Staghounds are the extreme athlete of the hound world. They are lightning fast and unbelievably agile. They posses a high prey drive that has been bred into them for the sole purpose of coursing game in the field: from their ancestors coursing deer and stags to present day hare and coyote hunters. It is for this reason that these dogs are not for everyone. Sighthounds are very unique dogs that will steal your heart, and hunting with these dogs gives you a glimpse into the past and there is nothing more exciting! You could take a dog hunters use today, place him in a medieval story book and he would not be out of place, they are a testament of what strict breeding practices and keeping the dogs non-commercialized will do in preserving a working breed. They can stay hardly changed for centuries.
The American Staghound is not recognized as a breed through AKC (thank goodness). They are a type of sighthound that is used to pursue, or course, a variety of game. Although not recognized as a breed by many, some lines have been bred together much longer than many recognized modern breeds. The best way to visualize the American staghound is to blend together the characteristics of the Scottish Deerhound or Borzoi with the Greyhound. The result is a running dog with the physical characteristics that would be referred to as the greyhound prototype.
The Staghound has long legs, deep chest, and strong muscles. The staghound has great visual acuity, and some have been bred for some scenting ability while on course. He can be found in any assortment of color or color patterns that can be found in the greyhound and Scottish deerhound. There are three coat types: the "shag" which more closely resembles the Scottish deerhound, the "slick" which more closely resembles the greyhound, and the broken which is in between the two. The American staghound has all of the physical and mental characteristics needed for running down his quarry. He is known for having speeds that approach that of a greyhound, but unlike a greyhound, they have incredible endurance and tenacity, as well as being more sturdy and heavy boned or thicker-skinned. They are very healthy dogs, and are free of genetic health problems due to being a hybrid, not interbred over the years. They have very mellow and trainable personalities, but their extremely high prey drive leaves them only recommended for experienced sighthound owners.
For the most part, the staghound has been bred staghound to staghound since the 1700’s. In other words, they are not always the direct progeny of a pure deerhound bred to a pure greyhound. When America was settled the early sighthounds and their crosses found their way to the New World. Coursing quarry was used for sport, food, and fur. For the first time ever, the coyote was coursed with running dogs. Historically, coursing dogs have been used for wolf in other countries as well as in America, but the coyote posed a new challenge. The coyote is faster than the wolf, but pound for pound fights as hard as a wolf.
Over the course of settlement and Westward expansion it was found that the cross between the very fast fine boned greyhound with the more robust Scottish Deerhound or Borzoi gave a mighty fine coursing animal used for coyote in difficult terrain. The Scottish deerhound and Borzoi also contributed his rough coat and better scenting abilities.
Staghound was bred to Staghound and was most often culled specifically for characteristics that favored the pursuit of coyote. A few hundred generations of this sort of breeding lead to what many refer to as the epitome of coyote coursing sighthounds. In essence, the American Staghound was born. General George A. Custer used the Staghound in 1846 as part of his dog pack that he used to hunt a variety of animals.
The Staghound has always been in the hands of huntsmen, and without the right to pursue quarry with running dogs the staghound will go extinct.
* more Information found on dogbreedinfo.com
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