The importation of Scottish Deerhounds into Australia 150 years ago was responsible for a marked improvement in the living conditions of many struggling settlers.
Dingoes and kangaroos were plentiful enough to cause havoc with stock and crops.
Greyhounds were used extensively to keep these pests in check with fairly good results but just lacked the size and stamina to prove a real success.
The Deerhound proved to be the ideal dog for the purpose. He was big enough, weighing from 100-110 pounds, to handle any wild animal found here.
He was dead game and, while he lacked the pace of the Greyhound, he was fast enough to do his work without being staked and knocked about as much as the fleeter Greyhound.
Many countrymen wrongly call the Deerhound a Staghound.
The breeds are not alike. The Staghound is really a large Foxhound which hunts by scent only and gives tongue when on the game. It is comparatively slow and has the short, black-tan-white coat, typical of the scent-hunting hounds.
The Deerhound, on the other hand, is a member of the sight hunting family.
He is built on Greyhound lines, but is bigger, being heavier boned, and more robust all through.
His coat is moderately long and wiry in texture. Color may be blue, grey, brindle, fawn or sandy.
His head is crowned with a silky top knot, and he carries a mustache of silky hair on his powerful jaws. He runs mute on the game.
The head is similar in shape to that of the Greyhound, but the jaw is stronger.
Despite his bulk, the Deerhound is remarkably agile and can gallop through the rough country without doing himself much injury.
Deerhounds were all the rage as show dogs around the turn of the century and provided some of the strongest classes at early Australian shows. In recent years they have fallen off in popularity for this purpose, but there is still a keen demand for working puppies in dingo and kangaroo country.
For all that, the quality of the few Deerhounds which appear at our leading shows leaves little to be desired.
Many early settlers found that the Deerhound was not quite fast enough in open country for the fast-moving game, and crossed them with the Greyhound for extra speed.
This cross gave us the “Kangaroo Dog” known to every countryman, a rather burly “Greyhound” with a roughish coat. These dogs had the requisite speed, plus stamina for the job.
Many people regard the modern racing Greyhound as a degenerate, when in fact, they are comparing him with the old-time Kangaroo Dog.
The only legitimate game for Greyhounds is the hare and, if they fall down on the larger game, the fault cannot be laid at their door.
Deerhounds are merciless hunters and will throw themselves bodily on a Dingo and bear him to the ground by sheer weight. Their powerful jaws do the rest.
In hunting kangaroos, they work in a rather different fashion. As they run their quarry down, a good one will make a dive for the kangaroo’s tail and upend him in a flash.
Should the kangaroo “bail up” against a tree, the dogs will circle around him until one succeeds in throwing him by the tail.
The dog which makes a frontal attack on an experienced “old man” kangaroo is in for trouble.
As he makes a lunge for the throat, the kangaroo takes hold of him with his forearms and disembowels him with one stroke of a hindleg.
This is the reason why many owners run their Deerhounds (and other hunters) with a fairly loose collar. It is claimed that the life of many dogs has been saved by the kangaroo’s foot being caught in this collar.
Many hunted kangaroos make for a waterhole and will “bail up” there. As the dog swims to them, they grab the dog’s head with their forepaws and hold him underwater until he drowns.
Dogs are naturally at a disadvantage attacking any animal in the water, but Deerhounds rarely shirk their duty, and experienced ones — particularly when hunting in pairs — will usually manage to finish the job.