American English Coonhound

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult American English Coonhound
BurnAway /

The American English Coonhound is a well-muscled, medium to large-sized dog with endearing hound eyes and floppy ears. They are most often seen in the southern states of the USA where they are used to hunt a variety of game, including foxes and racoons. They work well in a pack and are best known for their stamina and ‘never say die’ attitude when on the hunt.

A working dog that can live comfortably in the family home, the American English Coonhound makes a good pet, as long as it is given plenty of tasks to do and its exercise needs are met. Problem behaviours are likely to develop if this breed is kept cooped up for long periods of time.

About & History

The American English Coonhound, also known as the English Coonhound, is one of six coonhound breeds native to the southern United States. Interestingly, the Treeing Walker Coonhound and the Bluetick Coonhound were once known as 'American English Coonhounds;, but became their own distinct breeds in the 1940s. While the name ‘Coonhound’ refers to their ability to hunt racoons, they are a versatile hunting companion that are also used in the pursuit of game, such as rabbits and squirrels. America is given credit for being the birthplace of this breed, while England provided its ancestors.

The story of the American English Coonhound began when the English Foxhound was brought to America in the 1600s with the British colonials who wished to pursue the sport of fox hunting. These dogs were mated with the local hounds, who were more suited to the American climate and terrain, producing what were known as ‘Virginia Hounds’. Other breeds, such as the Petit Bleu de Gascogne were then added to the gene pool until the American English Coonhound eventually came to be. These talented dogs were mainly used in coon dog trials, a popular sport at the time which could be very lucrative for the winning huntsman.

Today, this dog continues to hunt, often in very large packs and typically after fresh trails. Not really used to hunt raccoons any more, most breed members will hunt possums and foxes. Despite the fact that they are not commonly kept as companion animals, they continue to be one of the most popular dog breeds in America. To date, few breed members have been exported internationally, despite their undisputed hunting skills.

The UKC officially recognised the breed in 1905, though at that time they were known as the ‘English Fox and Coonhound’ and are now officially known as the English Coonhound. It was the AKC, in 2010, who gave the breed the name ‘American English Coonhound’ when accepting them into their scent hound group.


American English Coonhound Large Photo
BurnAway /

A real athlete through and through, the American English Coonhound should have a lean and powerful body that is built in proportion and allows for an even gait. Their head is both wide and long, while there is a slight doming of their skull on top. Their muzzle is relatively long and their upper lips give an overall square appearance to their mouth

Their dark brown eyes are large and pleading, while their black nose must be big with wide open nostrils. Their elegant ears are long and pendulous. Their shoulders slant smoothly into straight fore limbs. Their body is square with a deep chest and level back. Their hind limbs must be well angled and their standard requires the dew claws to be removed. Their tail is of a medium length and quite slim, carried proudly upwards.

Their coat should offer good protection from the elements and be tightly-fitting and rough to touch. Acceptable colours include:

  • Bluetick
  • Redtick
  • Ticked with tricolor
  • Red and white
  • Lemon and white
  • Black and white

Males measure from 56cm to 69cm, while the more petite females reach heights between 53cm and 63cm. Dogs will weigh anything from 18kg to 35kg, but their weight must be in proportion to their build, which can be quite robust.

Character & Temperament

One should not forget that the American English Coonhound is primarily a working dog and has been bred for its hunting abilities above all else. They have an exceptionally high prey drive and love nothing more than to be outside hunting. Typically, hunting in large packs, which may contain up to 50 dogs, they enjoy the inevitable excitement and rowdiness of the sport. They are known for having a one-track mind, pursuing their prey doggedly and ignoring everything else around them, including their master! They are known for their vocalisations, including bawls and howls, which can be heard for miles around. They can be used to hunt small and large prey; and will track anything from a rat to a cougar. They work better with fresh trails than cold ones.

The American English Coonhound can adapt beautifully to life as a family pet if given the chance. Many individuals will be ferocious hunters during the hunting season and darling pets during evenings and the off season. They are sociable with both people and other dogs and will bond strongly with their family, devoting themselves to those they love. Many describe them as being ‘mellow’ and they have a reputation for being gentle and kind with children. While they enjoy the company of their fellow canine companions, they cannot be trusted with smaller pets who they will treat as prey. The American English Coonhound would always choose to live alongside other dogs if given the choice, and ideally, should not be kept as the sole pet.

The American English Coonhound can be used as a watch dog, as they are somewhat territorial and will always warn off an intruder with their deep, loud bark. However, they do not possess the aggression to make a successful guard dog. Viciousness is considered a fault within the breed.


Training an American English Coonhound to hunt is like training a fish to swim; it’s in their genes! This dog instinctively knows what is needed of it and needs little direction when it comes to carrying out the job it so loves to do. They are tenacious hunters and the difficulty can be in calling them off the hunt.

Inquisitive and eager to learn, the innate curiosity of the American English Coonhound lends itself to a dog that makes a good student. However, this breed, like many other hounds, can be stubborn when it chooses. Firm training is essential to ensure that they follow all commands given to them and not just the ones that they like doing.

The American English Coonhound can have a tendency towards being dominant, both among other dogs and among people. They should be taught their position in the family from an early age and should receive consistent signals from all family members.


As holds true for many working dogs, the American English Coonhound is not generally known to be an unwell dog. However, there are a handful of conditions that owners and breeders should know about:

Ear Infections

Hound ears are prone to developing ear infections due to the shape of the ear and lack of air flow and light reaching the canal. Keep ears dry and clean to reduce the risk of infection.


A bloated stomach can occur in deep-chested dogs for reasons that are not fully understood. This is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent veterinary attention if the dog is to survive. At the first sign of abdominal ‘bloating’, a dog needs to be treated.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Malformed joints can result in debilitating lameness that worsens over the course of a dog’s life. As there are screening tests for these inherited conditions, all responsible breeders should have their dogs checked before they reproduce.

PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)

In PRA, the rod cells within the retina die out over time leading to blindness. This condition is recessively inherited, meaning both parents need to carry the faulty gene for their offspring to be affected. Screening tests should be used to reduce the number of affected American English Coonhounds.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The American English Coonhound really does require a sporting outlet to keep them content. It would be unfair to expect this dog to make a good house pet if they are not provided with a good amount of daily exercise. They enjoy the opportunity to hike and run off lead, but their favourite hobby is, of course, hunting.

Best suited to life in the country, this dog is not often seen in the city and would not adapt well to life in an apartment or small home.


A quick brush once a week should keep the short coat of the American English Coonhound in good shape. Owners should pay close attention to their ears, keeping them nice and clean, as they are prone to developing otitis externa (ear infections).

Famous American English Coonhounds

More of a team player than an individual star, there are no famous American English Coonhounds.


The American English Coonhound was one of the breeds used in the creation of the Brazilian ‘Rastreador Brasileiro’, by mixing it with other Coonhounds, the Petit Bleu de Gascogne and a number of Brazilian hunting dogs.

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