The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is a breed of scenthound native to the United States, specifically the state of Virginia. Primarily a working breed, the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is bred and kept almost exclusively to hunt foxes. There is some dispute as to the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound’s distinctiveness as a breed, with some claiming it is either a mixed-breed dog or a variety of American Foxhound. Either way, The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is a close relative of the American Foxhound and the several distinct breeds of Coonhound, especially the Black and Tan Coonhound. The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is a rare breed which has not yet been recognized by any major canine registries.
The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound can trace its ancestry back to several other breeds of pack hunting scenthounds. During the Middle Ages, hunting with packs of dogs became one of the preferred sports of the European nobility, especially in England and France. French hunters developed dozens of distinct varieties of hound, of which two of the oldest and most influential were the Grand Bleu de Gascogne and the Saint Hubert Hound. When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they brought their French dogs with them. The English used these French hounds and existing British breeds to develop their own set of scent hound breeds, including the Southern Hound, North Country Beagle, Bloodhound, Harrier, and Talbot. At the same time, hunters in other countries such as Germany and Spain were developing their own hound breeds, although they did not necessarily display the variety or pure blooded nature of Franco-English hounds.
For many centuries, English hunters preferred large game, especially deer. It was considered beneath the nobility to hunt fox, which was considered vermin. This task was left up to common farmers, which they performed with dogs since at least 1534. The larger the pack, the faster and more reliably hounds trail. However, most farmers could only afford to keep one or two hounds. To solve this problem, farmers began pooling their dogs into large packs and clearing out multiple farms on the same day. These hunts quickly turned into major social events. By the end of the 16th Century increasing population and development had overtaken most of England’s wild spaces and the deer population fell as a result. The English aristocracy increasingly turned to hunting foxes to make up for this loss. Although the English and Scottish farmers had hunted foxes with a variety of pure and mixed breed hounds with great success, the nobility wanted to develop a dog specifically for fox hunting. They used the now-extinct Southern Hound, which was a deer hunting specialist, as a base, but heavily crossed it with other breeds. No one knows for sure exactly which dogs were used, but it is generally agreed that the Bloodhound, Talbot, North Country Beagle, Harrier, Beagle-type dogs, mixed breed scent hounds, Greyhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, Fox Terriers, Pointers, and Old English Bulldogs played a role. It is also commonly suggested that Setters, Spaniels, Lurchers, Dalmatians, and Collie-type dogs may have been involved as well. The resulting English Foxhound proved so adept at hunting fox that it probably drove most previous British hunting breeds to extinction.
By the mid-17th Century, fox hunting was the primary and most favored sport of the British upper classes. The sport became so popular that foxes, which were originally considered serious agricultural pests, had to be imported from other European countries. During this time, the first British colonies were being established on the Eastern Seaboard. Many of these settlers had a strong desire to continue hunting foxes in their new homes. In 1650, Robert Burke imported the first known pack of English Foxhounds to Maryland, later become America’s first Master of the Hounds. A highly disproportionate percentage of settlers to the Chesapeake Bay colonies of Virginia and Maryland came from upper class backgrounds, many of whom were second, third, or higher sons who could were seeking the wealth denied them by British inheritance laws. As a result, Virginia and Maryland became hotbeds of American fox hunting, a position they still hold today.
The original English Foxhound was substantially modified in the New World. A major part of this alteration was natural selection. Virginia and Maryland were home to much higher temperatures, substantially greater disease and parasite loads, rougher terrain, and more dangerous animals than England. Those dogs which were either ill-suited to their new home or incapable of surviving there were eliminated from the gene pool. Perhaps an even greater reason for the differences was the introduction of new breeds. Very few individual dogs arrived in America from Europe both because it was tremendously expensive to ship them and many perished on the long journey over. Too few dogs arrived (and even fewer survived once in America) to keep lines pure bred, and any dogs that did make it and survived were all bred together. This meant that English Foxhounds were crossed with Bloodhounds, various breeds of French scenthound, Scottish and Irish hunting dogs, German scenthounds, and possibly Native American Dogs as well. By the mid-1700’s, American fox hunting hounds were so unique that they were considered an entirely different breed and were commonly referred to as Virginia Hounds. One of the most important (and many say most important) early breeders of these Virginia Hounds was none other than America’s first President, George Washington. Washington was a lifelong avid fox hunter and hound breeder. After the American Revolution, his friend the Marquis de Lafayette sent him several pairs of different breeds of French scenthound which he crossed with his English dogs.
