As the beagle is the dwarf of hunting dogs, the stately deerhound is the giant. Sinewy and compact, of massive muscle, he is a magnificent type of the stalwart Highlander. Now, however, he is used in only a few of the deer-forests ; his swift pursuit is thought to drive the deer out of bounds, and slower dogs are employed on the trail of the wounded hart. Nowadays, perhaps the finest specimens are to be found in the south, though, strange to say, he has never become fashionable, and fetches nothing like the prices of St. Bernards. Unlike the English greyhound, he is intelligent and eminently companionable; he becomes strongly attached to his master, and if a boy has the rare good luck to possess one, he is a friend to be proud of. I fondly remember one I owned, and was very reluctantly compelled to part with. I bought him when a kennel in a Ross-shire forest was broken up. He had attained full strength, and had already made himself famous by pulling down a " cold" stag—that is, an unwounded one— a very remarkable feat. The deerhound is rough and shaggy as a rule ; Oscar was smooth, and they say that when there is a smooth puppy in a litter, he is always the strongest. He stood thirty-three inches at the shoulder, and that is an excessive height ; thirty inches is about the average of a powerful and perfect dog. But Oscar, unusually tall as he was, did not run to light loins or feeble limbs. It was fortunate that he was of a singularly amiable temper, for he was a formidable enemy to tackle : with a long snake-like head, a pair of alligator jaws, furnished with a set of teeth like razors. When I bought him, I brought him south to live in Edinburgh, and he soon accommodated himself to his city surroundings. But the raiding propensities of his ancestors were- strong in him, and when he followed at heel in walks along the streets, he always had an eye on the stalls in poor quarters. His height brought him on a level with the board ; he never could resist a tempting delicacy, and would make a snatch at a bullock's heart or a scrag of mutton. Then the hue and cry would be raised, and there would be the scandal and cost of a settlement. I mention that weakness as illustrating his strength. Once a great, strong-built mastiff on guard caught him in the act of robbery, and very properly flew at him. Oscar dropped the mutton, had the mastiff by the back of the neck, rolled him over in the sawdust, and shook him like a kitten. The watchdog's master, who was rushing forward with a cleaver, came to a full stop when he saw Oscar crouch for a spring ; luckily I was at hand and had my fingers in his collar, and at a word the roused lion was gentle as a lamb. Otherwise he gave no trouble in a town, except that, for a modest man, his good looks attracted attention which was embarrassing. He trotted closely at heel, occasionally rubbing his muzzle against my hand to remind me he was there. And when I rode, he followed the horse at a gentle stretching gallop. He was a dark brindle, and that, to my taste, is the best colour, though some fancy dogs have been light grey or fawn. I kept him in the house: he slept on a rug in my bedroom, and he would have been an unobjectionable inmate in the best regulated family, had it not been for his size, which he could not help. In the frolicsome gambols of which he was rather fond, he would upset the tables and smash the crockery. Altogether he was an expensive friend, but had I not been going abroad, I should never have parted with him. He was so handsome that I got a handsome price from an English gentleman who leased a forest. But he only passed one other season in his native north, and I believe he ended his days in Hertfordshire.
Deerhounds are death on wounded deer, because, unlike the greyhounds, they hunt by scent as well as sight—an invaluable quality on broken ground among the glens and rugged hills of the Highlands. They were much in use before the improvement of the rifle made the average stalker's aim more fatal, and the breech-loading multiplied his chances. Moreover, in former days, before deer were strictly preserved and good stalking grounds fetched fancy rents, the forests were of greater extent, and the cry of the hounds did little harm, for the herds only shifted from one part to another. In the actual chase they always run mute, but when the stag is brought to bay they awaken the echoes far and near with their deep-throated baying. There was no dog Landseer so much delighted to paint, and all the hounds in his most notable pictures are portraits. He decorated the walls of Lord Henry Bentinck's lodge of Ardverikie with stalking scenes, and the loss was irreparable to artists and sportsmen when it was burned down. And he illustrated Scrope's " Deerstalking" with stalking sketches. Scrope, who was the most famous stalker of his day, had the range of the vast forest of Athol, where the hounds could be slipped with impunity. There were deer and to spare, and the boundaries were wide. He gives the most thrilling account of those chases : the wounded hart is a knowing strategist, and always faces his pursuers in the least approachable position. He will turn to bay in some torrent, with a rock at his back, and a cataract or the swift rush of deep water before him. And he can use his horns with the flexibility of a skilled fencer's wrist: they rip like the tusks of a wild boar, but the wounds are said to be more deadly. As an old rhyme has it—
" If thou art wounded by a hart, it brings thee to thy bier ; But boar's wound will barber heal"— for the barbers in old times practised surgery. Scrope's best story tells of his favourite dogs, on slippery rocks, forgetting the extreme danger in their excitement, when each sweep of the stag's horns sent them back, with their hind legs on the verge of an abyss. No wonder that there was a tremor in his hand when he fired the shot that saved them. But the most famous of all deerhounds was Maida, who from puppyhood to old age was Sir Walter Scott's constant companion. He was always at his master's feet when the best of the Waverley Novels were being written, and he was laid to rest under a marble monument, with a Latin epitaph made memorable by a slip in the Latinity.