Duncan Hutcheon began his career as an agricultural assistant. In 1868 he entered the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in Scotland and after obtaining his MRCVS in 1871 practised veterinary medicine in the United Kingdom until 1880. In that year he was appointed as Colonial Veterinary Surgeon for the Cape Colony, succeeding W.C. Branford*. He served in this capacity until he became Acting Director of Agriculture in 1905 and Director of Agriculture in 1906.
Hutcheon can be regarded as the true pioneer in veterinary science in South Africa and was responsible for the elucidation of many previously unidentified diseases of livestock such as bluetongue in sheep, krimpsiekte (nenta) in sheep and goats, geilsiekte (prussic acid poisoning) in sheep and contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) in Angora goats. He played a major role in the control of the rinderpest pandemic in Southern Africa (1896-1899) and recognised that lamsiekte (botulism) was associated with pica, recommending the feeding of phosphate-rich supplements for its prevention.
He published more than 200 articles, mainly in the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope. A few representative examples of his publications are "Contagious pleuro-pneumonia in Angora goats" (Veterinary Journal, 1881, Vol. 13, pp. 171-180), "Nenta" (Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1899, Vol. 14, pp. 862-873), "Rinderpest in South Africa" (Journal of Comparative Pathology, 1902, pp. 300-324), "Malarial catarrhal fever of sheep" (The Veterinary Record, 1902, pp. 629-633), and "Diseases of stock in South Africa" (in W. Flint and J.D.F. Gilchrist (eds), Science in South Africa, 1905, pp. 332-361.
When the Cape of Good Hope Veterinary Medical Society was established in 1905, Hutcheon was elected its first president, a position he retained until his death. In 1891 he became a member of the South African Philosophical Society and by 1905 was a member also of both the South African Association for the Advancement of Science and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1902 he was elected an honorary associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He has been described as an intelligent investigator and a hardworking, lovable person (Diesel, 1953).