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Scottish Deerhound

Nicole Cosgrove

Scottish Deerhound standing at a beach

The Scottish Deerhound is a large to giant purebred from the UK, specifically Scotland, hence the name! It is often referred to as just the Deerhound and is a sighthound. It was bred to hunt Scottish roe deer and red deer specifically through coursing, though it can be used to hunt other prey like coyote. In the US it takes part in lure coursing and hare coursing but this dog does not do as well in events like flyball, agility or obedience. It was a Scottish Deerhound called Cleod that played Padfoot, the form Sirius Black took when he became a dog in the Harry Potter movies.

The Scottish Deerhound at A Glance
Name Scottish Deerhound
Other names Scotch Greyhound, a Highland Deerhound and the Rough Greyhound
Nicknames Deerhound
Origin UK (Scotland)
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 75 to 110 pounds
Average height 28 to 32 inches
Life span 8 to 11 years
Coat type Harsh, medium, short, wiry, thick, rough
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, yellow, grey, blue, brindle, red
Popularity Not that popular – ranked 154th by the AKC
Intelligence Average – understands commands with 25 to 40 repetitions
Tolerance to heat Very good – can live in fairly hot weather
Tolerance to cold Very good – can live in fairly cold weather too
Shedding Moderate – will be some hair left around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity High – prone to weight gain, measure its food, track the treats and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing Moderate – needs regular grooming
Barking Rare – not a vocal breed
Exercise needs Very active – this breed will need a lot of exercise
Trainability Moderately hard – needs experience
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Low – not a dog for novices, needs experienced handling
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is essential as is supervision and firm handling
Good with other pets Good with socialization but may chase small animals as prey
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Low – this is not a breed suited to apartment living
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be left alone for long periods
Health issues Somewhat healthy but prone to several issues such as anesthesia sensitivity, heart problems, eye problems, kidney problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for dog treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $645 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license, grooming and basic training
Average annual expenses $1400 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,100
Rescue organizations Several including the Scottish Deerhound Club of America
Biting Statistics None reported

The Scottish Deerhound’s Beginnings

The Scottish Deerhound is closely related to the Greyhound and in the past has also been called a Scotch Greyhound, a Highland Deerhound and the Rough Greyhound. It was developed around the 1500s in Scotland and were used to hunt deer by various Scottish clans. Its ancestors likely dates all the way back to the first century. They were prized dogs valued for their courage, skill and dignity. It became known as the Royal Dog of Scotland as no one under the rank of earl was allowed to own them. If a noble had been sentenced to death for a crime he could buy his life with a gift of some Deerhounds. However because ownership was restricted the breed did come close to extinction a few times over the centuries, especially in the 1700s when the clan system fell and after the failed Scottish rebellion against the rule of the English.

There were several other times over the years that numbers dropped, the invention and popularity of guns was one such time when hunters could bring deer down themselves without the use of dogs. In the 1820s the breed was restored by Duncan and Archibald McNeill. In the 1800s famous owners included Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria herself. But then again its numbers waned in the late 1800s when Scottish estates were split into much smaller estates and there was less use for them. Some remained from avid fans and for show dogs, until World War I and then World War II where it was hard to keep and feed dogs especially large ones like this.

New Lease on Life

The Scottish Deerhound had made its way to the US too. The exact date is not known but the first registered Deerhound was in 1886. It also found its way to Australia where it was used to hunt wild boar and even kangaroo. Today it is not a common breed in the US, being ranked 154th in popularity by the AKC. It is mostly people who are interested in all things Scottish or people who appreciate sighthounds who remain interested in them.

The Dog You See Today

The Scottish Deerhound is a large to giant dog weighing 75 to 110 pounds and standing 28 to 32 inches tall. It is one of the taller of the sighthounds and looks very much like a Greyhound but with a rough coat and larger of course. It has a chest that is deep but not overly broad, straight front legs and a tail that it holds low, is long and can be curved or straight. It is covered in hair and almost touches the ground. It has a wiry thick coat that is about 3 to 4 inches long and is rough and harsh on most of the body but a little softer on the belly and facial hair. It is also longer on the face to create a mane, beard and mustache. Common colors include grey, blue, a little white, sandy, red, a little black, brindle and yellow. On the back of the legs there is a little fringe of hair bit it is not enough to call it feathering. In the US Deerhounds have a coat that is a mix of wiry and silky.

