A passionate little blog started by a deerhound dog in Scotland called Rogue ‘Brylach’ MacAllister and Passed to Rascal ‘Logan’ Dorrator Heath

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Origin of Deerhounds

Again, we have allowed some time to pass since our previous post, but today is a commemorative day worthy of Scottish Deerhound blogging. Infact, such a worthy day, as it marks the birth date of a certain gentleman who almost singularly, may have been responsible for much of what we today consider as ‘Dog Breeds’.

This very gentleman was also one of the catalysts in the creation of dog showing and the Dog Breeds Shows.

Who was this person?

Born on this very day 200 years ago and later the author of the then controversial On the Origin of Species. This author, the person responsible for a theory that now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory. Charles Robert Darwin. Happy Birthday Charlie!

You may wonder the Scottish deerhound relevance to Charles Darwin but we think if you are interested in the ‘breed’ history, you might find some of the correspondence, which, believe it or not refers to the Scotch Deer Hound. Infact he may have owned or shared his home with a Scotch Deer Hound. This we have not quite established yet.

Interesting also is the attitude towards the dog and the Scotch/ English cultural exchange illustrated in the initial correspondence below. The magnificence of the deerhound as well as the Irish wolfhound, clearly at this time, called into question outside their respective countries of origin with a mongrel tagging.

This I find quite amusing, remembering back to a certain Deerhound book which repeated this sentiment as it opened it’s history with the fur ruffling line‘The Deerhound of Scotland (founded 843) hunts primarily by sight and owes its origin to the Greyhound of England’ (founded 927). The author of this work clearly misinformed or ill-researched, when of course evidence of large deer hunting hounds can be found through stone carvings and pottery relief from the Pre-Roman to Late Middle ages at locations all around, what is now Scotland.

Historically the Darwin correspondence is of great interest and much is available in the public domain, so we will include the deerhound letters here, for both there education and entertainment value to Scotch Deerhounds and their Masters. And when all become available we are sure to include them at some future date.

Letter 1646 — Fox, W. D. to Darwin, C. R., 8 Mar [1856]


Is trying to procure some cocks for Charles Darwin.
Believes Scotch deerhounds are mongrels.

Transcription f1

Delamere | Northwich
March 8

My dear Darwin

I have anxiously inspected My Dorking & Cochin friends Yards for an old Cock of Each, & written to Captain Hornbyf2 —but I fear you have not received any yet. There must be some die before long I think.

Have you a Sebright Bantam yet? f3 If not I have an old Gentleman I will send you shortly. You should have an old White Dorking also, as they are quite distinct from the other in form.

I forget whether I ever told you that I had long considered the Scotch Deer Hound a mongrel, par Excellence. Dont tell any Scotch so, or I shall be murdered. It has long been a pet idea of mine, & I have often said I could breed them without any Deer Hound blood in them. I have also always thought the Irish Deer or Wolf Dog, was merely a cross with the Scotch & a Mastiff.

Some months ago in a conversation on this head with a Mr Lister near here, f4 he told me to my great delight that he had a Bitch 1⁄2 Deer Hound & 1⁄2 Mastiff. On looking at her it is wonderful how little the 1⁄2 Mastiff is recognisable in her. On minutely examining however, you find her mastiff Blood in neck & shoulder. I much wished this Bitch crossed back with Deer Hound. This has been done, & the result, as shown in a splendid Bitch puppy, is to completely restore the Scotch Deer Hound. I dined there last week, & met a stranger who was enthusiastic about Scotch Dogs of which by the way he gave a pretty story as having happened to himself. Walking one day in Regent St he felt something cold in his hand, & on looking, found a Scotch Dogs nose there, who had been with him Deer stalking &c 2 years before in the Highlands, & was then walking in London with his Master.

Lister, rather spitefully introduced me to this Captain Warren f5 as being one who believed in the Scotch Dogs being mongrels. Of course I maintained my ground, when, to my intense amusement he (after warning me not to go to Scotland & especially Badenoch, f6 with such views) quoted the puppy as an Example of pure blood, as might be seen by any one, & which he said was well worth £40. He was so enthusiastic that I was obliged to break the fact by degrees, “that her Grandfather was a Mastiff.”

I am trying now to get the 1⁄2 breed Scotch & Mastiff Bitch put to a pure Mastiff & I expect either the produce of that or the next cross at all events, to be the Irish Wolf Dog.

I would defy any Scot to detect the false blood in this puppy Bitch She is quite a perfect Scotch Deer Hound.

I see Tegetmeyer or some such name, who doctors all the Fowls in England says he is engaged with you in examining the anatomy of Fowls. f7 He seems to know a great deal about them from his letters in Cottage Gardener but I often think his prescriptions rather foolish. You are not meddling with Geese I think yet, are you.

Tell me how Mrs Darwin & your little ones all are also Susan Catherine & Mrs Wedgwood f8 & Believe me always Yours affecly W D. Fox.

f1 The letter is dated by its relationship to the letter to W. D. Fox, 15 March [1856].
f2 Windham W. Hornby of Knowsley, Lancashire, was a prominent breeder of Dorking fowl.
f3 CD had asked John Lubbock for specimens of Sebright bantams (letter to John Lubbock, [14 January 1856]).
f4 The Post Office directory of Cheshire (1857) lists ‘E. Lister, esq., Marston, Northwich’.
f5 Captain Warren has not been identified.
f6 A district near Inverness, Scotland.
f7 In the report on the ‘Annual grand show of the Philo-Peristeron Society’, Cottage Gardener 15 (1855–6): 301, it was stated that ‘Mr. Yarrell, whose name is a “household word” with all zoologists, and Mr. Darwin, whose “Naturalist's Voyage round the World” is known all over the world, were present, and with our old correspondent, Mr. Tegetmeier, were examining bird after bird, with a view to ascertain some of those differences on which the distinction between species or varieties depend.’ It is likely that William Bernhard Tegetmeier, who wrote a regular column for this journal on the diseases of poultry, was the author.
f8 CD's sisters, Susan Elizabeth Darwin, Emily Catherine Darwin, and Caroline Sarah Wedgwood.
f9 The number of CD's portfolio of notes on hybridism.

Letter 1843 — Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D., 15 Mar [1856]


Believes WDF's case of mongrel Scotch deerhound is very valuable for him.
Mentions his work on pigeons and chickens.
Fears sometimes he will break down: "My subject gets bigger and bigger".


Down Bromley Kent
March 15th

My dear Fox.

I was very glad to get your note & congratulate you on your triumph about the Scotch Deer Hound, which however I do not know by sight. f1 How I wish I further knew (can you find out for me) whether the real Scotch Deer Hounds breeds true; but I suppose this must be the case, whether or no your mongrel would do so. f2 This seems to very valuable case for me, for it would be a most bold hypothesis to imagine that the real Scotch Deer Hound was a pure & distinct aboriginal race, but that your mongrel,, though identical in appearance, was essentially different: I do not even know what a common Deer Hound is.

Many thanks for your continued remembrance of me & my poultry skeletons: I am making some progress & have been working a little at their ancient History & was yesterday in the British Museum getting old Chinese Encyclopedias translated. f3 This morning I have been carefully examining a splendid Cochin Cock sent me (but I shd be glad of another specimen) & I find several important differences in number of feathers in alula, f4 primaries & tail, making me suspect quite a distinct species. f5 I am getting on best with Pigeons, & have now almost every breed known in England alive: I shall find, I think great differences in skeleton for I find extra rib & dorsal vertebra in Pouter. f6

I have just ordered the Cottage Gardener: f7 Mr Tegetmeier is a very kind & clever little man; but he was not authorised to use my name in any way, & we cannot be said to be working at all together; for our objects are very different, & he began on skulls before I had thought on subject: I have not yet looked at our pickled chickens & hardly know when I shall, for I have my hands very full of work; but they will come in some day most useful, as will a large series of young Pigeons, which I have myself killed & pickled. f8

I shd be very glad of old Sebright Bantam.

