The Plott Hound, commonly referred to simply as the Plott, is a unique hunting breed that descends not from the English Foxhound but rather from the German Hanover Hound, known as the Hannoverischer Schweisshund. Today's Plott Hound remains courageous and well-suited to hunting large game both competitively and for sport. As a breed, Plotts are eager to please, loyal, intelligent, brave and alert. When hunting, they become enormously aggressive and fearless, earning their reputation as one of the finest bear trailing and treeing breeds. Plotts tend to be vocal and have a distinctly recognizable howl. They also tend to drool. This is the State Dog of North Carolina.
The mature male Plott Hound stands 20 to 25 inches at the withers and weighs on average 50 to 60 pounds. Females stand 20 to 23 inches in height and average 40 to 55 pounds. Their smooth, glossy, thick coat provides protection from wind and water and requires minimal grooming. The coat can be any shade of brindle, solid black or black with brindle trim. Brindle is the preferred color and can be yellow, buckskin, tan, brown, chocolate, liver, orange, red, light or dark gray, blue or Maltese.
The Plott Hound's history dates back to 1750, when a sixteen-year-old German immigrant named Johannes (Johnathon) Plott brought five German-bred brindle and buckskin hunting dogs to the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and Tennessee. These dogs had been used to hunt wild boar in their homeland; in America, they quickly became known for their exceptional hunting skills not only on wild boar, but also on bear, deer, mountain lion, bobcat and raccoon. Johannes Plott passed his prized pack of hunting hounds to his son, Henry Plott, in 1780. His contribution is described as follow, in the words of John R. Jackson, of Boone, North Carolina: "In the mountainous western section of North Carolina lay the frontier, then a virtual game-laden paradise. Deer hides, especially, and other animal pelts could be harvested in great quantity. It was here to this wilderness area (now Haywood County) that Henry Plott settled and concentrated his efforts in establishing a highly successful big-game dog, a dog especially adept at hunting bears. Exactly what Plott integrated with his father's original stock is unknown. Be that as it may, however, breedings were carefully maintained, accounting for the best trackers, fighters, and tree dogs available."
Henry Plott's dogs possessed an uncanny ability to cold-track, fight and tree the American black bear. By the middle of the 1800s, Plott Hounds were well-known throughout North Carolina and in neighboring regions as smart, all-around hunting dogs with keen instincts and exceptional tracking, trailing and treeing skills.
Henry Plott selectively bred his dogs and guarded the purity of their pedigree for more than 30 years. Allegedly, only one outcross happened in two hundred years, that being to a "Leopard Spotted Bear Dog" from Georgia in the early 1800s. Local folklore claims that Henry Plott was visited by a hunter from Georgia who claimed to own the finest hounds in the country. The two men became friends and hunted together – each with his own dogs - for several years. Plott eventually loaned one of his males to his Georgian friend so that he could cross it with his own hound bitches. When he returned that male, Plott's friend also gave him a male puppy from one of his litters. Plott so fancied that puppy that he incorporated it into his pure Plott Hound line. Some breed authorities claim that this is the only so-called "impurity" in the breed, while others suggest that Bloodhounds, Black-and-Tan Coonhounds and perhaps other breeds contributed to the size, strength and stamina of the modern Plott Hound. G. P. Ferguson, a neighbor of the Plott family around the year 1900, kept, hunted and bred Plotts for many years. Mr. Ferguson carefully studied the Blevins line of hounds and the Cable hounds that also were developed in the Smoky Mountains. It is suspected that he incorporated their bloodlines into his own line of Plotts.
Despite the Plott family's tight rein on their dogs, the breed gradually became known beyond the Smoky Mountains. The Plott Hound is one of the purest – if not the purest - of all coonhound breeds. The United Kennel Club recognized the Plott Hound in 1946. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2006, as a member of the Hound Group. Today's Plotts excel in big game competition, as their bear-hunting skills are entirely intact. They are excellent, loyal companions and are friendly to almost all two-legged creatures that they meet.
The Plott Hound's life span is 12 to 14 years. He occasionally may be predisposed to bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus).
Plott Hounds originated in the Hills of North Carolina where they were used to hunt bear and wild boar. This makes them sturdy, fearless hunting companions and excellent family watchdogs. Plotts need to live in an active household with people who love the outdoors. They enjoy hiking, running and romping in the yard, and hunters still use them in the field to hunt large game. Plott Hounds are pack dogs and are at their happiest in a home with multiple dogs for him to socialize with. Plotts are generally friendly toward strangers and enjoy the company of older, well-behaved children.
Plott Hounds need a lot of activity to maintain health and happiness. They can spend an entire day in the field tracking and penning prey, so companion Plotts should be allowed to run as much as possible during the day to burn off excess energy. They make excellent jogging companions and enjoy trotting alongside bike riders. They make excellent hiking and camping companions, acting as both comrade and protector.
These are pure country dogs and do not do well in houses without yards or in apartments. Plotts need room to run and roam, and if penned inside all day will become rambunctious and destructive.
Plotts are a snap to train for experienced dog owners. If used in the field, they need virtually no training to work with a hunter. At home, obedience training goes quickly and smoothly if conducted early. This breed exhibits dominance, so it is imperative to teach them as puppies who exactly runs the household. Once leadership is established, everything else falls into place. Plotts are pack animals who instinctively respect the leader. Treats and positive reinforcement should be all you need to train a young Plott. Older Plotts who have developed bad habits may require a firmer hand, but this breed should never be treated harshly. If they aren't afraid to attack bears, they surely won't be scared to nip at you. Boundaries are important and rule enforcement should be done with absolute consistency.
