Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Deerhound color is an interesting phenomenon. Deerhounds come in your choice of gray: silver gray, muddy gray, blue gray, steel gray, charcoal gray... the list is endless! Most of the dogs have some amount of brindle in their coats.
The true color of a Deerhound is best observed when they are roughly three to six months old. At that time their color is about as diverse as it will get. From that point onward, the various red and gold shades will fade to virtually white, and will blend in with the typical darker Deerhound hairs. In the adult Deerhound, most of the hairs are only pigmented for about half their total length. In the vast majority of Deerhounds, when the hair first comes in, it is glossy and dark (black or blue). As the hair grows in, it may (in the brindle bits) change abruptly to red/gold/fawn, and may change abruptly back to dark. Then, after maybe two inches of length, the hair fades quickly to a whitish, nearly colorless sort of color, and the hair shaft becomes thinner and loses its gloss. It is the blend of dark and light that makes Deerhounds appear gray. Some very dark dogs have shorter hair, as if the un-glossy phase of the hair does not exist, or is significantly shorter. Over time the red/gold/fawn color fades, so that no matter how brindle the puppy was, the dog will be gray.
In a very few cases, a significant number of the red/gold/fawn hairs are not tipped with black. These fawn or blue fawn brindles generally appear much lighter than the more typically colored Deerhounds.
It is sometimes suprising to me that there is so much interest in the Deerhound community in the apparently lost colors of clear red, fawn and wheaten. There seems to be a determination to view every old (black-and-white) photograph that appears to portray a lighter-colored dog as evidence of yet another of the great lost fawns. I would argue that while red, fawn and wheaten may have existed in the Deerhound gene pool, they have probably always been rare colors.
Earlier today I was deep in Volume 1 of the Century of Champion Deerhounds, and I decided to look at color (registered color). I am pretty sure that the breeders were allowed to write in whatever color they chose; most of the dogs appear in the black-and-white photos to be gray; a couple of light ones that I might have guessed were fawn were registered as brindle or even dark grey. My guess is that the breeders looked at the puppies when they were a month or two old, and registered them based on the color they saw at that time. I tabulated all the dogs born up through the 1950s.
Here are the results:
Grey: 13 Steel grey: 2 Dark grey: 28 Light grey: 2
Brindle: 13 Dark brindle: 10 Heather brindle: 1 Dark heather brindle: 3
Steel brindle: 2 Grey brindle: 14 Dark grey brindle: 1 Silver brindle: 1
Blue & fawn: 1 Blue brindle: 3 Blue fawn brindle: 1 Light blue brindle: 2
Blue: 3 Blue fawn: 1 Blue grey: 3
Fawn brindle: 2 Golden brindle: 1 Light brindle: 1 Red Brindle: 1 Sandy brindle: 1
So the majority of the dogs appear to have been grey or brindle, like many of our dogs today. There was not a black dog in the bunch, and most of the "dark gray" dogs were clearly gray, not black. (Some were quite light, actually!) Remembering that old black-and-white film captures color differently than modern color film (or even modern black-and-white), it is possible that many of the dogs actually were darker than they appear in the photos (and clips), but unlikely (unless there were some Irish Setter reds) that they were lighter.
I went through the book looking for dogs that, based on the photo alone, might appear to be fawn or wheaten. From back to front (in case you have your copy handy), Upland Pegasus is grey. Dufault Victor of Geltsdale is dark grey. Tempest of Blueisle is grey brindle. Anthony of Geltsdale is dark grey. Taransay of Rotherwood is dark grey. Freda of Enterkine is dark grey. Prophetic of Ross is light grey. Phorp of the Foothills is red brindle (but the darker shades on his rump and back, with lighter color showing on his shoulders and thighs, is very typical of any number of dogs today--and the whole photo is quite overexposed). Shiela o' the Pentlands is light brindle (and another very overexposed photo). Nada the Lily is grey. Yvonne of Ruritania is brindle. The Laird of Ruritania is blue fawn (he appears to be brindled, with light and dark patches that can't be explained by lighting alone). Roebuck Dark Knight is dark brindle (the apparent light color in this photo is probably the result of him standing in a patch of sunlight). Chief Ranger is dark brindle (sunlight, again). I am forcibly reminded that I am not used to evaluating color from old black-and-white film--and find myself on the side of those who argued so forcibly against colorizing old films.
There are those who would claim that we don't have blues any more, but that is not the case. Because it can be difficult to distinguish between blue and gray in coat color (you need some hairs of each, on a dead white card, in a bright light, and even then it can be hard), the easiest way is to look at the color of the nose leather. I know that we have a lot of blue in our dogs; a puppy owner once called me to ask why his pup (whom he had lived with for several weeks or months already) had a lighter nose than the other Deerhounds in the household. The owner said that he had not noticed it until two dogs were lying on the floor, nose to nose, at which point it became apparent that one's nose was blacker than the other.
As for the last six dogs--the fawn brindles on down--I think a lot of it is a question of perception. I recall a pup of Marylane Brett's, I think his call name was Buzz. He was quite brindle, with a large-ish fawn patch on one hip/thigh. Like a couple of my O pups, he could well have been registered as "fawn brindle." I had my O pups at a match this past weekend, and the judge, a whippet breeder, commented that while Owain was clearly a fawn brindle, Harry was more of a red brindle. By the way, the photo of the "sandy brindle" dog clearly shows a dark gray dog with lighter patches on his thighs; none of these dogs appears, in the black-and-white photos, as anything one might be tempted to call fawn.
