As you would expect, Scent hounds are a type of hound that hunts using their powerful sense of smell rather than eyesight (see sighthounds). They need to be fast runners and have the endurance to follow scents over long distances. Once a scent hound identifies a smell, it can track that scent over long distances.
Scent hounds are often used in packs when hunting. Most scent hounds have long, floppy ears, large nasal cavities, and moist mouths. These traits may help them to trap scent particles. Hounds commonly have loud baying voices that carry a long way. This barking ability may not be good in urban areas, but it is handy for the hunter trying to follow his dogs when they are out of sight.
Scent hounds, especially the Bloodhound, are frequently used in search and rescue missions. They can follow scents that are several days old. Who hasn’t seen a movie or TV program where Bloodhounds relentlessly track down an escaped convict.
The Beagle, Dachshund, and Basset Hound are the most popular hounds and are common family pets. Most other scent hounds are less popular and are likely to be seen in the countryside rather than in a city.
Scent Hounds by Popularity
The top ten scent hounds based on their 2020 AKC popularity rankings:
Beagles rank 6th of 197 AKC-recognized dog breeds. Trendy family pets are smaller than most other hounds. Beagles are about 15 inches tall and weigh between 20 to 30 pounds. They were developed in England in the first half of the 18th century to hunt rabbits (hare).
Beagles hunt in packs, so they generally are easy-going and get along well with other dogs. They are affectionate and happy companions. The most famous fictional Beagle is probably Snoopy from Peanuts comic strip by Charles Shultz.
Dachshunds are a smaller breed, built low to the ground and long in the body. Their shape has earned them the nickname of “Sausage” and “Weiner” dogs. They are typically friendly little companions but maybe a bit stubborn. They come from Germany, where hunters used to hunt badgers. “Dachs” is the German word for badger.
Dachshunds come in two sizes, miniature and Standard. Minis are 5-6 inches tall, while the Standard is 8-9 inches. The Mini should weigh up to 11 pounds, and the Standard can weigh as much as 32 pounds. They also may have different coat types, including short, long, and wire-haired. Solid red is a prevalent coat color, but they sometimes can be black and tan, red and tan brindle, or merle.
Basset Hounds are also a long, low dog breed. They rank number 39 in popularity. Their long ears, furrowed brows, and mournful eyes express that the world’s weight is on their shoulders. Their sense of smell is second only to the Bloodhound.
Basset Hounds originated in France (the French word “bas” translates to “low” in English). They are up to 15 inches tall and weigh 40 to 65 pounds. Bassets can be stubborn at times but usually are amicable companions. They frequently show up as characters in cartoons and movies.
Bloodhounds have the keenest sense of smell of all dog breeds. They have an incredible ability to distinguish the scent of individual humans. This breed is relatively widespread and ranks 49 by the AKC. There are almost 8 billion people today, and the Bloodhound can tell the difference. How amazing is that?
Bloodhounds are large dogs that can weigh up to 110 pounds. Their origin is somewhat doubtful, but they are probably from Western Europe. For many years, the monks at the Abbey of Saint-Hubert sent an annual gift of Bloodhounds to the King of France. The Bloodhound is the go-to dog for search and rescue efforts and tracking down escaped criminals or persons of interest.
Bluetick Coonhounds are from the United States (Louisiana), where they hunted raccoon primarily. They may have been born to be hunters, but they crave affection and will become deeply devoted to those who love them. This hound ranks number 130 on the AKC hit parade.
The Bluetick Coonhound’s name comes from the color of its coat. Some will have tan markings and black spots. If raccoon hunting is your passion, the Bluetick might be your dog. The cacophony of their baying will be your night’s music. The mascot of the University of Tennessee, Smoky, is a Bluetick Coonhound. The blue dog cartoon character Huckleberry Hound is likely (or maybe) based on a Bluetick Coonhound.
Treeing Walker Coonhound
Treeing Walker Coonhounds are primarily raccoon hunters, but they can also track other game animals, including deer, bears, bobcats, and cougars. They descended from the English and American Foxhounds. Walkers are friendly dogs, and their gentle, calm disposition makes them excellent house pets.
The Treeing Walker Coonhound is a medium to large dog weighing 50-70 pounds. They rank number 137 on the AKC’s most popular dog breeds. Don’t let the Walker part of their name fool you. (The Walker part of the name refers to Thomas Walker (explorer)) These dogs are runners and have the running endurance for which hounds are famous. This breed is known as the “Peoples Choice.”
Black and Tan Coonhound
Black and Tan’s Coonhounds are large hunting dog whose coat, not surprisingly, comes only in black and tan. They can weigh an impressive 110 pounds and stand as high as 27 inches at the withers. Coonhounds are a distinctive breed bred by settlers in the early United States to hunt the clever raccoon. Raccoons are native to North America and provided much of the meat, fur, and headwear (Davy Crockett) that Americans needed.
Like most hounds, the Black and Tan is a friendly, easy-going dog that seems tireless in the field but likes to take long naps around the homestead. They rank number 138 in AKC popularity, just behind the Treeing Walker Coonhound. A lonely Black and Tan may serenade your neighborhood, so it is better suited for country living than the city.
American English Coonhound
American English Coonhounds, also known as Redtick Coonhounds or English Coonhounds, are medium to large hunting dogs that trace their ancestry to imported hunting dogs, especially foxhounds. Unlike other coonhound breeds whose coats are relatively uniform colors, the American English Coonhound can wear various coats.
This breed once had Fox as part of its name and could hunt the sly Fox by day and the wily raccoon by night. Over time, the Fox was dropped from the breed’s name as the dog primarily hunted raccoons. They rank number 175 in AKC popularity.
American Foxhounds are only slightly taller than their English cousins, the English Foxhounds, and are very similar in appearance. The affluent American landowners used the American Foxhound to hunt Fox as a sport. George Washington was an avid dog breeder and was instrumental in developing this dog breed.
The American Foxhound is the official dog breed of Virginia. This Foxhound ranks 186 in popularity by the AKC. As one of AKC’s earlier official dog breeds, it gained recognition in 1886. It is an easy-going dog who gets along well with children, other dogs, and even cats.
English Foxhounds have the endurance necessary to chase down even the most clever Fox. The English highly prized the landed gentry and early wealthy American landowners for the pastime of fox-hunting. Most American hounds can likely trace much of their DNA to the English Foxhound.
These dogs are gentle and friendly but may not be the best choice as a house pet. They rank 188 in AKC popularity.