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20 Hound Dog Breeds: Pictures, Facts & History

Chris Dinesen Rogers

By Chris Dinesen Rogers

rhodesian ridgeback dog training

People have used canines for hunting game for thousands of years. Thanks to this companionship, dogs can perform many useful tasks, primarily using their scent or sight. Today, we have a plethora of hound dogs, most of which had an ancestor who thrived as a hunting companion. So, what exactly is a hound dog, and what are some of the most popular hound breeds today? Let’s take a look.

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How Are Hounds Classified?

The major dog registries across the globe have developed categorization schemes often linked to the breed’s initial purpose.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) classifies these pups as follows:
  • Herding Group
  • Hounds Group
  • Non-Sporting
  • Sporting Group
  • Terrier Group
  • Toy Group
  • Working Group

Hunting dogs overlap into several groups, including Hounds, Sporting, and Working. Sometimes, dogs perform multiple tasks, and their placement reflects their varying roles.

The United Kennel Club (UKC) is more nuanced. The organization recognizes the canine’s role and focuses on the way they do their job.

Their categories include the following:
  • Companion Dog
  • Guardian Dog
  • Gun Dog
  • Herding Dog
  • Northern Breed
  • Scenthound
  • Sighthound and Pariah
  • Terrier

To put it simply, a hound is any breed that was previously used to assist hunters in some way using their unique traits, such as a strong nose or loud bay.

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The 20 Hound Dog Breeds

1. Afghan Hound

Afghan Hound
Image Credit: David Raihelgauz, Shutterstock
Origin: Afghanistan
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

One thing we can be sure of with an Afghan Hound is that they’ve been with humans since ancient times, with legends saying that one was even on Noah’s Ark. This dog relies on their keen vision and incredible speed to chase down prey. They are hardy and independent animals with the intelligence that this job demands.

2. American Foxhound

American Foxhound dog standing outdoor
Image Credit: aruni udeshika, Shutterstock
Origin: United States
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

Our founding fathers took a fancy to the English Foxhound and selectively bred the pup to develop an American version of the hound – The American Foxhound. This dog has the speed and loud bark to help find their quarry and alert their hunting companions to their location. They may not chase foxes much anymore, but they still have the qualities that make them skilled at their job.

3. Basenji

Basenji outdoor
Image Credit: Verbitskaya Juli, Shutterstock
Origin: Africa
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

The Basenji is an ancient breed with a long history of hunting with sight and scent. They are anomalies in the canine lineage, forming a separate offshoot from the species’ origins. The breed is famously known for its lack of bark, or at least the booming one you’d expect with a hunting companion.

4. Basset Hound

basset hound dog standing outdoors
Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock
Origin: France
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

The Basset Hound is an excellent companion, whether hunting rabbits in the field or playing with the kids. Their loud voices make them easy to track while after their quarry. Their excellent sense of smell helps them find their prey, and they are even used as tracking dogs in police work today. Their small stature made them affordable choices for the everyday man who couldn’t afford a horse for chasing game, and while many of them are used for this purpose today, others are simply companion animals.

5. Beagle

beagle dog standing outdoor
Image Credit: Artyom Gantsev, Shutterstock
Origin: England
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

Few dogs seem as eager to get on with the hunt as the happy-go-lucky Beagle. This dog looks like they’re having fun while on the chase. They are quite vocal, which excites their hunting companions while making it easy to follow them through the brush. They also have a keen sense of sight to spot rabbits lying in wait.

6. Bloodhound

bloodhound dog standing in the field
Image Credit: Lenkadan, Shutterstock
Origin: Ancient Mediterranean area
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

The Bloodhound epitomizes the topic of this article, checking off the boxes for what we’d expect to see with a hound dog. They have a loud bark to alert their followers, and their sense of smell is legendary. One study found that trained dogs could provide reliable forensic evidence for law enforcement in the court of law to accuse a particular suspect of crimes.1 After all, their sniffers have nearly 40 times more olfactory sensors than people.2

7. Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick Coonhound dog standing in the woods
Image Credit: Taylor Walter, Shutterstock
Origin: United States
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

Few dogs match the enthusiasm and energy of a Bluetick Coonhound. This athletic and seemingly tireless pup will follow even cold trails to their conclusion. This dog is about as American as it gets, with anecdotal evidence suggesting their use by early settlers. The name gives a clue about this pooch’s quarry: raccoons. People often hunt raccoons for their pelts and meat, although pest control is another reason, making this dog useful to many.

8. Borzoi

white russian borzoi in the forest during autumn
Image Credit: Anastasiia Cherniavskaia, Shutterstock
Origin: Russia
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

It’s hard to imagine a dog that looks as dignified as the Borzoi does while hunting. However, their quarry was wolves, and their hunting companions were Russian royalty. This breed has retained the qualities of this association with their loyal and affectionate nature, and they are protective of their tribe and aloof with strangers.

9. Dachshund

Image Credit: David Pecheux, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

It’s hard to picture a small-legged dog like the Dachshund taking on nasty prey like badgers. These pups must be made of pure courage to take on those foes. A genetic mutation gave these dogs a competitive edge to chase the critters out of their dens and to the waiting hunters. Few Doxies probably still tangle with badgers, though; they’re more likely to be running in Dachshund races at local festivals or curling up with you on the couch.

