The Live Stock Journal January 9th, 1881

The Irish Wolf-hound


SIR,—I think it may interest your readers to hear that since the publication of the article on the Irish Wolf-hound in the "Book of the Dog", some additional particulars of considerable value regarding that noble breed have come to my knowledge.

Mr. Parnell, M.P., is in possession of some old regimental colours formerly belonging to an Irish militia regiment, commanded by one of his immediate ancestors (father or grandfather, I think), on one of which is embroidered the figure of an Irish Wolf-dog, with a suitable motto in Latin, which I regret to say I forget just now.

Mr. Parnell assures me that the dog is represented as being what I have always held it to be, "a magnified Deerhound". These colours were borne by the regiment in the Irish rebellion of 1798, and were in all probability embroidered some (perhaps many) years prior to that date, showing very clearly that the Irish Wolf-hound was then held to have been a rough dog of Deerhound character, but longer and of greater power. This is very strong evidence against those who hold that he was a smooth dog of the great Dane type, and certainly proves to us conclusively that Lord Altamont's dogs at least were not Irish Wolf-hounds.

In the early part of the 40's of this century, an Irish gentleman, now alive, informs me that he was "much struck with a magnificent brace of Irish Wolf-dogs that he had seen in the south of Ireland. Fierce piercing eyes, shaggy brows, very rough dark grey coats, yet so kind that a child could play with them." He was of the opinion that they were of the breed—owned by Richardson, or of the same strain—which passed into the hands of Sir John Power, Mr. Mahoney, and Mr. Baker of Ballytobin, to which allusion has been made in the "Bok of the Dog". The beholder styles them "as perhaps the finest specimens of man's friend, the Irish Wolf-dog."

Whilst on this subject, will you permit me to inform those of your readers who may take a genuine interest in the breed that steps are to be taken to establish a class for Irish Wolf-hounds at the Kennel Club summer show, should sufficient funds be forthcoming, and to most earnestly beg that the effort may be cordially supported by subscriptions now (no matter how small, which I shall be happy to receive), and by entries when the time approaches.

It is the intention of the promoters that the prize or prizes shall be awarded to the dog that shall most nearly approach the old type, which is held to have been a much larger and more massive animal, and as such being distinct from the modern Deer-hound. It is hoped that a competent and impartial judge will officiate, and the writer would strenuously implore all persons in possession of specimens to assist in the permanent recovery of the breed by exhibiting them.

Rednock, Dursley, Jan. 1st.

Note: Unfortunately I don't have Mr. Hickman's response to Capt. Graham's letter, which prompted the following:-

The Live Stock Journal February, 1881

The Irish Wolf-hound


SIR,—As it appears that my humble production of the 9th January has aroused MR. HICKMAN'S combative and argumentative proclivities, I will state, once and for all, that to re-open the controversy on the Irish Wolfhound is decidedly not my intention, considering as I do that the matter was fully ventilated in your columns about a year ago, added to which I have neither time nor inclination; nor do I think it necessary to answer the greater part of MR. HICKMAN'S letter. I will, however, make a few remarks thereon, after which I shall not address you on the subject—so far as he is concerned.

I took the trouble to fully authenticate the particulars given regarding Mr. Parnell's banner before publishing them, and still attach considerable importance to them, MR. HICKMAN'S slighting and contemptuous remarks notwithstanding.

MR. HICKMAN quotes his former letters. I refer your readers to the article on the Irish Wolfhound in the "Book of the Dog", in which I think sufficient answers to many of his arguments will be found. (The best I can do for readers is "The New Book of the Dog" published in 1907 - AHJ)

The value of my friend's evidence is this—it shows us, at any rate, that forty years ago the dogs then bred as Irish Wolfhounds were similar in type to that now advocated!

I have always considered that the Deerhound is a modernised and somewhat degenerate descendant of the Irish Wolfhound, and this conviction is too firmly established in my mind to be shaken by any amount of MR. HICKMAN'S sophistry.

I have never contested the fact that the Irish Wolfhound was, in former times, common to both Ireland and Scotland.