It is in the late 1700’s where the dispute as to the nature and history of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound begins. Some claim that the breed first originated at this time, and that it was the result of crossing Bloodhounds with Virginia Hounds. Supposedly it was the Bloodhound blood that introduced the black and tan color to the breed. Although it has apparently not been theorized, it is equally possible and likely that the black and tan coloration was actually introduced by crossing Virginia Hounds with a type of German hunting dog, several of which possess black and tan markings. Those that believe the breed was developed in the 1700’s frequently claim that the Black and Tan Coonhound was developed at least partially from the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound. Others claim that the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound was created 50 to 100 years later, sometime in the 1800’s. According to this theory, breed was actually the result of crossing the Virginia Hounds with the Black and Tan Coonhound, which itself was developed by crossing Virginia Hounds with Bloodhounds. This is probably the most likely theory. At the time, Foxhounds and Coonhounds were considered to be varieties of the same breed, so crossing them would have probably been a regular occurrence. Additionally, the coloration of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound most closely resembles that found on the Black and Tan Coonhound.
However and whenever the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound was developed, everyone agrees that the breed was not initially considered to be a unique breed, but rather a type of Virginia Hound, some of which eventually developed into the American Foxhound. Black and tan became a common color among American Foxhounds, and many breeders began to select them deliberately. This resulted in the development of packs of primarily black and tan colored dogs. Over the course of the 20th Century, these dogs were considered more and more distinct, though they continued to be seen as a type of American Foxhound.
Confusion as to the nature of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound began in the 1960’s. By that point, many fanciers considered it a totally unique breed from the American Foxhound. The breed apparently even made at least one appearance at a dog show in the 1970’s. However, this division between the two breeds was more accepted on an informal level than a formal one. As of yet, the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound has yet to be formally separated from the American Foxhound by any major canine registry. Both the United Kennel Club (UKC) and American Kennel Club (AKC) accept the registration and showing of black and tan colored American Foxhounds, and would probably consider the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound to be a member of that breed. Similarly, none of the major Foxhound and fox hunting organizations in America such as the Masters of Foxhounds Association & Foundation (MFHA) recognizes the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound, and probably treat it as either an American Foxhound or an American Foxhound/English Foxhound cross. Those who support the fact that the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is a separate breed point to several alleged differences other than color. They claim that the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound has remained much closer to the English Foxhound than other American Foxhounds, and is in fact overall more similar to the British breed. However, this distinction is probably more of a generality than a rule, and in any case may be meaningless relatively soon as American and English Foxhounds are increasingly interbred. It is interesting to note that none of the largest rare breed organizations in the United States recognize the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound as a unique breed, although this is just as likely to be the result of a lack of interest on the part of breed owners in engaging in dog shows as anything else.
The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound remains a rare breed, if it is a distinct breed at all. In fact, it is almost completely unknown outside of the states of Virginia and Maryland. Whatever uniqueness the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound has is probably in serious jeopardy. Virginia fox hunters are increasingly crossing English, American, and Penn-Mary-Del Foxhounds, and are presumably doing the same with Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds. This is occurring at the same time when fox hunting is on the decline, and the populations of all Foxhounds is dropping though fox hunting does remain more popular and in better shape in the United States than anywhere else in the world except possibly Ireland. Because breed numbers remain low and the dog is probably regularly being crossed with other Foxhounds, it is possible that the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound will eventually disappear and as a distinct dog. However, it is equally possible that breed fanciers will begin to take steps to further differentiate their dog from other Foxhounds and begin the process of registering it with various kennel clubs. Whatever the true identity of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound and its future as a unique dog, this breed will almost certainly be used essentially entirely as a working hunting dog for the foreseeable future.
The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is very similar in appearance to its relatives the American and English Foxhounds. In general, the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound looks like an intermediate form between the two, although individual dogs may look more like one breed or the other.
The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is a medium to large size breed. Males usually stand between 22 and 25 inches tall at the shoulder, and females usually stand between 21 and 24 inches tall at the shoulder. Although height, condition, and build impact the weight of each individual dogs, most breed members in proper form weigh between 60 and 80 pounds with males weighing approximately 5 to 10 pounds more than females. The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is a working hunting dog and should always appear as such. This dog should be very fit and muscular, although it should never be stocky. Some claim that the breed is built more thickly than the American Foxhound, but this may be more of an aspiration than a fact. This breed should be very well proportioned and without any exaggerated features which would compromise its ability to work unimpeded. The tail of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is of medium length and usually carried somewhat upright with a slight curve.
The head and face of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound are both fairly long, though they tend to be intermediate in length between the American and English Foxhounds. The straight, square muzzle in particular exhibits great length, giving the dog the maximum area for scent receptors. The ears of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound drop down close to the head and may either face to the sides or slightly to the front. The ears of this breed are longer than those of the English Foxhound, but generally not as long as those of the American Foxhound. The eyes are set well apart and are generally brown or hazel in color. The overall expression of most breed members is king, sad, gentle, and pleading.
The coat of the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is the breed’s most important and defining feature. The coat itself is coarse, hard, and of medium length. The hair on the tail is usually slightly longer, forming a very moderate brush. This breed comes in one primary color scheme, a black base coat with tan markings. These tan markings are usually found on the face (especially over the eyes), muzzle, ears, chest, feet, legs, and/or the tail, although the size and location of markings will vary wildly from dog to dog. Many individuals with tan feet have black pencil lines on their toes. Many individuals may also exhibit white markings on the chest and feet. It is not uncommon for a Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound to be born in another color pattern, especially those commonly seen on the American Foxhound.
Because the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound is rarely kept as a companion animal, it is difficult to say what its temperament would be like outside of a hunting atmosphere. However, it is probably safe to assume that the breed is very similar to the American Foxhound and the Coonhound breeds to which it is closely related. The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound was bred to work with any stranger who takes part on a hunt, as a result, human aggression would not have been tolerated. When properly socialized, many breed members are very eager to meet strangers and consider all of them to be potential friends. Shyness and nervousness can be a problem in some lines, and even intense fear. Often openly and fawningly affectionate, this breed can become an inappropriate greet that will jump up on guests and lick their face. Although large enough to look like a deterrent from afar, a Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound would make a very poor guard dog as breed members are more likely to warmly greet an intruder and follow him home than show aggression. Although not generally kept as a family dog, most breed members are extremely gentle with children and tolerant of their rough play and awkward movements. Many individuals become extremely fond of children, especially when they provide them with attention and treats.
Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds were bred to work alongside dozens of other dogs. Even the slightest amount of dog aggression is absolutely intolerable for a pack hunter, and would have been eliminated. As a result, breed members that have been properly socialized generally get along very well with other dogs. Many experienced Foxhound handlers claim that the only aggression issues that they have encountered is between intact male dogs when a female in heat is present. This would be a good breed to introduce to a home with existing dogs of either sex, although it is always important to use extreme caution when introducing strange dogs. In fact, most breed members crave canine company and do best in a home where there is at least one, and preferably several, other dogs.
