Me and my Pet - Mark Oglesby and Sebbie the deer-wolf

Goldsborough Hall near Harrogate used to look bigger before Sebbie arrived in Mark’s life

Goldsborough Hall near Harrogate used to look bigger before Sebbie arrived in Mark’s life - Credit: Archant

Time to chase some squirrels! Mark Oglesby on living with a dear deer-wolf

It all began when our youngest daughter came back from school with her latest reading book, Dear Hound by Jill Murphy, the adorable tale of Alfie the deerhound. We fell in love with the dog in the story, especially the illustrations of its ‘granny’s bonnet’ ears and doe-eyes, and decided to look for one when our ageing Hungarian Komondor passed away.

We have always loved big dogs but, because the Hall is open to visitors, we needed a gentle breed to greet guests in the grounds. We made enquiries with a wolfhound breeder in Lincolnshire as they are very similar breeds. ‘Yes, puppies are on their way,’ she said, ‘but there’s a catch.’ Her wolfhound male had – ahem – given his attention to her deerhound female. Oh well, we thought, we’ll get the best of both worlds!

Sebbie, our very own dear deer-wolf, arrived at seven weeks old and was so tiny he went under the legs of Ben, our one-year old black Labrador. Within weeks, however, he was enormous and had grown into his huge clown feet. Now the Labrador darts under him!

Sebbie is a true gentleman; easy-going, quiet and, despite his size, not destructive or too boisterous. The wolfhound motto describes him perfectly: ‘Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked’. He is loyal, affectionate and devoted (mostly to me, much to my wife’s annoyance) and, as I’m tall, he’s the perfect size – I don’t have to bend down to pat him.

Wolfhounds are an ancient breed, originally used in Ireland for wolf hunting and, due to their size and appearance, striking fear into the hearts of the Romans. By the late 19th century, wolves died out and the breed almost followed but, thankfully, a few canine fanatics worked hard to bring the breed back to life.

Today’s wolfhound is said to have Borzoi, Great Dane and Scottish Deerhound in it, so perhaps Sebbie’s mixed heritage is just an additional blessing. A couple of years after we got Sebbie, we discovered a strange coincidence. HRH Princess Mary, who with her husband Viscount Lascelles (heir to the Earl of Harewood) lived at Goldsborough Hall throughout the 1920s, was the patron of the Irish Wolfhound Society.

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When she visited Ireland, she was given Patrick of Ouborough, a pedigree Irish wolfhound, as a gift, bringing him back in great luxury to live at Goldsborough Hall.The late Lord Harewood, Princess Mary’s son, wrote in his memoirs about the wolfhounds at Goldsborough: ‘The elegant but slightly ludicrous Irish wolfhounds which my mother had been given and which once succeeded to my father’s indignation in catching the goat which kept the horses company; and the wolfhound puppies which knocked me down when I was six and threatened to lick me to death.’

Sebbie spends most of his time chasing (and occasionally catching) squirrels. We enjoy walking him and Ben along the waterside at Knaresborough, around Nidd Gorge and up to Brimham Rocks, though hardly five minutes goes by before I’m stopped and asked about our huge dog. Our equally beautiful Labrador doesn’t get a look in.u

Mark Oglesby, with his wife Clare, owns and lives at Goldsborough Hall, a stately home near Harrogate.

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