golden retrever great gun dog!

Gun dogs – their definition in the hunting dogs group

golden retrever great gun dog!Gun Dog Breeds

The gun dogs are a major sub group of hunting dogs they are comprised mainly of:

  • Pointers
  • Retrievers
  • Setters
  • Flushing Spaniels
  • Water dogs

Some sites will group these dog groups into smaller or larger groups or class them as part of the ‘sporting group’ of dogs. The main thing that binds all of these breeds together is that they are used by humans who are hunting animals and primarily shoot animals for game (mostly birds and small animals).

The dogs main function is to assist in either identifying the game (pointers) or retrieving the fallen game (shot, alive or dead).

While this may seem vague, there are many other groups discussed and defined on this hunting dog site that perform hunting activities for their owners that are not primarily involved with showing the prey (pointers) or retrieving the game (retriever, setters, spaniels and water-dogs).

For instance scent dogs track unseen animals and the hunter follows behind until the animal is found, then they take over. Sight hounds visually find animals over long distances and then run to the game and hold (and or kill) it until the hunter catches up.

Because the gun dog is meant to retrieve mostly dead game, and leave it in clean unmarked (except for bullet holes) condition, the gun dog is often found to have a soft mouth, be social and potentially a better companion dog than other classes of hunting dog – particularly those bred to kill.

Qualities of exceptional gun dogs

There are many sites that sell gun dog puppies or train gun dogs. In fact most websites for gun dogs are based around these two facets, rather than what is in the best interests of the dog.

One major differentiation you will find about gun dogs (besides the lavish use of gun dog terminology) is that they are trained from a young age to be patient, controlled and pay great attention to where a downed bird is (sometimes having to retrieve it hours after it has been shot).

The very nature of these breeds and the training (making them calm and less aggressive) is the opposite to many hunting dogs that are bred to be muscular and aggressive to bring down and kill big game by themselves, showing no fear and having maximum independence.

Just as many trainers say it is bad to give too much affection to a large game hunting dog that kills, the goal of most gun dogs is to have them as social and affectionate to humans and dogs alike, while still remaining focused on the job at hand when hunting.

The last thing you want to do is have gun dogs having fights with other gun dogs, or eating the game (rather than calmly retrieving it).

Gun dog behavior main requirement

  • A highly discriminating sense of smell (second only to scent dogs)
  • Pointing / retrieving instinct. Some dogs are much better than other genetically
  • Strong work ethic (internal drive to complete tasks regardless of environment)
  • Cooperation with the hunter (accepting commands) and ‘desire to please’
  • Solid body build for strength and endurance. Not overall strength but ‘power to weight’
  • Coats that protect the dog from the weather & environment while hunting
  • Mental toughness and stability (the fine balance between task completion, independence and accepting commands willingly)

And like any dog on earth these dogs require proper socialization, nutrition, discipline and exercise. The discipline is primary in training, but without adequate socialization and general health a hunting dog cannot maintain its fitness to retrieve in difficult conditions for long.

In this introductory article I will not go into depth the training required of this group, as that would make the article too long and it would be too generic.

Suffice to say that future articles will take care of such specific training needs of specific breeds within the gun dog group.

While you may raise a gun dog in a home environment, just as many fine working dogs like border collies often become part of the family after working hours, it is useful to note that as puppies these GUN dogs require all of the regular nurturing that any dog does.

Typically gun dogs need house training, learning what they can and can’t chew, recall, sit and stay etc. The one extra thing they might be exposed to as a young dog (not puppy per se) is objects that can potentially frighten them or distract them, so that they become desensitized (to distractions and gun shot noises) and pay more attention to the owner, hunter.

Some gun dog hunters find this (puppy) period one of the more difficult periods to manage. Many gun dogs like cocker spaniels can be quite sensitive dogs when puppies and adults, and harsh tones of voice or large truck exposure too early in life without the dog feeling secure, can lead to timidness and break the dog as a good gun dog.

A good gun dog owner knows that a dog is a sentient being well above just being a tool used for hunting. They become a friend, part of the team and part of the family.

Like all good training, of any kind of dog, making the training seem like a game, something pleasurable that has a positive reward for the right behavior or outcome really accelerates training and makes for a happy dog as they feel useful in having performed what you want them to.

Dogs did not evolve from wolves and cohabit with humans to live in isolation, they poses the very rare ability to want to do this, to become domesticated, so it is our task to allow them to feel wanted by completing tasks they believe we value, as well as allowing them plenty of non hunting time to explore areas.

Lurcher dog at full speed running

Lurcher Definition: Hunting dogs | hounddog | Scent Hound

Lurcher dog at full speed runningLurcher sight hound hunting dogs, what are they?

If you look up the AKC for a definition you will be sadly disappointed. The Lurcher is not a recognized breed in America (even though they have been around 500 years or so). The AKC only manages this ” Lurcher: A crossbred hound.”

You can always look up wikipedia, but as most people understand an open source encyclopaedia is always going to be fraught with politics and potential misinformation.

A celtic site suggests more helpfully that ” a Lurcher is a Sighthound cross, most often part Greyhound”

LURCHER BASE DOG BREEDS

The main sighthound breeds used to produce hunting lurchers are:

  • greyhound
  • whippet
  • saluki
  • deerhound
  • wolfhound

These base breeds of the lurcher were originally chosen for the sighthounds speed and hunting instinct.

LURCHER – Most popular non scent hound crosses

The breeds that these base breeds are most commonly crossed with are:

  • working border
  • bearded collie
  • bedlington terrier
  • bull terrier and
  • wheaten terrier,

Lurchers and the longdog subgroup

Lurchers that are created from two Sighthounds (eg Greyhound and Deerhound) are a subgroup of Lurchers called Longdogs (again this is not a recognised AKC breed).

Longdogs are composites of the sighthound breeds, the most popular being the saluki, deerhound, whippet and greyhound hybrids.

The cross of a Deerhound and greyhound is known as a Staghound.

A popular lurcher in Australia is the Australian Staghound (native to that country with no direct origins elsewhere). They are said to look like a cross between a Greyhound and the Scottish Deerhound. They are a very distant relative of the American Staghound.

Note there are breeds such as the Norwegian Elkhound that has nothing to do with the lurcher breeds. Nomenclature for many dog breeds can by quite sloppy.

CONCLUSIONS

It is said that any breed of dog crossed with a sighthound is a lurcher. But I would be more bold to suggest that the majority of lurchers I have seen in my area are bred from a greyhound base and the other half another scent hound.

The reason that Greyhounds and saluki dog breeds are used as the base breed for lurchers is their exceptional eyesight, large size and prey drive.

Greyhounds are brilliant at seeing, and catching smaller game like vermin (rats and rabbits) however many hunters require stamina and greater attack abilities. A pure bred greyhound has thin skin and long potentially easy to damage legs. Breeding them with a smaller dog (regardless of temperament) will not have them hunt large game without risking considerable damage. Many lurchers such as greyhound crosses with working dogs like the working border are great but are aimed at hunting smaller prey.

And that is why many hunters of larger, more dangerous game prefer lurchers such as the greyhound X wolf hound. While the wolf hound won’t have the bite of the bull terrier, it will have considerable stamina and size, making the resultant lurcher large, fast and high endurance, with the ability to hold most game until the hunter arrives.

The input lurcher breeds are also intelligent and are unlikely to get out of control with blood lust as can happen with some breeds.

With the advent of many specialist cross breed hunting dogs like the various coonhounds you find in the American south, it is little wonder that the lurcher ‘breeds’ are taking off too in America.

Much more than that, the greyhound and several lurcher mixes have also been found to be excellent companion dogs (when sufficiently walked off lead and socialised) meaning that they can serve a dual purpose of hunting dog, while being safe at home with children.

Though mixing with cats and other non dog species can be problematic.

scent hounds table, the beagle

SCENT Hounds – Hound breeds – Full table listed by country & size

scent hounds table, the beagleComplete list of Scent Hound breeds by Country

For a while there I was getting stumped by what scent hounds were out there. It seemed that I only knew a few of them and there was obviously many more on many more people’s lists than I knew.

Then most people realise that the American lists are very abbreviated and American centric and really of little help when wanting to know all of the types of dogs that can be used for scent hound hunting.

So eventually we all seem to stumble upon the Fedraton Cynnologique Internationale (FCI) list of scent hounds.

As you will see it is quite comprehensive and contains dogs in many sizes and countries, but since the FCI site lists these scent hounds by size it is easy to think you are getting almost duplication of a breed of dog.

The point of this scent hound hunting dog list being categories like this highlights many things:

That America has actually very few scent hunting dogs created here, and they are very recent. I am sure that some hunters would expect all coonhounds to be listed in this category, but since their inclusion in the American AKC list is relatively recently, it may take some time.

That France has by far the most number of individually listed scent hounds of any country. Yes many of these are variations on a breed, but that can be said for the five or so recognised coon hounds that America has, being basically from one main original type of dog. France also has the vast majority of LARGE scent hound dog varieties in the world

Many countries have a single entry in the scent hound category which is its country name followed by the name hound. As many of these European countries have taken hunting seriously for hundreds of years, these single hounds are often very well tuned for the weather and hunting conditions found locally in these countries. Yes countries do vary considerably in environment, however many European countries are considerably smaller than African or other continent countries so the temperatures and type of hunting environment used for their specific breed of hunting dog can be quite refined.

Most of these dog breeds will be unfamiliar to even people within the industry as they are not massively popular outside of the country of origin. You will also find that Americans tend to stick to their breed of hunting dog, often favouring very traditional dogs like the beagle, or American created dogs, like the coonhounds (not all in the scent hound category).

Because of this mystery around many of the scent hounds, I will endeavour to bring you as much hunting specific information on the lesser known scent hound hunting dog breeds as possible on this site!

ALL SCENT hound breedsTable list

(Scent hounds – SMALL MEDIUM LARGE by country)

 

COUNTRY Small Medium Large
AUSTRIA   Austrian Black and Tan Hound  
  Styrian coarse-haired Hound  
  Tyrolean Hound
BELGIUM     Bloodhound
BOSNIA   Bosnian Coarse-haired Hound  
CROATIA   Istrian Short-haired Hound  
  Istrian Coarse-haired Hound  
  Posavaz Hound  
FINLAND   Finnish Hound  
FRANCE Basset fauve de bretagne Anglo-Français de Petite Vénerie Billy
Blue gascony basset Ariégeois Français Tricolore
Grand basset griffon vendeen Beagle-Harrier Français Blanc et Noir
Norman artesien basset Chien d’Artois Français Blanc et Orange
Petit basset griffon vendeen Porcelaine Grand Anglo-Français Tricolore
  Petit Bleu de Gascogne Grand Anglo-Français Blanc et Noir
Gascon Saintongeois Grand Anglo-Français Blanc et Orange
Briquet Griffon Vendéen Grand Bleu de Gascogne
Griffon Bleu de Gascogne Grand Gascon Saintongeois
Griffon Fauve de Bretagne Grand Griffon Vendéen
Griffon Nivernais  
GERMANY Deutsche bracke (german hound)    
Westphalian dachsbracke    
GREECE Hellenic Hound  
GREAT BRITAIN Basset hound Harrier English Foxhound
Beagle   Otterhound
     
HUNGARY   Transylvanian Hound  
ITALY   Segugio Italiano  
MONTENEGRO   Montenegrin Mountain Hound  
NORWAY   Dunker  
  Haldenstøvare  
  Hygenhund  
POLAND   Polish Hound  
SERBIA   Serbian Tricolour Hound  
  Serbian Hound  
   
SLOVAKIA   Slovakian Hound  
SPAIN   Spanish Hound  
SWEDEN Drever Hamiltonstövare  
  Schillerstövare  
  Smålandsstövare  
 SWITZERLAND    
Small swiss hound Swiss Hound  
Small bernese Hound a)Bernese Hound  
Small jura hound b)Jura Hound  
Small lucerne hound c)Lucerne Hound  
Small schwyz hound d)Schwyz Hound  
USA   American Foxhound
    Black and Tan Coonhound
Leash Hounds

 

Leash Hounds

 

 
Austria Alpine Dachsbracke  
Germany Bavarian Mountain Hound  
Hanover Hound  
 
Related Breeds

 

Related Breeds

 

 
Croatia Dalmatian  
Zimbabwe Rhodesian Ridgeback  

 

 

scent hounds hunting hound dogs

SCENT Hounds – Hound breeds definition as hunting dogs

scent hounds hunting hound dogsScent hound category evolution and current state

The scent hound category is one of the largest and oldest dog breed categories you can find.

The most complete list of this category of breed is kept by the Fedraton Cynnologique Internationale (FCI)

While dogs have evolved from the wolf over 20,000 years or so, they weren’t classified into specific categories until the mid 15th century. though that is a lot longer than many of the AKC breeds have been around, and many of the 15th century dog breeds are now extinct.

For hunting dogs the two main categories are Sight and Scent hound. While many dogs have exceptional hearing, there is no hearing hound class.

The main difference between sight and scent hounds are that each group of dog was mainly breed to use that specific sense in helping their owner hunt a specific type of animal.

Sight hounds are predominantly used at the start of a chase. They have to visually perceive the prey then alert the owner. They are often fast and narrow dogs that once aware of prey chase the prey down.

SCENT Hound physical traits for hunting

Scent hounds are almost the opposite in characteristics to sight hounds. Because of the wolfs exceptional sense of smell, it was relatively easy to breed dogs that could improve on this. Though by putting a focus on a dogs nose, the need for speed was much diminished. In fact most scent hounds are heavily weighted towards endurance.

They don’t have to run fast to catch prey before the prey disappears, because they can put their nose to the ground and track the animal over long distances regardless of where they hide.

SCENT HOUND and their exceptional noses

Scent hounds have large WIDE noses with deep, open nostrils. Compare this to sight hounds that have narrow heads with thin nostrils. While almost all dogs have great smell scent hounds have exceptional smell. The special sections in their nose for concentrating scents, the part of their brain for processing scents are all enlarged.

Typically the scent hounds lips are loose and moist to assist in picking up scent particles. This is why besides the rapid sniffing to accumulate sense particles into the nose, you may also find the dog quivering its lips when it stands in the direction of the prey, to accumulate more particles on its lips too.

TOP SCENT HOUNDS by scent receptors.

The greatest number of scent receptors i by the blood hound with 300 million scent receptors in their noses. Beagles have the same amount as the German shepherd dog at 225 million scent receptors. However the German shepherd tends to concentrate on guarding duties which is perhaps why it is not classified in the scent hound group.

Dachshunds have 125 million smell receptor cells, while a Fox terriers has 147 million of these cells.

But it is not always about the raw number of receptors. The overall system (including brain processing scent section) and the motivation of the dog to find the prey plays a large part in how much effort a given dog breed might exert in trying to track a scent.

sight hounds greyhound

Sight Hounds – Hound breeds definition as hunting dogs

sight hounds greyhoundGreyhounds are one of the oldest and longest bred breed of dog in the world. The pharaoh hound being known back to Egypt 3000 years ago. Be aware that the evolution of the dog goes back 20,000 years to the wolf, so there were obviously a lot more generic looking wolf/ domestic dog hybrid breeds between the wolf and breeds we recognize today.

The “sighthounds” / “gazehounds” are dogs that were bred for exceptional eyesight so that they could track prey, even still prey that were located a long distance from the hunter. The category is also known for high speed and agility to hunt as compared to most other dog breeds.

The sight hound share a common LONG skull which by definition has a width of less than 75-80% of the length.

The SightHound exceptional vision

This narrowness of head has the dog evolved to have its eyes able to see straight ahead and to the side for better detection of animals because of the extremely wide field of view. Typically carnivores have eyes at the front of their head, while herbivores evolved to have eyes to the side of their head to maximize field of view and escape the predators. This makes the sight hound exceptional in the fact it is a carnivore, with herbivore field of view.

Greyhounds are believed to see up to one mile and have a field of vision up to 270° (20-30 degrees more than most other dog breeds) and much greater than the humans 180 degree field of vision.

Site hound general body shape

Like the greyhound, most sight hounds shapes are built for speed. This means long thin legs and long thin bodies that are aerodynamic and biomechanically geared for high speeds.

That said, varieties like the wolf and deer hound also are blessed with considerable endurance and are more robust, for the bigger game they confront.

Site hound independence and hunting abilities

If you have a look through the list of sight hounds below, you will see that many of them are known to be ‘stubborn’. That is what they are known as when used as a companion or domestic dog. In hunting terms, the reason they were bred in the first place, these dogs are known as independent.

Stubbornness is a negative term owners use for a dog that isn’t easy to train. YET in hunting terms independence from the owner is of great value when you want a dog to run fast and over relatively long distances to hunt and chase game with very little guidance from their hunter owners.

And this is exactly where these breeds come into problems in urban environments. Greyhounds that have been trained to hunt rabbit or at least run after simulated rabbits on race tracks have a hard time breaking that habit when they retire. Once the chase mechanism has been activated and rewarded, it can be difficult for a dog breed for this exact capability to want to not chase, dogs and anything it considers a good game.

Sight hounds and Ancient breed dogs

There was an article (research paper) written a few years ago about breeds that could be classified as ancient dog breeds. While many modern day dog breeds are less than 200-300 years old, some of these ancient breeds go back thousands of years. One paper in 2013 suggests that ” 80 percent of dog breeds are modern breeds that evolved in the last few hundred years.”

An ancient breed dog was classified as such by the closeness of its dna to the wolf, its immediate ancestor. It was argued that dogs that are closest to the wolf in dna (not necessarily look) also share more of their behavior and in particular independence.

Note FOUR of these sight hounds fall within the top 15 ancient breed dogs. Starting with the breed closest to the wolf and going less wolf like these are: Basenji, Afghan Hound, Saluki, Irish wolf hound. While the greyhound is believed to be evolved from the pharaoh hound, the greyhound actually comes in at number 17 on this list, and after the four breeds mentioned above.

 

List of SIGHT hound breeds

Afghan Hound

Azawakh

Basenji

Chippiparai (Tamilnadu)

Deer hound – Scottish

Galgo Spanish

Greyhound (general)

Greyhound (Hungarian) – Magyar agár

Greyhound – Polish (Chart Polski)

Greyhound – Italian

Hortaya Borzaya

Ibizan hound

Kombai (Tamilnadu)

Pharoah Hound

Rajapalayam (Tamilnadu)

Saluki

Windhound – Silken

Sloughi

Whippet

Wolfhound – Irish

Wolfhound – Russian (Borzoi)

hunting dog scent hound greyhound

Hunting dogs hound breeds (sight, scent, lurcher) definition

hunting dog scent hound greyhound

hunting dog scent hound greyhound

Hound dog definition (the sight, scent & lurcher hounds)

The hounds are one of the more obvious and pronounced hunting dog groups. The AKC lists 29 dogs that make up this breed, but many sites will show many more dog breeds.

The Hunting dog group HOUND is generally divided into two main groups and a smaller subset. The two main groups are sight hound and scent hound, with the much smaller cross breed group of lurchers.

Site hounds a dog breeds defined in this group because of their preference to define prey visually and alert their hunters. Similarly Scent hounds track predominantly by scent and have a much keener nose than dogs not included in the hunting group. All dogs in these sub-categories were originally purpose bred for hunting work, they were not accidently evolved.

The lurcher is a less defined cross of (usually) the greyhound (site hound) and often a terrier or other hound (such as wolf hound or elk hound). They are bred for specific environments and often a specific game.

One easy way to tell if a dog belongs to the hound group is if it has the word hound in its name such as afghan hound or bloodhound. But many breeds have dropped the hound suffix such as the basenji and the beagle.

Most people take the AKC ruling of where a dog breed should be categorized but this strict categorization doesn’t allow for the many sub breeds out there that are often a country or province variation of the main breed. Examples abound in the scent hound breed where some sites suggest there are fifty or more of this type of hound alone, and the AKC limit it to less than twenty.

For instance some country/ regional hounds that are missing from the AKC list just in the HOUND suffix category alone (of the total hound group) are:

  • Finnish Hound, Estonian Hound, Hannover Hound, Hungarian Hound, Polish Hound, Serbian Hound

These dogs can have considerable difference in look and usually very different prey that they hunt (local prey). However they are not recognized by the AKC, so they are usually not bred in America or have a huge presence in America as hunting or companion dogs.

Curiously FIVE of the SIX varieties of COON HOUND are found on the AKC list. These dogs are a relatively recent and small niche of the hound dog category. They are the: American English Coonhound, Black and Tan Coonhound, Bluetick Coonhound, Redbone Coonhound, Treeing Walker Coonhound (the Plott Hound is just known as Plott on the AKC site).

Lurcher Hound definitions

Lurcher hounds are NOT recognized by any major kennel club, however they can be quite prevalent in given hunting regions. The remarkable thing about this is that the Coon hound is an American invention, not used widely in many other parts of the world, but lurchers have had great success in many parts of American and other countries.

The reason for lurchers not being recognized is an administration issue as much as it is breeders deciding to settle on specific physical and hunting characteristics.

Lurchers are usually the result of breeding a greyhound and a terrier or other larger hound such as wolf hound, elk etc. More detailed information on the lurcher is given in the Lurcher article section.

More details will be provided on the three sub categories of the HOUND DOG (site, scent and Lurcher) in future articles on this site !

American foxhound hunting dog

American foxhound – Scent hound – hunting DOG specialist

American foxhound hunting dogThe American Fox hound an exceptional SCENT HOUND

The American Foxhound is descended from English hounds brought to America in 1650. However French hounds have also been involved in the breeding program.

The American Foxhound, like the English foxhound is a hunting and field trial dog. They also work exceptionally well in packs and solo. Like the English foxhound they also are expert at: tracking, hunting, being a watchdog and agility.

The dogs temperament has variously been described as affectionate and gentle at home, which transforms into a relentless intense hunter in the field. While this permeates through the internet it should be understood that this is a hunter first and foremost. They can make a great companion dog but need firm guidance.

Differences between American and English Scent hounds

Both foxhounds (English and American) are considered by some hunters to be the peak of hunting dogs for foxes, deer and mid-sized prey. It should be realized that in fairness to the dogs and the breed, that all of the information about how good they are with families should be taken in context.

With devoted skilled trainers and hunters who legitimately care for these dogs mental states, the dogs can be integrated into a family situation. However without proper skill the dogs will be restless, ‘difficult’ with strangers and highly aggressive to any animal except some dogs.

Please consider the needs of this dog before adopting them from shelters or trying to conform them to an urban lifestyle.

To purposely buy any highly refined hunting dog from a breeder, then withhold their major breed purpose from them, is always going to end up with a dissatisfied dog.

English foxhound hunting dog

ENGLISH foxhound – Scent hound – hunting DOG specialist

English foxhound hunting dog

English foxhound hunting dog

The ENGLISH Fox hound is the original SCENT HOUND

The English Foxhound is an athletic hunting dog developed by crossing hounds with the Bulldog, Greyhound and the Fox Terrier hence the name being a combination of the founding dog breeds.

I originally thought the English Foxhound breed was an old breed however it only started being standardized in the mid 1800’s. Their skill set includes hunting, tracking, watchdog and agility, though due to their large size their lifespan is less than 10 years, and around 7 for reasonable working ability. This is less than the American Fox Hound derivative.

While relatively new, the English foxhound has not been substantially developed from its early days. I personally find this very refreshing. Rather than hone, adapt and continually fidget with a great hunting dog, the dogs hunting ability remains essentially pure.

That means it is as much up to the hunter to get the best out of this breed, rather than buying one per-packaged that has little need for training .. (though with any great hunting dog, training is always required).

This non meddling with the breed, has meant that the English Foxhound is not considered as easy to train as other dogs or specifically hunting dogs, so if patience and ability to work with intense dogs is not your style, you may consider other dogs like the American Foxhound.

The English Foxhound and its level of socialization

These hounds are considered friendly with people children, and most other dogs (because of their strong pack hunting abilities) they should not be left alone with any other family pets.

Their specialty is their ability to run at a good speed for up to six hours without stopping. Amazingly some websites state that a detraction is that this breed can become destructive without appropriate exercise.

This is a raw hunting dog and should not be kept in an apartment, in the city or for any purpose other than hunting, unless you are willing to do a lot of training and Long runs EVERY day.

There are two main English Foxhound types: field lines and show lines . The Field lines are bred for hunting and field trial work while the bench style is bred for conformation shows.

The main difference that most text give between the English Foxhound and the American is that the English is stockier and slower and a slightly less developed sense of smell for tracking.

Please consider the needs of this dog before adopting them from shelters or trying to conform them to an urban lifestyle.

red coonhound hunting hound dog

The coonhound breed evolution and specialist types

red coonhound  hunting hound dog

The coon hound, one of the major American specialist hunting dogs

The coon hound is very much an American invention. When we talk about the coonhound as a hunting dog, a lot of emotion gets thrown around. I have know a few of these dogs, but know that I will never know them as much, or forge such an amazing bond as the hunter owners of these dogs.

While there are many other great hunting dogs out there, the coonhound takes it pride of place in American folklore by being one of the few major hunting dogs developed exclusively in America.

The three main coonhounds found in America are the Black and Tan Coonhound, treeing walker coonhound, redbone coonhound. Noting that there are various sub categories of these breeds around too.

The best way to summarise this parochial breed is to start with the oldest and first of the coonhounds. The Black and Tan Coonhound is a large, determined hunting hound. It was created by crossing the Talbot Hound (extinct), Bloodhound and black and tan  Foxhound.

The foxhound are the base for all the coonhounds and the black and tan was teh first to be recognised by the AKC (1946) as a separate breed.

Its initial use and hence its name was for trailing and treeing (forcing into trees for protection) raccoon, then howling at his quarry to alert the hunter as to where the prey was located. Like most hunting dogs it has since expanded its prey, being a large prey specialist for such animals as: stag, bear, opossum, deer and mountain lion. This hunting dog is very robust across all terrains and handling well all ranges of temperature from deep winter to extreme summer heat. Clearly they are made to be a high performance dog in almost any condition.

The original ‘coonhund’ has been breed and trained to expand its skills to: hunting, tracking, watchdog and agility.

The evolution of the treeing walker coonhound starts out fairly simply. The Treeing Walker is a descendant of an English Foxhound Thomas Walker imported to Virginia, USA in 1742. A few years/ decades later a dog of ‘unknown’ origin (big with speed, drive and good hunting sense) was crossed with the foxhound.

The current treeing walker coonhound is the closest coonhound in resemblance to the original foxhound.

The Treeing Walker Coonhound is a very proficient hunter of raccoons, squirrels, opossums. The hound “trees” its prey, and if trained can easily ‘climb’ trees to get at the prey.

The foundation dogs of the current Redbone coonhound came from George F.L. Birdsong of Georgia in 1840. He was a famous fox hunter and breeder. However the Redbone Coonhound was only AKC recognised in 2009. A big part of this delay was that historically in America’s south, any dog that was red with great treeing and tracking abilities was called ‘redbone’ after Peter Redbone of Tennessee.

The reason that the redbone was created at all was due to the diligence of a multitude of hunting breeders in Tennessee and Georgia that decided to make a super coonhound over the last 100 years or so. This desire lead to a campaign of selective breeding to standardise the ‘redbone’ coon dog breed. The first attempt at this created ‘saddle-backs’ which were basically foxhound based dogs that were red in colour but had a black saddle marking over their back.

Only once the black colour was bred out to create a solid red colour was the breed considered stabilised. Occasionally a throwback white chest and foot markings occur suggesting that there is also some bloodhound in the lineage

While all coonhounds are based on the foxhound these are the three main varieties. The appearance varies somewhat but the high stamina, treeing and braying at the tree prey are common across the breeds. Their ability to hunt large game also shows a high degree of fearlessness, considering that they are not meant or designed to hold these large prey.

Pointer dogs are great hunting dogs, whether they are English, German, Italian …

8_english pointer

The English Pointer GUN DOG- endurance & social dog

This is the dog with the classic hound look. When hunters say pointer they are often referring to the ” English Pointer”. Though there are German, Italian and a whole host of sub pointer categories, each with a slight tweak in abilities. The English pointers are known back to the early 1700’s

Like many other dog breeds, the origins of this breed are many. That is it is believed to have been created by breeding of the following breeds: Italian Pointer, Spanish Pointers, Foxhound, Greyhound, Bloodhound, Newfoundland, Bulldog, Setting spaniel.

The places that these dogs were most prevalent in are: Spain, Portugal, Eastern Europe, and UK. Originally they were used to ‘trace’ hares, bird pointing and the sport of wing-shooting (popular in the 1700s).

The pointers abilities are remarkable and show a very specific characteristic taht breeders chose to create in the dogs. Everyone knows that pointers ‘point’ with a raised leg and knee showing a vector towards the prey, but few know that this was trained into the dog to act as a guide to show Greyhounds where the hare were hiding.

It is remarkable that the pointer fulfilled this action considering that the greyhound relies strongly on its vision (rather than scent like most dogs). Thus used in conjunction the pointer and the greyhound created a formidable hunting aid (well at least before high powered and long distance guns were created).

Since the advent of guns in hunting the pointers have been used to cover large amounts of ground very quickly  and flush out birds.

The apparent limitation of this breed is that unlike Labradors and golden retrievers, English Pointers are not typically water dogs. They can run into water, and swim somewhat, but they are never as comfortable as dogs bred to be constantly in water.

The pointers are rarely trained to retrieve the kill. Of course a hunter can train a dog to perform all parts of the hunt, its just that they are not a specialist at the final aspects of hunting.

It should also be noted that the English Pointer is a warm weather dog and due to its thin coat and low fat content they do not perform well in cold climates or cold water.

I have met many pointers out on hunts and like many hounds of a similar size and look they are often quite sociable with pleasant dispositions. On the job they are as focused as any hunting dog, but this ability to switch into home mode has made them quite a favored domestic dog.

The caveat with this is of course like all hunting dogs, a large amount of exercise is required to burn their energy, otherwise they can become quite ‘edgy’ bored and ‘non compliant’.