How to Tell the Difference Between the Scottish Deerhound & Irish Wolfhound
By Randa Kriss
The Scottish Deerhound (left) and Irish Wolfhound (right) are often mistaken for one another.
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Two of the largest dog breeds in the world – and both sighthounds with wiry coats – it’s no wonder that people often confused the Irish Wolfhound (IW) and the Scottish Deerhound (Deerhound). Although these two members of the Hound Group may have similarities on the surface, the truth is there are several qualities that make each of them undeniably unique. From their respective histories to appearance to personalities, here we’ll break down how to tell the difference between the Irish Wolfhound and the Scottish Deerhound.
Mythical Histories: Scottish Deerhound vs. Irish Wolfhound
Both the Irish Wolfhound and Scottish Deerhound have been around for so long that it’s difficult to pinpoint their exact histories. Much of the “history” for both of these breeds is actually the stuff of myth and legend. Although they are both old breeds, however, their exact histories and bred-for-purpose are quite different.
Written record dates IWs all the way back to ancient Rome. It seems, however, they were in Ireland even before then. These sighthounds, as the term implies, were bred to hunt by sight. In the 15th century, the Irish needed a solution for wolves that were overrunning their lands. These dogs, therefore, (who originally hunted the now-extinct Irish elk) began to specialize in hunting wolves.
IWs possessed such skill, however, that they hunted the wolves and other large animals to extinction. Because of this, the Irish Wolfhound almost went extinct as well. The breed was revived, however, in the 19th century, and brought to the United States in 1838.
The Scottish Deerhound, on the other hand, hails from Scotland. History says, in fact, that deer-hunting hounds were in the country before the Scottish people themselves. Some version of the breed can be traced all the way back to the third century, but historians can definitively identify the breed as Deerhounds in the 16th and 17th centuries.
During this time, the Scottish Deerhound specifically hunted wild red deer. Interestingly enough, just as the Irish Wolfhound declined, so did the Deerhound. The Deerhound also found resurgence in the 19th century. The American Kennel Club (AKC) first registered a Scottish Deerhound in 1886.
Physical Appearance: Scottish Deerhound vs. Irish Wolfhound
There’s no doubt that upon first glance, the Irish Wolfhound and Scottish Deerhound have physical similarities that could cause confusion. Both these breeds have Greyhound-like figures, wiry hair, and comparable coloring.
Nevertheless, there are several features that make the IW and the Deerhound distinct breeds. Here are a few physical traits to look out for to help differentiate the two:
Body: Scottish Deerhound vs. Irish Wolfhound
Scottish Deerhound Breed Standard Irish Wolfhound Breed Standard
The Irish Wolfhound is taller than the Scottish Deerhound. The IW is, in fact, the tallest of the AKC breeds, standing at a minimum 32 inches for males and 30 inches for females. In comparison, Deerhound males should be 30-32 inches and females at 28 inches and up.
The IW is also more muscular than the Deerhound. In the Irish Wolfhound breed standard, the term “muscular” is used to describe the breed’s neck, forequarters, leg, and hindquarters. The general appearance section of the standard describes the breed as “very muscular.” The same cannot be said of the Scottish Deerhound. Instead, the Deerhound standard describes the body as generally similar to the Greyhound, with larger bone structure and size. The Scottish Deerhound standard also says that the breed has a deep chest that isn’t too narrow.
Ears and Tail: Scottish Deerhound vs. Irish Wolfhound
Another noticeable point of difference between the two breeds is the tail. Although both the IW and the Deerhound have wiry, hairy tails, the Irish Wolfhound has a long and slightly curved tail. The Scottish Deerhound, on the other hand, has a long, tapering tail that almost reaches the ground.
Finally, an additional differing mark between the two breeds is their ears, The breed standard of the IW describes the ears as “small and Greyhound-like in carriage.” The Deerhound, whose breed standard on-the-whole is more lengthy and descriptive, says that the ears are “set on high, folded back…though raised above the head in excitement without losing the fold, and even in some cases semi-erect.”
Personalities: Scottish Deerhound vs. Irish Wolfhound
In addition to their unique histories and physical characteristics, the IW and Deerhound each have distinct personalities.
The Irish Wolfhound is courageous, dignified, and calm. Although his large size may be intimidating, the breed club says the IW is too serene to be a guard dog. IWs are patient with kids and happiest with daily human companionship. These dogs are sensitive, intelligent, and a calming presence within their families.
The Deerhound, on the other hand, is gentle, dignified, and polite. Although they, like the Irish Wolfhound, can be gentle and sweet, they are also agile and quick-witted. The play style reflects back to the Deerhound’s hunting heritage. According to the breed club, people interpret this play as rougher than with other breeds. In general, though, the Scottish Deerhound is adaptable and easy-going and will return an owner’s affection and care.
Irish Wolfhound Vs. Scottish Deerhound: The Bottomline
At the end of the day, there are a variety of ways to tell the difference between the Irish Wolfhound and the Scottish Deerhound. Although the two breeds have their similarities, each has a singular history, specific physical traits, and unique personality that can help you differentiate the two.