As the hunter of the Monarch, and born from a misty history that goes back thousands of years, rather than to that of a time when a common written word arrived in the Land of the Pechtaih, Dal Riata, Caledonia or Alba. Written word that was an attempt to control and claim. To re-order, and quick to distort truths. Like the Roman ‘deridere’ of that which they could not control. We Deerhounds, nae if we must be labeled, Scottish Deerhounds, sons and daughters of the Norse Tribes, Dogs and Bitches of the highlands, can be proud amongst all other dogs - for we go back to the union of man and canid. Back to when ‘myths’ were what they were, ‘words’ - mythology, wordology, stories were based on truths from times before even the Romans. There is record from the Romans, who were in wonder at the Great dogs found amongst the Blue People of the North . . . The Picts, Dogs that the Romans took back to Rome as part of the spectacle. From a time before christianity, a time among the Gaels, a time back even to prehistory.
What is the little Rogue growling about today?
A book that could have been so much better, if it had not attempted to re-write Deerhound history in its opening line which reads ’The Deerhound of Scotland hunts primarily by sight and owes its origin to the Greyhound of England’. What Tosh!!! Juliette Cunliffe, put together a little book that can be admired for its insight into the Deerhound and their behaviour, their health and well being, the medical care, a nice little book in a popular culture styling, a nice little book, excepting for the History. Another error in the modern sense is the glaring omission in the failure to name the importance of Anastasia Noble and even the geographic significance of her Argyll Kennels to the Breed and it’s Breeding. Argyll birthplace of Scotland and the very environment the hounds were originally conditioned from.
‘Deerhound’ has a history which Juliette portrays as begining around 16th century in Scotland. Well, I suggest we look at some evidence, even as simple as the Kirriemuir stone from around the 6th century (go and find it) and the deerhound history is suddenly 1000 years older. So what, the words of control, labeling the deerhound much later in a historical timeline. We will feature tales and carvings here as evidence to the deerhound and hunt. Dating from times when the Gods were a plenty more likely Pagan. And the deerhounds are the dog of legend that existed in many Pagan tale.
Back to the Deerhound book featured here - when it comes to researched history, The Deerhound by Norah Hartley is far superior, and captures a more genuinely enthusiastic examination of the evolution of the deerhound from antiquity to present.
Although todays blog appears as a scolding criticism of Juliettes book it is the ’history’ element I fear needs attention, you should not be put off buying it if you have a serious interest in the breed.
In defense of the book there are still plenty Deerhound going on between the covers. It is admirable to undertake a book about a dog breed that the dog represents a nation, and a nation that has had its share of hardships, betrayals, and victories a nation that has travelled and taken its dog with it. Juliette herself tells, the first Deerhound club was the ‘Scottish Deerhound Club’ in America. There was a reason for that ‘Scottish’.
So if you want the History of the Deerhound, keep coming back here, for we will provide the evidence and the argument.
As for the English Greyhound
Paleontologists and archaeologists have determined that Miacis, a weasel-like animal, is the ancestor of the canids as well as other families such as bears, racoons, civets, hyaenas and cats. From Miacis evolved Cynodictis, a dog-like animal from which later evolved the dog family. All canids share common characteristics - they bear live young, have similar dental structures, walk on their toes rather than the soles of their feet, and are homeothermic (able to maintain their body temperature at a constant level).
The domestic dog has been represented in art for many years with the earliest being sculptures of dogs found in Iraq and dating back to 6500 BC. Dog bones have been discovered dated at around 15,00 BC in the Middle East, 8300 BC in the USA, 7500 BC in the UK with similar finds in Czechoslovakia. It is even considered that there may have been, in type, dogs from around 40,000 BC. One thing is certain, the domestic dog spread rapidly all over the world.
The dog's natural hunting instincts have been used by humans over the years to hunt a variety of prey in different environments and this led to the development of different groups of dogs, and ultimately to different dog breeds.