I have been in London nearly all this week, working at Books f9 & we had at Erasmus's a very pleasant dinner & sat between Mr & Mrs Bristowe & was charmed with both. f10 Bristowe often so reminds me of you some 25 years ago in certain expression of face & manner. They told me you had been far from well: why did you not mention yourself? Do not I always prose at good length about myself & pursuits. So I will say that my stomach has been better for some months than average, & I am able decidedly to work harder. My sisters are pretty well: you heard of Dr Parkers release about 2 months ago. f11

How I do wish I had you nearer to talk over & benefit by your opinions on the many odds & ends on which I am at work. Sometimes I fear I shall break down for my subject gets bigger & bigger with each months work.

My dear old friend | Most truly yours | Ch. Darwin

f1 See letter from W. D. Fox, 8 March [1856], in which Fox related his view that the Scottish deerhound was actually a ‘mongrel’ breed.
f2 The Scottish deerhound had been established as a distinct breed by the sixteenth century (EB).
f3 CD visited the British Museum to consult Samuel Birch, whose help he sought concerning ancient references to breeds of pigeons and poultry. See letter to Samuel Birch, [12 March 1856].
f4 The alula is the ‘bastard-wing’ of birds, consisting of three or four large quill-like feathers carried on the ‘thumb’ (EB).
f5 In wild birds, the number of feathers is generally constant and is used as a character in classification. The Cochin China cock had been sent to CD by Bernard P. Brent (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 March [1856]).
f6 The differences in the number of ribs is discussed in Variation 1: 165–6. CD recorded that he was not sure that he had designated the vertebrae correctly; he stated the dorsal vertebrae were always eight in number (Variation 1: 165 and n.).
f7 Cottage Gardener, and Country Gentleman's Companion. See letter to W. D. Fox, 8 March [1856] and n. 7.
f8 CD's series of young pigeons was discussed in the chapter on embryology in Origin, pp. 445–6. He also used this material in his discussion of the differences between breeds of fowls in Variation 1: 248–50.
f9 There are entries in CD's reading notebooks for March 1856 relating to early ornithological works. See Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 16.
f10 Probably Henry Fox Bristowe, a London barrister, and his wife Selina. Bristowe was Fox's nephew. CD was staying with Erasmus Alvey Darwin.
f11 Henry Parker, physician to the Shropshire Infirmary and CD's brother-in-law, had died in January 1856 (Eddowes Salopian Journal, 16 January 1856

Interestingly Charles Darwin went on to communicate with George Cupples who some twenty years following his series of letters as below, then went on to have published, a book Scotch Deerhounds and their Masters. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1892.

Letter 6157 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 1 May 1868
Has read Variation;
is preparing a monograph on Scotch deerhounds. Offers Charles Darwin information on size of male and female deerhounds.
Might not the effect of human mother's imagination on "character of offspring" support Pangenesis?

Letter 6169 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 11–13 May 1868
Answers Charles Darwin's queries on difference in size of male and female Scottish deerhounds; female preference for larger males; details about ratio of sexes born. Quotes from letter of Archibald McNeill on difference in size of male and female Scotch deerhounds.

Letter 6171 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 13 May [1868]
Quotes from letter of Archibald McNeill on difference in size of male and female Scotch deerhounds.

Letter 6211 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 26 May 1868
Refers to letter from John Wright offering to help CD on his queries about deerhounds and sexual preferences.
More details about a terrier bitch previously referred to [letter missing].

Letter 6257 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 22 June 1868
Weighing ten deerhound puppies for CD each week.

Letter 6273 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 13 July 1868
Notes, with excerpts from letters from Peter Robertson and John Wright, relating to difference in size between male and female deerhounds. Reports on weight statistics of ten [deerhound] puppies being observed.

Letter 6274 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 13 July 1868
Offers deerhound puppy.
Asks for photograph.
Encloses letter from George Cupples of notes, with excerpts from letters from Peter Robertson and John Wright, relating to difference in size between male and female deerhounds. Reports on weight statistics of ten [deerhound] puppies being observed.

Letter 6555 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 15 Jan 1869

Forwards A. McNeill's letter on deer horns. McNeill wrote portion on deerhounds in William Scrope's book [The art of deer-stalking (1838)].

Letter 6657 — Cupples, George to Darwin, C. R., 11 Mar 1869
Differences in size and weight in deerhounds, with tables of comparative weights according to sex. Promises information on weights of deerhound puppies. Effects of cross- and inbreeding.

Letter 7000 — Darwin, C. R. to Cupples, George, 20 Nov [1869]
Thanks GC for his assistance. "The data for all that I have to say about the Scotch deer-hound are, owing to you, almost sufficient; and much better data than I have got in many other cases." [See Descent 2: 260.]
Believes Dr Stirling would be compelled to admit some change in "the famous protoplasm in our domestic races, both in regard to the structure of the body & qualities of the mind".

The full text of the above George Cupples letters are not yet available online.

Don’t forget to visit Darwin’s correspondence online website and spend an age trawling with your inter-NET and if you’d prefer to visit an actual reality Festival try the University of Cambridge later this year for the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth, the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, ‘On the Origin of Species’, and the 800th anniversary of the University of Cambridge.

Not only does Charles Darwin’s correspondence reflect deerhound interests but the information wa put to use in his published works.

Take ANIMALS AND PLANTS UNDER DOMESTICATION. VOL. II. from 1868 where he comments on close interbreeding . . .

Mr. Meynell's famous foxhounds have been adduced, as showing that no ill effects follow from close interbreeding; and Sir J. Sebright ascertained from him that he frequently bred from father and daughter, mother and son, and sometimes even from brothers and sisters. Sir J. Sebright, however, declares,15 that by breeding in-and-in, by which he means matching brothers and sisters, he has actually seen strong spaniels become weak and diminutive lapdogs. The Rev. W. D. Fox has communicated to me the case of a small lot of bloodhounds, long kept in the same family, which had become very bad breeders, and nearly all had a bony enlargement in the tail. A single cross with a distinct strain of bloodhounds restored their fertility, and drove away the tendency to malformation in the tail. I have heard the particulars of another case with bloodhounds, in which the female had to be held to the male. Considering how rapid is the natural increase of the dog, it is difficult to understand the high price of most highly improved breeds, which almost implies long-continued close interbreeding, except on the belief that this process lessens fertility and increases liability to distemper and other diseases. A high authority, Mr. Scrope, attributes the rarity and deterioration in size of the Scotch deerhound (the few individuals now existing throughout the country being all related) in large part to close interbreeding.

Also of interest and published in The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. VOL II comes reference to deerhounds under the PREFERENCES IN PAIRING. CHAP. XVII. as follows . . .

As so little is known about the courtship of animals in a state of nature, I have endeavoured to discover how far our domesticated quadrupeds evince any choice in their unions. Dogs offer the best opportunity for observation, as they are carefully attended to and well understood. Many breeders have expressed a strong opinion on this head. Thus Mr. Mayhew remarks, "The females are able to bestow their affections; and tender recollections are as potent over them as they are known to be in other cases, where higher animals are concerned. Bitches are not always prudent in their loves, but are apt to fling themselves away on curs of low degree. If reared with a companion of vulgar appearance, there often springs up between the pair a devotion which no time can afterwards subdue. The passion, for such it really is, becomes of a more than romantic endurance." Mr. Mayhew, who attended chiefly to the smaller breeds, is convinced that the females are strongly attracted by males of large size.41 The well-known veterinary Blaine states42 that his own female pug became so attached to a spaniel, and a female setter to a cur, that in neither case would they pair with a dog of their own breed until several weeks had elapsed. Two similar and trustworthy accounts have been given me in regard to a female retriever and a spaniel, both of which became enamoured with terrier-dogs.

