Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal said the force had identified a total of 2,300 reports which fit the remit of either the national child abuse inquiry or Operation Hydrant, the UK-wide investigation into abuse carried out by people of public prominence or within institutional settings.
There are also 36 live investigations into historical abuse in Scottish football.
Ms Boal told MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee that Police Scotland had been searching through public protection files for the past year to identify child abuse cases which would fit the national inquiry’s terms of reference.
Focussing on the former Strathclyde Police force area, she said 115,000 files had been identified which largely dated back to 2000, although containing reports of abuse stretching back as far as 1936.
She said: “We have identified those files which would fall within the terms of reference of the child abuse inquiry. We’ve also catalogued those that, if there were investigations now, would fall within Operation Hydrant. We’ve also catalogued clerical abuse.
“While that seems quite broad, it only take into account a small proportion of abuse. We’re quite well aware that, in terms of reports, the vast majority of abuse is in the household.”
She added: “We have catalogued just less than 2,300 files. That said, we have 4,400 victims.”