"Sight Hounds" or "Gaze Hounds" were an early group of dogs developed, whose characteristics included a deep chest, long legs and a keen sense of sight. These dogs were used to spot prey from a distance and then to sprint swiftly and silently to run down prey in open, treeless countries. From this group dog breeds such as the Deerhound, Afghan, Saluki and Greyhound emerged.
The Greyhound can trace its origins back beyond English royalty to mankinds development to civilization. The favourite of the Egyptian Pharaohs and middle eastern nomadic tribes, adored for its speed, stamina, grace and loyalty, the greyhound rode with their master’s caravan, shared their master’s tent and were even known to wear the same amulets to ward off evil spirits. Greyhounds where often mummified and buried with their Egyptian owners to allow hunting in the afterlife. The likelyhood is that these greyhounds would resemble what we now know as the Pharaoh Hound.
It should also be noted that throughout early recorded history the greyhound can be spotted receiving mention. The Old Testament records, proverbs 30:29 and 31 "There be thee things which go well, yea, four are comely in going:"- "A Greyhound".
From Egypt, the greyhound migrated with the great camel trains, armies and traders to other lands, Russia, Greece and Rome - where they were found at the far outposts of the vast Roman Empire, and it is suspected to include Britain, There are reports that the romans believed the Celts to be the first breeders of the long dogs.
There is also legend/myth of the great fighting Army of Pharaoh ‘Scotta’ sailing the mediteranean from Scythia (Phonecia), colonising what we now know as Spain/Portugal then eventually sailing north to what we now know as Ireland and Scotland this army were known as the Scottas. Is it myth or what truth lies in the fact that the Pharoah existed.
In Homer's "Odyssey" the faithful hound Argus that recognized Odysseus, when no other could was a Greyhound. And later we can examine Deerhound history through the Poems of Ossian and the ‘Scot’ Fionn Mac Chumail and his hound Bran. Is this stolen from Homer?
Being a "sight" hound, hunting using a vision, rather than scent or sound, they have eyesight keen enough to spot small moving objects at distances to one half mile. This eyesight and the sprinter's body capable of forty to forty-five mile per hour bursts make the greyhound the fastest of all dog breeds. As with any fast sprinting animal (the Cheetah among the cats as another example) the Greyhound has often been described by owners as the worlds fastest "couch potato" a similarity indeed to Deerhounds. Greyhounds surprisingly require less exercise than the average dog maybe excepting the Scottish Deerhound.
This breed's modern English name has been traced back to a middle English "Greihound" which has origins in an Icelandic (probably Norse) "Greyhundr" by way of an old English name "Grighund". All this travel from a dog whose earliest mention is from the cradle of civilization itself. Their link with nobility in Britain was established in 1014 when King Canute enacted the Forest Laws, which stated that only noblemen could own and hunt with greyhounds.
It was said something similar of deerhounds, only being permited into ownership of nobles in Scotland - but this is less likely at this time as the Scottish Highland Clan system, was more about sharing amongst Clan, Kith and Kin and the deerhound was likely to provide for all.
By the 15th and 16th century the Greyhound found itself doing less hunting in England and more formalized racing. The English have long "Coursed" greyhounds. This sport took the form of releasing a rabbit in the center of a large field and the dog from one edge of this field. The intent was to judge the Greyhound's speed, and ability to hunt, as it raced out to try to catch the fleeing rabbit. This was oft the method of selection from a period when the greyhound almost became extinct, around the 10th century where populations were desimated with famines and pestilence. Clergymen continued to breed the dog and encouraged Nobles to continue their use - from this would stem the Forest laws. We can also understand from this very early form of coursing, the evolution of Greyhound racing.
Deerhounds were much less about sport and the chasing of released rabbits and more about running down a mountain deer for survival. The Highlands and Glens are not such flat land. As mentioned elsewhere in our blog - this landscape is formative in the development of the Deerhound.
An interesting hound sidenote is that The first greyhound recorded to arrive in Australia, stepped ashore alongside Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks at Botany Bay in 1770. The purest hound reaches the last corner of the globe . . . who will be the first on another planet? We know that canids lead us into Space!