Mr. Cupples informs me that he can personally vouch for the accuracy of the following more remarkable case, in which a valuable and wonderfully-intelligent female terrier loved a retriever, belonging to a neighbour, to such a degree that she had often to be dragged away from him. After their permanent separation, although repeatedly shewing milk in her teats, she would never acknowledge the courtship of any other dog, and to the regret of her owner, never bore puppies. Mr. Cupples also states that a female deerhound now (1868) in his kennel has thrice produced puppies, and on each occasion shewed a marked preference for one of the largest and handsomest, but not the most eager, of four deer-hounds living with her, all in the prime of life. Mr. Cupples has observed that the female generally favours a dog whom she has associated with and knows; her shyness and timidity at first incline her against a strange dog. The male, on the contrary, seems rather inclined towards strange females. It appears to be rare when the male refuses any particular female, but Mr. Wright, of Yeldersley House, a great breeder of dogs, informs me that he has known some instances; he cites the case of one of his own deer-hounds, who would not take any notice of a particular female mastiff, so that another deer-hound had to be employed. It would be superfluous to give other cases, and I will only add that Mr. Barr, who has carefully bred many blood-hounds, states that in almost every instance particular individuals of the opposite sex shew a decided preference for each other. Finally Mr. Cupples, after attending to this subject for another year, has recently written to me, "I have had full confirmation of my former statement, that dogs in breeding form decided preferences for each other, being often influenced by size, bright colour, and individual character, as well as by the degree of their previous familiarity."

Also in the 1882 printing of The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex.

From these considerations I was anxious to obtain information as to the Scotch deerhound, the sexes of which differ more in size than those of any other breed (though bloodhounds differ considerably), or than in any wild canine species known to me. Accordingly, I applied to Mr. Cupples, well-known for his success with this breed, who has with great kindness collected for me the following facts from various sources. Fine male dogs, measured at the shoulder, range from 28 inches, which is low, to 33 or even 34 inches in height; and in weight from 80 pounds, which is light, to 120 pounds, or even more. The females range in height from 23 to 27, or even to 28 inches; and in weight from 50 to 70, or even 80 pounds.38 Mr. Cupples concludes that from 95 to 100 pounds for the male, and 70 for the female, would be a safe average; but there is reason to believe that formerly both sexes attained a greater weight. Mr. Cupples has weighed puppies when a fortnight old; in one litter the average weight of four males exceeded that of two females by six and a half ounces; in another litter the average weight of four males exceeded that of one female by less than one ounce; the same males when three weeks old, exceeded the female by seven and a half ounces, and at the age of six weeks by nearly fourteen ounces. Mr. Wright of Yeldersley House, in a letter to Mr. Cupples, says: "I have taken notes on the sizes and weights of puppies of many litters, and as far as my experience goes, dog-puppies as a rule differ very little from bitches till they arrive at about five or six months old; and then the dogs begin to increase, gaining upon the bitches both in weight and size. At birth, and for several weeks afterwards, a bitch-puppy will occasionally be larger than any of the dogs, but they are invariably beaten by them later." Mr. McNeill, of Colonsay, concludes that "the males do not attain their full growth till over two years old, though the females attain it sooner." According to Mr. Cupples' experience, male dogs go on growing in stature till they are from twelve to eighteen months old, and in weight till from eighteen to twenty-four months old; whilst the females cease increasing in stature at the age of from nine to fourteen or fifteen months, and in weight at the age of from twelve to fifteen months. From these various statements it is clear that the full difference in size between the male and female Scotch deerhound is not acquired until rather late in life. The males almost exclusively are used for coursing, for, as Mr. McNeill informs me, the females have not sufficient strength and weight to pull down a full-grown deer. From the names used in old legends, it appears, as I hear from Mr. Cupples, that, at a very ancient period, the males were the most celebrated, the females being mentioned only as the mothers of famous dogs. Hence, during many generations, it is the male which has been chiefly tested for strength, size, speed, and courage, and the best will have been bred from. As, however, the males do not attain their full dimensions until rather late in life, they will have tended, in accordance with the law often indicated, to transmit their characters to their male offspring alone; and thus the great inequality in size between the sexes of the Scotch deer-hound may probably be accounted for.