It has a long flat head that is broad and a muzzle that tapers to a point and ends in a black or blue nose. Its eyes are rimmed in black and are hazel or brown in color. Its ears are set high and fold back like the Greyhound’s, rose ears. When it is alert those ears half perk but should not fully prick. They are glossy and soft to touch and are dark or black.

The Inner Scottish Deerhound


The Scottish Deerhound is not a good breed for new owners, it needs strong and experienced ones. It is not especially good at being even a watchdog so do not expect it to bark to alert you to anything. It is a rare barker and with the right home it is gentle, polite, affectionate and sweet too. The reason it is not a great watchdog is because it is so friendly and easy going, it is always polite with strangers, not aggressive even though it is strong, brave and a great sighthound. While it is a cheerful dog it also has a dignified side to it. With its owners it is loyal, affectionate, devoted and undemanding.

The Deerhound is intelligent and outgoing and it does have an independent side. It is also a sensitive dog so is best not in a home with owners who are shouting all the time and a house that is full of conflict. As a puppy it is more mischievous and playful but as an adult it is less so, this is not a dog that likes to be pulled at, it does not like to rough house and it will not fetch anything or play tug of war. While a certain level of activity is needed to keep it healthy and happy this dog will be quite happy napping somewhere comfortable in the meantime for much of its day.

Living with a Scottish Deerhound

What will training look like?

Training the Scottish Deerhound will be moderately easy for experienced owners, perhaps a bit tougher for those without. Results will be gradual though as while it is eager to please and mild mannered, it can be sometimes stubborn. While it responds it tends to be slow and easy at its own pace. Keep the training sessions engaging, upbeat and offer plenty of praise, treats, rewards and encouragement. But you do need to be firm and clearly the one in control or it will think it is the dominant one and then it can be hard to live with. Be persistent and consistent, set rules and stick to them.

Remember that sensitivity means harsh tones, physical punishments and scolding are not effective. A good sens of humor will certainly help at times! Housebreaking can take between 4 to 6 months, crate training is a good idea. As well as making sure it gets its basic obedience training early on, you should also start early socialization when you get it. Expose it to different places, people, situations, sounds and animals so that is less likely to be shy and then aggressive or standoffish.

How active is the Scottish Deerhound

The Deerhound is a fairly active breed so will need regular exercise to remain fit and happy. While this dog is not that active indoors it is large so it is not suited to apartment living. Take it for two walks totaling 40 to 60 minutes a day and also give it opportunities to run off leash in safe areas like a dog park. It is also a good companion for when you want to exercise yourself and can join its owner for a jog, a hike, run or cycle even. Make sure it is leash trained so that its size does not pull you over when you are out with it and so that it does not run off after any moving thing when out for a walk. It needs at least a large yard or even some land to explore on. If it is not exercised enough it can become restless, destructive, unhealthy and hard to control. As well as giving it opportunities for physical activity also see that it is mentally stimulated too. As they age a Deerhound can be hard to get off its comfy couch but it still needs exercise for its health. When it is younger it will want lots of play time too but as it matures it will be less playful.

Caring for the Scottish Deerhound

Grooming needs

Scottish Deerhound will need a moderate to high amount of grooming and maintenance. Regular grooming will see that its coat is kept looking clean and healthy. It is a moderate shedding breed so be prepared for some hair around the home and needing to clean that up. The wiry coat will need to be stripped at least a couple of times a year by a professional groomer. If you are not keeping it as a show dog you can opt to trim instead, this will change the texture and look of the coat though. Brush with a wire slicker brush a couple of times a week to get the oils moving around its coat and help remove some of the dead hair. Then use a greyhound comb to get to any tangles you missed and on the softer parts of the coat and the facial hair. Only bathe when needed so you do not dry out the coat’s oils.

