average height at thirty inches, their girth at thirty-four inches, and their weight at a hundred pounds, In disposition the deer-hound is more playful and attached than the greyhound, but bolder and fiercer if roused: he is also more sagacious. A striking peculiarity of this breed is that there is a greater difference in size between the male and female than in any other of the canine varieties. Of this noble race there now remain in England and Ireland no traces whatever, and in Scotland there are not probably in all above a dozen pure deer-hounds to be met with; as we have before observed, therefore, the race appears doomed to entire extinction, unless the possessors of the few remaining animals use extraordinary exertions to increase their number. That some such exertions may be made appears the more probable from the circumstance that the old Seuttish mode of chase, deer-coursing, has not yet fallen into desuetude.