The word “hound” comes from the German word “hund,” which means dog. The Hound Group is made up of dogs who hunt wild animals, instead of birds, as the dogs in the Sporting Group do. Some of them do this with their noses, and some with their eyes. That is why some are called “scent hounds” and others are called “sight hounds.”
Since most hounds originated many thousands of years ago in desert countries in Africa, this group is believed to contain some of the first breeds of dogs that were ever tamed and trained by man to help him hunt his food. Sometimes they hunt alone and sometimes a number of hounds, called a “pack,” hunt together. Because they have been living for centuries with men and their families, hounds are all devoted to people and make excellent pets, and especially fine companions for people who like the out-of-doors. Many of them are still used for hunting foxes, rabbits, and other small wild game.
The beagle is one of the smallest members of the Hound Group and the second most popular dog in the United States today. Because he is still very much a hunter, country people like him. And because of his compact size and lovable disposition, city people like him, too. He is a scent hound who finds his game by tracking it. This means he follows a small animal to its hiding place by sniffing the track left on the ground by the animal’s feet. It is believed that the beagle was first brought to England by the Romans when they conquered that country nearly two thousand years ago. There, as early as King Arthur’s time, packs of them were trained to hunt foxes and rabbits. Shakespeare mentions beagles in some of his plays.
After the Civil War, American sportsmen brought packs of beagles to our country from England. Because of their merry personality and their marvelous hunting noses, they quickly became popular here. It is said that a beagle will never give up the chase until he has tracked his game to the ground.
He is a sturdy dog for his fifteen-inch height, with strong muscles in his legs and back. His head is small, his muzzle short and sharp. He has droopy, broad ears that hang down close to his head and never stand up straight. His forehead is wrinkled, like a worried old man’s, and he has a pleading look in his eye. His smooth tan-and-white coat fits tightly to his body, and he holds his white-tipped tail high. He can live in any climate and is very hardy. He is one dog that is equally at home in city or country, because he is equally happy as a hunter or a household companion.
Almost everyone has heard of the bloodhound. This may be because of the many wonderful things his breed has done in lifesaving or police work. But it is wrong to think of him only as a doggy G-man! He is really very gentle and makes one of the best pets and watchdogs for a country home. The bloodhound belongs to one of the oldest scenthound breeds. His ancestors came from Greece to Rome to France to Britain and finally to America, where they were, and still are, especially trained to help police find criminals or lost persons. The bloodhound is famous for being able to follow a trail on the ground even through rain or snow. He has been known to follow a trail that is over one hundred hours old and one hundred miles long. He can find his man even in a crowd, but he never attacks the person he is trailing. He gets his name not because he is vicious, but because long ago he was trained to track wounded stags by following the drops of blood they left on the ground. In those days, the term “blooded hound” also meant a purebred.
The bloodhound is large, weighing as much as 110 pounds when fully grown. His coat is flat and generally black and tan, red and tan, or tawny. His legs are powerful, his tail is long. His high, round forehead is covered with deep wrinkles that make him look as if he’s thinking hard. His ears hang down almost to his strong chest, while his hazel or yellow eyes are deep-set, with a sad, tearful expression. In spite of his solemn face and great size, he has such kind manners that he acts almost like a father to children and smaller pets.
The bloodhound got the false reputation for being a fierce animal because people confused him with the savage mongrels that were used to catch runaway slaves in the South. But the truth is that the bloodhound was not the dog used for this terrible purpose. A better example of his real usefulness and disposition is shown in this story.
When a baby was lost in a wood near a broad swamp, her frightened parents called a well-known bloodhound trainer for help. The trainer let his dog smell the baby’s clothes, then followed him when he began to run, nose to ground, through the wood. As was feared, the trail led right to the swamp, where it was almost impossible for any dog to follow a track.
But the bloodhound continued to sniff all around the bushes at the edge of the swamp. Suddenly, he sniffed more and more around one particular place. The parents and the trainer hurried to those bushes, but they found no baby. Yet because the trainer had faith in his dog, he waded out into the water right at that spot and there, on a small clump of earth, he found the baby safe and sound. The bloodhound had scented her in the air, even though he could not follow her trail through the water.
When you see this funny little dog with the long body and short legs, you probably never think that he is a hound. Yet you can see paintings of the dachshund’s hunting ancestors in Egyptian monuments that are three thousand years old. Later, his ancestors lived in Germany, where their low height, strong muscles, and keen noses made them valuable in hunting badgers. Dachshund means “badger hound” in German. Although today they are one of the most popular city breeds, they are still used for hunting in some places.
All dachshunds are short-legged and long-bodied, with rather large feet that turn out like a ballet dancer’s. They have large ears, bright, dark, intelligent eyes, and a pretty head with a pointed nose. They are usually a solid red or a solid black in color. Yet dachshunds can wear three different kinds of coats. The most popular type is short and shining, but one kind of dachshund wears a long coat of soft, wavy hair, and another has rough hair, bushy eyebrows, and a beard on his chin. There are also four sizes of this breed of dog: heavy, light, dwarf, and miniature.
