Irish Wolfhound And Scottish Deerhound Behavior

The Irish Wolfhound and Scottish Deerhound are very similar breeds that share similar conformation, as well as temperament and disposition.

Left: Irish Wolfhound, photo courtesy Mark Berry. Right: Scottish Deerhound, photo courtesy Betty Stephenson.
Left: Irish Wolfhound, photo courtesy Mark Berry. Right: Scottish Deerhound, photo courtesy Betty Stephenson.

Surely temperament and disposition are as essential to defining breeds as their physical traits. Although I have been around Deerhounds my entire life in dogs, I have not lived with one. In order to get the viewpoints of those who have lived with both breeds, I asked owners to compare them in temperament, upkeep, character, etc. Many people kindly responded to my request with far more comments than I can possibly use, but I enjoyed reading every one, and they have helped me broaden my own knowledge of Deerhounds.

Most people responded that the Deerhound has a stronger prey drive and needs — and enjoys — exercise more than the Wolfhound. Karen Goodell has lived with both breeds and is a serious open field coursing enthusiast. She reported that the Wolfhounds were not nearly as serious about their job as the Deerhounds, and she shared with Lloyd Simmons the opinion that the Deerhounds were a little sharper and often hard to keep with the Wolfhounds.

Lloyd elaborated on this subject. Believing that the breeds have more in common than not, each with its own idiosyncrasies, he writes that the Deerhounds “can become a little sharp temperament-wise when with IWs, more out of self-preservation. IWs will sleep on top of one another and/or piled together on a dog bed, whereas DHs will sleep not touching one another. Should one move and inadvertently touch his neighbor, there will be a rebuke. DHs can fill an entire room all spread out, whereas IWs will normally be clustered together.”

Lloyd and I have similar stories concerning Anastasia Noble, the noted Deerhound breeder under the Ardkinglas name. When Lloyd was introduced to her at a specialty, she said, “You’re that Canadian man who also has that ‘made-up’ breed.” She really didn’t like Wolfhounds and, of course, she was right. It is a made-up breed that we know today. She visited me a few times, and every time she would leave with these parting words, “Look me up when you’re ready to have a real dog.” And no one argued with Miss Noble, whose dedication and contribution to her breed is unmatched. Certainly not I, although I have stuck with my “made-up” Wolfhounds.

Chris Krowzack felt that Wolfhounds have “a greater tolerance for other animals being in their ‘personal space.” Chris goes on with an apt analysis. “Deerhounds are dainty. Anyone used to the way a Wolfhound drinks water, or flops to the ground, or takes treats will be surprised at the delicate sips of water, the taking of treats and leaving fingers intact, the way Deerhounds circle and lie down, curling themselves into an incredibly small space instead of stretching out all over.” Chris’ description seems in sync with several others, including David Andrews, who says, “A European breeder I know put it this way: ‘Irish Wolfhounds are dogs, and Scottish Deerhounds are cats.’ I’m not sure I would go that far, but it does have a kernel of truth.”

Carole Jeninga agrees. “Deerhounds are more independent to the point of not really being as concerned about you and your feelings as Wolfhounds, who tend to want to be around their people.”

Rebecca Koskela sees that same sort of temperament in her Deerhounds. “In my experience, Deerhounds are much more affectionate and in tune with the feelings of the people with whom they live. And Rebecca sees a similar trait in both breeds that we have all come to know: Both breeds are leaners.

Susan Christie doesn’t claim that Deerhounds are cats, but she does think that they are more Sighthound-like than the Wolfhounds, saying that the Deerhounds demand that you make their training entertaining or they get “bored and shut down.” She shares with Chris Krowzack the notion that the Deerhounds may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but they do need higher fencing than the Wolfhounds. I asked the owners about the activities they participated in, and I personally related to Susan’s answer: “Obedience rarely spoken here.”

Joe and Joan Giles have had years of experience with both breeds and had an especially interesting observation about tails, a problem that plagues many Wolfhound owners. “What I noticed was a big difference in how they wag their tails — the IW held his tail out more straight (which resulted in more banging on the walls, resulting in bloody tails); the DHs tend to wag their tails more down, and we have never had any bloody tails in 46 years.” But aside from tails, Stephen Shapiro thinks the Wolfhound is more “durable.”

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