In 1650, Robert Brooke sailed from England to Crown Colony in North America with his pack of hunting dogs, which were the root of several strains of American Hounds. These dogs remained in the Brooke family for nearly 300 years. George Washington received French Foxhounds, Grand Bleu de Gascogne, (which look much like an American Bluetick Coonhound) as a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette. Many of the dogs Washington kept were descended from Brooke's, and when crossed with the French hounds, helped to create the present day American Foxhound. The American Foxhound is known to originate from the states of Maryland and Virginia, and is the state dog of Virginia. Though there has long been a rumor that the new breed was originally used for hunting Indigenous peoples of the Americas, this is not true. The breed was developed by landed gentry purely for the sport of hunting foxes. With the importation (or migration) of the red fox, Irish Foxhounds were added to the lines, to increase speed and stamina in the dog, qualities still prevalent in today's dogs. One quality that the American Foxhound is famous for is its musical howl that can be heard for miles. This is actually one reason that this breed does not do well in city settings. The breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886. Today, there are many different strains of American Foxhound, including Walker, Calhoun, Goodman, Trigg, July and Penn-Marydel. Though each strain looks quite different, they are all recognized as members of the same breed. Most show hounds are Walkers, many of the pack hounds (used with hunting foxes on horseback) are Penn-Marydel and hunters use a variety of strains to suit their hunting style and quarry.
While standards call for the American Foxhound to be about 21–25 in (53–64 cm) tall to the withers, and weigh anywhere between 65–75 lb (29–34 kg), many of them are larger in structure (especially the show strains), with males standing 26–29 in (66–74 cm) and females 25–28 in (64–71 cm) and smaller in weight, typically between 45–65 lb (20–29 kg). For years it was traditional to feed Foxhounds on a diet of "dog bread", a variation on cornbread. The legs of a Foxhound are very long and straight-boned. The foxhound's chest is rather narrow. It has a long muzzle, and a large, domed skull. The ears are wide and low-set. The eyes are hazel or brown, and are large and wide-set.
A close, hard hound coat of medium length, and any color, though the combination of black, white and tan is prevalent. American Foxhounds do tend to shed a good amount of hair, but a weekly brushing will decrease shedding.
American Foxhounds at the Atlanta Steeplechase
Defining physical characteristics
The American Foxhound is taller and rangier than its cousin, the English Foxhound. Also, this breed is known to have a musical bark when it is hunting that can be heard for miles. If competing in a dog show, some physical characteristics that judges would look for would be a slightly domed skull, long, large ears, large eyes, straight muzzle, well laid-back shoulders, a moderately long back, fox-like feet, and a slightly curved tail. Though they are traditionally tri-colored (black, white and tan) they can be any color. They are one of the rarest breeds in the American Kennel Club.
The American Foxhound has a very docile and sweet demeanor. A typical dog is gentle, easygoing, and gets along with children and other animals. However, they may act shy and reserved when around strangers.
The American Foxhound is a very active breed and very high energy. They require a lot of exercise and do best in habitats where they have room to run. If they live in a suburban area such as a neighborhood, they should have a fenced in yard and be taken on multiple walks daily.
Obedience training is essential for this breed due to their independence and natural instinct to follow a scent. A Foxhound who picks up a scent will follow it while ignoring commands; training requires patience and skill because of the breed's independence and occasional stubbornness. Because of its strong hunting instinct, American Foxhounds should not be trusted off-lead. Most scent hounds are bred to give "voice", but the Foxhound does not make a good watchdog.
A white American foxhound with black spots.
This breed is not generally a breed that carries genetic disorders. However they can easily become overweight if being overfed. A minor health risk in American Foxhounds is thrombocytopathy, or platelet disease. This comes from poorly functioning blood platelets and can result in excessive bleeding from minor bumps or cuts. The treatment is usually based on the severity of the disease. Owners will often have their American Foxhounds undergo blood tests so that the condition can be caught early on. While dysplasia was largely unknown in Foxhounds, it is beginning to crop up occasionally, along with some eye issues. It is not typical or customary for Foxhound breeders to screen for any hereditary disorders at this time. The breed's lifespan is generally 10–12 years. The American Foxhound is an energetic breed. According to some veterinarians and trainers, it needs plenty of exercise, for example, a fairly long walk followed by a game of fetch.