Hickory became the first Scottish deerhound named best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Show.
The Scottish Deerhound is believed by some to have existed back to a time before recorded history. Its antecedents may have been kept by the Scots and Picts, and would have been used to help in providing part of their dietary requirements, namely from hoofed game (archaeological evidence supports this in the form of Roman pottery from around 1st Century AD found in Argyll which depicts the deerhunt using large rough hounds (these can be viewed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh). Other evidence can be found on standing stones from around the 7th century AD reflecting a hunt using hounds, such as the Hilton of Cadboll Stone). In outward appearance, the Scottish Deerhound is similar to the Greyhound, but larger and more heavily boned. However, Deerhounds have a number of characteristics that set them apart. While not as fast as a Greyhound on a smooth, firm surface, once the going gets rough or heavy they can out run a Greyhound. The environment in which they worked, the cool, often wet, and hilly Scottish Highland Glens, contributed to the larger, rough-coated appearance of the breed. The Deerhound is closely related to the Irish Wolfhound and was the main contributor to the recovery of that breed when it was re-created at the end of the 19th century.
The Deerhound was bred to hunt red deer by “coursing”, and also “deer-stalking” until the end of the 19th century. With modern rifles and smaller deer-forests, slower tracking dogs were preferred to fast and far-running Deerhounds.
In coursing deer, a single Deerhound or a pair were brought as close as possible to red deer, then released to run one of them down by speed, which if successful would happen within a few minutes – rarely were there sustained chases.
With the eventual demise of the clan systems in Scotland, these hunting dogs became sporting animals for landowners and the nobility, but were also bred and hunted by common folk when feasible. As fast and silent hunters they made quick work of any game the size of a hare or larger and were highly regarded by nobility and poachers alike. One of the most precarious times in the breed’s history seems to have been towards the end of the nineteenth century, when many of the large Scottish estates were split into small estates for sporting purposes, and few then kept Deerhounds. The new fashion was for stalking and shooting, which required only a tracking dog to follow the wounded animal, using a collie or similar breed. Although a few estates still employed Deerhounds for their original work, the breed was left in the hands of a few enthusiasts who made them a show breed.
In Australia, Deerhounds have been used to hunt the kangaroo and wild boar. In North America they were also used to hunt wolves.