One of America’s native breeds, the American Foxhound is also one of our rarest. This tall hound sports a close, hard coat that can be any color. The Foxhound in this country is used for four purposes, thus calling for hounds of different characteristics: competitive field trial hounds and “trail” hounds (speed is most important), fox hunting hounds (slow workers with good voices), and pack hounds (15 to 20 hounds or more, used by hunt clubs and farmers).
- American Foxhounds developed from a line of dogs that were transported from England to the American colonies in 1650 by Robert Brooke, according to researchers of the breed. Brooke eventually established a breeding and working pack of black-and-tan foxhounds in America.
- These hounds were the basis of several strains of American Hounds. Hounds from France and England were brought in to further develop the breed in the middle to late 1700s.
- In the early 18th century, additional English Foxhounds were brought into the colonies – this time, to Virginia. George Washington received a pack of foxhounds from his patron, Lord Fairfax, in the mid-1700s.
- Washington kept, bred and hunted American Foxhounds throughout his life and maintained detailed records and pedigrees that established some of the best early examples of the breed.
- In 1785, Washington received several pairs of large French hounds from the Marquis de Lafayette, the most notable of which was a dog named Vulcan. Washington used the French imports to increase the size of his American Foxhounds.
- In the 1830s, hounds imported from Ireland were crossed with the now larger American Foxhound to increase its speed. Crosses between the three ancestral foxhound types – the English, French and Irish – ultimately led to the American Foxhounds of modern times.
- While the American Foxhound was in the developmental stages, there were four basic purposes that the breed was being used for: a field trial hound (for competition where speed and a jealous nature were important), a hound for hunting fox with a hunter (a slow worker with a good voice), trail or drag hounds (speed being the only factor) and pack hounds (numbering fifteen to twenty or more, used by hunt clubs and farmers).
- Although still an uncommon breed, the American Foxhound is still a lively but somewhat independent family companion and show ring competitor. Bred to be a pack animal, they do enjoy the company of other dogs.
The above text and image © 2017 American Kennel Club.