The Hound Group of Breeds

Why get a dog from the Hound family?

Hunting for an athletic dog which loves fresh air and exercise? Do you lead an active lifestyle and need a doggedly devoted hiking or running companion? Then a breed from the hound family might well be right for you.

Sight Hounds have acute vision and love the sprint. They will need a good run out but then are happy to curl up on a bed or sofa for a long rest.

Other Hounds have developed one of the most acute senses of smell in the animal kingdom. Many of these Scent Hounds are sturdily built for the marathon. These will demand a lot of walking.

Some breeds need a little more training although this is a generalisation.Bred for hunting Hounds are always looking or scenting out something interesting. With early recall and socialization dogs from the Hound family make wonderful family pets.

The Greyhound is just one example from this group who would make an excellent choice for a first-time dog owner. A lovely temperament, eager to please and ironically not requiring a huge amount of exercise.

But these dogs will not generally suit apartment-living preferring open spaces to investigate and for play.

The Hound Group of Breeds

What is a Hound?
History of the Hound

Example Breeds:

Sight Hounds
The Greyhound
Irish Wolfhound

Scent Hounds
The Bloodhound
The Dachshund

Still hunting for the right dog?

Full List of Hound Group of Breeds

What is a Hound?

The verb to ‘hound’, from the German ‘hund’ or  dog, means to ‘doggedly’ follow or pursue. This gives an idea of what the Hound Group of breeds is all about.  Long before the advent of gun sports, the hunting arena of the Sporting Dog Group, Sight Hounds streaked through meadows and woods in silent and deadly pursuit of visible fleeing prey.

Other Hounds became specialized in tracking prey for longer distances beyond where even the acute vision of the Sight Hounds was able to track.  In cases where the quarry had hidden or fled, it required a canine assistant with a very keen scent to follow the trail.  These have become known as Scent Hounds. The word ‘sleuth’ means trail or track in Old Norse.  Hence these dogs became a metaphor for the ‘sleuth’ of detective fiction.  They could, after all, almost miraculously discover things hidden out of sight.

These are the Olympic athletes of the dog world capable of almost preternatural physical feats.  These breeds are all athletic with individual mixes of impressive  speed, strength and stamina.

There has been great diversification since medieval times as demands of landholders and gamekeepers varied according to land and habitat.  Each different type of game or quarry requiring a specialized dog breed optimized to track it down.

This makes for a rich and diverse group of dogs, many of whom make fantastic pets for those with the energy and space to fit them into their lifestyle.

History of the Hound

The Hound Group of breeds - ancient history of the Greyhound
Depictions of Greyhound like dogs found in Egyptian tombs go back to around 4000BC

The Hound numbers among the broad ancient groupings of documented dogs. The others include:  Mastiffs (linked to the ancient Molossus breed); wolf-like dogs (ancestors of the modern Spitz dogs); pointer-type dogs and finally pastoral herding dogs. 

Depictions of a Greyhound-type of dog in Egyptian tombs date to around 4000 BC.  Graves containing these dogs go back even further to around 5000 BC [1].   A smaller version of the Greyhound, akin to today’s Whippet, was also bred in Ancient Egypt.  This evidence shows that the Egyptians revered and cared for their dogs.  If you killed a dog belonging to another family, it was punishable through death.

Wherever mankind has roamed  there was a need for speedy and stealthy hunters.  The Sight-Hounds  would flush out and pursue fast-moving prey.  They all have sharp-eyes, long limbs, blistering speed and silence in the pursuit. 

This type of dog features globally across many cultures.  Imagery surrounding hounds and the hunt is still embedded in British culture.  Fox-hunting is now banned in the United Kingdom but any visitor to England will not have to look far for a pub named ‘The Fox and Hounds’.  Many older pubs are still  adorned with memorabilia or paintings relating to hounds.

The Pug (link) may have been a cherished companion of Victorian royalty at home.  But on the grounds and estates, it was Hounds who ran with kings and aristocrats.  Some Hounds appear in a charming collection of royal photographs called ‘Noble Hounds and Dear Companions’, a compilation which is available free online [2].

Further specialization has taken place around the last thousand years.   This has been to  optimize the Hound for different kinds of prey in varying terrains.  Breeds of Scent Hounds emerged with sturdier legs and long nostrils.  Some of these breeds, such as the Bloodhound, have a sense of smell up to one million times that of a human.  That is not to say the Scent-Hounds have  all surrendered speed.  The English Foxhound can still lead a hunt at speeds approaching 40mph. 

Some Hounds became smaller.  This includes the Dachshund (link).  This breed has small powerful limbs ideal for digging out and chasing down badgers.

One example of recorded medieval specialization is the St. Hubert Hound.  This dog is the direct ancestor of the modern Bloodhound.  Monks developed this pioneering breed of Hound in Belgium and named it after no less than the patron saint of hunting. 

A good example of more modern specialization includes the Coonhound.  This dog not only corrals raccoons to specific trees.  It then uses a distinctive baying sound to summon hunters to the location of its quarry.

These different types of breed in the Hound Group of Dog Breeds  have all proven to be trainable and reliable.  They all fulfil their intended role in a very impressive manner .    An association with  dependability has spread into popular culture. Trusty from ‘Lady and the Tramp’ provides just one endearing example [3].

Sight Hounds

The Sighthound breeds are very distinctive.  They have slender and lengthy limbs with taut muscular hindquarters.  The heads are generally narrow adding to a very streamlined body. 

These breeds also have deep chests to maximize lung capacity.  This extra oxygenation powers the dog’s explosive bursts of speed. 


The Hound Group of breeds - Greyhound sprinting
The Greyhound uses the same ‘rotary gallop’ gait as a Cheetah to achieve blistering speeds

History of the Greyhound

A Greyhound-like coursing hound is represented pictorially in Egyptian tombs from 4000 BC [4] .  Also in later frescoes and paintings from the Greek and Roman era. The British monarchy also has a long history with coursing hounds. King Henry VIII was known to enjoy a bet on this sport and his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I,  first formalized the rules on the sport of coursing hares. This blood sport has now thankfully been banned in the UK and more recently Northern Ireland. But it continues in three EU countries including the Republic of Ireland and it is also practiced in Western United States.

The Greyhound’s blazing speed now has a far wider audience than the royal hunting grounds. The modern sport of Greyhound racing is televised around the world.  In this sport dogs reach amazing speeds of up to 45mph (72kph).  To do so they adopt the same distinctive rotary gallop gait as the Cheetah.

Character of the Greyhound

This dog is the fastest canine on the planet, but only when he gets off the sofa.  Some owners describe this dog as ‘a 40-mile-an-hour couch potato’.  Many Greyhounds aspire to be very large lap dogs who like nothing better than to curl up next to their owners.

The Greyhound makes for a loving and affectionate pet at home. Despite their dynamic image, they are very relaxed and easy-going. These dogs are also generally very clean animals. They are wonderful, warm-hearted and playful companions.  Greyhounds are  very elegant dogs not only in the sprint.  They often prance daintily in greeting to their owners. 

This low-maintenance dog is highly recommended for first-time owners.   But they have a very  laid-back nature and aptitude for training.  This allows even older dogs to usually make a successful transition to family and home life. There are always, sadly, many ex-racing Greyhounds available for adoption but they are ideal candidates to make a successful new start in a loving home.

It comes as a surprise to many people but the Greyhound only needs a moderate amount of exercise.  A Greyhound will be happy with around two short walks.  These should offer at least an hour of exercise per day. Remember these dogs are designed for short bursts of speed.  After that this dog is very happy to chill out at home with the family. At rest Greyhounds sometimes adopt what is known as the roach position.  This is when they have four legs up in the air akin to a dead insect (hence the name ‘roach’).

These dogs also rarely bark. This does not make them the best watch-dogs but contributes to a relaxed environment. Although Hounds, these dogs are usually fine with other smaller pets like cats.

Also grooming for these dogs is undemanding.  The Greyhound has short and glossy coats that only need to be brushed once a week. They do not have much of an odor. Nor do they shed very often, at most a couple of times a year.

These dogs can live in apartments as long as the exercise can be put in place.

Greyhounds still do have some prey-drive. So recall training is an important focus for this breed.  But these dogs are sociable and rarely aggressive towards other dogs.

As a very lean dog they do not have much body fat.  This means they will need protection during cold spells of weather with a warm coat.

Greyhounds live up to around 10 years. They are susceptible to muscular injuries and sometimes arthritis as they get older.  Some of the breed suffer from cardiomyopathy.  This is where the chambers of the heart become stretched and thinned. Some Greyhounds are prone to gum disease and tooth decay.  Thus regular dental checkups are essential.

Irish Wolfhound

The Hound Group of breeds - Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound -The tallest breed in the world

History of the Irish Wolfhound

From the fastest dog in the world to the tallest.

This huge Hound originates in Ireland frequently featuring in Celtic myths and legends. Some accounts suggest this breed may go back as far as around 700BC.

This is a dog who walked with kings and chieftains. It certainly walked tall as a war-dog as well as on the hunt. Irish Wolfhounds today are around 28-34 inches in height (71-86cm).  They  stand over 6ft on their hind legs.

This breed had the bulk and ferocity to hunt down wolves.   But these dogs became the victims of their own success.  Their popularity waned when wolves were hunted into extinction in the British Isles. The last documented wolf killed in Ireland was killed in 1786 in County Carlow.  In the following century this majestic breed also faced extinction.

But in the 1860s and 1870s a Captain G A Graham became a key figure in rescuing and restoring the breed.  His extraordinary breeding alchemy proved successful in restoring the moribund dog.  He rescued the depleted stock of remaining Irish Wolfhounds.  At the same time he introduced other large breeds to restore their bulk and size.  These included: the Great Dane  Scottish Deerhound, Borzoi and Mastiff.

Enthusiasm for the Irish Wolfhound was soon rekindled.  The Irish Wolfhound ranks as the 74th most popular breed in the USA (2020 AKC ratings). This puts it one place ahead of its compatriot the Irish Setter.  This breed has also served as army dogs and to this day remains the mascot of the Irish Guards [7].

Character of the Wolfhound

These dogs are gentle giants. They are a far cry from the original war-dogs.  Irish Wolfhounds are generally very friendly to humans but this does not make them the best guard dogs.  Although that is not to say these fiercely loyal dogs are not protective of their owners if they sense a threat.

Like the Greyhound, this sight hound is the silent and strong type. This breed is generally very quiet around the house making them good pets.  But, given their size, these dogs do need very proactive socialization training.   Irish Wolfhounds can suffer acute separation anxiety.  Training to prevent or mitigate this is should be a priority.

These dogs are human-oriented and respond particularly well to positive reinforcement. They are sensitive so need gentle and firm training. Irish Wolfhounds are intelligent and very eager to please.  This means they will generally respond well to training.

These dogs make fantastic companions.  But these huge Hounds have strength as well as size.  They are usually recommended for a more experienced dog-owner.  They also need lots of exercise and owners will need to set aside at least a couple of hours today for walking.  This exercise regime is fundamental in ensuring this dog does not put on too much weight. An overweight Wolfhound can develop health complications usually related to the heart and joints.

The Irish Wolfhound has all the attributes associated with a sight-hound. They are elegant in their movements and quick. Both their tails and their heads are held high in a streamlined gait.  These dogs are very agile despite their gargantuan size.

Apartment-living is not suitable for these dogs.  They do need lots of space.  A fenced, outdoor area in which they can burn off any excessive energy is ideal. It is also very important to remove any slippery surfaces as these dogs can be injured if they fall. 

This dog can be a little stubborn but do respond well to consistent training. Positive reinforcement works very well with this breed.  Irish Wolfhounds are human-oriented and very eager to please their owners.

These dogs have wiry, rough grey coats that can come in a variety of colors although steel grey is the most common. These dogs do shed throughout the year but not excessively.  A couple of brushes a week will suffice to maintain their coats.

Irish Wolfhounds have an average lifespan of around 6 to 10 years and with greater size comes a greater possibility of medical complications. These dogs can suffer from heart issues and there are incidences of bone cancer. They can also be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and other joint complications. Some of the breed also get gastric torsion.

Links to other breeds: This breed is  related to the Scottish Deerhound.  Even experts can struggle to tell them apart and speculate that they share a common ancestor named the ‘vetragus’ [4].

Scent Hounds

Scent Hounds offer a sub-grouping of impressive breeds.   These breeds have diversified  in adapting to hunt different prey in a variety of terrain.   

Scent Hounds have long noses packed with around 300 million scent receptors.  Also their moistened lips, wrinkled skin and low-hanging all help to drag up and net scents.  These scents are then funneled through their snouts.

In the hunt these dogs led, rather than followed.  This role persists  in modern service such as in search and rescue.  This has baked into their temperament an independent and confident demeanor.

Bloodhound (aka Sleuth-Hound) (aka Slot-Hound) (hist. St. Hubert’s Hound)

The Hound Group of breeds - The Bloodhound
The Bloodhound – The super sleuth Scent Hound

History of the Bloodhound

We have seen that speed and size in the dog world are impressive.  But having the best nose in the whole of the canine kingdom is also not to be sniffed at.

The word ‘sleuth’ comes from old Nordic for a ‘track’ or ‘trail’. The Blood-Hound, or ‘Sleuth-Hound’, is able to follow scents that are over 100 hours old. This makes it the best detective dog out there. No wonder that a Bloodhound was recently conscripted to assist the most famous ‘sleuth’ of all.  In the recent Sherlock Holmes series it is a Bloodhound who teams up with Benedict Cumberbatch [4].

The name Bloodhound may not be as gory as it first sounds.  Received opinion states that this refers to their ‘well-blooded’ or aristocratic owners.

Originally from Belgium, the forebear of this dog was named the St. Hubert Hound.   Developed by monks this dog had the honor of being named after the patron saint of hunting.  This breed quickly spread throughout France.  They were then reputedly brought over to England by William the Conqueror in 1066. They were used largely to track large game such as deer and wild boar. Although they did already have an early enforcement role in medieval society.  These dogs are documented as being used by curfew-men and sheriffs.  So they have a long history in keeping order and pursuing felons.

Bloodhounds are still employed in various law enforcement agencies in the States.   Their tracking or ‘sleuthing’ expertise are still highly respected.  Indeed a Blood Hound’s recognition of scent remains permissible as court evidence [5].   They are particularly valued in search and rescue operations.

These dogs represent a triumph of specialization.  Their noses are packed with around 300 million scent receptors (compared to around 6 million in humans).  Their wrinkled skin and hanging ears are all employed in dragging up scents.  These smells  are then funneled up through the Blood Hound’s long muzzle.

But this very iconic dog is now most commonly encountered as a beloved family pet.  They rank as the  46th most popular breed in the USA according to the AKC’s 2020 rankings.

Characteristics of the Bloodhound

This big and brilliant scent hound is a very relaxed and easy-going dog . This makes them an excellent family pet.  Children must learn to treat all dogs with absolute respect.  But the Bloodhound has a reputation of being very tolerant towards small children. They are also very sociable with other dogs, but some do have a high prey-drive.  This means socialization is key to ensure they don’t try to ‘course’ or ‘trap’ smaller dogs. Bloodhounds are reported as usually being able to live with cats and other small animals but a consistent and careful introduction should be put in place to mitigate any tendency to chase, pursue and potentially slobber on any resident felines.

Also these dogs have a natural tendency to pull on the lead.  This makes them unsuitable for frail or elderly dog-owners. It is worth noting that the choice of collar or leash is particularly  important for this breed. Also be aware that  these dogs sometimes drool.

Much like the Wolfhound, these dogs have a very laid back and friendly character. This does not make them the best guard-dogs. But it does make them a good choice for first-time owners who can commit to the exercise requirements.  But they do have an impressive vocal range.   The Bloodhounds unique combination of baying, howling and barking is almost choral.

These dogs are very trainable. But the high prey-drive can mean that they will sometimes become distracted.  Unlike other service dogs, the Bloodhound is takes the lead on any trail. This is reflected in them having quite independent and confident spirits.

But Bloodhounds are very human-oriented and eager to please their owners. The use of positive reinforcement  in consistent training is essential. This will result in generally biddable and well-trained dogs.

These dogs love to chew and can be destructive without house-training.  This can also happen during the owner’s absence.  Training to mitigate separation anxiety should be prioritized. It is recommended that you  provide a Bloodhound with hefty chews and toys.  This should keep them occupied and calm.

These large hounds are active  and need a good level of exercise. A Bloodhound needs at least 2 hours every day of walks.

The Bloodhound’s coat is short and low maintenance. They need brushing around 2 to 3 times a week and shed only once or at most twice a year.    The most common coloring is Black and Tan although they come in red and liver. 

This breed has a good lifespan for a large dog generally between 10 and 15 years. But, as a large dog, they can suffer Hip and  Elbow Dysplasia. Owners should try to avoid too many slippery surfaces in the home.  This will prevent injury or extra strain on joints.   Their hanging or pendant ears are also liable to infection.  Regular checking and cleaning is essential. 

Bloodhounds are also prone to suffer from bloating. Also entropion, where the eyelids roll inwards, can cause pain and vision-related issues. A dog squinting or repeatedly holding their eyes closed are early signs of this   but it is treatable through surgery.

Dachshund (aka ‘Sausage Dog’) (aka Viennese Dog) (aka Wiener Dog) (German translation: ‘Badger-Hound’)

The Hound Group of breeds  -Dachshund
The Dachshund – the ‘Badger Hound’ really likes to dig – sometimes prize flowers just get in their way…

Background and History

The Dachshund is the smallest dog in the Hound Group of Breeds.

Every time you enjoy a ‘hot dog’ you should think about the Dachshund.   The Dachshund’s elongated shape led to the coining of the term by German immigrants to the states [6].

Although ‘hot-dogs’ are relatively modern, the ‘sausage’ style of dog goes back a long way.  This was revealed during excavations at  Egyptian and Romano-Germanic sites.  There they discovered the skeletal remains of dogs with long bodies and short legs.

The Dachshund was traditionally used for badger-hunting. ‘Dachs’ translates as badger in German and ‘hund’ means dog.  These popular little dogs have the long noses and acuity of smell of a Scent-Hound above ground.  At the same time they show the dogged persistence of a Terrier underground.  It is a formidable combination and has produced a little dog hardy enough to take on a badger.

The Dachshund has long, tough bodies and powerful legs.  This is the perfect physiology to power through tunnels and cavities.  The strength in their legs also equips them to be consummate diggers. These dogs were also speedy enough to chase wild boar.

More diminuitive versions emerged during the nineteenth century.  Their role was to chase smaller prey such as rabbits.  The smaller Dachshund has now developed into a recognized miniature breed.

The Dachshund quickly became established in the late nineteenth century.   Codification of the breed standard took place in 1879 .  The foundation of a dedicated club in Germany followed in 1888.   

The Dachshund also immediately became hot property in the states.  It was first registered as a breed by the American Kennel Club in the same year.

This was another German breed which fell out of favor following the Great Wars.  But in 1972 Munich Olympics a Dachshund named Waldi became the first ever Olympic mascot [7].  This led to a spike in its  popularity during the 1970s.

This iconic dog is now ranked as  the 10th  most popular breed in America. Congratulations to this little sausage dog for making it in to the top 10 for the first time in 2020. (based on AKC registration data).

Character and Temperament

These dogs are very gentle and loving. They see themselves as much lapdog as Hound.  They are as happy burrowing into their owners laps as digging holes in the garden.  But the virtues of prey-driven scent hounds in the hunt can become curses in training.   The complete focus on scents can lead to distractions. As a consequence this tenacious breed can have lapses with recall.  Also owners report occasional stubbornness. 

Nonetheless these dogs can are trainable to a high standard using positive reinforcement.  Dachshunds are intelligent and can respond to a range of commands.   Impressive appearances on shows such as ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ have provided a showcase for this wonderful little breed [8] .

Dachshunds come in miniature and standard sizes.  But both need a good measure of exercise and stimulation through interactive play. They enjoy long walks and need at least 2 hours of walking each day. They are relatively fast dogs for their size . 

Alongside an appropriate training regime,  monitoring  meal sizes is essential.   These dogs can be prone to become overweight leading to various health complications.

Dachshunds are very alert and bark a very vocal alarm when people unknown to them approach a home.  This makes them very good little watch-dogs.

These dogs are suitable for apartments.   But be aware that repeatedly going up and down stairs can strain their spines.

If you do have a garden be sure to defend any prize roses.  Many treasured plants have fallen victim to this notorious digger. 

The Dachshund comes in a range of coat types: smooth-haired, long-haired and wire-haired. The long-haired variety will need daily brushing to avoid tangling and matting. The other Dachshunds are lower maintenance and only need one good brush per week.

This more diminutive Hound has a good lifespan of between 12 and 16 years.  The Dachshund can be vulnerable to spinal issues.  Intervertebral disk disease affects 1 in 4 Dachshunds.  The general advice is that they should avoid climbing up and downstairs as this can put extra strain on the spine.

Still ‘hunting’ for the right dog?

The Hound Group of breeds includes some dogs who are just incredible in their specialisms to the extent that they remain absolutely invaluable in today’s world.

Also they can make absolutely wonderful pets for families and owners with an active lifestyle.

But if you still feel that you are not on the right track or ‘sleuth’ then please feel free to review guides for the other groups of breeds in your vital research for the dog that is right for you including: The Working Group, The Toy Group, The Sporting Group, The Non- Sporting Group, The Terrier Group and the Herding Group.

The Hound Group of Breeds – Full List:

  • Afghan Hound
  • American English Coonhound
  • American Foxhound
  • Basenji
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Black and Tan Coonhound
  • Bloodhound
  • Bluetick Coonhound
  • Borzoi
  • Cirneco dell’Etna
  • Dachshund
  • English Foxhound
  • Greyhound
  • Harrier
  • Ibizan Hound
  • rish Wolfhound
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Otterhound
  • Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
  • Pharaoh Hound
  • Plott
  • Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
  • Redbone Coonhound
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Saluki
  • Scottish Deerhound
  • Treeing Walker Coonhound
  • Whippet
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