A-chasing the Wild deer, and Following the Roe

Ponder upon this Robert Burns poem and see if it doesn’t conjure up for you images of Scottish Deerhounds standing tall and dignified as they overlook the misty highlands and fog-covered moors:

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer –

A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North
The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth;

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

Farewell to the mountains high cover’d with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer

Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.”

Being the “Royal dog of Scotland” meant that only men holding the rank of an earl were allowed to own a Scottish Deerhound, and this restriction lasted well into the 1700s. The Scottish Highlands were the last bastion of healthy Deerhound numbers because the Highlands were the last piece of geography where deer still lived as wild animals, and thus, were hunted by Deerhounds. It probably didn’t help the breed that Highland Chieftains felt they were privy to exclusive Deerhound ownership, and it became all but impossible to find a Deerhound south of Scotland’s Central Belt.

As we mentioned in an earlier post about the Flat-Coated Retriever whose development was rooted in technological advances, technology also impacted the Deerhound, but not in a good way. The modern rifle helped nudge the breed into a more precarious state since its use eliminated the need for a big dog able to run down and grab prey.

The living symbol of the Highlands, Alba, and Ancient Caledonia deserved better.

On a cheerier note, we conclude with a clip from the wonderful computer-animated fantasy drama from 2012 – and yes, there’s a Deerhound in it:

Image: “Foghound” by Rosalind Trigg

5 thoughts on “A-chasing the Wild deer, and Following the Roe”

    • We will, Leigh! We are lucky enough to know some Scottish Deerhound folks, and luckier still to have accompanied Westminster Best in Show winner, Hickory, on her media tour the day after her fabulous win. What a terrifically sweet dog she was.

  1. <> This is not true, it is pure fiction taken straight from Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Talisman. You had to have income and property to own any type of hunting dog (including lurchers) from the first English Game Law of 1389 until the repeal of British Game Laws in 1830. There have never been any “laws” restricting ownership of any dog to those of the rank of an earl.

    • Our information is as good as our sources, Barb. We got this information about ownership from the book, “Levrieri,” by By Mario Canton, as well as from Harper’s Weekly, Volume 23, the websites Renstore.com and canineweekly.com, Irish Wolfhound Time, and ANIMALLIFEEXPECTANCY.

      • Your sources are unreliable and not historically accurate ….even the AKC had the “no-one less than an earl could own a Deerhound’ in their breed write up for decades…it appeals to owners and snobbery. However it is not true, based on popular romantic fiction. For reliable sources, you don’t read Harpers Weekly etc all rehashing Sir Walter Scott’s famous line in the Talisman, read the Game Law itself and academic books focused on the subject (The Statues At Large: from Magna Carta, to the end of the last parliament, 1761 by Ruffhead …available on Wikipedia & the Internet Archive, this is a complete record of all English and British law). …or read the piece I have attached below.

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