10. English Foxhound

English Foxhound dog walking in the meadow
Image Credit: RobertArt, Shutterstock
Origin: England
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

While hunting foxes doesn’t sound like our cup of tea, it was a common thing in medieval England. However, deer were also on the receiving end of these dogs during hunts. Fox hunting served a purpose at the time to get rid of predators that would raid hen houses, and it became a pastime of the aristocracy, all with the English Foxhound in tow. The United Kingdom’s Hunting Act of 2004 banned the activity, but sadly, foxes have declined without a humane game management plan.3

11. Greyhound

greyhound lying on the meadow
Image Credit: nigel baker photography, Shutterstock
Origin: Egypt
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

The Greyhound is an ancient breed of Egypt where it chased real prey instead of fake rabbits at a track. This dog also had a brush with royalty, like many dogs with a similar history. They share a common ancestor with other breeds on our round-up, including the Whippet and Irish Wolfhound. As a fun fact, the Guinness World Record for the fastest Greyhound is 41.83 miles per hour.4 For comparison, the human record is 24.816 miles per hour.5

12. Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound
Image Credit: Brian Jones, Unsplash
Origin: Ireland
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

The Irish Wolfhound roamed the countryside long before Romans came to the British Isles, with an ancient history of hunting predators of their namesake. Wolves were commonplace in Europe and were a threat to people and livestock. The breed’s role in this capacity was fated not to last. Luckily, enthusiasts saved the Irish Wolfhound from extinction.

13. Norwegian Elkhound

Norwegian Elkhound dog standing outdoor in snow
Image Credit: Vladimir Berny, Shutterstock
Origin: Norway
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Northern Breed

The Norwegian Elkhound also faced formidable foes back in the day, hunting bears and wolves in addition to elk. Their history goes back thousands of years to the Vikings. The dog’s dense double coat helped them survive the bitterly cold winters of northern climates. They are the only representatives of the UKC’s Northern Breed group on our list.

14. Otterhound

Image Credit: Lourdes Photography, Shutterstock
Origin: England
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

You’ll notice many specializations within the hound categories, and the Otterhound is a classic example. Their role targeted the predators that were depleting rivers and ponds of fish. This breed is a rarity in the United States, coming in at 176th on the AKC’s list of the most popular breeds. Game and wildlife management laws undoubtedly played a role in the decline of the breed.

15. Pharaoh Hound

Pharaoh Hound
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock
Origin: Ancient Egypt
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

One look at the Pharaoh Hound, and you know you’re dealing with an ancient breed. This pup was commonplace across the Mediterranean, although their appearance suggests Egyptian origins. This dog succeeded as a rabbit hunter thanks to their remarkable speed and agility, and they have retained the exuberant energy and playfulness that made them so useful and beloved.

16. Redbone Coonhound

Redbone Coonhound
Image Credit: Crystal Alba, Shutterstock
Origin: United States
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Scenthound

The Redbone Coonhound is one of six breeds developed by American settlers to provide sources of raccoon meat and fur. You won’t meet a more easy-going pooch. However, it belies the fact that this dog is a tenacious and energetic hunter when on the job. Like other hounds, this dog makes their presence known with a booming bark. They are easy to train and eager to please, even when not chasing raccoons.

17. Rhodesian Ridgeback

rhodesian ridgeback dog standing in the meadow
Image Credit: Dunhill, Shutterstock
Origin: South Africa
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

The Rhodesian Ridgeback epitomizes dignity and elegance. What else is there to say about a dog that hunts the king of the jungle and lives to tell the tale? The breed comes from native stock and dogs brought to the continent by Europeans. The result is a handsome dog with a telltale ridge on its back.

18. Saluki

Image Credit: Svetlay, Shutterstock
Origin: Ancient Egypt
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

The Saluki is another dog originating from Ancient Egypt. Like similar breeds, this dog enjoyed their place next to royalty. The animal’s sleek body speaks to their speed and beauty. No wonder the royals wanted this pup in their courts! This close association undoubtedly nurtured this dog’s affectionate and kid-friendly nature.

19. Scottish Deerhound

Scottish Deerhound
Image Credit: Kim Christensen, Shutterstock
Origin: Scotland
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

The Scottish Deerhound is the quintessential gentle giant. They are affectionate with their family and get along with other dogs, and their namesake describes their prey. They have the stamina and hardiness to transverse the rugged terrain of their native land which makes this breed an excellent hunter that’s prized for these skills.

20. Whippet

Whippet dog in a meadow
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock
Origin: England
AKC Group: Hound
UKC Group: Sighthound and Pariah

The Whippet is a smaller version of their cousin, the Greyhound. The breed brought dog racing to the working class in its native land of England. The Greyhound provided the DNA and speed, and they succeeded in the latter. Rabbits and other small game don’t stand a chance with this pooch. However, this pup is a sweetheart and loving with their family while openly accepting of other canines as well.

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Hounds are a surprisingly diverse group. The differences stem from the specializations that encouraged certain traits through selective breeding. The takeaway is that these animals succeed at their jobs. They use their eyes and noses to track and bring home games. It’s evident in the intelligence and independent nature of these dogs, but that also means they have a need for mental stimulation and enrichment as companion dogs.

Featured Image Credit: Ivan4es, Shutterstock

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