And on a final point as to the conclusion of the origin of deerhounds - Charles Darwin actually wrote his views on the matter thus . . .

On the other hand, the upholders of the view that the several breeds of dogs, horses, &c., &c., have descended each from one stock, may aver that their view removes all difficulty about fertility, and that the main argument from the high antiquity of different breeds, somewhat similar to the present breeds, is worth little without knowing the date of the domestication of such animals, which is far from being the case. They may also with more weight aver that, knowing that organic beings under domestication do vary in some degree, the argument from the great difference between certain breeds is worth nothing, without we know the limits of variation during a long course of time, which is far from the case. They may argue that almost every county in England, and in many districts of other countries, for instance in India, there are slightly different breeds of the domestic animals; and that it is opposed to all that we know of the distribution of wild animals to suppose that these have descended from so many different wild races or species: if so, they may argue, is it not probable that countries quite separate and exposed to different climates would have breeds not slightly, but considerably, different? Taking the most favourable case, on both sides, namely that of the dog; they might urge that such breeds as the bull-dog and turnspit have been reared by man, from the ascertained fact that strictly analogous breeds (namely the Niata ox and Ancon sheep) in other quadrupeds have thus originated. Again they may say, seeing what training and careful selection has effected for the greyhound, and seeing how absolutely unfit the Italian greyhound is to maintain itself in a state of nature, is it not probable that at least all greyhounds,—from the rough deerhound, the smooth Persian, the common English, to the Italian,—have descended from one stock? If so, is it so improbable that the deer-hound and long-legged shepherd dog have so descended? If we admit this, and give up the bulldog, we can hardly dispute the probable common descent of the other breeds.

The evidence is so conjectural and balanced on both sides that at present I conceive that no one can decide: for my own part, I lean to the probability of most of our domestic animals having descended from more than one wild stock; though from the arguments last advanced and from reflecting on the slow though inevitable effect of different races of mankind, under different circumstances, saving the lives of and therefore selecting the individuals most useful to them, I cannot doubt but that one class of naturalists have much overrated the probable number of the aboriginal wild stocks. As far as we admit the difference of our races due to the differences of their original stocks, so much must we give up of the amount of variation produced under domestication. But this appears to me unimportant, for we certainly know in some few cases, for instance in the Dahlia, and potato, and rabbit, that a great number of varieties have proceeded from one stock; and, in many of our domestic races, we know that man, by slowly selecting and by taking advantage of sudden sports, has considerably modified old races and produced new ones. Whether we consider our races as the descendants of one or several wild stocks, we are in far the greater number of cases equally ignorant what these stocks were.

From The foundations of The origin of species. Two essays written in 1842 and 1844. Published CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS - Edinburgh: 100, PRINCES STREET Which supports breeding for advantage to suit purpose, climate, conditions, terrain etc but questions our evidence of source. Interesting.

If you wish to investigate origins further, find Darwin’s complete works here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic information thankyou

4:11 pm  
Blogger Jason LeBlanc said...

There is a painting of a Highlander and two deer hounds. Who did this painting? My parents have almost the same exact painting hanging in their home. It was purchased in 1977 or 1976 but it signed by a J Anderson '79...obviously in 1879. The only difference between the the two paintings are the clouds, the scarf the highlander is wearing is a different color, and the one posted in here has a bit more color. Anyone knows of the artist and the painting and it's origins..let me know as soon as possible.

1:32 am  

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