There is not a single red, fawn or wheaten dog listed among the UK champions born before 1960 (and I am pretty sure none since then, but I confess that I did not look at the remainder this morning). It's not that I don't believe that we had those colors, but I think that they were more unusual than we like to think. It is tempting to imagine that most of the lighter-colored dogs we see in the old photos were long-lost reds and fawns, but I strongly suspect that most of them are brindles of various shades, who, by the age of three or four, appeared to be some shade of gray.
Do I lament the loss of the reds, fawns and wheatens? Absolutely. Do I "just accept" it? Well, yes, of course. What choice do I have?!? But I do get frustrated by those who talk as if in years gone by half the Deerhounds out there were some other color than gray, and who assume that every light-colored Deerhound in an old photograph was obviously a lovely shade of fawn.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I had a good day at the dog show today ... and I got to thinking that, nice as it was, it really doesn't mean a great deal. Just because the judge liked my dogs doesn't mean that they are any better than they were yesterday, and to view a win as a vindication of a breeding program is ... as reasonable as viewing a loss as a condemnation of it.
That said, I confess to being pleased at the result. The VP of the club asked me in the middle of the day how I was doing, and I told her--and then pointed out that I had never previously shown to the judge, and that the VP (who was also the person in charge of the Judges Committee) had asked me which of the judges on the panel I wanted for Deerhounds, and I had said, pick one.
It was an odd feeling to go home with all the marbles (well, not ALL the marbles--Jynx was Best of Breed; Beau was Best of Opposite Sex, and Lollipop was Winners Bitch and Best of Winners, but Jynx didn't do anything in the group). Obviously it's nice to win, and we have done our share of losing. But frankly, I like it better when it gets spread around. We do this dog show thing for fun, and it's more fun if lots of us get to win something.
Monday, July 13, 2009
I'm not sure I can call it a blog when I don't post every day, or even close to it, but anyway, it is more up-to-date than most of the pages. More updates--pages for some other people's Cu Liath hounds--Merlin and Charm. Still working on better pics for some of our guys.
Charlie and I put a lot of effort into puppy placement--matching the right pup to the right home. Puppy personality has to match the owner's personality and habits. Most (though not all!) adult Deerhounds laze the day away, and are quite content with an owner who works. Others are more demanding. Some people find the usual Deerhound laid-back attitude to be restful, and it becomes the basis of a kind of human-canine intimacy that is hard to describe to the non-Deerhounder. Other owners gravitate the more upbeat and outgoing Deerhounds.
When someone comes to visit, we look to see which dogs they gravitate towards, both in appearance and in temperament--and which dogs seek them out. Other times, we engage in long phone conversations to make our best guess as to which pup will suit.
I can remember placing one litter; a man had called for a pup. He had previously owned a Deerhound, but it had been a while; the previous breeder had been a one-litter breeder, and I didn't know them. The man lived far enough away that popping by for a visit was not an option, and he had a business trip to make, so he would not be able to come and get his pup until a couple of weeks after the others had left. He flew in to pick up his pup, and I picked him up at the airport and drove him to the house. The pups were in the back yard, and we stepped out on the back deck. Besides the pup I had earmarked for him, there were two other pups: our keeper bitch, and a dog that was also going late to someone because of a business trip. When we went out, the keeper bitch bounced off of me and raced out into the yard with one of the dogs while the other dog circled the newcomer and jumped up on his legs.
"Which one is Guinness?" he asked.
"That one," I said, pointing to the pup at his feet.
"No, seriously," he said with a smile.
"Yes, seriously." I called the other pups over. "This one is our keeper bitch, and this one is the boy with a short tail who is going as a pet. That one is Guinness."
You have all known someone who has said, "Oh, we love Fluffy, but we'd never have another whatever-breed-Fluffy-is." I would contend that either they never should have gotten a whatever-breed-Fluffy-is, or else Fluffy was the wrong representative of the breed for that owner.
Our goal is that people who get Deerhounds from us will become Deerhounders for life. Be warned!
Friday, July 3, 2009
Finally getting around to scanning and taking some photos, and doing some updating of the website! Finally got a photo up of Kibby--not a great one, but better than nothing. I've also included pictures of her pups at four weeks. Added pages for Bertie and Inigo, and for the new pups: Nerys from Bertie and Jynx, and the remaining "O" pups from Inigo and Hallie. Still have a few pages to update. Boudicca really should have a more recent photo, and I haven't got a page up yet at all for Lollipop (who turns two this month!) or Memsie (who was one in April). Bad Mommy!
Did another weekend of shows last weekend. Nothing stellar; Lollipop picked up a couple of points, and Isabella took the point in Whippets one day. Got to see one of the "O" pups, Charm, who lives in Massachusetts (the shows were in Wrentham), and stayed with Inigo's people. Who, I should mention, are saints! I descended on them with umpteen dogs, and they just smiled.
The blog was such a great idea! Thanks for the 4th of July present-nice way to start my day!
Oh, and now I have more pictures to add to Charm's book--Another of Inigo, and some of her siblings!
Hope you have a great day.
Best to Charlie
-Denise,Charm and Merlin