The American Foxhound, also known simply as the Foxhound, is one of the few breeds that truly originated in the United States, and is also one of the most rare. It resembles a taller, somewhat lankier version of its ancestor, the English Foxhound. The American Foxhound is known for its keen scent-tracking ability, its affable personality and its song-like voice. This breed typically is too friendly to make a good watchdog, being more likely to welcome strangers into the home rather than sounding an alarm or providing meaningful protection. The American Foxhound was admitted into the American Kennel Club in 1886, as a member of the Hound Group.
Male American Foxhounds should not be under 22 or over 25 inches at the withers. Bitches should not be under 21 or over 24 inches measured at the same place. The American Foxhound normally weighs between 55 and 75 pounds. The Foxhound's close, hard coat may be of any color and is easy to care for.
American Foxhounds developed from a line of hounds that were transported in1650 by Robert Brooke from England to the colonies. Mr. Brooke eventually established a breeding and working pack of black-and-tan foxhounds in America. It is believed that Brooke's foxhounds of Maryland were used as the foundation for the Black-and-Tan Coonhound, another original American breed. In the early 18th century, additional English Foxhounds were brought to this country – 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, General 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.
The breed was developed specifically to hunt the indigenous American grey and red foxes in open fields, woodlands and river valleys. However, the native grey fox was fairly slow, and the native red fox was uncommon in the eastern United States, where foxhunting was becoming so popular. Accordingly, American hunters imported and released the much fleeter English red fox, giving hunter and hound a much more invigorating and satisfying chase. Eventually, the native and imported foxes interbred, creating an admirable adversary for packs and people. Foxhunting during early American history was primarily a field sport of the wealthy. The sport gradually moved across the mountains as the country also expanded west, and became popular among all classes of regular people.
Today's American Foxhound is used for at least four separate tasks in this country, requiring slightly different talents in each: 1) in field trial competitions (requires great speed); 2) as scenting "trail" dogs (require great speed); 3) as foxhounds used to hunt at day and night (requires a slower, more focused hound); and 4) as pack dogs carrying upwards of 20 to 25 pounds, used by hunt clubs and farmers (requires great strength and stamina). American Foxhounds are prized for all of these qualities. 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 average life span of the American Foxhound is 11 to 13 years. Breed health concerns may include congenital deafness, eye problems, ear infections, hip dysplasia, Pelger-Huet anomoly and thrombocytopathy. Overfeeding can easily lead to obesity.
Foxhounds are an excellent dog for active, rural families. They love being outdoors and have the endurance to keep moving all day long – and then move some more. Foxhounds get along great with children and other dogs (cats should be kept away, however), and if possible, should be raised alongside other dogs. Foxhounds are incredibly versatile – after spending all day in the field hunting with the guys, they'll come home and romp with the kids, then sleep at mom's feet when it's time to go to bed.
Foxhounds were designed for stamina in the hunting field, and modern Foxhounds still have that never-ending energy reserve. Expect to vigorously exercise this breed at least one hour per day. Those who are not hunters or who do not already jog, hike or bike daily should look to another breed, as should apartment or condo dwellers. If a Foxhound isn't getting enough exercise he'll let you know. Destructive behavior, excessive barking and baying and neurotic tendencies are all red flags that a Foxhound needs more activity.
Foxhounds are hard working hunting dogs and can be utilized as trackers in the field. They can move for hours on end without getting tired, and once they catch a scent they become 100% focused on tracking it. This trait can backfire in home life, so when Foxhounds aren't in the hunting field they should be kept on a leash or in a fenced-in area to keep them safe.
Foxhounds do best in multiple-dog homes. While they enjoy the company of people, they only truly thrive around other dogs, so adopting two at a time would be the most ideal situation for a Foxhound.
Foxhounds are moderately easy to train, as are most hound breeds, but the trainability of individual Foxhounds varies. Some are easier to train whereas others are downright difficult. In general, they don't have the longest attention spans, so training should be conducted in short spurts and should not be overly repetitive. Patience is the key ingredient needed when training any type of hound, and calm-assertiveness is also important. Treating a Foxhound harshly will only lead to avoidance behaviors and flat out stubbornness.
Once leadership is established and basic obedience is mastered, Foxhounds can be graduated to advance obedience, tracking, or agility activities.
Foxhounds will bay and howl, especially at night and when left alone. This is just part of their hound dog nature and can be difficult, if not impossible to train out of them, and suburban neighbors might not be understanding of this behavior.
If a Foxhound is not properly exercised, separation anxiety is almost guaranteed to develop. It is imperative that this breed be properly exercised and left with interesting activities when alone to stave off boredom and anxiousness. Companion dogs can help, but if the Foxhound has pent-up energy to burn off, the companion won't do a thing to save your furniture.
Skull--Should be fairly long, slightly domed at occiput, with cranium broad and full. Ears--Ears set on moderately low, long, reaching when drawn out nearly, if not quite, to the tip of the nose; fine in texture, fairly broad, with almost entire absence of erectile power--setting close to the head with the forward edge slightly inturning to the cheek--round at tip. Eyes-- Eyes large, set well apart, soft and houndlike--expression gentle and pleading; of a brown or hazel color. Muzzle--Muzzle of fair length--straight and square-cut--the stop moderately defined. Defects--A very flat skull, narrow across the top; excess of dome; eyes small, sharp and terrier like, or prominent and protruding; muzzle long and snippy, cut away decidedly below the eyes, or very short. Roman-nosed, or upturned, giving a dish-face expression. Ears short, set on high, or with a tendency to rise above the point of origin.
Neck and Throat--Neck rising free and light from the shoulders, strong in substance yet not loaded, of medium length. The throat clean and free from folds of skin, a slight wrinkle below the angle of the jaw, however, is allowable. Defects--A thick, short, cloddy neck carried on a line with the top of the shoulders. Throat showing dewlap and folds of skin to a degree termed "throatiness".
Shoulders, Chest and Ribs
Shoulders sloping--clean, muscular, not heavy or loaded--conveying the idea of freedom of action with activity and strength. Chest should be deep for lung space, narrower in proportion to depth than the English hound--28 inches (girth) in a 23-inch hound being good. Well-sprung ribs--back ribs should extend well back--a three-inch flank allowing springiness.
Back and Loins
Back moderately long, muscular and strong. Loins broad and slightly arched. Defects--Very long or swayed or roached back. Flat, narrow loins.
Forelegs and Feet The forelegs are straight from elbows to feet, well boned and muscular, with pasterns strong, flexible and very slightly sloping.
Feet--Fox-like. Pad full and hard. Well-arched toes. Strong nails. Defects--Straight, upright shoulders, chest disproportionately wide or with lack of depth. Flat ribs. Out at elbow. Knees knuckled over forward, or bent backward. Forelegs crooked. Feet long, open or spreading.
Hips, Thighs, Hind Legs and Feet
Hips and thighs, strong and muscled, giving abundance of propelling power. Stifles strong and well let down. Hocks firm, symmetrical and moderately bent. Feet close and firm. Defects--Cowhocks, or straight hocks. Lack of muscle and propelling power. Open feet.
Set moderately high; carried gaily, but not turned forward over the back; with slight curve; with very slight brush. Defects--A long tail, teapot curve or inclined forward from the root. Rat tail, entire absence of brush.
A close, hard, hound coat of medium length. Defects--A short thin coat, or of a soft quality.
Dogs should not be under 23 or over 28 inches. Bitches should not be under 21 or over 26 inches measured across the back at the point of the withers, the hound standing in a natural position with his feet well under him.
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Sources: American Kennel Club