If your knowledge of the hound dog is relegated to Elvis Presley's Hound Dog song, you'll be surprised to find out that the hound dog category consists of two sub-sets and up to 100 different types of hound dogs worldwide. Hound dogs were bred in order to track and hunt prey in a variety of settings. Breeding adapted these dogs to perform different skills depending on the terrain and environment presented for hunting. Some dogs track game primarily by scent while others track primarily by sight.
Different Types of Hound Dogs
Hounds fall into two main groups which are classified as either scent hounds or sighthounds. All hound dogs share the same heritage which was a dog created to assist with their human owners with hunting game, big or small.
In areas of the world where trees and brush inhibit the line of sight, dogs were bred to track game by scent, enabling hunters to find their mark despite the inability to see. Scent hounds do not need to be especially fast, but they do need stamina in order to track an animal's trail for long periods of time. Some scent hounds have long legs and faster speed, enabling hunters to follow them on horseback, while others have short legs and slower speed. Hunters follow this latter type of hound dog on foot. Scent hounds are further separated into two subcategories: trailing hounds and tree hounds.
Trailing hounds were developed as a breed in Europe during the Middle Ages. These dogs tend to work in a pack and they're characterized by long, droopy ears, endurance and tracking ability. Many trailing hounds howl, or bay, guiding hunters along their trail when out of sight.
Popular Scent Hounds: Trailing Hounds
Tree hounds include coonhounds and curs. Coonhounds were developed in the Americas shortly following early settlement. They provided protection while also helping settlers hunt over vast land space for food. Because the area of land hunters needed to cover was so large, tree hounds developed the ability to pick up cold trails, track game, and drive the game up into trees until the hunters could catch up to the dogs. Curs were used more often in the southern and western United States as general work dogs. In some cases they were used to hunt game ranging squirrels to bears, but in other cases they were used as stock dogs.
Scenthounds are still used in hunting today. Depending on the game available in different parts of the country, some hounds track squirrels, rabbits and raccoons while others track large-game like bears, cougars and deer.
Popular Scenthounds: Tree Hounds
- American Black & Tan Coonhound
- American English Coonhound
- American Leopard Cur
- Black and Tan Coonhound
- Black Mouth Cur
- Blue Tick Coonhound
- Majestic Tree Hound
- Redbone Coonhound
- Treeing Cur
- Treeing Walker Coonhound
True to their name, sighthounds track game by sight. Developed in Northern Africa more than 5,000 years ago, sighthounds were bred to track animals visually over the flat and barren desert landscape. These dogs were bred to be aerodynamic with long, thin faces and light bones to facilitate speed. Unlike scent hounds, sighthounds were bred to chase, cut down and kill prey rather than to corner prey for the hunter's kill. Today, most sighthounds are kept as pets rather than hunting dogs.
Types of Sight Hounds
Choosing a Hound Dog Breed
Hound dogs vary greatly from the small and long Dachshund to the tall and lean Greyhound or the massive Irish Wolfhound. When choosing a hound dog as a pet, consider each breed independently as their personalities vary as much as their physiques. Some hounds can make excellent family pets, like the genial Beagle whereas others can be difficult to integrate into a family as they have high energy needs like many of the treeing hound breeds. They generally are all known to do well with people but you should consider the activity level of your home and your children before taking a more exercise-intensive hound home.
Training a Hound
Hounds all share the same characteristic of being very intelligent and motivated to work together with their humans to accomplish a task. They respond very well to positive reinforcement training and some of the more energetic hound breeds do particularly well with training activities like agility, dock diving, scent work and hunt and field tests. Hounds can be difficult to train in that they strongly focus on their keenest hunting senses, whether it's scent or sight, and sometimes it can be hard to get them to focus on you when this gets in the way. Once you understand this and what a hound was bred for, training them can be very easy with some modifications to your training plan and environment.
Large Size Hounds
Although hound breeds can range in size from small to large two hound dogs are among the largest dog breeds among all dogs. The Scottish Deerhound can reach up to 110 pounds for males and 95 pounds for females. Males can be up to 32 inches high and around 28 inches high for females. The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest dog breed, with males reaching at least 32 inches in height and females 30 inches. Males can weigh around 120 to 150 pounds and females around 105.
Hound Dog Puppies
Like puppies of any breed, hound dog puppies require socialization and training to help them become healthy, happy adult dogs who are friendly with people and other animals. Hound dog puppies can be found through breeders and shelters although some rarer hounds may be harder to find in rescue. If you decide to use a breeder, pricing will vary based on whether the dogs are being bred for "pet" homes or for serious hunting work. To get an idea of pricing, some popular hound puppy costs are:
Choosing a Hound Dog
Many hound dogs provide good companionship and guardianship. Because they were bred to run and track animals, most need regular exercise and activity. Make sure you do your research before choosing a hound dog as your pet.