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Weston E Bell book on the breed review by
The Dundee Advertiser 24 October 1892


THE SCOTTISH DEERHOUND
The Dundee Advertiser - Monday 24 October 1892

One of the problems in Natural History which experts have declared to be insoluble is the origin of the Scottish Deerhound. In his elaborate volume entitled "The Scottish Deerhound" Mr. E Weston Bell does not attempt the impossible task of accounting for the advent of this noble animal, but he sets down in an intelligible form the opinions of scientists of the past and present day regarding this inexplicable mystery. If such a matter could be settled by patient research and acute reasoning from facts the late Charles Darwin might have been trusted to do so; and yet the great scientist confessed himself baffled. On this point Darwin wrote thus; - "Some authors believe that all dogs have descended from the wolf, or from the jackal, or from unknown or extinct species. Others, again, believe - and this of late has been a favourite tenent - that they have descended from several species, extinct and recent, more or less commingled together. But after a long investigation he was compelled to add regretfully :- "We shall probably never be able to ascertain their origin with certainty." Mr. Weston Bell passes in review the opinions of many other writers on the subject, and points out that the theories advanced are so contradictory that they afford no adequate solution of the difficulty. Coming from the question of the origin of the race, the author addresses himself to the consideration of the history of the Scottish Deerhound species' and here again he is met by conflicting opinions. "Concerning the antiquity of the hound proper all are agreed, but of the parent stock of each particular hound our authorities are divided. " On the sculptured stones of ancient Egypt there are rude representations of animals that are unmistakably dogs, and these are shown as engaged in hunting. It may therefore safely be concluded that in these remote ages "dogs of speed" were used in the chase. By what route this early hound reached our country is impossible to tell; but there are references in writings previous to the Roman Invasion of Britain (B.C.55) which show that there was a dog used by the aborigines in hunting that bore strong resemblance to the old Scottish Deerhound. Theorists have asserted that our Scottish hound is descended from the greyhound wolfdog of Ireland, which was colossal in size and ferocious in temper. Mr. Weston Bell seems to adopt this notion, as the following extract from his book will show -

After careful consideration and research I am inclined to favour the theory that the present stock of the Deerhound is descended from a family of its own, lost in remote ages, and that the earliest records we have are the models of the ancient Egyptians, and that by slow degrees this family spread westwards as civilisation advanced, and the various divisions of the wild places of this country became peopled, and that, after the lapse of centuries, arrived in our sister island of Ireland and were known there by the name of Irish wolfhounds or wolf dogs. From this point only can we come to any definite conclusion regarding the Deerhounds ancestry?

When Mr. Bell comes to treat of the modern Deerhound he is on more secure ground, and speaks with the authority of one who has studied the subject practically. He describes in detail the points that are really important in a Scottish Deerhound, irrespective of the fads and fancies of contending judges. There is one slander that has been uttered against the Deerhound to which he gives an unqualified denial. It is said that this animal, noble and majestic as he is in appearance, is cursed with a vixenish temper and a treacherous disposition. According to Mr. Bell this is an unfounded accusation. In this statement he is supported by the Duchess Of Wellington, who has thus written to him on this special point: -

In my opinion and from my experience, I have found these dogs always most companionable and tractable, and consider that, amongst the various kinds of hounds, they may well be place in the first rank, ad they are not only faithful and excellent companions, but are also useful for sport, and are exceedingly handsome. It is to be hoped however, that breeders will not be encouraged in producing a class of dog which, in point of roughness of coat and want of power in bone, is not a pure representative of the old Scottish Deerhound.

There is one melancholy fact which Mr. Bell's book brings into prominence. It appears that the march of civilisation is likely to sweep the old Scottish Deerhound out of existence. The improvement in firearms, explosive bullets, and skilful sportsmanship have practically taken away the occupation of the Deerhound, The wounded stag is now seldom able to run such a distance as to need to be tracked by a hound, as there is a fatal precision in modern deer-stalking that makes the hound unnecessary. To ascertain accurately the present position and future prospects of the Deerhound, Mr. Bell addressed a circular to all the head-keepers of the Scottish deer forests asking for particulars as to the number of hounds now kept in comparison with former times; and from the replies it seems that the day of the deerhound as a practical hunter is gone forever. With painful unanimity the keepers state that they have given up the use of the deerhound in the chase, preferring the collie as a tracker. The complaint made is that the deerhound disturbs the forest, and though some of the older keepers still maintain that it is a valuable aid in the chase, the majority either dispense with the deerhound and use the collie or else trust to the deadly certainty of their firearms. It is not impossible, therefore that the old Scottish Deerhound - the noble dog that figures so prominently in the poetry of Ossian - will be swept out of existence or so corrupted by a course of sluggard luxury that he will become unfit for anything but to appear as an almost extinct animal at a dog show.

A large part of Mr. Bell's volume is taken up with some descriptions of some of the most famous Deerhounds of our day. Many of the prize-takes and champions are located or have been reared at Mr. Bell's own kennels at Rossie, near Forgandenny, and there are very clever etchings of most of these included in the volume. These etchings form one of the features of the book. They have been executed with great skill by Mr. D.B. Gray, while a number of beautiful vignettes, illustrating passages in Ossian which refer to dogs, have been etched by Mr. Wycliffe Taylor. It is to be hoped that the notion which Mr. Bell suggests of the founding of a Club for the preservation of the Scottish Deerhound will be accomplished.

(Ref's The Scottish Deerhound with notes on its Origin and Characteristics. By Mr. E. Weston Bell F.Z.S. Edinburgh; David Douglas. .


Related Content
Short Bio on E Weston Bell (Author of "The Deerhound,
some notes on its origins and characteristics, 1882")


Weston E Bell Lecture On The Deerhound
Dundee Naturalist Society February 1891


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