THE AMERICAN FOXHOUND – QUESTIONS ANSWERED
By Patricia H. Gilbert (First published in Sight & Scent)
The first American Foxhound named Lady Stewart, was registered in 1886. The American Foxhound Club provided the Breed Standard to the American Kennel Club (AKC). I have not found an exact date for this Standard. All references state it easily predates 1935.
The basic breed stock for the American Foxhound was derived from the English Foxhound. In England and Ireland the hounds were hunted in packs and followed on horseback. When these hounds were brought to the United States a different style of hound was needed. The US had a faster and smarter Fox. They hunted over a more solid ground in an entirely different environment than in England and Ireland.
President George Washington is considered the father of the American Foxhound. His journals are full of tales of his hounds. The breed’s history is long and proud.
The American Foxhound was developed in the U.S. for four different purposes. Each purpose required different characteristics and focused on different abilities. There is the competitive field trial hound requiring speed. There is the hound to hunt fox with a gun; he is a slow trailing hound with a good voice.
There are the trail hounds or drag hounds which are raced; speed alone is essential. Finally there are the hounds hunted in a pack. They are used by hunt clubs and always followed on horseback. In recent years the American Foxhound Club and the hunts which are governed by the Masters of Foxhounds Association have made great strides in developing a more standard breed type.
The Standard is broad in order to cover each of these functions even though they are not defined. The Standard was written by people who knew and hunted or used their hounds in the field. They also understood the quarry. This Standard has never been changed and has survived the test of time.
What should strike you first as they walk into the ring?
This is a hunting Scenthound that is not overly tall at a maximum height of 25” for dogs and 24” for bitches, nor is he unduly small.
He is clean headed with a fairly long skull, broad and full that is slightly domed at the occiput. He has a low set long fine textured ear. The ear is also broad and should have almost no erectile ability. I think for this reason it is silly to bait this dog to show ears. When you walk up to him his expression will melt your heart. His eyes are brown or hazel and his expression is gentle and pleading while also being very houndlike.
He is a well bodied dog with no extra skin or weight. He has good legs and gives the appearance of being able to go all day long. While he is the product of breeding from the English Foxhound, he is easily distinguished from his cousin as he is a racier appearing hound. He is specifically built for the faster game and harder terrain of the United States.
Is there a particular trait that makes you cringe and should never be overlooked?
This is a hard bodied hound that is well muscled but not overly muscled and should never be soft or squishy.
Good legs and feet are synonymous with a good hound.
The foot is essential for function in this hound. The foot is shaped like the foot of his primary quarry which is the fox. The feet are thick padded with well arched toes and strong nails.
His coat while pleasing to the eye is important for survival. You should note that he has a close and hard medium length coat. You should not forgive a thin or soft coat.
Please do not forgive a hound that is quarrelsome with other hounds or dogs. This is a pack animal and he must not only be biddable but get along well with his pack and kennel mates. This easy to get along with temperament is part and parcel of their true nature and breed type.
What have breeders worked hard to achieve in the breed that should be acknowledged?
This is not a very popular breed as a show dog. That is fine as his job really is in the fields and working in packs. I think the breeders have all stayed true to the original hound that George Washington and others envisioned. The breeders have also maintained pack integrity and have looks that are easily recognizable. The reason for this is that almost all breeders use their dogs on game. They understand what it takes to have a hound that truly functions.
What do you see that could become a problem?
Through the years I see two distinct toplines. One is slightly arched in the loin and appears flatter than the other topline I see. I believe this is correct if you take the words of the AKC Standard and interpret them correctly: “Back moderately long, muscular and strong. Loins broad and slightly arched.” The arch is in the loin. The called for arch is not the total topline.
The second topline I see is a distinct arch in the center of the back. I believe this is wrong although some Foxhound people will argue it is correct. As stated in the AKC Standard: “Defects--Very long or swayed or roached back. Flat, narrow loins.”
Is there something that every judge of American Foxhounds should do (not do) or notice (not notice)?
Please do not forget a good hound cannot be a bad color.
A hound with scrapes ands scars is not to be penalized as long as he is sound moving. He is a hunting hound.
Movement is not directly covered in Standard, but it is inferred by the Standard in its entire description that he is a functional Scenthound.
This is a hound breed and should be approached in a matter of fact way. Your exam should be methodical and thorough paying attention to both sides of the hound. Maintain touch at all times during the exam. I let his chin rest in my hands so I can get a true appreciation of head proportion and expression. He should be calm and confident and not fearful. The neck is strong and medium in length without being thick. Make sure you put your hand between his front legs and check for depth and separation between the front legs. Remember he is not as heavily boned or built as the English Foxhound. Check the rib cage (both sides), to make sure he has good spring of rib and a long rib cage giving him plenty of heart and lung room. The back should be long, strong and muscular. The loin should also be broad and slightly arched. Check overall muscle tone for suppleness.
The American Foxhound is moderately angulated and balanced front and rear.
He must be strong and I cannot say it enough properly well muscled. He is a hunting hound. His running gear is efficient with no wasted motion in any direction. His footfall is rhythmic and effortless with no wasted or fancy action. Going and coming he has a tendency to converge to a center line with no wasted action.
One of his distinguishing characteristics is his gaily carried tail. It is set on moderately high and carried up with a slight curve. His tail should also have a slight brush.
When you do your examination properly and get a good hound, your hands and heart will know. Step back to get the full appreciation of this true American hunting hound.
Trust your good instincts and you will do just fine.