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Scottish deerhound: What the breed -- best in show at Westminster -- is all about

February 16, 2011 |  1:32 pm


Scottish deerhound Hickory created a big stir when she became the first member of her breed ever to win best in show at Westminster, America's most prestigious dog show, on Tuesday night.

Hickory's win came as a surprise to many dog-show watchers; although she boasts an impressive show record and was the No. 1 Scottish deerhound in the country last year, flashier dogs like a top-winning smooth fox terrier, Pekingese and boxer seemed likelier candidates for best in show. The Scottish deerhound breed was given 60-to-1 odds to win Westminster by a Vegas handicapper.

The win catapulted a little-known breed with a long history to sudden fame. The Scottish deerhound, a large sighthound originally used to hunt stags, has existed in much the same form since around the 16th century. A deerhound was once the prized pet of Sir Walter Scott, who described the breed as "the most perfect creature of heaven."

For some time, only the elite owned Scottish deerhounds, and the fact that not many people had them combined with the decline of stag hunting left the breed's population in serious decline by the 18th century. Around 1825, a pair of brothers began attempting to revive the breed, and deerhounds eventually made it to the U.S. The breed became eligible for AKC conformation competition in 1886.

Scottish deerhounds today are fairly rare and often mistaken for the more familiar Irish wolfhound. Members of the breed are typically calm, gentle and devoted to their human families. They're generally relaxed pets inside, but they love to run; lure coursing is a popular sport for the breed.

Scottish Deerhound wins Westminster The deerhound's sheer size and need for lots of outdoor exercise make it an unwise pet choice for many families. (Hickory will retire to a Virginia farm with plenty of room to run when she's done with the press tour that accompanies a Westminster best in show win.)

Male Scottish deerhounds can measure up to 37 inches at the shoulder and weigh as much as 140 pounds; females like Hickory are typically a bit smaller but not significantly so. A nice long life for a Scottish deerhound is about 10 years; the average lifespan for a deerhound is 8 years for males and 9 for females, according to a survey conducted by the Scottish Deerhound Club of America in 2000.

Because of their size, body shape and tendency to engage in strenuous excercise, they are prone to health problems like bloat (a life-threatening stomach ailment that is most common in large and deep-chested dogs), cardiomyopathy, foot and leg fractures and neck pain. 

If you watched Westminster and fell in love with the Scottish deerhound -- and you're prepared to provide a lot of exercise for your dog and foot a hefty dog-food bill -- the Scottish Deerhound Club of America's list of resources for adopting a rescued or re-homed deerhound is a great place to start.

Photo gallery: The doggie hairstyles of Westminster
Cocker spaniel, Portuguese water dog, smooth fox terrier win groups 

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: Hickory poses for photographers on a visit to the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building on Feb. 16, 2011. Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters

Bottom photo: Hickory with best in show judge Paolo Dondina, left, and handler Angela Lloyd after her big win. Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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