Plotts are not well-suited for families with small children. This breed exhibits dominance, is possessive of food and is not patient when poked or prodded. They do fine with children over the age of ten, who understand and respect the dog's boundaries.
Plott Hounds were designed to hunt bear and wild boar. This makes them fearless, but also prone to animal aggression. When raised alongside other dogs, this pack breed is very happy, but outside dogs beware, the Plott isn't likely to accept new members. Unless you are in the field with your Plott, he should be kept in fenced in yards or on a leash at all times.
Plotts tend to bark. Their barking comes in handy in the field, but can drive you crazy at home. Teaching your dog to obey commands to stop barking can help, but it is an inborn trait that can not be trained away.
A hunting hound of striking color that traditionally brings big game to bay or tree, the Plott is intelligent, alert and confident. Noted for stamina, endurance, agility, determination and aggressiveness when hunting, the powerful, well muscled, yet streamlined Plott combines courage with athletic ability.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--Height--Males--20 to 25 inches at the withers. Females 20 to 23 inches at the withers. Proportion--General conformation and height in proportion. Faults: Extremely leggy or close to the ground. Weight--(in hunting condition) Males-- 50 to 60 pounds. Females 40 to 55 pounds. Substance--Moderately boned. Strong, yet quick and agile. Faults: Overdone. Carrying too much weight and or to much bone to display speed and dexterity.
Head--Carried well up with skin fitting moderately tight. Faults: Folds, dewlap, skin stretched too tightly. Expression--Confident, inquisitive, determined. Fault: Sad expression. Eyes--Brown or hazel, prominent rather than deeply set. Faults: Drooping eyelids, red haw. Ears--Medium length, soft textured, fairly broad, set moderately high to high. Hanging gracefully with the inside part rolling forward toward the muzzle. Ear spread in males--18 to 20 inches. Ear spread in females--17 to 19 inches. When attentive or inquisitive, some Plotts display a semi-erectile power in their ears and lift them enough so a noticeable crease occurs on line with the crown.
Disqualification: Length of ear extending beyond the tip of the nose or hanging bloodhound-like, in long, pendulous fashion. Skull--Moderately flat. Rounded at the crown with sufficient width between and above the eyes. Faults: Narrow-headed, square, oval or excessively domed. Muzzle--Moderate length, flews give it a squarish appearance. Faults: Bluntly squared. Pointed. Pigmentation--Eye rims, lips and nose are black. Flews--Black. Fault: Pendulous flews. Bite--Teeth-Scissors. Fault: Overshot or undershot.
Neck, Topline and Body
Neck--Medium length and muscular. Clean and free of ponderous dewlap. Fault: Loose, wrinkled or folded skin. Topline--Gently sloping, slightly higher at the withers than at the hips. Fault: Roached. Body-Chest--Deep. Ribs--Deep, moderately wide, well sprung. Back--Well muscled, strong, level. Loin--Slightly arched. Tail--Root is slightly below level of topline. Rather long, carried free, well up, saber like. Moderately heavy in appearance and strongly tapered. Sometimes typified by a slight brush.
Shoulders--Clean, muscular and sloping, indicating speed and strength. Elbow--Squarely set. Forelegs--Straight, smooth, well muscled. Pasterns--Strong and erect. Feet--Firm, tight, wellpadded and knuckled, with strong toes. Set directly under the leg. Disqualification--Splayed feet. Nails--Usually black, although shades of reddish brown matching the brindle body color are permissible and buckskin colored dogs have light red nails. May be white when portions of the feet are white.
Angulation--Well bent at stifles and at the hocks. Hips--Smooth, round, and proportionally wide, indicating efficient propulsion. Legs--Long and muscular from hip to hock. From hock to pad short, strong and at right angles to the ground. Upper and second thigh--Powerful and well-muscled. Feet--Set back from under the body. Firm and tight. Toes--Strong.
Smooth, fine, glossy, but thick enough to provide protection from wind and water. rare specimens are double coated, with a short, soft, thick inner coat concealed by a longer, smoother and stiffer outer coat.
Any shade of brindle (a streaked or striped pattern of dark hair imposed on a lighter background) is preferred. This includes the following brindle factors: yellow, buckskin, tan, brown, chocolate, liver, orange, red, light or dark gray, blue or Maltese, dilute black, and black. Other acceptable Plott colors are solid black, any shade of brindle, with black saddle, and black with brindle trim. A rare buckskin, devoid of any brindle, sometimes appears among litters; ranging from red fawn, sandy red, light cream, and yellow ochre, to dark fawn and golden tan. Some white on chest and feet is permissible as is a graying effect around the jaws and muzzle.
Dexterous and graceful, rhythmic footfall. With ample reach in front and drive behind, the Plott easily traverses various terrains with agility and speed. Legs converge to single track at speed.
Eager to please, loyal, intelligent, alert. Aggressive, bold, and fearless hunter. Disposition generally even, but varies among strains, with a distinction sometimes appearing between those bred for big game and those bred as coonhounds.
Length of ear extending beyond the tip of the nose or hanging bloodhound-like, in long, pendulous fashion. Splayed feet.
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Sources: American Kennel Club