The word "coonhound" refers to a group of scent hounds, not just one breed. Most are amiable and trainable, making them good hunting dogs and family companions. The four breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club are the Black and Tan, the Bluetick, the English and the Redbone.
The Black and Tan Coonhound is named for its distinctive coloring: a coal-black coat with tan markings. This is one of the few all-American breeds--the first to be considered a separate breed from the American Foxhound.
Owned by scouts and Native American fighters in the 1700s, the Black and Tan is traditionally used to trail and tree raccoons. This dog is a determined, focused hunter and rarely gets distracted when on the trail. It is also known for its "cold nose," or the ability to detect old scent trails.
The Bluetick has a dark blue ticking, or mottled, pattern on its coat. Referred to as the English Coonhound until 1945, the Bluetick diverged from the English when its breeders wanted to focus on the dog's cold-nosed ability and resolute personality, rather than its cousin's hot-nosed, fast-hunting capabilities.
The Bluetick is believed to have descended from the Grand Bleu de Gascogne (French Staghound) and the English Foxhound. Like the Black and Tan, it's prized for its ability to trail and tree small game such as raccoons.
Unlike many other hounds, the Plott Coonhound was not named for its coloring or patterning, which is brindle or solid black, or has saddle or markings. In 1750, two German Plott brothers immigrated to the North Carolina area with five Hanoverian Hounds. One brother died en route, but upon arrival the remaining Plott successfully bred the dogs. Today, the Plott Coonhound is North Carolina's state dog.
Also unlike other hounds, the Plott is known for baying or treeing large--not small--game. Due to its remarkable endurance, courage and determination, this hound makes boar and bear its targets. The Plott is loyal, intelligent and alert at home, but aggressive, bold and fearless on the hunt.
The Redbone is named for its noticeable coat--predictably a flashy red. Bred from Scottish and Irish red foxhounds brought to the Americas before the Civil War, the Redbone has been recognized as a distinct breed in the United States since around 1900.
Historically noted for its treeing ability, it can trail and tree a variety of game. Also possessing a good "cold nose," the Redbone makes an excellent companion and hunting partner.
Because of their sensing ability, coonhounds are often used as police dogs. They are best kept indoors or in an enclosed outdoor space, as their intense sensing abilities can lead them to assume "hunt mode" at inappropriate times. They are short-haired, so daily grooming is not necessary. However, daily exercise is recommended. With proper training they can make good family pets.
- hunt image by Jasenka from Fotolia.com