The American Foxhound is very similar to its British cousin which dates back to the 13th century. Both look a great deal like a big and tall beagle though, the American foxhound is a bit taller and thinner. Of course, all the fox hounds are very closely related and share many common traits. In fact, other than size, they are very similar in appearance and temperament to the somewhat more familiar black, white and tan beagle.
Bred to accompany their masters on the hunt, the American Foxhound is known for its stamina and shrewd nose. They were once used to chase and flush game while their masters remained on horseback ready to dispatch the fleeing beasts. Should they catch it, they very rarely maul their quarry in the course of a hunt, preferring the chase itself.
Their demeanor is cheerful and, as such, they make wonderful family dogs provided they have enough room to run around and expend some of their excess energy. They are also very pack oriented, and will readily call a human family its own and demanding daily affection.
The breed standards describe a dog that conveys easy and graceful movement with every step. The head tends to be long and somewhat domed on top. Their large, floppy ears are carried to the side and tend to frame the face unless angry. A foxhound's tail should be held high and slightly curved upward without actually curling over the top of his or her backside.
The coat is well formed and close but also, thick and coarse, for deep woods action. American Foxhounds with especially soft coats vary from the accepted breed standard and are susceptible to getting bits and bobs stuck in their coat while running through the under story.
Foxhounds have very tall legs - taller than any other member of the foxhound sub-group - and they are able to run through thick woods for hours before tiring. Their stamina is one trait that separates them from their English cousins.
Today, they are widely distributed throughout the Southeastern United States and very often used for several different types of hunting.
American Foxhound Temperament
Also like a beagle, these dogs are a bit high strung and are known for their howls and yips. It is difficult or impossible task to convince these dogs that some people are not to be barked at. When they do set up a howl, it is quite loud, though music to the ears of many who love hounds.
However, they usually don't just sit there and bark (like some hounds), preferring instead to actively seek the affection of others. They crave attention and are very affectionate in the home. They are actually quite good with children and can be trusted with even the smallest young ones.
In fact, American Foxhounds are very social dogs that will fiercely defend their pack, human or not. As such, it can be difficult to retrain a dog to live with a human family if they've spent a lot of time in the company of a dog pack, such as is very commonly found in the case of hunting packs.
Sometimes, foxhounds are a bit nervous around loud noises and situations where they're overwhelmed by scents and sounds. This can actually send a foxhound into a frenzy of sorts, often resulting in some destructive behavior.
As such, these hounds have a very highly developed sense of smell (even for a hound), and will follow a scent to the exclusion of all else, including your commands and pleas, especially if it's something good. Even a well-trained foxhound is not easily called off a scent. It's not that they don't know what you want, it's just that they don't care right now.
When hunting, they are essentially fearless and will do some stupidly brave things if you give them the chance. It is generally not advised to let a fox hound off the leash unless you're sure there are no roads anywhere nearby and are in a position to get your hound out of trouble if they decide to take on a bear or something equally suicidal.
Owners in town and the country need to be very careful that American Foxhounds don't run off. They're notoriously stupid about traffic, but clever enough to figure out how gates latch and, tall enough to do something about it.
The smooth, short-haired coat is easy to groom. Comb and brush with a firm bristle brush, and shampoo only when necessary. This breed is an average shedder.
The American Foxhound is directly descended from English hounds brought to America in 1650 and bred over a century later to a French hound sent as a gift by Lafayette to George Washington. Washington ran a breeding program and often mentioned the hounds in his journals. The two breeds, French and English, in combination have produced the American Foxhound.
In the seventeenth century, these dogs were used for seeking out Indians. Later, however they became efficient and untiring hunters of wild animals. The American Foxhound has an excellent nose, and is very fast when giving chase. He has great stamina for running and a musical bay. The American Foxhound is still primarily a hunting and field trial dog in both packs and alone, though he has also had success as a companion dog for those owners who provide enough exercise and activities. Its talents are hunting, tracking, watchdog and agility. The American Foxhound is somewhat faster and a little leaner than the English Foxhound.
The American foxhound is a very intelligent breed, though not always responsive, even to the best of training. They are spirited and often described as jovial or happy dogs.
Though not typically the sort of dog that just sets up to barking for hours non-stop, the American Foxhound is known for "giving voice" when conditions warrant it. It can be very difficult to train this very fundamental behavior of hounds out of their usual repertoire.
Some owners, especially those that live in heavily urbanized areas, are able to achieve a certain amount of success with citronella (or any other scent they find offensive) spray collars that give them a little quirt every time they start up with their very distinctive howl and yip.
Their social nature allows you to be in as much of a position of authority as any foxhound is willing to accept by always making sure you retain your position of dominance in your own family or "little pack."
Many owners find their foxhounds are very receptive to positive reinforcement. Generally they respond to punishment with what could best be called complete and utter confusion.
Very often, people find training a foxhound to be a bit like digging a hole in the sand. You keep thinking you're making progress and then they just ignore months or years of training upon a whim.
Indeed, they are a bit difficult to house train. Owners who have even moderate success in this can congratulate themselves on a job well done, since the breed is so resistant to potty-training. Even hounds that appear to have this down pat can loose it if sufficiently excited.
A fairly healthy breed, American Foxhounds are free of many genetic diseases such as hip and bone problems, which plague other large breeds. Gains weight easily, do not overfeed.