Different kinds of dogs were bred by humans for specific uses. Sheepdogs were bred for guarding or herding sheep, terriers to hunt vermin, retrievers to bring back game and hounds to hunt. Within the hound group, different breeds hunt various types of animals. While many hounds make wonderful companions, don't forget that the hunting and chasing instinct is still a part of their DNA.
Scent hounds make up the majority of these dogs. They hunt their quarry with their sensitive noses. The name of that prey lives on in many breed names. These include the American and English foxhound, Norwegian elkhound and otterhound. The bloodhound, one of the best-known hounds, is also one of the oldest dog breeds, dating back to the pre-Christian era. Most scent hounds are bred to hunt in a pack, their baying letting the huntsman know when the chase is on.
As the name implies, sighthounds hunt by vision, as opposed to scent. Also known as gazehounds, they're noted for speed. The best-known breeds include the Rhodesian ridgeback, Afghan hound, basenji, borzoi, Irish wolfhound, saluki, Scottish deerhound and whippet. Although the greyhound is generally bred for racing, it's actually a sighthound. These dogs can participate in lure coursing, a competition in which they chase a mechanical lure over a designated course. Hounds are judged on speed, endurance, agility and overall ability.
Coonhounds are scent hounds bred for hunting racoons. As with other scent hounds, letting them off leash can be risky, as they live by their noses. These medium-size dogs do make good pets for active people who understand the hounds' nature. The six types of coonhound are the black-and-tan, redbone, Plott hound, treeing walker, bluetick and redtick. This last is also known as the English coonhound. These are energetic animals requiring a great deal of exercise, but they're also friendly canines who like people and get along well with other dogs.
Not all hounds are large or medium-size canines. Some move relatively low to the ground. These include beagles, dachshunds and basset hounds. Beagles were bred for hunting rabbits, while basset hounds hunted various small game. Both types of quarry were hunted by people traveling on foot, rather than horseback. Dachshunds, whose name means "badger dogs" in the language of their native Germany, were developed to hunt that vicious varmint. While these breeds are among the most common types of hounds kept strictly as pets, owners can compete with their dogs in field trials. Rules vary according to the organization, but beagle and dachshund trials don't include shooting game, while basset hound trials might include gunning.
By Jane Meggitt
American Kennel Club: AKC Breeds by Group—Hound
Utah Sighthound Racing and Coursing Club: Sighthound Breeds
Maine Coonhound Rescue: What Is a Coonhound?
Veterinary Partner: Lure Coursing for Sighthound Breeds
American Kennel Club: Getting Started in Beagling
Veterinary Partner: Beagle, Basset Hound, and Dachshund Field Trials
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.