As to the uselessness of the large Deerhound, it is a well-known fact that in the days when deer coursing was practised (and such, I take it, is the legitimate occupation of the Deerhound), such dogs were invariably used, as though smaller dogs might be equal to the task as far as speed was concerned, they were unable to take—that is, hold and kill the deer—eventually. Both Lord Saltoun and Lord H. Bentinck had thirty-one inch dogs among their very best.

For work nowadays, alas, both large and small Deerhounds are generally cast aside; a Collie, forsooth, being considered sufficient and in general requisition to follow wounded deer, and bring the "valuable animal" to account.

It is far from my wish or intention to depreciate the Deerhound—he is a grand and gallant creature. I simply wish to see restored a grander and more majestic dog still—the greatest of the rough Greyhounds, the Irish Wolfhound, and I see no reason why a dog of the stature and build I advocate should not be bred with sufficient symmetry. MR. HICKMAN speaks scornfully of crosses. Pray, sir, does every breed in which a suitable cross may have been introduced, for a specific reason, become a "mongrel"? If so, how many breeds are pure? How many?

What would have become of our larger breeds especially, had it not been for judicious crosses? Indeed, there is the best reason to believe that, in the case of MR. HICKMAN'S Morni, both Pyrenean (introduced with success by Glengarry) and Prussian Wolf-hound blood is present through his ancestors. Does MR. HICKMAN therefore consider him a mongrel? That most of our present large breeds have been rescued from the lowest ebb by means of crosses, no one can gainsay. MR. HICKMAN'S apprehensions for his favourite breed are amusing. However, I feel assured that the Kennel Club and all well-wishers of the breed will take a more liberal view of the matter than he appears inclined to do.

I cannot but feel complimented by MR. HICKMAN'S allusion to Frankenstein. His powers of sarcasm and argument are alike "magnifique". Were I gifted as that individual was I should long ere this have offered my "perfected" Irish Wolfhound for the admiration and approval of the public; as it is I struggle on.

Rednock, February 3rd, 1881

[We are compelled to hold over Mr. Hickman's letter in reply to QUIRINUS]

The Live Stock Journal March 18th, 1881

The Irish Wolfhound


SIR - In my last letter I promised to say something about Quirinus's "discovery" as to the Celtic Greyhound. What is that discovery? Simply that Bewick described the Deerhound as "the Scottish Highland Greyhound or Wolfdog". Well, I imagined that any one who had ventured to form an opinion on this question was quite acquainted with such a comparatively modern authority as Bewick, and in one of my former letters I instanced this description of the Deerhound, following, as it did, next after that of the Irish Greyhound, to show clearly in Bewick's time the one was distinguished from the other. But according to Quirinus, this passage shows that the breed we now designate the Deerhound was, prior to 1800, known as the Scottish Highland Wolfdog or Greyhound, and as Bewick makes no mention of its being known as the Deerhound, this shows that its ancient use was principally for wolf-hunting.

Now this is, in effect, the very same as the main argument in Mr. Graham's article in "The Book of the Dog", where he states that there is no mention of the Deerhound until comparatively modern times. Quirinus has evidently, therefore, not read my letter in which I showed from "Pitscottie's History" (written about 1600 A.D.), that "the Earles of Huntlie, Argyle, and Athole brought thair Deirhoundis with thame", to one of the hunting parties, proving conclusively that more than 250 years ago the term Deerhound was used, and therefore the chief argument for the identity of the Deerhound and Irish Wolfdog falls to the ground. The fact is that, until shows fixed the name, the term Deerhound has never been one of universal application even in modern times. For instance, Sir W. Scott seldom uses the same name. Bran and Buskar are described as "two very tall Deer Greyhounds", Roswal as a "Stag Greyhound", Bevis as "Wolfhound", Wolf "a large Staghound of the Greyhound species", and Balder as one of two or three "large and strong Greyhounds such as were then employed in hunting the stag and wolf". Some time ago, too, I was informed by a gentleman that his Highland forester who had charge of his Deerhounds always speaks of them as Greyhounds. The fact, therefore, that we do not always find these dogs termed Deerhounds is certainly no proof that they only began to be so called when they ceased to be Wolfdogs, for we have seen that the term was used of them even when they were employed for wolf-hunting. Nor is it true that they were used for wolf-hunting principally.

The supporters of the Irish Wolfhound theory seem to imagine that wolves were as plentiful in Scotland as blackberries, and that dogs of far greater size than are found sufficient in other countries were necessary there. But what is the fact? In all the accounts of the great Highland huntings the deer were the principal game, and the wolves formed a very insignificant portion. For instance, in the great hunting in the forest of Athole, in 1563, there "were slaine 360 deer and five wolves"; and at those mentioned by Pitscottie, in one case 600 deer were killed; and in the other "aughteine scoir", the wolves being classed under the head of "other small beastis, sick as woulff, fox, wyld cattis", &c. It is thus perfectly clear that upwards of 300 years ago the Deerhound was principally used for deer, as in later times. And as we learn, too, that the dogs were on such occasions used in hundreds, it is pretty certain that whatever wolves were killed were overpowered by numbers, aided by the hunters, and that wolves were not killed by individual dogs, which is one of the gratuitous assumptions which some people start out with in their arguments on this question.

Quirinus further says that the dog Bewick saw was a Celtic Greyhound, "a breed common alike to Scotland and Ireland, at one period", and by inference the same as the Irish Greyhound. Now, this is simply begging the question, for it is just this which requires proof. The argument in effect is this:- The Deerhound is a Highland Greyhound, the Highlanders were Celts, as were also the Irish - ergo, both the Irish and Highland Greyhounds were Celtic Greyhounds - ergo, they were one and the same animal. The mistake in this argument is the assumption that because the animals of the two different countries might be termed Celtic from the common origin of the people in the one and the settlers in the other to whom they belonged, that they must necessarily be the same in all physical respects. But, in the case under notice, it is quite as likely, seeing that the rough Greyhound was found all over Scotland, that the Irish immigrants found the dog already a native there as that they took it themselves. It would be just as logical to apply the same argument to the English Greyhound - viz., the Deerhound is a British Greyhound, as Scotland is part of Britain, and, as the English Greyhound is also a British Greyhound, it follows that they are one and the same.

As to A. Scot's excerpt from "The Sportsman's Cabinet", he will find that the article he quotes from was from the pen "of an amateur of popular reputation", and was therefore only his opinion, and that, too, as to the English, and not the Irish Wolf-dog. I cannot agree with A. Scot's argument as to Bewick's text. If it was compiled by Beilby, it would at least represent the common opinion of the naturalists of that time; and when supported by Bewick's woodcut, which we can hardly suppose "the truthful Bewick" invented, it is certainly a great authority, as it thus has Bewick's sanction. It is a curious fact that, as soon as one points out to the theorists on the Irish Wolf-dog that a certain author is against their views, that author is immediately run down as of no authority, as in the case of Buffon ("a fair naturalist" merely, according to Quirinus), Goldsmith ("an habitual prevaricator"), and Bewick, who was so true to Nature that he copied from other people.

And now perhaps you will allow me to say a few words in reply to Mr. Graham's letter. He says that it is a well-known fact that in the days of deer-coursing large dogs were invariably used, as smaller dogs were unable to hold and kill the deer, and that Lords Saltoun and Henry Bentinck had thirty-one such (Note: it says "such" in the original but presumably should read "inch" to make any sense of the rest of this paragraph) dogs amongst their very best. This statement, which certainly seems to bear the inference that thirty-one inch dogs were the best for this work, is hardly consistent with Mr. Graham's dictum in "The Book of the Dog", that a dog averaging 29 to 30 inches was the correct animal, or with the statement in "Idstone", whose article was avowedly "inspired" by Mr. Graham, to the effect that a larger dog than Mr. Dawes' Warrior would hardly be of any use on a Scotch deer-forest - Warrior being a 28-inch dog!

