Lithuanian Hound

Catharine Hennessy
Dr Catharine Hennessy (DVM, North Carolina State University)
 
Photo of adult Lithuanian Hound

The Lithuanian Hound is a rare breed developed in Lithuania to assist in hunting of rabbit, boar, and fox. These tenacious, medium-sized dogs are prized in their home country but remain relatively obscure elsewhere. While hunting is not necessary for subsistence any longer, it is still a part of the Lithuanian culture and has become a tourist activity due to the abundant forests and wildlife. The use of these hounds as companions and hunting partners continues today.

Lithuanian hounds are very active scent hounds and are persistent and relentless hunters. They develop a strong attachment to their handler or family and can be somewhat reserved toward people they don't know. Their strong sense of smell combined with attachment to the family make them reasonably good watchdogs. They require daily, vigorous exercise, and have a moderate life span of 12 to 14 years.

About & History

Hunting with hounds has been documented in Lithuania since at least the 16th century, where the breed was mentioned in the Statutes of Lithuania. Bloodhounds are believed to have initially influenced the development of these dogs, and their origin is suspected to predate the Statutes by centuries, although this has not been documented. Hunting in Lithuania began as a necessity for survival, but as a result of urbanisation, changed to a pastime of nobility. It remains a hobby that enthusiasts still enjoy today. The terrain is largely dense forest, and these dogs were prized for hunting rabbit, fox, and even boar, tracking initially then giving chase.

Efforts to selectively breed these dogs began in the 20th century by crossing local Lithuanian scent hounds with Bloodhounds, Beagles, and Polish Hunting Dogs, along with other regional hound breeds. Following World War II, the Lithuanian Hound nearly became extinct. Dedicated breeders worked diligently to restore these dogs, and, by the 1960s, standards were created in Lithuania for the breed. Following dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the number of individuals began to decline again. But, hunting and breeding enthusiasts are still at work, and the breed is recognised by the Lithuanian Cynological Society. Currently, no other kennel clubs or cynological groups maintain records for the Lithuanian Hound. While these hounds remain relatively common in their native country, they are rare outside of its borders.

Appearance

The Lithuanian Hound is a sturdy, medium sized dog. The head is relatively wide and the slightly tapered muzzle is approximately half the length of the head. The forehead has a slight furrow and a gentle slope. The eyes are almond shaped and dark brown in colour, with an inquisitive expression that changes to determination when on the scent. The pendant ears are large and triangular, set high and extending down to the lip commissure. The lips are mildly loose but not pendulous.

The body of the Lithuanian Hound is strong, sleek, and muscular with heavy bone. The body is slightly longer than tall, with a shorter, thick neck and deep and broad chest, leading to a moderately tucked abdomen. The topline is straight, connecting well-boned and muscled fore and hind legs. The legs are straight, strong, and perpendicular. The tail is thin, long, and straight and is carried relatively low.

Male and female Lithuanian Hounds are similar in size and weight. These dogs are typically 51 to 63 cm in height and 27 to 34 kg in weight. The coat is black, with tan points on the eyebrows, ventral part of muzzle, chest, and legs. A small amount of white occasionally is seen on the chest. The coat is short, sleek, and glossy. The gait is strong and energetic, with a long, ground-covering stride. Despite its muscular build, these dogs are agile and quick in addition to having remarkable stamina.

Character & Temperament

Lithuanian Hounds are scent hounds developed specifically as hunting companions. They quickly learn and are persistent and energetic in the field. As a family pet, they are loyal and sociable with people that they know but reserved and possibly aggressive around unfamiliar people. They are generally happy to share their home with other dogs and older children, but their enthusiasm and energy may be inappropriate for younger children. Feline family members are not acceptable with the Lithuanian Hound, since these dogs are likely to chase. Unless in an enclosed area, these dogs must be kept on leash at all times due to their tendency to chase smaller animals.

Lithuanian Hounds need regular vigorous exercise. Daily walks are necessary but are not adequate to prevent them from becoming bored and destructive. Running and off-leash romps are required for their mental health. They do not generally suffer from separation anxiety. They bark only in alarm, and will bay during hunting.

Trainability

Lithuanian Hounds are generally easy to train and are eager to please. These dogs are intelligent and have excellent focus and recall due to their hunting background. The owner must be a confident and strong leader, and training sessions should be frequent, short, fun and full of positive reinforcement, such as praise and treats.

Health

Lithuanian Hounds live 12 to 14 years, an excellent life span for dogs of this size. They generally remain disease free and have few breed-related medical problems. The issues that are noted occur in many larger dogs and are not specific to this breed.

Hip Dysplasia

Arthritis can be noted in Lithuanian Hounds, and the most commonly affected site is the hips. Hip dysplasia, a genetic condition that occurs early in life, can predispose to hip arthritis later in life. This condition occurs when the hips do not develop normally and are characterised by a shallow hip socket and poorly fitting femoral head.

The constant, excessive motion leads to early development of arthritis. Breeding individuals can be screened radiographically for signs of the disease, with the goal of removing affected individuals from the breeding pool.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (Bloat)

As with all deep chested dogs, Lithuanian Hounds are prone to bloating. This condition occurs when air is inadvertently swallowed and gas builds up in the stomach, which cannot escape through the esophagus. The extra room in the chest area allows the stomach to expand rapidly, further restricting the movement of gas.

The dog may become bloated at this point, requiring aggressive and rapid medical intervention. If not quickly addressed, the stomach can twist, which compromises the blood supply to itself and other organs. This can lead to shock and death. Care should be taken to not allow these dogs to eat or drink too rapidly.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Lithuanian Hounds need vigorous daily exercise. Their stamina and energy in the field during hunting activities is virtually endless. If they are kept as family companions instead of hunting companions, these dogs need both daily long, brisk walks and vigorous running or off-lead activities. They are not appropriate for apartment or small house living. Ideally, the Lithuanian Hound should have access to a large, fenced yard where running off-leash can safely occur.

Grooming

Lithuanian Hounds have a beautiful, short, glossy, low-maintenance coat. While they shed twice a year, the amount of house cleaning during these times is minimal due to the shortness of their coat. Brushing twice a week is all that is needed to maintain the glossy sheen. Bathing them isn't a constant necessity and it is only needed minimally every 1 to 2 months.

After hunts or field work, Lithuanian Hounds should be inspected carefully for ticks, or placed on an effective monthly flea and tick medication. As with all dogs, teeth brushing should occur regularly (ideally daily). The nails will only need to be trimmed if normal daily activities do not wear them naturally.

Famous Lithuanian Hounds

Lithuanian Hounds are treasured in their native country but are relatively obscure outside of its borders. There are no famous individuals representing this breed, although they could easily be trained to work in commercials or on movie sets due to their intelligence, trainability and eagerness to please.

Cross-Breeds

There are no recognised cross-breeds of the Lithuanian Hound, although in their native country, cross-breeding likely occurs.

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