Introduction American English Coonhound
The American English Coonhound, sometimes called the English Coonhound or Redtick Coonhound, is a direct descendant of the English Foxhound. After Foxhounds were brought to the United States by early settlers in the 1600s, hunters used them to develop a new breed that had the size, speed, stamina and strength to hunt fox, raccoon and other animals, all day or all night, over rough terrain. American English Coonhounds are athletic animals with sleek silhouettes and powerful bodies. They are among the fastest of the six recognized Coonhound breeds. Their short, hard coats are easy to maintain, and they come in a variety of well-camouflaged colors that often are “ticked” or flecked. These are kind, intelligent, sociable dogs that make good family pets. However, above all they love to hunt and are outstanding companions for active hunters. Because they were bred to live and work peacefully in packs, American English Coonhounds tend to get along extremely well with other dogs. They have the resonant bawl typical of hound dogs, which makes them fairly good watch dogs.
American English Coonhound Dog Breed Quick Facts
American English Coonhound – Appearance & Grooming
American English Coonhounds are true American dogs bred for speed, endurance and hunting talents. They have athletic bodies with broad chests and muscular frames. Their hindquarters, forequarters and backs are powerful, supporting their effortless gait and tremendous stamina. American English Coonhounds look like the hound dogs they are, with long, low set, soft droopy ears, squared-off muzzles and gentle, houndy expressions. Their high-set tails should be carried gaily but never hooked over the back and should be neither skinny and rat-like nor excessively furry and plumed. This breed has a slightly domed skull and a broad head that should be carried well up (but not fully perpendicular) on a nicely arched neck, giving the impression of alertness and self-confidence.
Size and Weight
American English Coonhounds are medium-to-large-sized dogs. The American Kennel Club standard provides that mature males should be between 24 and 26 inches tall measured at the withers, and adult females should range from 23 to 25 inches in height. The United Kennel Club standard is a bit more relaxed, requiring males to be between 22 and 27 inches and females between 21 and 25 inches in height. Both registries specify that the dog’s weight should be proportional to its height, although neither club has weight restrictions. American English Coonhounds typically weigh somewhere between 40 and 75 pounds. The breed has been compared to a slightly lighter-built Labrador Retriever in terms of height and weight.
Coat and Color
American English Coonhounds have rough, hard, short-to-medium coats that provide excellent protection against brush, weather and other harsh environmental conditions. They come in a number of colors and color combinations, including red-and-white ticked, blue-and-white ticked, tri-colored with ticking, red-and-white patched and black-and-white patched. The UKC also recognizes a lemon-and-white variety. There are no solid-colored American English Coonhounds, and typically no single color predominates. Excessive red or black is a fault in the AKC show ring, as is tri-coloring without ticking and solid-coloring with less than 10% ticking. Any brindling (striping) is a disqualification under both the AKC and UKC standards, which means that brindle-marked dogs cannot compete in conformation shows.
The American English Coonhound’s short, close-fitting coat is easy to care for. This certainly is not a breed that requires religious grooming or meticulous trimming. However, they do shed quite a bit throughout the year and should be brushed regularly to keep household hair build-up at bay. A thorough brushing once a week with a clean, firm-bristled brush should suffice. Coonhounds don’t need to be bathed very often. Usually, they only require a good shampooing after they have romped in mud puddles or otherwise had a particularly eventful frolic in the out-of-doors. Of course, a bath is an excellent idea after a Coonhound is sprayed by a skunk or rolls in any of the wild animal or livestock feces that they find so appealing. It’s a good idea to brush them before their bath, to minimize the mess caused by excess dirt and hair. Owners can discuss a dental care regimen with their veterinarian. They should clip their Coonhounds’ nails monthly, or as often as necessary to keep them fairly short and tidy.
American English Coonhound – History and Health
With the exception of the Plott Hound, the American English Coonhound’s history is not terribly different from that of other treeing Coonhounds, which all descend from English Foxhounds. Coonhounds date back to the 1600s, when English settlers brought Foxhounds to the North American colonies. Englishman Robert Brooke brought his pack of hunting hounds to America in 1650. In 1742, Thomas Walker imported a number of hound dogs from England to Virginia. George Washington, who was an avid fox hunter, had English hounds imported to this country in 1770. The early English Foxhound imports became known as “Virginia Hounds.” They are the predecessors of today’s American English Coonhound.
At first, Virginia Hounds were used primarily to hunt foxes, rabbits and raccoons during daylight hours in the deep Southern states. Some people also used them to pursue larger prey, such as wild boar, cougar, deer and even bear. To improve their hounds’ ability to take on these big animals, owners selectively bred them for increased size, strength, stamina and speed. Careful breeding also helped the dogs adapt to the rough American terrain and climate. Virginia Hounds were crossed with American Foxhounds to enhance their endurance and versatility. Because the dogs were used to track animals that took shelter in trees, they also were crossed with Bloodhounds, which have the best noses in the canine world. The American English Coonhound developed into a hardy, tenacious breed with tremendous endurance, determination and courage. Able to cover uneven ground day or night with a swift, seemingly effortless gait, this powerful dog became extremely popular with Southern hunters. It has since become prized by hunters country-wide.
The Redbones and Black-and-Tans were the first Coonhounds to be recognized as distinct breeds. Until the end of World War II, the other treeing Coonhounds (American English, Bluetick and Treeing Walker) were lumped together as a single breed, with different color varieties. The United Kennel Club accepted them into its Scenthound Group in 1905, under the designation “English Fox and Coonhound.” In the 1940s, Coonhound breeders began making marked distinctions between their dogs. The UKC separately recognized the Bluetick and Treeing Walker Coonhounds in the mid-1940s. Fanciers of the traditional Virginia (English) Coonhound, now called the American English Coonhound, began to favor dogs with red-ticked coats, to distinguish them from those more modern offshoots. The American English Coonhound was granted full AKC status in 2011, as a member of the Hound Group. The Canadian Kennel Club has not yet recognized this breed, which is still called the English Coonhound in Great Brittain.
Today’s American English Coonhound is a speedy, hot-nosed, super-charged hunting dog with exceptional versatility. He increasingly fills the role of family companion as well. Gentle, sociable and good-natured, these dogs get along well with people of all ages. They generally are not aggressive and enjoy the company of other dogs. With their high energy level, intelligence and intense focus and drive, American English Coonhounds excel at agility and other competitive canine sports. Their deep, booming voice also makes them good watch dogs.
The American English Coonhound is a healthy breed, with an average lifespan of 11 to 12 years. Like other mid-to-large dogs, one of the most common health concerns is hip dysplasia. Other breed health predispositions may include ear infections (bacterial; yeast), progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and polyradiculoneuritis (possibly from exposure to raccoon bites).
American English Coonhound – Temperament & Personality
The American English Coonhound was bred to hunt raccoons, foxes and other wild game. Its natural instincts, intellect, strength and speed make it perfectly suited for those tasks. However, it also makes a great companion for active owners who enjoy spending time outdoors with their high-energy pets. American English Coonhounds are gentle, friendly, reliable, affectionate and devoted to their owners. Breed fanciers also describe them as loving, loyal and eager to please. They interact well with children, especially older ones, as long as they and the kids are all properly socialized early in the relationship. These are sociable dogs, in part due to their history of living and hunting in packs. The bark, or bawl, of the American English Coonhound sounds a fine alarm that stands up in tone and volume to that of any other hound. As an alert, watchful dog with a big voice, the American English Coonhound can be a good watchdog. However, it shouldn’t be expected to be a guard dog or show excessively aggressive behavior unless it is extraordinarily aggravated. These dogs may be defensive when directly challenged, and protective when friends and family are threatened, but even then they rarely attack without extreme provocation.
This is a high-energy, extremely active breed that needs lots of daily exercise. American English Coonhounds love to run and make great jogging or biking partners for active owners. They enjoy playing games like fetch and hide-and-seek, and taking long brisk walks, with adults and children alike. They are increasingly competitive in outdoor canine sports, such as field trials, tracking, agility and obedience. Together with the other five AKC and UKC-recognized Coonhound breeds, the American English Coonhound participates in a variety of events sponsored by its parent club, including night hunts, water races, field trials and benched conformation shows. Of course, they make terrific, energetic hunting partners, eager to please their owners and true naturals at performing the duties for which they were bred.
If American English Coonhounds dogs don’t get enough exercise, they can become bored, depressed, frustrated, anxious and/or hyperactive. They also can become destructive. They need a great deal of mental and physical stimulation to be content. Potential owners who have limited time to spend training, exercising and socializing their dog should consider a different breed. American English Coonhounds are not well-suited for apartment or condominium living or houses without fenced yards. They are active even indoors and are happiest with owners who have at least moderately-spacious homes on acreage.
The American English Coonhound needs a kind but firm hand for successful training. In order to make headway, owners should maintain calm, confident, consistent authority as leader of the pack. This breed may require more time, repetition and patience than other Coonhounds to reach the owner’s training goals, because it tends to be more easily distracted than its Coonhound cousins and likes to learn at its own pace. Some American English Coonhounds find it difficult to focus on anything but hunting and treeing other animals. Those dogs need extra motivation to learn their manners and basic obedience skills. Without steady, consistent, gentle guidance, this breed can develop undesirable traits such as dominance or excessive shyness. Socialization and training should start at an early age and continue for life.
American English Coonhounds love to explore and are great tracking dogs, anxious to follow every possible interesting scent and sound. Because of this trait, when not in a fully enclosed area, owners should keep their dogs on a secure leash at all times, lest they find a trail that is simply too alluring to ignore. This also applies to home security. The American English is a great escape artist and can flee from inadequately fenced yards and out open gates with ease. This breed has a strong instinct to chase and tree other animals. It is infamous for nesting. People looking for a dog that ignores the lure of a soft couch or warm laundry pile should cross the American English Coonhound off their list. On the other hand, they may be a good choice for active outdoorsy people who also enjoy cuddling and relaxing with their dog on the sofa or floor.
American English Coonhounds are noisy. Their bark is more of a hound dog howl, and it is ear-piercing. They rarely bark once. Much more common is a long, sustained serious of sounds that some people find melodic and others find annoying. They sing to announce visitors before they reach your door, including other people’s visitors and sometimes even invisible ones. This isn’t a good choice for those living in tight urban environments next to non-dog-loving neighbors. The American English can be mouthy and seems to enjoy chewing on (and sometimes swallowing) sticks, stones, underwear and other items that normally are considered inedible. This includes the daily newspaper, which they like to shred or suck on until it is unreadable. They can be afraid of loud noises, including thunder, fireworks and slammed doors. Unless well-trained, they tend to pull when walked on leash and may be prone to counter-surfing the kitchen for tidbits (or larger items) of food.