THE DEERHOUND IN AUSTRALIA
Copyright Virginia Hawke 1999
The Deerhound is one of the largest of the hound breeds, standing 76-82 centimetres (30-32 inches) at the shoulder and weighing up to 45.5 kilograms (100 pounds). A member of the sighthound family, breed history has evolved around excellent eyesight and the ability to chase and catch the Red Deer of Scotland. Although the origins of the breed are obscure, it is evident that, prior to the sixteenth century, there was a race of large dogs in Scotland used to hunt deer. These dogs form the basis of the modem Deerhound. The ancient hounds must have possessed great speed, power and courage to tackle a full grown stag.
It was probably the result of this successful combination of talents that encouraged early settlers to bring the Deerhound to Australia. Here was a dog that could provide the settlers not only with entertainment in the form of coursing but also much needed meat for the pot. Wealthy, pioneer pastoralists often of Scottish descent, established themselves throughout south eastern Australia. Thomas and Andrew Chimside, Henry Rous and Aenus MacDonnell were just a few who vigorously promoted the introduction of game animals, including deer, hare and fox in order to fulfil their needs to make Australia similar to their previous home. It stands to reason that, if it was of utmost importance to acclimatise introduced species, so also would it have been crucial to import the means by which to catch them, namely the Deerhound, Greyhound and Foxhound.
Prior to 1870, few official records were kept. It is possible however, through early painting and literature, to glean information that the Deerhound, in his pure form and crossed with other breeds, in particular the Greyhound, played an integral part in early colonial life and was a major contributor in the formation of the typically Australian sighthound known as the Kangaroo dog. Gould even makes mention of the Deerhound's presence in Tasmania in his Macropodidaea published in 1841.
A Deerhound is in the foreground of an early colonial work painted by Van den Houten. The subject of the painting is the arrival of Buckley in 1835 at John Batman's camp which was situated at Indented Head Victoria. Another early painting by Harden Melville and called 'The Squatter's hut, news from home' shows what is considered to be a broadly accurate description of the inside of a squatter's hut. Aborigines, a pet cockatoo, guns, riding equipment, dead kangaroos, a kangaroo dog and a Deerhound, surround the squatters as they read a copy of the London News. The painting was originally exhibited at the twenty eighth exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists, London 1851. It is now in the possession of the Australian National Gallery.
In his book 'Scotch Deerhounds and their Masters.' George Cupples writes of kangaroo hunting and his search during 1856 for two thoroughbred Deerhounds to send to a friend in Southern Australia. He relates how "The young hounds stood the voyage well, were duly received, and heartily acknowledged, whereafter good accounts came to hand as regarded their doings, in comparison with the heavy mastiff-bred lurchers or light greyhound-like coursers that hitherto had almost exclusively flourished along the rivers Murrey and Darling, and at the Antipodes in general, for hunting purposes." As if to verify Cupple's conviction as to the talents of the purebred Deerhound, an etching printed in the Illustrated London Times, 4 February 1860, depicting two Deerhounds over the kill of an 'old man' kangaroo proves not only the quality of the Deerhounds present in colonial Australia, but also their ability to cope reliably with the alternate quarry and its environment.
Further evidence as to talents and ingenuity of the Deerhound as a hunter in the Australian bush is recorded in 'Bush Wanderings of a Naluralist' written by an Old Bushman in 1860. "The very best kangaroo dog I ever knew, was an old imported snipenosed white Scotch Deerhound, such as the ones Landseer loved to draw. He was worn out, but although he scarcely had a tooth left, could manage a kangaroo single handed and his scars show him an old warrior.".... "The breed of kangaroo dog in use out here, is a large broken haired Scotch Deerhound, the general colour red or badger pied."
The discovery of gold in Australia heralded an era of change. Increased population provided much needed and diverse input into the cities and a surge of interest in farming provided the basis for massive land redistribution to new immigrants. It also saw increased interest in the purebred Deerhound, not only as a means of controlling the rapidly increasing native and feral animal populations, but also as an exhibition animal, capable of holding its own at newly formed Agricultural Society shows. Written records of breeders, importations and pedigrees became far more prevalent, and it is possible, from the early 1870s to piece together a reasonably accurate account of the Deerhound's development within Australia.
The Illustrated Australian News 28 January 1876 printed an etching under the title 'A hunting party corners an aggressive kangaroo.' The two Deerhounds featured holding the kangaroo at bay are so typical in every way. It would not be presumptuous to assume that these dogs were also exhibition animals. Queen Victoria sent Red deer to the McConnells at Cressbrook, Queensland in 1873. The descendants of these deer are still thriving today. It is in the annals of the McConnell's family history that the first documented evidence of Deerhound importations appear. Roy and Corrie were imported from the United Kingdom and have the distinction of being the first Deerhounds exhibited in Australia at Brisbane in 1877.
Quality was given an enormous boost in 1890 when John Robertson of Melbourne imported two well known British Deerhounds, namely Rossie Bran and Rossie Cora. Cora was bred en route to Australia and shortly after her arrival gave birth to ten puppies. An Australian newspaper commented thus... "The dog Rossie Bran is a grand fellow, with that immense power, combined with agility, which stamps the word 'noble' on this ancient and splendid breed.... Rossie Cora is a meet companion for a lady. although not as powerful either in jaw or bone, she is of great size, and possesses as good a coat as one wishes. These dogs are not only an ornament and an attraction as show animals, but
should prove of great service in breeding dogs in the colonies."
Blelby reports in his book, The Dog in Australasia published in 1897, that it would have been difficult to find many colonial bred Deerhounds of verified parentage during this time that did not contain a strong infusion of Bran and Cora. Certainly this was true when reviewing the hounds of David Syme from Melbourne. David was a successful breeder and his dog, Blytheswood Cheviot, a prominent winner. Cheviot was a son of Bran and Cora. Cheviot proved a useful stud dog. His son, Tirrengower Bruce an upstanding dark brindle dog owned by the Winter-Irvings, won first at the Victoria Poultry and Kennel Club in August 1896.
Bran and Cora must have been helpful to breeders such as Mr J. A. Dickson of Moncrieffe Kennels, Macquarie Fields NSW. Dickson bred Deerhounds for as long as twenty five years prior to a circular he wrote in The Stock and Station Journal in 1897 praising their abilities as hunters in the Australian bush. "The Deerhound I have today is my ideal dog, and is capable of killing any dingo or fox single handed. To improve my strain I use fresh blood of the best killing strain, which must have pace....They are absolutely pure Scotch Deerhound."
In the 1890s, the Deerhound was given a further boost by the enthusiasm of Cecil Davies. In the mid 1890s, Davies imported two well known show winners from the United Kingdom namely Lord Morag and Newton Spey. Morag, a litter brother to Swiftness, Ch. Selwood Callack and Ch. Selwood Dhouran was purchased from Mr Hood Wnight and reputed to be the best example of the breed that Australia had so far seen. Cecil Davies set up his 'Strathdoon' Deerhound kennel, first in Victoria and later at Blacktown in New South Wales. During his involvement with the breed Davies produced many hounds of unquestionable quality, some notables being: Strathdoon Rapid Bruce, a fine hound standing thirty inches owned by Sam Horden, Jun. of Sydney. Horden incidentally, imported Fair Catherine of Abbortsford and bred under the 'Redford' prefix., Strathdoon Highlander, a strong fawn dog owned by Mr Frewing of Sydney, who also imported Scottie and Scotch Lassie; and Strathdoon Laird, owned by Mr Pigdon. Laird was used several times at stud during the early 1900s by W. Kenneally of 'Lennox' Kennels, Melbourne.
Cecil Davies bred more than three hundred Deerhounds, many were sold to squatters and others for the purpose of killing kangaroo and dingo. It is interesting to note that for a few years Davies also bred Borzois and at one stage, was promoting Deerhound Borzoi cross progeny as 'Strathdoon dingo killers' During the 1890s interest in the breed was quite widespread and further promoted by R. Christison of Hughendon, Queensland, who was thought to have imported a pair of Deerhounds, but no particulars seem to have survived, and W. D. Robertson from Victoria, who owned the Clandonachle Kennels and exhibited Deerhounds on a regular basis at leading shows. A prominent member of this kennel was the large brindle dog named Strange II .
In the early 1900s, Davies was forced to retire from serious dog breeding due to the pressures of business. He sold the best of his kennel to Mr Percy Palmer, who bred Deerhounds under the 'Linthorpe prefix. In an interview with the English newspaper 'Our Dogs' in 1902, Palmer talks of the successful kangaroo hunt he participated in with his Deerhounds, in particular litter brothers Linthorpe Outlaw and Lindthorpe Brutus. "At the foot of the hill we espied a splendid kangaroo....the dogs were fresh, and simply flew after their quarry. By the time we arrived at the struggle we found the two dogs had got the kangaroo down, and a magnificent war was waging. The young dog was tackling so gamely that 1 had the other one called off, and there we stood round, each with his horse's bridle slung in his arm, and settled down to enjoy a glorious fight between a marsupial over six foot in height and a Deerhound. About eight minutes saw the end, and one and all were delighted with the pluck of the youngster .... Yes, blood will tell, and it only shows that you cannot do better than keep strictly to the letter in breeding a dog known for centuries for his game and speed."
When Percy Palmer returned to live in England some of his hounds went to Sam. Horden Jun. The balance returned to 'Strathdoon' kennels. Cecil Davies it seems, found it difficult to do without the breed and renewed his enthusiasm for breeding. He collaborated with breeders such as Mr Christie of the successful Tranent Kennels in Queensland and purchased from him Tranent Maid. Mr Christie succeeded in breeding hounds of quality and his Tranent Model was a Best in Show winner. He imported Dandy of Abbortsford in 1895.
Shortly before World War I Mr R. Trotter arrived from Scotland and settled in Queensland. He was accompanied on his voyage by his eleven Deerhounds. Although the purebred Deerhound had keen supporters, World War I slowed breeding activities to a minimum and, by the 1920s, the breed had almost died out in Australia.
Fortunately, Cecil Davies was still dedicated to the pure Deerhound. He joined forces with Dr Crookston of Camden, New South Wales whose prefix was Cloverlea and Jack Morgan of Gunning New South Wales of the Nelanglo prefix as well as Mr and Mrs Mat. Murrey of Gisborne, Victoria, whose prefix was Brealand, to ensure the breeds' survival. The last heard of Cecil Davies was in the form of a letter he wrote to Donald Thomson in 1946. In the letter he wrote of his association with Deerhounds and how he missed their company, he was hoping to purchase a puppy but Donald had none available for sale.
Luckily, for the future of the Deerhound, interest in breeding purebred hounds was shown by two stalwart enthusiasts, namely Dr Donald Thomson and Mr Douglas Mummery both of Victoria. Following closely in their footsteps was Mr Charles Venables also of Victoria. It is a result of the dedication of these three men that the Deerhound prospers in Australia.
Dr Donald Thomson was an esteemed anthropologist and biological scientist with a life time interest in Deerhounds. He purchased his first Deerhound, a Brealand dog in 1922 from Mrs Murrey. In the early 1930s he purchased Nelanglo Heather from Jack Morgan. Heather became the foundation bitch for St. Ronans kennels (Australia). In 1934, unable to find a suitable mate for Heather, Donald imported Walau Mack, bred by Cecil Payne of Invercargill, New Zealand. Mack was a fine wheaten hound and stood thirty four inches at the shoulder. Heather and Mack bred successfully and produced quality progeny, particularly Ch. Sir Kenneth of St. Ronans. Sir Kenneth was exhibited in Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania. He was later purchased by Charles Venables.
In 1938, Donald travelled to the United Kingdom where he purchased two Deerhounds, namely Rustic of Ross and Nairn of Rotherwood. As fate would have it, World War II commenced and Donald enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. St. Ronans Kennel was virtually put on hold, the imported dogs were sent to Cecil Payne in New Zealand for safe keeping. Unfortunately, neither dog left any progeny.
As was the case world wide, Deerhounds suffered loss of numbers and a restriction of bloodlines during World War II. St. Ronans Kennel was no exception. It was the close collaboration among Thomson, Mummery and Venables that virtually saved the day for Deerhounds in Australia. Douglas Mummery grew up fascinated by his uncles' Deerhounds that were purchased from Captain McMillan of New South Wales. Prior to the outbreak of the World War II Doug registered his Heatherglen prefix. He purchased a bitch named Brealand Melba and a dog named Brealand Chieftan from Mrs Murrey and later two bitches and a dog from Mr Morgan. Donald Thomson also, sold Doug a pup named Gelert of St. Ronans from a breeding of Mack and Heather. In 1949 Doug imported Reiver of Geltsdale from the United Kingdom. The new genetics, In turn enabled Donald Thomson to re-enter the breeding scene as he purchased two bitches from Doug, sired by Reiver out of bitches which contained original St. Ronans bloodlines.
The foundation stock for Charles Venables well known Atlas Kennels was aquired from both Donald Thomson and Doug Mummery. Charles purchased Sir Kenneth of St. Ronans in 1941 and later Walau Queen (Imp. NZ) from Donald and Heatherglen Kathleen from Doug.
A keen supporter of hounds that could hunt efficiently, he bred a purebred Deerhound to an In'sh Wolfhound in the hope that he could improve size, stamina and temperament. The resulting hounds were then bred back to Deerhounds of unquestionable parentage such as Reiver of Geltsdale and later, Enterkine Fergus of Portsonachan, who was imported by Doug Mummery from the U.K. in 1954.
Under the Atlas prefix, Charles bred many breeds of sighthound. In the early years he concentrated on Borzois but they later gave way to Deerhounds. His faith in Deerhounds is recorded in an article he wrote in 1972 "I have hunted with every type of hound and owned and bred most at some time or another. To me the Deerhound is the finest running hound of all. Its' gentleness and sensitivity complete the picture of his sterner qualities; qualities which make the dog the best hunting companion a man could have.
The 1950s and 1960s, typified with stability, proved fruitful for the breed. Thomson, Mummery - who imported Murdo of Portsonachan in 1964- and Venables continued their breeding programs. Among them they produced some hounds of outstanding type: Heatherglen Dragon, bred by Doug Mummery and owned by Leo McCormick and later, Donald Thomson, was a hound with a reputation for great depth of quality. This he threw to his offspring. Also influential during this time was Betty Wallace. Betty moved from Scotland to Queensland in 1961 and established her Dalmore prefix.
The 1960s heralded an influx of new breed enthusiasts. Two of these were particularly influential, as they imported Deerhounds from the United Kingdom. These Deerhounds stamped their mark on future generations and opened up breeding opportunities. Noel Wettenhall of Glenholford kennels imported Moss Trooper and the bitch Liath of Portsonachan in 1966, while John Gorman imported Woodman of Ardkinglas. These imports were used extensively. Woodman was particularly prolific. Sold to Charles Venables, he was used extensively at stud and produced some quality progeny.
Names such as St. Ronans Rhyme (Aust), Glenholford Jenme, Atlas Bounce, Glenholford Mighty Mac, Atlas Jennie, and Glenholford Skye were making their presence felt in Deerhound circles by their ability to breed and show well.
Glenholford Skye was the foundation bitch for Mrs Bacon. Skye was by Moss Trooper and out of Liath of Portsonachan. In 1970 Mrs Bacon imported from Miss Noble's world renowned Scottish kennels Ulnic of Ardkinglas. Liath was bred to Ulnic and two of the resulting progeny proved influential in future breeding programs. These were, Rothemere Aimil, who was the foundation bitch for Hellemore ( later Liathghorm ) kennels of South Australia owned by Judy Fallon and Rothermere Adamh, owned by the Wises of Western Australia. Adamh won the hound group at Perth Royal in 1971 and 1973.
Donald Thomson died in 1970, his kennel retained in the capable and dedicated hands of his wife, Dorita. In 1972 the Deerhound Club of Victofia was formed. Dorita became the inaugural president, and held the position until 1975. Through to 1999 she has continued to lend support to the club in the role of editor of the bi-monthly magazine, club historian and breeder. The advent of the Deerhound club meant information became far more accessible and interest in the breed has steadily increased over the past twenty five years.
The early to mid 1970s saw the emergence of new kennels influenced by dogs from Atlas, St. Ronans and Heatherglen. Three new imports from the United Kingdom also made their presence felt. These were, Erceldoume Helm, Uptonmill Aspen and Uptonmill Arka all were imported by Doug Mummery in 1975. Doug remained a staunch supporter of the breed until his death in 1998.
The prefix, Ballewan, owned by Deborah and Julian Guthrie and later renamed Clachtoll when Deborah continued breeding individually, has produced hounds of outstanding worth since the 1970s. Deborah Guthrie has made an enormous contribution to the state of the Deerhound in Australia over the last quarter of a century. Her role as secretary of the Deerhound Club has been virtually continuous since its inception. Campaigning and breeding dogs of the calibre of Ch. Carebou Kestral, Ch. St. Ronans Findon, Ch. Atlas Roderick Dhu, the well known and influential sire Ch. Ballewan Gremlin and Tabrahil Nagarl, has secured her an unquestionable place in Australian Deerhound history.
Paul Wilson based his Ballencrea kennels on stock purchased from the Guthries as well as the imported bloodlines of Erceldoume Helm and Uptonmill Aspen. Ch. Orbust Donich, imported by Anne and Bill McQuillan in 1976 was also incorporated into Paul's breeding program. Ch. Ballencrea Inverness was bred by Paul in 1982 and has been his most well known Champion.
Charles Venables continued actively breeding during the seventies and eighties. Of particular importance to the breed during these years was a bitch he bred namely, Ch. Atlas Amanda. Born in 1969, Amanda was a prolific breeder, and produced some quality stock, some progeny had a lasting effect on the breed and were influential in the formation of kennels such as Daidh (Davidson), Plelades (Doyle) and Atlantean (Snow). Charles bred Amanda to Lochfyne Tarquin, bred by Graharn and Dianne Birch and to Atlas Laird MacArthur. Together with Ch. Atlas Dinah and Ch. Atlas Elsa she ensured Charles a prominent position in Deerhound history during these decades. The Amanda line was secured within Atlas kennels by the use at stud of her son Ch. Atlas Argus. Argus in turn left many offspring, many of these were subsequently bred with. Charles continued to breed Deerhounds until his death aged eighty eight in 1987.
The mid 1970s saw the emergence of Nelungaloo kennels, owned by Kevin and Virginia Hawke of Parkes, New South Wales. Their foundation sire, Ch. Nelungaloo Top Hank, was bred primarily from Atlas and Lochfyne lines. By combining Top Hank with bitches that ran back to Ch. Atlas Elsa, Ch. Atlas Amanda and Ch. Atlas Amulet, they produced a consistent line of hounds capable of performing equally well in the show ring and the field. Ch. Nelungaloo Loosen Up and Nelungaloo Huntalong, born in 1977, were siblings sired by Ch. Nelungaloo Top Hank out of Atlas Dai Sheba. Between them, they not only won numerous show awards, including Best Exhibit in Show, but also succeeded in producing a line of Deerhounds that embraced breeding programs both in Australia and throughout the world. In particular, United States, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany and Finland.
Nelungaloo Huntalong had four litters, she was bred once to Ch. Ballewan Gremlin, twice to her nephew Ch. Daidh Lord Douglas and then to a son of Douglas, Ch. Nelungaloo Texas Tea. Huntalong's offspring were often of extraordinary quality, and formed the backbone for such kennels as Casbairn (Parnell), Stringyridge - later Stringybark(Corthome), Weirskints (Stead- later Gendle) and Argowan (Bugges).
The Hawkes campaigned their kennel in the show ring during the late 1970s through the 1980s and intermittently in the 1990s. During this period, Nelungaloo hounds won numerous awards, including Best Exhibit in Show. Exhibited with particular success were, Ch. Nelungaloo Top Hank, Best in Show winner Ch. Nelungaloo Loosen Up, Nelungaloo Huntalong , Casbalm Go Lightly, Ch. Daidh Lord Douglas, Ch. Nelungaloo Swift, Ch. Nelungaloo Marinda and Best in Show winner Nelungaloo Streak.
Between 1984 and 1991 Ch. Nelungaloo Fleet dominated Deerhound exhibition and made a name for herself in all breed competition. The well known and internationally acclaimed daughter of Nelungaloo Huntalong and Ch. Daidh Lord Douglas is the most awarded Deerhound in the history of the breed in Australia, with numerous Best in Show awards.
Fleet's charisma becomes evident when international Specialist judge and author Mr Kenneth Cassels ( Sorisdale ) described her in the (UK. Kennel Gazette..August 1995, as the all time greatest Deerhound "In my opinion the greatest ever Deerhound was Australian Champion Nelungaloo Fleet. She was a supremely efficient working dog - 1 have seen her running and taking kangaroos as a youngster - and she matured into the most beautiful show specimen with a wonderful record in the Australian show ring. She had beautiful angulation at the rear but also - more unusually - in front, and was superbly well balanced. To cap all she had a lovely temperament".
Similarly, when Miss Noble (Ardkinglas) was asked by Dog World (UK) 1997. The Deerhound not owned or bred by herself that she considered closest to the standard, she wrote "Ch. Erceldourne Tay of Geltsdale.... also Aus. Ch. Nelungaloo Fleet, a bitch in Australia, very shapely and feminine with lovely quarters and bend of stifle".
During the 1980s, more Deerhounds were imported, this time not only from the United Kingdom but also from the United States of America. Kevin and Virginia Hawke imported Gaylewards Embassador from Gayle Bontecou in 1984. Joe and Cynthia Hands imported Ardkinglas Hunter and Dorita Thomson imported Ardkinglas Hermes in 1979 and 1987 respectively, and David and Pamela Moffitt bought in two bitches from England, Dingledyke Ozzimandlas in 1982 and Kilbourne Sherry in 1986. All these hounds were widely used at stud and opened the gene pools for Australian breeders.
The 1990s has heralded further advances in technology and attempts have been made to introduce new bloodlines through artificial insemination rather than importing the actual dog. Jocelyn and Rodenick Thompson imported frozen semen from Fernhill Coventry (Canada) Christine Stead imported semen from Sindar Megabuck (USA). Pam and David Moffitt and Helen and Joe Putrino also imported frozen semen, this time from the UK. Except for one litter bred by Christine Stead the process has so far proved less than fruitful.
There would not be many breeds that have lived in Australia as long as the Deerhound. This says well for their constitution and adaptability. Consistently used as a hunting dog, it is perhaps this usefulness that has protected them from radical change and makes Best in Show awards even more meaningful.
Over the past decade, Deerhound enthusiasts world wide are realising that the Australian bred Deerhound has a lot to offer. It is therefore, not uncommon to see dogs exported from Australia making an impact on breeding programs throughout the western world. We will wait to see what the next century brings.
Virginia Hawke BA., Nelungaloo Deerhounds, Parkes NSW, 19 September 1999