The Staghound -
submitted by James Callan
Staghounds have been a part of my life for the past 30 years and I have
hunted a large variety of game with these dogs. As well as using staghounds
and roo dogs, I have also owned and hunted with Deerhounds for sixteen
years, Rhodesian Ridgebacks for nineteen years, Irish Wolfhound/Greyhound
crosses for ten years as well as numerous other cross breeds.
In this article I would like to give my views on the history of the
Staghound and its modern day uses which I hope you will find interesting as
there has been a lot of debate over the years about the origin of the
Staghound and the following information seems to be the most accurate I have
been able to find.
Australia's early settlers brought with them hunting dogs from Britain which
was fortunate as Australia has very unusual wildlife, among these are the
Kangaroo, Emus, wallaby and Dingo. The Kangaroo, Emus and wallaby provided the
early settlers with a fresh supply of meat whilst the Dingo preyed upon the
pioneers domestic stock. For these reasons they started to experiment with
different breeds and cross breeds to find the best hunting dog for
Australia's harsh conditions.
The Greyhound was an obvious choice because of its excellent eye sight and
exceptional speed but its soft feet could not handle the tough terrain, and
its fine coat offered little protection against claws and teeth, not to
mention a cold weather.
flaws were eliminated by crossing the Greyhound with the Deerhound as the
Deerhound had very tough feet, a harsh shaggy coat, combined with a larger
and stronger body and great stamina. Deerhounds have been referred to by
various names such as a Rough Coated Greyhound, Irish Greyhound, Scottish
Staghound, Scotch Grey Hound and Highland Greyhound. The Scottish Staghound
was a popular name because in other countries such as America, large rough
coated Greyhound type dogs are still called Staghounds. There was in fact a
breed of Dog in England and France known as the Staghound but they were
large, long legged pack hunting dogs that hunted deer by scent, not by sight
and speed as did the Deerhounds.
There have been two other breeds used in some strains of Staghounds, they
are the Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound) and the Irish Wolfhound but, by and large
most Staghounds can be traced back to a Deerhound/Greyhound cross.
The old Kangaroo Dog is simply a smooth coated Staghound as many hunters
preferred a burr free dog. Any smooth coated pups in a litter were kept and
bred with other fine coated hounds. Over a period of time by breeding smooth
to smooth coat and rough to rough coat two different, yet similar breeds
emerged. Listed below are a few positives and negatives of the two different
coated dogs are a magnet for burrs. Some types of burrs are very hard to
untangle from a hairy dog and the owner must be mindful that these dogs will
require a good brush after a hunting trip as imbedded burrs can cause
Hot and humid climates are generally not suitable for the rough coated dog
as they tend to overheat quicker than the smooth coated dog.
A rougher coated dog can tolerate colder weather a lot better than the
smooth and its hairy coat offers good protection against rips and bites when
hunting aggressive game.
The smooth coated dog is ideally suited for warmer areas of Australia.
Smooth coated dogs can be hunted without the worry of hair becoming matted
and covered in burrs, requiring maintenance upon returning home. This type
of dog is susceptible to the cold and will require a warm kennel and also a
dog jacket is a good idea.
As the smooth coated dog throws more to the greyhound type it therefore has
softer skin than most other breeds and tends to rip easier.
Kangaroo, Emus and wallaby hunting with dogs is now illegal but
Staghound owners can still hunt feral animals, especially foxes and pigs.
As previously stated, Staghounds were used for hunting in Australia as early
as the late 1700's. If it was not for the staghound and kangaroo dog a lot
of early settler would have starved to death. The free and nutritious roo,
wallaby and Emu meat kept many families alive during those hard early years.
By the time rabbits, hare, pig, deer and fox were introduced into the
country, life was becoming easier for some Australian's. The rich folks
started hunting these animals for sport but the poor people still hunted
them (with the exception of the fox) for the pot. The next significant piece
of staghound history came with the rabbit plague. the staghound and kangaroo
dog were bred up in great numbers, and most were crossed with any other
breed which showed any interest in chasing rabbits. It wasn't unusual for a
professional rabbiter to have up to 100 assorted dogs in his rabbit pack.
With the introduction of Myxomatosis came the end of the rabbit packs.
Fortunately, some staghounds and roo dogs were saved and were bred in small
Today these dogs still have a small but loyal following. The staghound is
such a versatile hunter it can be used on all introduced game ranging from
bunnies up to scrub bulls. For pig hunting though, some staghounds have one
big draw back, that is it prefers to hunt by sight instead of scent. This
problem can be fixed in 2 ways, firstly they can cross with other breeds
that have a good nose and secondly , they can be used in conjunction with
breeds which hunt by scent.
The cross which suited me best was the staghound/wolfhound cross. The Irish
Wolfhound provides good scenting ability and better holding power and only
decreases speed a little compared to other breeds. This cross won't suit
every pig hunter as conditions vary greatly across our country.
crossed with almost any pig hunting breed make excellent pig dogs.
I have used Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Staghounds together for the past 19
years and have caught many pigs from Western NSW, the New England Ranges and
Gulf country in North Queensland. The scenting ability of the Ridgeback and
the speed of the Staghound make an excellent combination. Most finder/bailer
dogs will team up well with the Staghound. The Staghound and its crosses
really shine when hunting in open country, the big lead boars in a mob that
often get away from the slower pig dogs don't stand a chance when up against
a good Staghound.
Some of the best crosses I have seen have been the
Staghound/Bullterrier/Cattle dog cross, Staghound/Bullterrier,
Staghound/Boxer and Staghound/Dane, the Staghound/Bullmastiff cross and
Staghound/Wolfhound cross. These other breeds all add better scenting and
holding ability, but the drawbacks are reduced speed and added stubbornness.
Staghounds are a fast growing type of dog, but depending upon whether they
throw more to the greyhound or deerhound will determine how quickly they
will mature. For example, the more Greyhoundy pup
may start hunting at 6 months of age where as the pup which throws more to
the Deerhound may take anywhere from 12 to 18 months before it reaches
maturity and therefore requires a different approach to training. The
following points are generally what I base my training on:-Take pups on
short runs when they are approximately six months old (don't over exercise
the pup). Pups should only be run with experienced, older dogs with no bad
The utmost care should be taken to ensure your pup is not ripped or bitten
early in its training. Your pup may not be mentally old enough to deal with
this injury, a setback of this kind could ruin him for good. I have seen
many a good prospect ruined just by turning him loose too young. In other
words be careful with the pup until you feel it is old enough. At this stage
take the young dog out with only one older dog so it has to do its fair
share of the work
Keep the two dogs working together for a few months and by that time your
young hound should be a first class hunter.
The Staghound is a hunter of aggressive game but it also has to be totally
safe with people, pets and all types of livestock. Pups properly socialised
grow up to be perfect pets as well as great hunters. Staghounds can be kept
in town if allowed daily exercise although they are much happier living on a
farm with more room to move.
After many years of experience my ideal Staghound would weigh from around 70
to 100 pounds (31 to 45kg) and from 27 to 30 inches (68 to 76cm) in height.
Any taller and heavier they will loose too much speed, any smaller and
lighter they have a tendency to get hurt easier.
The temperament of this dog is very calm and gentle. These dogs are loyal
and fairly intelligent. They will protect livestock from predators such as
foxes and dingoes but otherwise are not good guard dogs, being too friendly
In conclusion, I am a great fan of the Staghound and Kangaroo dog and I
would like to hear from anyone who may be interested in starting up a
register for these dogs. I feel that if we are not too careful we could end
up loosing these two breeds in the near future.