The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is a type of scent hound native to Austria. Records of the breed indicate that it has existed there for at least 150 years and possibly much longer. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound remains primarily a working dog and is quite skilled at hunting a variety of game, although the breeds specialty is trailing rabbits and foxes. Relatively well-known in its homeland, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound remains quite rare elsewhere, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is also known as the Austrian Smooth-Coated Hound, Osterreischische Glattaarige, Brandlbracke, Bracke, and Vieraugl.
Very little is known for sure about the history of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound. The breed enters the written record in the mid-19th Century meaning that it has been in existence since at least that time. However, many experts believe that the dog is considerably older, possibly several centuries so. Prior to the mid-1800’s, dogs in Austria were not kept pure bred in the modern sense, although they were bred for working ability, temperament, and appearance. This meant that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound was probably present, but it was not recognized as a unique breed from other medium and large Austrian scent hounds. The Austrians consider three of their hound breeds to be closely related, and refer to them collectively as the Grand Brackes, Bracke being the name for a large group of scent hounds and grand distinguishing them from the much smaller Alpine Dachsbracke. Besides the Austrian Black and Tan Hound, the group also includes the Styrian Coarse-Haired Hound and the Tirolean Hound. In fact, these three dogs are all quite similar in appearance and in all likelihood are related either through crossing or ancestry.
The true origin of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is very near a complete mystery. Almost all sources on the breed claim that it is a descendent of the Celtic Hound, known in German (the language of Austria) as the Keltenbracke. Although most of Austria has been inhabited primarily by Germans since the Fall of the Roman Empire, the country was at one point populated by Celtic tribes closely related to those found in what are now Switzerland, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and the British Isles. It is unclear why it is believed that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is descended from the Celtic Hound. Although the two breeds did occupy the same region, there does not seem to be any other known connection between the two, and there is no apparent evidence to connect them. This ancestry is actually quite unlikely for a number of reasons. Even if the Austrian Black and Tan Hound was 300 years older than the written records show, there would still be a gap of more than 1000 years between a possibly Celtic Hound presence and that of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound. Additionally, what is known about Celtic Hounds seems to describe an animal very different from the Austrian Black and Tan Hound. The Gauls (Celts) of pre-Roman France and Belgium possessed a type of hunting hound known as the Canis Segusius. That breed was known for its wiry-coat. The Celts of the British Isles also possessed wiry-coated hunting dogs: Terriers, Irish Wolfhounds, and Scottish Deerhounds. Admittedly, the Styrian Coarse-Haired Hound does possess a wiry coat, but this could have been introduced much later from the French Griffons or the Spinone Italiano. If the Austrian Black and Tan Hound does descend from the Celtic Hound, it has almost certainly been heavily crossed with other breeds throughout the centuries.
There are several alternate theories for the ancestry of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound. Sometime between 750 and 900 A.D. the monks at the Saint Hubert Monastery in modern-day Belgium initiated the earliest known regulated dog breeding program. They developed the Saint Hubert Hound (better known in English as the Bloodhound), which was immensely successful as a hunting and tracking dog. It became a tradition for the monks to send several pairs of Saint Hubert Hounds to the King of France every year as a tribute. The King would distribute the dogs to favored nobles as gifts. The Saint Hubert Hound spread across France as a result, and later entered neighboring countries. Although the breed may have once been found in a variety of colors, Black and Tan was apparently the most prominent, and all surviving Bloodhounds are found in this color. These dogs became especially popular in Switzerland, where they greatly influenced the development of the Swiss Laufhunds. Some experts think that these Laufhunds were introduced to Austria where they then gave rise to the Austrian Black and Tan Hound.
It is also quite possible that the ancestors of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound were introduced into Austria from other German-speaking lands. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is very similar to a number of German Hounds, such as the Hanoverian Hound. The breed may also be the result of crossing local German Pinschers with hounds introduced from elsewhere. Such crosses may explain the Austrian Black and Tan Hound’s coloration. The breed’s unique coat may also have been introduced by either the Rottweiler or the closely related Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. It has also been suggested that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound may share some relationship with the Serbian Hound, (previously known as the Yugoslavian Mountain Hound), an very old breed which also exhibits black and tan coloration. The truth may be that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is the result of many centuries of mixing a wide variety of breeds together. Over the centuries, the breed may have been influenced by a number of neighboring breeds such as the Vizsla, Austrian Pinscher, and German Shorthaired Pointer.
However the Austrian Black and Tan Hound originated, it came to be found across Austria, but was most common in the more mountainous regions of the country. For many years, the breed was not kept pure, but instead was regularly crossed with the other Grand Brackes and occasionally other dogs as well. It was not until 1884 that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound was recognized as a unique breed and a written standard was developed for it. In its homeland the dog is commonly known as the Brandlbracke, which loosely translates to, “Fire Hound,” because of the “fire” colored markings on its coat. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound was primarily used to hunt rabbits and foxes at high altitudes, but it was also used to track down larger prey, such as Deer and Ibex, after it had been injured by a hunter. The breed was traditionally used in small to medium-sized packs. Unlike British and French hounds which are usually accompanied by riders on horseback, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound was usually followed on foot as the mountainous terrain on which it specialized is nearly impassable for horses. This meant that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound was bred small enough so that hunters could accompany it.
At one time, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound was exclusively kept by the nobility, as was the case with scent hounds across Europe. The nobles treasured hunting and preserved vast tracts of land so that they could do so. Harsh penalties were imposed on any non-noble who owned hunting dogs without the permission of the aristocracy. Hunting became so popular that it evolved into more than just a sport; it became a vital part of the political and social lives of the European upper-class. Alliances were formed and decisions were made over hunts that would affect the lives of millions. Hunting was especially popular in Austria, although perhaps not quite as prominent as in England and France.
The social changes which swept across Europe in the 19th Century caused the nobility of most European countries to lose much of their land, wealth, and power. It was now impossible for them to afford to keep their packs of hunting dogs and many breeds either disappeared or were killed by angry revolutionaries. The Austrian black and Tan Hound was spared this fate for several reasons. One is that the Austro-Hungarian monarchy lasted well-into the 20th Century, leaving the dog with interested owners and protectors for over a century longer than was the case in some places. Perhaps more important to the survival of the breed was the size and game specialty of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound. The average weight of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is about half that of many other European pack hounds. This meant that the dog was more affordable to keep, and the dog found new admirers in the growing Austrian middle class.
The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is highly skilled at trailing rabbits and foxes, some of the only species that thrive in the presence of man and are quite common in even highly developed areas. Populations of these creatures have persisted in much larger numbers than those of larger animals, meaning that the need for dogs to hunt them has persisted longer. The small size of both the Austrian Black and Tan Hound and its quarry, along with the fact that it is predominantly found in some of the most rural and remote regions of Western Europe, have continued to protect the breed throughout the worst ravages of the 20th Century. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound survived World War I, World War II, and the continuous urbanization of Europe in sustainable numbers, while many other hunting breeds either went extinct or were sent to the brink.
The Austrian Black and Tan Hound has particularly influential in the development of other dogs. Throughout the centuries, this breed was regularly crossed with the Styrian Coarse-Coated Hound and the Tirolean Hound, and these breeds have probably been heavily influenced as a result. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound may also have figured into the ancestry of the Alpine Dachsbracke, which was developed by crossing Dachshunds and larger Brackes. It is also possible that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound figured into the ancestry of the Swiss Laufhunds, Rottweiler, Weimaraner, and Doberman Pinscher, although there is apparently no evidence of this.
Although the Austro-Hungarian Empire once occupied such a vast expanse of land that it is now divided among 12 different countries, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound never really spread from its homeland. The breed has always been found almost exclusively in the territory of modern day Austria and the immediately adjacent lands. This relative isolation has continued right down to the present day, and the Austrian Black and Tan Hound remains essentially unknown outside of its homeland. It has only been in the last few years that a small of these dogs have been exported to other countries, although the breed is currently recognized with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). It is unclear whether or not the breed has made its way to the United States yet, but the dog is currently recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC), American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), and some other rare breed registries. Although the Austrian Black and Tan Hound has not yet found a following elsewhere in the world, its future is relatively secure in its homeland. Hunting remains quite popular in Austria, much more so than is the case elsewhere in Europe. This enduring popularity combined with the persistent populations of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound’s preferred quarry means that the dog will likely have a future for some time to come. Unlike most modern breeds that rarely perform their original purpose, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is seldom if ever kept as a companion animal. The vast majority of modern breed members are either working or retired hunting dogs, which will probably remain the case for the foreseeable future.
The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is very similar in appearance to other medium-sized scent hounds found throughout Europe and North America. The average breed member stands between 19 and 22 inches tall at the shoulder with females typically being about an inch shorter. Most Austrian Black and Tan Hounds weigh between 30 and 50 pounds. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is a powerfully built dog with a very pronounced musculature. This dog should never appear thick or stocky, instead looking extremely fit, and the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is among the lithest and most athletic-looking of all hounds. Most Austrian Black and Tan Hounds are significantly longer than they are tall, as a result of legs that are somewhat short for the size of the body. The tail of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is relatively long and thin, and usually held out straight from the body with a slight bend.
The head and face of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound are mostly similar to those of other scent hounds but are considerably more severe and intense than most, possibly the result of Pinscher ancestry. The head itself is proportional to the size of the body, to which it connects via a long, muscular neck. The head and muzzle blend in smoothly with each other, but remain somewhat distinct. The muzzle of the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is somewhat wide and quite powerful in appearance, with significant length to provide the maximum area for scent receptors. The muzzle ends in a large, black nose. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound has a relatively smooth face and close fitting lips. The eyes of this breed are clear and dark brown. The ears of the Austrian black and Tan Hound drop down and hang very closely to the head. They are medium in length, similar proportioned to body size as those of the Beagle.
The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is primarily known for its coat. The coat itself is short, smooth, close-fitting, and dense, with a distinct sheen. This coat must be of sufficient density and quality to protect the dog from the alpine climates found across much of Austria. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound comes in only one color scheme, black with tan markings. Black is always the primary color, although the size and location of the tan markings varies from dog to dog. Essentially all breed members have a tan marking over each eye, although in some dogs these markings merge into a larger face covering. The most common markings are found on the muzzle and face which often join to form a mask, on the lower portions of the legs, the feet, and on the underside of the tail. Markings are also often seen on the chest, which may merge into those found on the legs. Sometimes the markings on the lower legs will extend all the way up to the back and/or those on the muzzle will extend down onto the neck.
Very little is known about how the Austrian Black and Tan Hound would react to life outside of a working environment because the breed is so rarely kept as anything other than a hunting dog. However, those hunters who do keep it claim that the breed is exceptionally even tempered and quite affectionate. When back at home after a day on the trail, the breed is said to be very agreeable. The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is usually quite accepting of children when properly socialized with them, and is often quite friendly and affection with them. Bred to work in packs, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound exhibits low levels of dog aggression, and most prefer to share their lives with other dogs. As a hunting dog, however, this breed shows a very high level of aggression towards non-canine animals and should be carefully trained to accept them from a young age. Otherwise, breed members may be prone to chasing and attacking other creatures.
The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is said to be considerably more trainable than most scent hound breeds, and those who have worked with them have found them to be very obedient. This dog has a very strong work drive, and there is nothing that an Austrian Black and Tan Hound would rather do than hunt. Those looking for a working hunting dog will probably be delighted by the breed’s desire, but it may drive those looking for a companion animal crazy. This breed needs a substantial amount of exercise, at least an hour of vigorous activity every day. That is only the minimum, however, and one of these dogs will gladly go for as long as its owner will permit it. This breed is known to be extremely ill-suited for life in an urban environment. Austrian Black and Tan Hounds do much better with a large backyard, preferably acreage, as it craves the opportunity to run off leash. These dogs were bred to bay and howl melodically when they were on the trail or had cornered their quarry. As a result, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound is considerably more vocal than most other dogs and must be carefully trained and thoroughly exercised to prevent problems from developing.
The Austrian Black and Tan Hound is a very low maintenance dog. It should never need professional grooming; only an occasional brushing is necessary. A quick rubdown with a chamois cloth will keep the breed’s sheen. Austrian Black and Tan Hound’s do shed, and some of them shed quite heavily. This breed is not ideally suited to those with allergies or who simply hate to clean up dog hair. As is the case with all drop-eared breeds, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound needs to have its ears cleaned regularly. Doing so will prevent the buildup of dirt and crime which can cause irritations and infections. After a day in the field, breed members should be carefully checked and examined for injuries as this tough and driven animal will continue working without any complaint.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Austrian Black and Tan Hound. As such it is difficult to say much about the dog’s health. However, most Austrian sources indicate that the dog suffers from no known genetic health problems. What this probably means is that the Austrian Black and Tan Hound suffers from considerably lower rates of genetic conditions than other breeds, as no dog is immune from genetically inherited health defects. This genetic health is probably a result of the breeding policies adopted by Austrian hunters. For well over a century, and perhaps many times longer, the Austrian Black and Tan Hound was bred exclusively for working ability. Any health defect would have diminished the dog’s working ability and would have been quickly eliminated from the gene pool.
Although there are no known major health problems in the Austrian Black and Tan Hound, some have appeared in similar breeds. Among these include: