If one should aspire to know the history of the Redbone, the Bluetick and the Black and Tan Coonhounds, one must also understand the history of the American Foxhound, for it is from that formidable root these majestic dog breeds have sprung.
Many excellent works are available to acquaint students of American Foxhound dogs with the breed’s rich history, among them American Foxhound, A Complete and Reliable Handbook by Robert and Polly Smith.
It is universally accepted that five of the six American Kennel Club-recognized coonhound dog breeds (the American English Coonhound, Black and Tan Coonhound, Bluetick Coonhound, Redbone Coonhound and Treeing Walker Coonhound) sprang from the same English/Irish/French root as did the American Foxhound.
Only the Plott, the sixth AKC-recognized dog breed, came from Germany, brought to American shores by Johannes Plott from Heidelberg in 1750.
To the casual observer, the temptation to simply lump the coonhound breeds into a single type with color as the primary distinguishing characteristic of each is a common mistake. While some are subtle there are clearly defined differences to be explored within the makeup of each of these notable dog breeds.
It is my purpose to provide the reader with a breed standard-based foundation upon which to build an ample understanding of the distinctive differences and similarities in the Black and Tan Coonhound, Bluetick Coonhound and Redbone Coonhound dog breeds.
Whether the interest in the breeds springs from the position of dog breeder, dog fancier or dog show judge, the information should be beneficial if not fundamentally entertaining as we examine the Red, Black and Tan and Blue Coonhound breeds.
Each of these dog breeds was developed for, and requires the same basic skill set to hunt, trail, pursue and tree raccoons. However, the overviews contained in the general-appearance sections of the dog breed standards show that each dog breed has been refined to accomplish the task in different ways.
The Redbone Coonhound is to be surefooted and swift. The Black and Tan Coonhound is to be steady as she goes regardless of climate or terrain, and the Bluetick Coonhound is to be the deliberate worker of intricate scent trails. The Redbone Coonhound was developed in the southern United States from roots planted in the New World well before the 20th century. The breed is said to be descended from the red foxhound dogs of Ireland. The Redbone’s flashy solid-red coat covers a powerful and handsomely built chassis, if I may paraphrase, mingling good looks with confidence and fine hunting talent.
Black and Tan Coonhound history is a bit more specific, citing the dog breed’s lineage from the St. Hubert Hound to the Talbot Hound in 11th-century England and continuing to the deliberate trailing, supremely cold-nosed Virginia foxhounds possessing the aforementioned treeing instinct. Similarly to the Redbone, the Black and Tan Coonhound is said to be fundamentally a trail and tree hound capable of plying his trade no matter the climate or geographical challenges faced. The standard admonishes dog show judges to “place great emphasis upon these facts when evaluating the merits of the dog.”
The Bluetick Coonhound was originally recognized as the English Coonhound until set out as a separate dog breed in 1945. Bluetick Coonhound fanciers were more interested in avoiding the hot-nosed, fast-hunting style of the English dogs in favor of a colder-nosed, although admittedly slower style of hunting hounds. While giving a measure in terms of speed to other coonhound dog breeds, the Bluetick Coonhound is hailed nonetheless as an intelligent, cold-nosed hunter that trees hard and long, meaning the dog barks steadily at the tree and stays until the dog handler arrives.
One sentence in the Bluetick Coonhound standard perhaps defines the fancier’s creed better than any other — “The Bluetick has the ability and endurance to stay on the most intricate track.” Among all coonhound breeds, Bluetick Coonhounds are particularly noted for their determination to solve cold and difficult scent trails. Physically, the Bluetick Coonhound is described as “strong, deep-chested and sturdy with a houndy expression and longish ears,” terms that could also easily describe the Black and Tan Coonhound. The Bluetick standard also describes the dog breed as one combining “power with agility and endurance.”
Generally speaking, the trained eye is more aware of the similarities, both physically and in scent-trailing in the Black and Tan and Bluetick breeds, than when either is compared to the Redbone Coonhound.
Steve Fielder is an executive field director for coonhound events at the American Kennel Club. His love for coonhounds is evidenced in a career spanning 33 years and three registries. Fielder lives in Raleigh, N.C.
Learn more about coonhounds and other hound dog breeds:
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