As to the use of large dogs in deer-coursing in bygone days being a well-known fact, the only account I believe we have of a deer-course, where we can judge of the size of the dogs employed, is the one in Scrope's "Deerstalking". But Buscar was the bigger of the two dogs used, and he was only 28 inches high; so that if they could kill the stag, it is evident that there is no force in the argument that a big dog is necessary. Besides, from Mr. Graham's article we know that the best dogs he mentions for work, such as Lord Saltoun's Bran, Pirate, and Gillespie Tormo, did not exceed 29 inches, and they were perfect at work, and so here again great size could not have been necessary. On the other hand, big dogs are certainly not so speedy over the rough ground as the medium-sized ones, besides their greater liability to heavy falls. Within the past few weeks I have visited two kennels of Deerhounds used for work in the Highlands, and I found only one dog over 30 inches in either kennel, and he was going to be drafted, as, though a fast dog in England, he was no good in Scotland. In the one kennel, the fastest animal at deer was said to be a smallish dog, a little over 27 inches; and in the other a by no means big bitch.

As to size being necessary to "hold" a stag, I made particular inquiries, and am informed that, if thereby is meant to stop a stag by strength, no Deerhound, however big, could do so, as long as the stag is on his legs. Even if a dog seizes the stag by the neck, the long bristly hair chokes him and prevents his stopping the stag by killing it. A good dog will seize the stag by the fore-quarter whilst running, the sudden shock of which brings the latter to the ground, when the dog can seize him by the back of the ear and kill him before he regains his feet.

Doubtless Lord Saltoun and Lord H. Bentinck had dogs they considered thirty-one inches, but no one knows better than Mr. Graham how unreliable are the statements as to the height of dogs, and it is probable that, if good for work, they were of a less height. Anyway, I have shown, from the opinions of Lochiel, Colonel Inge, and others who use the Deerhound, that big dogs are useless; and I mentioned - and am ready to verify - three instances of show dogs that were parted with because they were too large for the Highlands, though in other respects two of them were good at deer. I therefore maintain that I have proved my point - that many of our largest show dogs are too big for work, and there is consequently no reason to suppose they are degenerate from those of former times, when work was the sole object they were kept for.

Mr. Graham says he has always considered that the Deerhound is a degenerate descendant of the Irish Wolfhound, and his conviction is too firmly established to be shaken by any amount of sophistry - that is to say, having swallowed all Richardson's theory and statements without examination, Mr. Graham has so made up his mind that no amount of exposure of the falsity of the premise on which he founds his conclusions can shake his opinion; having once formed it, nothing can shake it.

Mr. Graham further says that his article in "The Book of the Dog" is an answer to most of my arguments, but that can hardly apply to what I have written subsequently in reference to that article.

Two of these points only will I mention, and I invite Mr. Graham either to disprove my statements or admit that he is wrong in two of his main arguments. The first is the assertion that there is no mention of the Deerhound until comparatively modern times, and the consequent foundation thereon of a mass of conjecture and inference, an assertion I have refuted. The next is Mr. Graham's positive statement that the Irish harp in Trinity College is ornamented with a figure of a rough Irish Wolf-dog, a statement which I assert goes beyond and is not warranted by facts. If Mr. Graham cannot support his statements on these points, let him admit it.

Mr. Graham asks me if I considered my dog Morni was a mongrel, because there is reason to believe he had both Pyrenean and Russian Wolfhound blood through his ancestors. Now the only reason for supposing Pyrenean blood arises from the fact that the dog was of the Glengarry strain, and Glengarry in some cases used this cross; whilst as to the Russian strain, I believe, but do not know when it occurred, that one of the ancestors had some slight Russian tinge. But granting both, there is a wide difference between a cross introduced upward of sixty years ago, as in the case of the Pyrenean, or in the case of the Russian Wolfhound, with a dog of a similar Greyhound type, and constant and perpetual crosses with dogs of an utterly different type. Moreover, in the one case the original type is resought immediately after the cross, in the other an utterly new type is sought to be produced.

Birmingham, March 8th   G.W. HICKMAN

More on this subject can be found in the chapter on the Irish Wolfhound from "The Dog Book" by James Watson

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