Coon hounds themselves have been bred from foxhounds. Before that they hail from a group of tracking dogs from Europe called scent hounds. In colonial Europe during the 1800's these dogs were imported from country's such as England, Ireland, and France to be specifically used in Fox game hunting. However, after it's popularity rose so did the sport itself. Soon the "foxhounds" were found ineffective when other game would scurry into trees such as opossums, raccoons, small wild cats, or even some larger prey such as bears. "Treeing dogs" were then bred so that game wouldn't be lost in the trees.
This was the dawn of today's coon hunting dogs as they show the characteristics of the old scent hounds and the newer treeing hounds. These dogs have an amazing scent ability and can be trained to follow prey through and across water, and of course through the trees. They have been bred for the purpose of tracking, and throughout the centuries have proven to consistently surpass their breeds expectations. We now recognize six main coon hunting dog breeds and each of the six have their own unique abilities, but all of them are superb at what they were designed for.
Black and Tan Coonhound
Black and Tan's lineage can be traced back arguably all the way to the 11th century when Talbot hounds and St. Hubert hounds were brought to England during the Norman invasion. They are typically larger than other hounds in the same family and are ideal for hunting and tracking. Their larger bone structure allows them to move along swiftly with rhythmic strides and because their bigger size they were once used for tracking and hunting larger game. Today the focus is of course on hunting raccoons and/or simply having them as a pet. Unsurprisingly they make amazing family dogs considering they're independent, tolerant, and lazy/calm demeanor.
The black and Tan is ideal for hunting because they have huge stamina, are able to go for miles, and overall they tend to be more courageous. Courage is a useful characteristic for a dog when tracking because it means their purpose comes before anything else.
Half frozen river; if the raccoon swam through it so will the dog. Dense thicket of thorny bushes; if the raccoon managed to find a way through, so will a Black and Tan. The point is, these dogs were bred for a purpose long ago and today they are still one of the best.
Originally bred in the southern United States and believed to be specifically from Louisiana, the Bluetick coonhound is a pure bred hunter. This dog's design is that of endurance and muscle, making it the ideal hunting mate. These wonderful dogs have high energy and are quick trackers, which ultimately can give you an advantage as a hunter. Quicker tracks could mean more opportunities to bag your target animal. This breed of coonhound is highly sought after because of everything from its strength and proportions, to its distinctive bark and markings. The Bluetick coonhound is one of the best coon hunting dog breeds.
English Coonhound or American English Coonhound (sometimes referred to as Redtick Coonhound)
The English coonhound has its genetic heritage embedded deep within the history of almost all coonhound breeds. This makes for an instinct rich hunting dog that is eager to learn and please its owner. This breed of coon hunting dog is also ideal for having as a house pet. Of course they require lots of exercise and if you do wish to duel purpose them, they will need to be outside most of the time. The English coonhound is favored among coon hunters for hunting at night due to its uncanny scent tracking ability.
The English coonhound is so rooted in the coonhound lineage it can be traced back to a journal from the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto in the early-mid 1500's. There he wrote about hounds that were used to hunt game as well as the natives at that time. The first reported true English coonhounds arrived in North America in 1650. Then in 1742 they were imported to Virginia. George Washington even imported English coonhounds in 1770 to hunt foxes. These hounds were the foundation of the "Virginia hounds" which all modern coonhounds can be traced back too.
This is a phenomenal hunting dog, and proves time and time again that it is the best at what it does.
Plott Hound (Plott Coonhound)
This breed of coon dog is fairly unique when compared against its fellow coonhound breeds. This is the only one that doesn't have lineage traceable back to the traditional fox hound, and was bred originally for a slightly different purpose. It was bred to hunt boar.
The Plott coonhound is much larger and more muscular in comparison to its fellow coonhounds for the obvious reason that boar are a bigger and much more dangerous prey. These dogs are slower trackers but aren't built for speed. They have been bred for stamina and the ability to take on larger animals with a high rate of success.
The Plott itself has been breed down ever so slightly with other hounds, like when a hunter from Georgia took an original Plott hound from the Plott family and crossed it once to make an outstanding coon hunting pup. That pup's breed was then recognized as the Plott coonhound in 1946.
These dogs are amazing coon hunters and regarded for their build, stamina, courage, strength, and a clear bark that travels very well even in harsher conditions.
This beautiful, even tempered coonhound, has a lot to offer when it comes to purpose. This coon dog is a skilled hunter, known for its water ability and ability to hunt in packs to take down larger prey. The Redbone is slender and muscular with a courageous hunting demeanor making them borderline fearless. These dogs are very versatile when it comes to climate and environment, easily adapting to tracking in almost any kind of terrain. The Redbone coonhound is also a wonderful family dog as they are naturally kind, lazy (unless they catch a scent trail), tolerant, loving, and have a mellow temperament.
The Redbone is a wonderful all around dog and even slightly famous after being featured in the classic novel and later film, "Where the Red Fern Grows". I don't think any one has ever regretted getting their Redbone.
Treeing Walker Coonhound
The Treeing Walker coonhound, named after one of the two gentlemen who are credited with breeding them, is one of the most popular coonhound breeds when it comes to competition hunts. This is primarily, but not solely, because of their recognized ability to forego older scent trails and focus on the newer/fresher trails. These dogs were bred specifically for raccoon hunting, although they are great hunters of other small game along with cougars and bears. People even use these coonhounds to hunt deer in states where hunting antlered animals with dogs is legal.
*Please check with your local state laws when going hunting with dogs.
The Walker coonhound has an athletic build, and is typically smaller than other coon dogs, giving it the ability to run faster and have more agility. These dogs have a deeply ingrained treeing and tracking instinct, being used immediately after the first initial breeding for hunting raccoons in the 1800's.
The Treeing Walker coonhound is an affectionate dog but requires patience when training due to their high energy. They require a daily outlet for that energy and must be trained or they have been known to catch a scent and not come back. Of course that can be said about any dog but remember, that coonhounds, and specifically this breed of coonhound, is a hunter first and foremost.
Coonhounds are an incredible branch of the hound family, which is already full of amazing breeds. Breeds that are perfect family pets just as they are perfect hunting companions. Everything from their temperament and behavior, to their instincts and abilities, make any coonhound a prized dog. I myself have a Black and Tan/Walker coonhound/Sherpherd mix and even with that bit of shepherd in there his natural instinct is still to trail a scent, tree any critter, then post up on the trunk and bey. It is amazing. Not once have I ever tried training him to hunt raccoons and yet he still will do what his dominant breeds were designed to do.
All coonhounds are great at what they do and they are great at being multi-purposeful. Every person I know and have met that owns any of the various coonhound breeds never has anything negative to say. So long as you take the time to train them and give them an outlet for energy or purpose, these dogs make everyone happy. A coon hunting dog will bag you trophies, they will play with your kids, they will love you to the end, and they will do absolutely anything in their power to seek out and find, via a scent trail, that dirty raccoon which keeps tipping over your garbage at night. Just pray its not a skunk.
We hope this has helped you choose the right coonhound for you and your needs.
Remember, if hunting isn't the main priority then don't be afraid to rescue a hound mix like me. You won't regret it as they have all the positives of coonhounds, and are still able to be trained for hunting. They are, in my bias opinion, the best dog.