These large-sized, shaggy-coated sighthounds have a very athletic appearance. They are often described as resembling a shaggy-coated greyhound. They come in a variety of colours: dark blue-grey, darker and lighter greys or brindles and yellows, sandy-red or red fawns with black points. Adult males measure 76cm and above and weigh about 45.5kg; adult females are 71cm and above and weigh about 36.5kg.
Shaggy-haired hounds have existed in Scotland since before the 16th century. It is thought that short-coated hounds were introduced to Britain before the Roman invasion but when these hunting dogs were used in the Scottish Highlands they were at a disadvantage because of their short coats. These hounds were then probably crossed with native hairy-coated dogs to get the Deerhound dog breed. They were used in packs by the Scottish Chieftains to hunt deer, and they had to be strong enough to pull a stag to the ground.
The Deerhound is a gentle, friendly dog. They get on well with children but do not make particularly good guard dogs; they are not known to bark a lot. Most Deerhound dogs still have a very strong instinct to hunt, so early introduction to other household pets, especially cats, is necessary.
The most serious health problems that the Deerhound breed is predisposed to are an aggressive type of bone cancer and heart disease. Recognised inherited disorders include liver and eye conditions, but due to routine screening and careful breeding programmes these are relatively rare.
As puppies Deerhounds should be restricted in their activities. Adult Deerhounds are energetic and athletic and require lots of exercise – two-plus hours a day - and love to run free.
Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs. Deerhounds are prone to bloating and stomach problems; smaller, more frequent meals can help minimise this risk.
Deerhounds do need regular grooming – about two or three times a week. The coat may need to be hand plucked once or twice a year depending on its condition.