But whatever his weight or coat, the dachshund looks the way he does because of his special ability to hunt badgers. He can find these animals even when they hide underground. When he scents them, the dachshund digs into the earth after them and sometimes crawls into the tunnel he makes, to hold the badgers there for the hunter. He has a very sharp sense of smell and can move quite fast, in spite of his tiny legs.
Most dachshunds that you will see, however, are kept merely as pets, not hunters. The dachshund is such a comical, affectionate little dog, always full of mischief and devoted to his family, that he is popular all over the world. He can live in any climate. He is noted as a playmate and watchdog for children.
Because he is small and easy to exercise, this long, lowbuilt little ex-hunter is especially suited for city life. The smooth-haired dachshund never needs to be bathed and never sheds any hair on clothes or furniture. And for some reason, he never smells “doggy,” even when he’s been out in the rain!
The American foxhound is another one of the few breeds that were developed in the early years of our country. In the diary of an explorer who came to America with De Soto in 1541, a kind of hounds are mentioned as being part of the company. They were used to hunt Indians. Almost a hundred years later, when America was a British colony, a pack of English foxhounds was brought to this country. Then, around 1722, George Washington donated some money to bring still more foxhounds from England. These English dogs and the descendants of the hounds brought here by De Soto’s men are the ancestors of the American foxhound. He has such a fine baying voice when he is on the trail of a fox that he is the pride and joy of many an American hunter today.
The American foxhound is a strong dog about twentyfive inches tall. His coat is close and tough, so he can run through briars without getting scratched. It is usually colored tan and black and white. His tail is carried high, like a flag, and he has straight front legs. His feet are shaped like a fox’s. His muzzle is square, his eyes brown or hazel. He is very fast but also very intelligent in the way he hunts, and his loyalty and endurance make him an excellent country pet.
The Irish wolfhound is a “sight” hound. This means that he has hunted for ages in open, flat country where he used his keen eyes to follow his quarry more than he used his nose.
It is from Ireland that the Irish wolfhound gets his name. There he was greatly honored by ancient poets for his valor in hunting wolves and elk, and for his expert sheepherding. In America, he is still used sometimes to hunt coyotes and big timber wolves. Yet because of his great devotion to man, he is as loyal a pet today as he was some two thousand years ago.
The Irish wolfhound has the distinction of being the tallest of all dogs. He is even taller than a great Dane, standing some thirty-four inches high at the shoulder and weighing about one hundred and twenty pounds. He can put his front paws on the shoulders of a man seven feet tall! In spite of this great size, he is fast on his feet. His coat is almost as harsh as wire and usually gray, although it can also be cream, brindle, black, tan, or red. His muzzle is square and bearded. He carries his long tail in a low curl. He has dark eyes that seem to look right through you, because his sight is so sharp. And, of course, his legs are long and powerful. The Irish wolfhound is one of the best family guardians, but he needs a home with plenty of space! Perhaps the clearest description of his true disposition is found in the old saying, “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.”
The whippet is one of the very newest breeds. It was developed only a little more than a hundred years ago, from small greyhounds. The whippet is said to be the fastest tame animal for its weight in the whole world. English miners bred whippets as pets, and to race against each other, long before they were recognized as a distinct breed of dogs. Because of this, the whippet has been called “the poor man’s race horse.”
The whippet seldom weighs more than twenty pounds. From his narrow head and thin, arched body to his long, slender tail, he is truly a “streamlined” animal who looks as if he were just made for running. He is almost as famous for hunting rats and rabbits, however, as he is for racing. His coat is smooth as velvet and can be of any color, fawn, red, blue, gray, mouse, or brindle. He has a gentle, affectionate nature and gets along very well with children. Although he looks delicate, he is really strong. He is so small, clean, and neat that he makes a perfect house pet. But it would be kind to keep him in a place where he can have plenty of room in which to exercise his slim, strong legs.
The Afghan is a sight hound that originally came from that part of Egypt which was called Sinai some five thousand years ago. There he was owned by royalty and desert sheiks. He was sometimes called the “monkeyfaced” hound, and he was used both for hunting and for guarding sheep and cattle. It is not known how he came to Afghanistan, the country from which he gets his name. Although this is one of the oldest known pure breeds, it only began to be popular in Europe after 1918, when army officers brought some of these dogs to England. They are very popular today in India and Arabia, where they are used to hunt leopards and gazelles. They were first brought to the United States because of their strange looks, but now many people have come to know and love them as pets.
The Afghan is a tall, slender dog with long legs and a thin tail that curls high above his back. In Afghanistan, the hunters particularly value this tall tail. The hounds hunt in thick bushes and it is only by watching their tails that the huntsmen can tell where the dogs are. The Afghan’s coat is thick, yet silky, to keep him warm in the coldest weather or cool on the hottest day. His ears are droopy and feathered, his nose sharply pointed. His feet are broad and covered with so much hair that they look as if he were wearing furry moccasins. He can be white with a black face, or all black, or golden red, or black and tan. When full grown, he weighs about sixty pounds and is one of the best hurdle-jumping dogs there is.
The Afghan is famous for his intelligence and an ability to understand which seems greater than in most other breeds. Because of his keen eyes and speedy legs, he is still an excellent hunter. He would make a fine country companion.