The Black and Tan Coonhound is one of the six generally recognized breeds of coonhounds. It is differentiated from other coonhound breeds primarily by coat, but also by size and other appearance characteristics. Although not a common sight in developed areas, Black and Tan Coonhounds are one of the most common breeds of dogs found in the United States and one of the quintessential American dog breeds.
When European settlers first arrived in the America’s they brought their trusted canine companions with them. Settlers from different nations brought breeds popular in their home countries. For example, French settlers in Louisiana brought the blue merle colored Grand Bleu de Gascogne, and the Spanish settlers in Florida and Texas brought the infamous Levriers and Alaunts. The English settlers who began inhabiting what is the Eastern Seaboard in the Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries were no different. Many of the traditional American breeds, including the Black and Tan Coonhound, descend from these English breeds that made their way across the Atlantic.
Hunting hounds were very popular among the British nobility and upper classes during colonial times. Fox hunting in particular had developed into a major and important cultural event. Many wealthy British entrepreneurs hoped to continue to engage in this pastime after they emigrated to the American colonies. In order to do so they brought their trusted Fox Hounds with them. As early as 1650, Robert Brooke imported a pack of Fox Hounds into the colony of Maryland. He eventually became the first Master of the Hounds in the American colonies. A high-percentage of the wealthiest English setters went to the southern colonies, in particular Virginia. This led to a unique and enduring aristocratic Southern culture, of which hunting with hound dogs has always played an important part. However, the American geography and climate were substantially different from those of England, and dog breeds which were developed there were often ill-suited to life in the colonies. By the 1750’s at least, American dog breeders were already creating hounds that were significantly different than those found in England.
Britain is significantly cooler than the Southern United States. A summer day in Virginia could kill a dog bred to withstand the winters of the Scottish Highlands. American dogs needed to able to withstand much hotter temperatures, and to do so while working. Warmer climates also mean the presence of a greater number of diseases and parasites. American dogs needed to have different and stronger disease resistances. The American colonies were also considerably less developed than most of Britain. There were fewer fields, much larger forests, and considerably rougher terrain. American hounds needed to be tougher than their English counterparts, and be able to cross tougher paths. Even the vegetation in America is different. The palmettos which are so plentiful from Florida through southern Virginia cannot be found anywhere in the British Isles. The pine forests which cover most of the Deep South are completely foreign to English landscapes.
Perhaps most importantly, the quarry available to be tracked by hounds was different in America. In England, most foxes flee to a burrow. In America, game and pest animals are considerably more likely to escape up a tree. This is the preferred method of flight of Raccoons, Opossums, and Bobcats, three common American mammals that do not exist at all in England. Even American foxes, particularly the Gray Fox, frequently climb trees to escape. America also had considerably larger and more dangerous prey than could be found in England, animals such as bears, mountain lions, and feral hogs. Dogs used for hunting in America needed to be bred to tree animals rather than drive them into a burrow. American dogs also needed to be larger and more able to tackle large and dangerous species.
Over a period of years, natural selection and deliberate breeding led to substantial differences in American and British hunting hounds. These differences were exacerbated by the infusion of blood from other breeds, particularly Bloodhounds, various French hounds, and Irish and Scottish hunting dogs. It is also possible that Native American hunting dogs may have influenced American hound breeds. Records at the University of William and Mary indicate that Bloodhounds have been present in what is now the United States since at least 1607, when they were imported to protect colonists from Native Americans. Unfortunately, many of these early breeders did not keep careful records, if any at all. This was made worse the further settlers moved west into undeveloped country. Eventually, these American hounds became known as Virginia Hounds. Over time, these dogs developed into a number of breeds, including the American Foxhound, the Virginia Foxhound, the various types of cur dogs, and Coonhounds. As American settlers continued to breed their hounds, practical concerns and personal preferences further shaped the dogs. There are currently six different widely recognized breeds of Coonhounds.
Black and Tan coonhounds are one of the oldest and most distinctive breeds of coonhound. In fact, they were the first breed of coonhound that was recognized as distinct from the American Fox Hound. This difference was recognized well before 1900 when they were registered as the American Black and Tan Fox and Coonhound with the United Kennel Club. Black and Tan Coonhounds were used by American settlers, as well as explorers and Native Americans. Their unique black and tan coats, along with slightly larger size, and “thick bones” set them apart from other coonhounds. It is thought that like other coonhounds, Black and Tan Coonhounds are primarily descended from English Foxhounds and Bloodhounds. It is generally believed that the now-extinct Talbot Hound played a key role in their development as well, although it is unclear whether any Talbots were actually imported into the American colonies or whether it was only their Fox Hound and Bloodhound descendents. It is thought that Bloodhounds more substantially influenced the Black and Tan Coonhound than other coonhound breeds. This influence can be seen in the coloration and coat patterns of Black and Tan Coonhounds, along with their greater size and supposedly thicker bones.
As their name would suggest, Black and Tan Coonhounds have traditionally been used for hunting raccoons, although they are perfectly capable of tracking many different species of game. Raccoons are a medium sized mammal, closely related to bears. Raccoons can be distinguished by their unique chattering call and their distinctive masked face and ringed tail. Raccoons are hunted for their fur, their meat, the damage that they do to crops, livestock, and property, as well as for sport. Raccoons will typically attempt to flee on foot, hide in various places, and swim significant distances when pursued. A hunt typically ends when the quarry escapes up a tree and is either shot or dispatched with an ax or hatchet. Raccoon hunting therefore requires that a dog to be able to run for considerable periods of time, in and out of water, and often through dense and difficult terrain. Raccoon hunting also demands that a dog have a considerable amount of persistence and stubbornness. Black and Tan Coonhounds were bred to have all of these qualities.
Black and Tan Coonhounds have always been used as hunting dogs, although originally in a comparatively informal setting. In the last couple of centuries, all breeds of Coonhounds have been used in Coonhound trials, organized hunting competitions. These competitions sparked great competition among their participants and were very influential in the organization of Coonhound breed clubs and registries. The success of some dogs brought fame upon their owners as well, such as George Batchelor of Boone County, Kentucky. The modern American Black and Tan Coonhound Club (AB&TCC) was founded in 1973. The original officers and board members were Don Iden, Robert St. John, Jim Corbett, Geraldine Kline, Sonia Allen, Dawne Johnson, and Dick Schwarz. The bloodlines of individual Coonhounds were incredibly prized by their owners. Although a dog’s appearance did factor in to all coonhound breeders to at least some extent, working ability was always the primary focus. This focus on working ability led to many coonhound breed clubs being reluctant to join major kennel clubs such as the American Kennel Club. Black and Tan Coonhound breeders have apparently had fewer reservations than breeders of other Coonhounds, as Black and Tan Coonhounds were the first breed of Coonhound to be registered with both the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1900 and the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1945.
Although a very rare sight on city streets, Black and Tan Coonhounds are possibly one of the most common purebred dogs in America. In terms of the number of dogs registered, Black and Tan Coonhounds rank comparatively low in the AKC, sitting in 91st position out of a possible 167 according the survey of 2010. However, the Black and Tan Coonhound is consistently among the ten most commonly registered breeds in the UKC. This discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the UKC is typically held in higher regard than the AKC among Coonhound enthusiasts due to its focus on registering working dogs and breeding them for work suitability rather than appearance.
Unlike most modern dog breeds which are now kept primarily as companions, many Black and Tan Coonhounds are still used for their traditional purpose of hunting raccoons. Essentially all breed standards allow for dogs to be slightly underweight and scarred as a result of hunting. Coonhound trials are still popular in many parts of the country and remain a great source of enjoyment and competition for their participants, both canine and human. It is still fairly common to hear the baying of hounds in late spring and summer as they are treeing a raccoon. However, the loving and affectionate nature of the Black and Tan, along with its loyalty and striking appearance are making an increasing number of fans keep the Black and Tan as a companion rather than a working dog.
In general, a Black and Tan Coonhound has the appearance of a traditional large hound, with a unique and distinctive coat pattern. The dogs are bred as a working hunting hound, and they should appear as such.
The Black and Tan Coonhound is a medium to large sized breed. Black and Tan Coonhounds should be slightly taller and wider at the shoulders than the hips. Males are typically slightly larger than females and should be between 23 and 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 50 and 75 pounds. Female Black and Tan Coonhounds should be between 21 and 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 40 and 65 pounds. Dogs which have been heavily exercised as a result of hunting may be slightly underweight.
Black and Tan Coonhounds have a smooth coat, with fine, glossy hair. The coat should be relatively short, but long enough to provide protection from the elements and the attacks of small animals. Black and Tan Coonhounds are primarily covered by deep, rich, black fur, with a tan trim. This trim should cover no more than 10 or 15 percent of the dog’s body, and should be found almost entirely around the feet, legs, and face of the dog. Some Black and Tan Coonhounds have a small amount of white fur on their chests, but should have white nowhere else on their bodies. Although the two breeds are not closely related, the coloration of a Black and Tan Coonhound is similar in appearance to that of the more commonly recognized Rottweiler.
Black and Tan Coonhounds have a long and pronounced snout and nose, providing them with the enhanced scenting ability necessary for hunting raccoons. They have the wrinkled jowls and drooping ears which are common to many hounds, although these traits are not nearly as prominent as is the case in breeds such as the Bloodhound or Basset Hound. A Black and Tan Coonhound’s nose should always be black. Black and Tan Coonhound’s should have dark brown or black eyes, with a “pleading” expression.
Black and Tan Coonhounds should have bodies that are located well-off the ground. Black and Tan Coonhounds should be quite muscular in appearance, particular the legs. A Black and Tan Coonhound should have short to medium toes on a foot that is proportionate to body size.
Every individual dog is different. This makes it impossible to say exactly what each individual Black and Tan Coonhound will be like. However, there are some similarities of temperament that most Black and Tan Coonhounds share.
Black and Tan Coonhounds have traditionally been kept as family pets as well as hunting dogs. For this reason, many of these dogs make excellent family pets. Black and Tan Coonhounds are known for being very loving and affectionate with their families, to the point of being fawning. These dogs are also typically friendly with strangers and are quick to make friends. Black and Tan Coonhounds would probably not make the best guard dogs. However, like all dogs, Black and Tan Coonhounds must be properly socialized from a young age. Otherwise they may become fearful, shy, and potentially aggressive towards strangers.
Because they were bred to work with other dogs in a hunting pack, Black and Tan Coonhounds are typically good with other dogs. If you are looking to have a multi-dog home, or have regular canine visitors, a Black and Tan Coonhound may be an excellent choice for you. However, all Coonhounds can be pushy and dominant towards other dogs, particularly on first meeting them. Like all dog breeds, some male Coonhounds, particularly ones which have not been neutered, may show some aggression towards other male dogs. Just as with people, it is important to socialize any Black and Tan Coonhound with other dogs from a young age. It is also advisable to have your dogs neutered unless you plan on breeding them.
Even though Black and Tan Coonhounds tend to be great with people and other dogs, they can have problems with other animals. Black and Tan Coonhounds are hunting dogs, and will act as such. They will likely stalk and potentially kill small animals, and sometimes larger ones as well. Black and Tan Coonhounds that have been trained as hunting dogs almost certainly will. This is not to say that you can’t have a Coonhound with the family cat, but you will find more difficulties in doing so than you would with many dogs. It is definitely advisable that you raise the dog with other animals from a very young age. If you want to introduce a dog into a family with existing non-canine pets, a Black and Tan Coonhound may not be the best choice. You should also probably reconsider if you intend on introducing a non-canine pet into a home with an adult Black and Tan Coonhound.
Like many hound breeds, Black and Tan Coonhounds have a reputation for being stupid and difficult to train. It is probably fairer to say that they are stubborn and require a more experienced dog trainer than most breeds. If Coonhounds were so difficult to train, how could there be thousands of hunters across the world using well-trained ones? Black and Tan Coonhounds tend to be very food driven, and will respond much better to food rewards than other training methods. Black and Tan Coonhounds are trainable, you just need to exercise more persistence and care than you would with many other breeds. If you have never trained a dog before, a Black and Tan Coonhound may not be the best choice for you. Also, if you want a dog to do complicated tricks and respond to dozens of commands, you should probably look elsewhere.
There are a few behavioral problems that are common among Black and Tan Coonhounds in addition to small animal aggression and difficulty in training. Perhaps the most prominent is their persistence. Black and Tan Coonhounds have the instinct to follow a trail to its conclusion. Once they have scented an animal, they will track it and it can be extremely difficult to refocus their attention or to call them back. This means that Black and Tan Coonhounds have a propensity for running away. This also means that Black and Tan Coonhounds must be kept on a leash, even more so than most dogs. Black and Tan Coonhounds must be confined if outside without a leash, and confined well. Some of these dogs can easily clear a six-foot-tall fence, and almost all can dig underneath one.
Black and Tan Coonhounds are very affectionate dogs, but if not properly trained their affection can turn into jumping and rowdy and inappropriate greetings. Simple training will usually fix this problem.
Black and Tan Coonhounds are working animals and require substantial amounts of exercise and mental stimulation. A ten minute bathroom walk twice a day is going to be woefully insufficient for most of these dogs. Black and Tan Coonhounds make excellent jogging and hiking companions. They can also make excellent sofa companions, if they have sufficient exercise. Like all dog breeds, if a Black and Tan Coonhound becomes bored it can become destructive. Black and Tan Coonhounds are large and strong enough to become quite destructive, which can be aggravated by their need for exercise and stimulation.
In addition to a propensity to hunt and kill small animals, Black and Tan Coonhounds’ hunting ancestry has left them with another behavioral characteristic which can be undesirable in an urban setting. They can be loud, very, very loud. Black and Tan Coonhounds alert their masters to a treed raccoon by baying. This bay can supposedly be heard for at least a mile. This is desirable if you are following dogs on foot at night. It is much less so when your neighbor is a thin apartment wall away. While you can train your Black and Tan Coonhound to bark less, it is impossible to change the way they sound when they do. A Black and Tan Coonhound is probably going to cause some noise complaints in a highly developed area.
Black and Tan Coonhounds should require very little professional grooming, if any at all. Occasional brushing will probably suffice. This is not to say that Coonhounds do not shed. Quite the contrary, these dogs are prolific shedders. Their coarse fur will come out when you pet them, and will stick to any upholstery and carpet in your home. It is particularly difficult to vacuum up. Black and Tan Coonhounds also have a fairly intense “doggy odor” that many people find disagreeable.
Black and Tan Coonhounds are a relatively healthy breed. Their average life expectancy is comparable to other large breeds at 10 to 12 years. Because they have for so long been bred primarily for working ability rather than appearance, unhealthy dogs would have been quickly bred out of the gene pool. Additionally, the harsh climate and terrain of the American South would have created dogs that were healthier and more disease resistant. This is not to say that there are no health problems which plague the breed.
The most serious health defect of note in Black and Tan Coonhounds is hip dysplasia. This condition afflicts almost all large dog breeds, and the Black and Tan Coonhound is no exception. Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip socket is malformed, leading to painful arthritis and potentially lameness. The condition is genetic but can be exacerbated by environmental factors. There are preventative treatments for hip dysplasia but most have not been proven by veterinary medicine. There is no cure for hip dysplasia, and most treatments only eliminate the pain.
Black and Tan Coonhounds are also susceptible to over-eating and weight gain. Like most hounds, Black and Tan Coonhounds were originally bred in pack environments where dogs would have to eat quickly and as much as possible or not at all. This has led to the tendency to eat excessively. Some hounds have been known to eat themselves to death. This means that you will have to carefully regulate your Black and Tan Coonhound’s diet, and prevent them from helping themselves to food that they aren’t supposed to have.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
Black and Tan Coonhounds are susceptible to many of the diseases that are common among other dog breeds, among them: