“Ragged” probably isn’t a word most of us would want being used to describe our breed because we tend to associate the term with being rough, unkempt, irregular, or uneven, all synonyms. After all, we prefer balance in our dogs, do we not? And maybe because of the phrase, “run ragged,” we think of looking “ragged” as a negative thing.
The word, however, appears in the breed standards of two breeds, both hounds, and they are used in very different ways.
The Scottish Deerhound’s ideal coat is a “thick, close-lying ragged coat, harsh or crisp to the touch.” In this context, the word makes sense since as we already know, “uneven” is a synonym for ragged.
The English Foxhound, however, uses the term in a more perplexing way: “The couples must be wide, even to raggedness, and the topline of the back should be absolutely level…”
The English Foxhound standard was written by and for huntsmen over 100 years ago, and it pays to remember how these people used their dogs. In an English hunt, a Foxhound could run up to 70 miles in a day (and love every minute of it). Their “running gear,” (or feet) are critical, but a flat, level back is hugely important for endurance, and the dog’s loins must be heavily muscled, broad enough, and strong enough to propel the dog at the end of his back. As for the word, “ragged,” it refers to the muscles around the loin area looking almost as if there was a ragged cloth under the skin.
Image: “Pair of Foxhounds,” circa 1900 by John Emms (1843-1912). This image is available as fine art, and in home decor and lifestyle items here