As a hunting dog, Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds have been bred to locate, chase, and attack small animals. Consequently, most of these dogs have a very high prey drive. When raised alongside cats or other creatures from a young age, most breed members will be perfectly safe around them (though some never will). Without proper training and socialization, most of these dogs will try to attack and potentially kill small animals, and even those dogs which do not trouble household cats with which they are familiar may try to do so with strange cats.
This breed was developed to be in the constant presence of other dogs and hunters. They crave company, both/either human or canine. When left alone for any length of time, many breed members develop severe emotional and behavioral problems. It is highly to provide one of these dogs with a canine companion to prevent issues from developing.
Like most scenthounds, Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds are usually very challenging to train. These dogs were bred to doggedly and tenaciously pursue their quarry without stopping for any hardship, and owners looking for a hunter will almost surely be pleased with one of these dogs. Other owners may very well find them intractable. These dogs can be extremely stubborn, and many absolutely refuse to engage in most forms of training. Training methods that emphasize food rewards are much more successful than any others, but sometimes this breed will not respond to even the most desirable treats. In particular, when this breed is on the scent it can be almost impossible to call back meaning that it should be kept on a leash at all times when outside of a safely enclosed area. This breed does will learn manners and most basic obedience without problems, but anything more might be very difficult to achieve.
Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds were bred to run fast enough to keep pace with a horse, and to do so for many miles. This is one of the canine world’s greatest athletes and has a considerable exercise requirement. This breed should receive at least 45 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise every day, and would ideally get considerably more. Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds make excellent jogging companions, but greatly prefer the opportunity to run around freely. If not provided a proper outlet for their energy, Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds will almost certainly develop behavioral issues, including destructiveness, excessive barking, over excitability, hyper activity, and nervousness. It would be extremely challenging to meet this breed’s needs on anything less than acreage, and these dogs adapt very poorly to urban environments. That being said, once these dogs are adequately exercised they are usually very relaxed and calm in the home. Many breed members will spend hours laying about.
Potential Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound owners need to be aware of the breed’s tendency to extremely vocal. These dogs were deliberately bred to bay loudly and melodically when on the trail both to alert hunters and to allow them to follow if the dogs get out of sight. As a result, this breed has developed a very, very loud baying sound that they make very frequently. Training and exercise will greatly reduce the amount of noise one of these dogs produces, but it will definitely not eliminate it entirely. Keeping one of these dogs in close quarters is almost asking for noise complaints.
The Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound has very low grooming requirements. These dogs should never need to get professional grooming, only an occasional light brushing. Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds do shed, and many of them shed very heavily. This is a breed that can cover carpets, furniture, and clothes with hair and would be a poor choice for allergy sufferers or simply those who hate the thought of cleaning up dog hair. Owners do have to carefully and regularly clean this dog’s ears. Otherwise dirt, grime, water, and food can easily become trapped in them which can lead to irritations and infections.
It does not appear that any health surveys have been conducted on the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound. It is therefore impossible to make any definitive statements about the breed’s health. However, most seem to think that this is a very healthy breed. These dogs have been bred almost exclusively for working ability, and any genetic defects which would impact this ability would have been eliminated from the gene pool. Additionally, this breed has not been subjected to the commercial and backyard breeding practices that have damaged so many other dogs. It is claimed that this breed has a life expectancy of between 11 and 13 years, although it is unclear what this estimate is based on.
Hip dysplasia is known to be a major problem in several related breeds, and is almost certainly a concern for the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound as well. Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the hip joint which causes the leg bone to connect to the hip properly. Overtime, this can lead to discomfort, pain, arthritis, difficulty moving, and in severe cases lameness. Although this disease is caused by genetics, the timing and severity of its onset can be impacted by environmental factors. There is no widely accepted cure for hip dysplasia, although there are a variety of treatments for its symptoms. Unfortunately most of these treatments are lifelong and expensive. Genetic tests have been developed for hip dysplasia, and it is hoped that responsible breeders will be able to substantially reduce its occurrence in the future.
Problems which have been found in related breeds which may be of concern to the Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound: