Bluetick Coonhound

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick Coonhounds are scent hounds originating from the state of Louisiana in America, developed to hunt raccoons. They are agile and attentive dogs who love to work and can become easily bored if not set a task to complete.

This is a breed that can be highly vocal, and will often howl at someone they first meet. Never to be mistaken for aggression, the Bluetick Coonhound is generally a friendly dog, and can adapt well to a household with children and other dogs if socialised from a young age.

About & History

There are in fact six types of Coonhound recognized in the USA – the country in which they originated. These breeds all descended from French, English and Irish dogs brought to the southern states of the USA for fox hunting during the Colonial period.

A relatively new breed, the Bluetick Coonhound, came about by breeding the Bleu de Gascogne and a variety of Foxhounds (including the American Foxhound and English Foxhound) in the early 1900s. When first developed, these hounds were often classed into groups depending on where in the USA they were found, resulting in several lines including:

  • Ozark Mountain
  • Sugar Creek
  • Old Line
  • Bugle
  • Smokey River

While very similar to the American English Coonhound, the Blueticks became recognised as their own distinct breed in the 1940s. Initially, puppies born at this time with red ‘ticking’ were called ‘English Coonhounds’, while those born with blue ‘ticking’ were called ‘Bluetick Coonhounds’. In fact, the English Coonhound is still sometimes referred to as the ‘Redtick Coonhound’ today.

A classic scent hound, the Bluetick Coonhound will naturally follow prey by the trail of scent it leaves behind it. Interestingly, they are classed as what is known as ‘a cold-nosed dog’, which means they can follow old (or cold) trails, up to days and even weeks after the animal has disappeared. In contrast to other Coonhounds, the Bluetick tends to be slower and more determined when hunting.

Typically, they will chase their prey up a tree and then ‘howl’ or ‘bawl’ to alert the hunter, who allows the hound to go on ahead of them during the hunt. This is why, though typically irritating to the modern owner, their distinctive bark is so fundamentally important.

Appearance

Bluetick Coonhound Large Photo
Petful / Flickr.com

Standing to a height of 51 to 69cm (dog) and 51 to 64cm (bitch), they are a sturdy and well-muscled breed. The male will typically weigh between 25 to 36kg, while the female weighs less at 20 to 29kg.

Bluetick Coonhounds possess typical hound features: an elongated head, soulful, brown eyes and long, pendulous ears that frame the face. They have a powerful chest, and their body should be well-proportioned. Their tail is robust and thick.

Their medium-length tri-colour coat should be shiny and straight. Bred for their beautiful markings, they should have a light coloured base coat with dark blue and fawn speckles overlying it. They should exhibit dark coloured mottling on their back and sides, and tan markings on their lower legs and face. The deep, dark blue colour they are famous for should usually dominate the coat.

Character & Temperament

Coonhounds are alert and lively dogs who require excellent, consistent training. Once bonded to their owner, they are particularly devoted pets and can make great companions. While they can get along well with children that they have been raised with, it is sensible to supervise them in the presence of youngsters. Due to their natural hunting instincts, they should not be left with cats or other small animals.

If you are not a fan of barking, or have irritable neighbours who live close by, this is not the breed of dog for you. They are very vocal, and in the breeding community, it is seen as an advantage if they have a ‘good hound dog bawl’. Of course, this ‘bawl’ is something that they require in order to be good hunting dogs and alert their master of the prey that they have caught or forced up a tree. They are described colloquially as ‘free-tonguers’, and love to show off a variety of loud barks and howls during the hunt.

Not afraid of working on just about any terrain in wet or windy weather, the Bluetick Coonhound is appropriately known as a hardy dog.

Trainability

Training of the Bluetick Coonhound can be a challenge, not least because of how easily they are distracted by smells. They are a passionate hunter, whose life when outside can be ruled by their instincts. They are known for being tenacious, and will not give up on a scent easily. Hence, they should not be trusted off lead in wide-open areas, as it is not uncommon for them to forget all about their poor owner when an enticing smell is in the air.

Due to their tendency to be headstrong, their training should start at a young age. They respond best to positive reinforcement. As they can be quite sensitive dogs, it is not encouraged to train them sternly, as this may lead to avoidance behaviours and may achieve the opposite of the desired effect. Their trainer must be patient, understanding and may use food treats, which are typically well received.

Health

With a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, the Bluetick Coonhound lives a generally healthy life. Some of the conditions which it is understood to suffer from include:

  • Hip Dysplasia – This is a common orthopaedic condition that affects the hip joints. Failure of the hip joint to form properly when a dog is developing results in an inadequate joint that cannot function as it should. Affected dogs will often be lame and uncomfortable, particularly in the later stages of the disease. It is a genetic disorder that is affected by the dog’s environment (diet, activity, etc.) Dogs known to suffer from hip dysplasia should not be bred from.
  • Ear Infections – Not surprisingly, given their long, heavy ears, the Bluetick Coonhound is prone to getting ear infections throughout their life. Any excessive shaking or scratching of the ears, or the presence of a foul smell, should be further investigated. Keeping the ears clean and dry will help to prevent infections setting in, and the sooner an infection is treated, the easier it will be to eliminate.
  • Bloat – Any of the deep-chested breeds are prone to this often devastating condition. Bloat, or Gastric Dilatation, is a true emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. The stomach fills with gas, and in some cases, will rotate on itself (becoming a gastric dilatation volvulus or GDV), making the escape of any gas impossible. This can ultimately lead to a quick and painful death, unless promptly corrected with a surgery. There is a preventative procedure available called ‘tacking’ which may be done in some dogs to avoid them experiencing (or perhaps re-experiencing) a GDV.
  • ‘Coonhound Paralysis’ – Technically called Acute Canine Idiopathic Polyradiculoneuritis, this is a progressive paralysis, which is very rare. While the exact cause is unknown, this is a disease which often (but not always) affects dogs that have had contact with the saliva of a raccoon. Affected dogs are initially stiff, though eventually become paralysed, and may even experience difficulty breathing as the condition progresses. Thankfully, the symptoms are temporary, though intensive hospitalisation is often required if a dog is to make a full recovery.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Bluetick Coonhounds undoubtedly need a lot of exercise. They are particularly happy when hunting or tracking, and are great companions for long hikes. They would not be appropriate for a ‘couch potato’ owner, and would much better suit a family with an outdoor, active lifestyle.

They love to be out in the fresh air, and without plenty of exercise every day, they can potentially become bored and destructive within the home. Once appropriately exercised, however, they are usually content to relax indoors with their family, and are partial to a plump cushion or two by the fire.

Grooming

This is a breed that needs only occasional grooming, due to their low maintenance and ‘easy to care for’ coat. Unfortunately, they do shed more than would typically be expected from such a short-haired dog They are thus not ideal for allergy sufferers, or those who like to keep a pristine home.

Their long pendulous ears need regular checking and cleaning. Their claws should be kept short, and like all dogs, these Coonhounds benefit from regular tooth brushing.

Famous Bluetick Coonhounds

  • Smokey is a Bluetick Coonhound who is the mascot of the University of Tennessee. The university have a real dog who appears at football games, as well as a costumed mascot.
  • The dog from the Huckleberry Hound cartoon, which was an Emmy-award winning show released in 1958, is a Bluetick Coonhound.
  • Former US president, George Washington, owned Bluetick Coonhounds, and famously described their bark as ‘The bells of Moscow’.

Cross-Breeds

While itself a cross of several breeds of Foxhound and the Bleu de Gascogne, there are no notable cross-breeds of the Bluetick Coonhound yet.

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