Its ears should be checked for infection signs once a week, looking for irritation, redness, discharge or wax buildup. You can pluck long hairs from ears and clean them using a dog ear cleansing solution and cotton balls or a warm damp cloth. Just wipe places you can reach do not insert anything into the ear, it can cause damage and pain. Its nails will need to be trimmed using proper dog nail clippers if they get too long. Some dogs wear their nails down with their activity. Take care not to cut too low as there is a section of a dog nails that have nerves and blood vessels in them. If that gets cut it will hurt and cause bleeding. The Deerhound’s teeth should be brushed two to three times a week using a dog toothpaste and toothbrush.

Feeding Time

Feed your dog a good quality dry dog food as it is better for them. It will likely need about 4 to 5 cups a day but that should not be fed to it in one go, split that into two to three meals to avoid problems with bloat. Make sure it also has access to fresh water at all times. How much exactly your dog needs to eat can depend on its size, metabolism, level of activity, age and health.

How is the Scottish Deerhound with children and other animals?

With good socialization and when raised with them the Scottish Deerhound is good with children, affectionate and gentle but not necessarily the most playful. Due to its size it is best with older children, or at least supervised around younger children, as it can knock then over by accident. It also does not especially like being poked! Make sure the children are taught how to approach, play and touch dogs in a kind and safe way. Because of its high prey drive it is likely to just want to chase small animals like strange cats, squirrels and even small dogs. With socialization it can learn to get along with other pets in the home though. With other dogs it is generally friendly and is not aggressive unless another is aggressive towards it first.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Deerhound has a life span of 8 to 11 years but faces a few potential health issues some of which are potentially serious. These include bloat, heart problems, factor VII deficiency, sensitivity to anesthesia and some medications, cancer, hypothyroidism and allergies.

Biting Statistics

Reports that cover 35 years of incidents involving dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm in Canada and the US, do not mention Scottish Deerhound as being involved. This is not a dog that is aggressive towards people usually and is very unlikely to start anything. However that being said, any dog, whatever its breed or size can become aggressive under certain situations and can have bad days. Make sure you socialize and train your dog, give it the exercise, stimulation and attention it needs and you can help minimize the chance of something happening, though never completely remove it.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Scottish Deerhound puppy will cost about $1100 from a decent breeder. More if you look for a top breeder of show quality dogs. Being uncommon you will likely be put on a waiting list, but you should not try to avoid this by looking to less trustworthy breeders. Do not turn to backyard breeders, puppy mills or pet stores, these places do not have proper breeding knowledge or experience, they mistreat or are cruel often to their dogs and you cannot guarantee the kind of health the dog will have.

One you have a pet chosen you will need to have some medical cares dealt with and get some items for the dog. Medically it needs to be spayed or neutered when old enough, but before that, as soon as you have it home you should have a vet give it a physical exam, have some blood tests done, deworming, shots and micro chipping. These will cost about $290. Items like crates, collar and leash, bowls and such for the dog will cost about $180.

There are also ongoing costs to owning a dog. It will need at least basic medical care like shots, check ups, flea and tick prevention and then pet insurance which comes to about $485 a year. Miscellaneous costs like grooming, basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items come to around $645 a year. Then feeding the dog will cost about $270 for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. This gives an estimated annual starting figure cost of $1400.


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The Scottish Deerhound is a large, active dog and needs active owners with larger homes that have a yard. It is best in a home with older children and it needs plenty of attention, stimulation and regular grooming. It is not a guard dog or even a good watchdog so is not the right breed if you are looking for something like that. It is quiet, calm and dignified when older and does not play typical doggy games. Early socialization is important so that it does not become overly timid. It has a strong chase instinct and can be slow to house train. It is dedicated to its owners though, very loyal and can make a great companion and sighthound to experienced owners.

Featured Image Credit: Kim Christensen, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.