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.