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The Staghound - 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.

History

Australiaís early settlers brought with them hunting dogs from Britain which was fortunate as Australia has very unusual wildlife, among these are the Kangaroo, Emu, wallaby and Dingo. The Kangaroo, Emu 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 Australiaís 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.


These 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 coat varieties.


Rough

Rough 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 serious infections.


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.

Smooth

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, Emu and wallaby hunting with dogs is now illegal but
Staghound owners can still hunt feral animals, especially foxes and pigs.


Hunting

As previously stated, Staghounds were used for hunting in Australia as early as the late 1700ís. 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 Australianís. 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 wasnít 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 numbers.

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 wonít suit every pig hunter as conditions vary greatly across our country.

Staghounds 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 donít stand a chance when up against a good Staghound.


Suitable Crosses

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.

Training

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 (donít over exercise the pup). Pups should only be run with experienced, older dogs with no bad habits.

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.


Characteristics

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.


Temperament

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 towards humans.


Conclusion

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. For more information and pup inquiries please contact James Callan on:

 email: dennis26@optusnet.com.au

or phone after 5:00 pm on:  02 6847 4487

 mobile:  0429 445 023.

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