Bluetick Coonhound

The Bluetick Coonhound is one of six recognized breeds of Coonhound, all of which were developed in the United States.  The Bluetick is distinguished from its striking coat, which gives off the appearance that the dog is covered in blue spots.  These spots make it look like the dog is covered in blue ticks, hence the name.  While the Bluetick Coonhound has long been recognized as a unique type, the breed was not separated from the English Coonhound until the 1940’s.  The Bluetick Coonhound is not regularly seen in developed areas, but the breed is quite common in rural areas where its hunting skills and beautiful appearance are highly valued.

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
Large 35-55 lb
X-Large 55-90 lb
LifeSpan: 
10 to 12 Years
Trainability: 
Moderate Effort Required
Energy Level: 
Medium Energy
Grooming: 
Brushing Once a Week or Less
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
May Have Issues With Other Dogs
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
7-13 puppies, Average around 8
Names: 
Blues

Height/Weight

Males: 
55-80lbs, 22-27 inches
Females: 
45-65lbs, 21-25 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

When European settlers arrived in America, they brought their dogs along with them.  Europeans had been exhibiting sophisticated dog breeding for many centuries, and had developed many recognizable breeds for distinct purposes.  Much of the early European dog breeding efforts focused on hunting dogs, particularly hounds.  In the Middle Ages, hunting was amongst the favorite pastimes of the nobility, and very important in the formation of social and political bonds.  Most lords kept at least one pack of hunting hounds which were carefully bred.  Beginning in the Renaissance, some particularly successful members of the middle class began to keep hounds as well.  While hounds were bred across Europe, they played a particularly important part of the culture of the nobility in England and France.

 

Each American colony tended to be settled by a particular subset of English society.  A disproportionate number of the upper classes and nobility settled the southernmost colonies of Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and the Carolinas.  These settlers brought their treasured hounds with them, in order to pursue their hunting activities in the new world.  As fox hunting was extremely fashionable in England, British settlers brought a number of Fox Hounds with them.  The first record of fox hounds in America dates back to at least 1650 when Robert Brooke imported a pack into the colony of Maryland.  He eventually became the America’s first master of the hounds.  In the French colony of Louisiana, settlers brought the much prized Grand Bleu de Gascogne, a large blue spotted hunting hound used to track wolves and deer.  Similarly, Scottish, Irish, and German immigrants brought their native hunting dogs with them as well, particularly to regions of Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and the Appalachian Mountains where these settlers predominated.

 

These early hunters found that conditions in the New World were substantially different than those of Western Europe.  The terrain was much more difficult across much of America; it was rockier and less developed.  There were also wide swaths of terrain were almost unknown in Europe, from swamps and bayous to sparsely populated pine forests.  Many European breeds had difficulty in this tougher environment.  The climate in the American South is also far warmer and friendlier to disease than most of Europe.  European dogs were likely to overheat or succumb to illness and parasites.  Finally, the quarry species available in America are very different than those of Europe.  American species such as raccoons and opossums are more likely to flee up a tree than into a burrow as is the case with European rabbits and foxes.  Also, many American animals are far fiercer than what is likely to be encountered in Europe, creatures such as Cougars, Alligators, Wild Hogs, Bobcats, and Black Bears.  American dogs needed to be able to tree their prey, and also to be able to fight with very dangerous animals.  The farther settlers went from the coast, the hardier their dogs had to be. 

 

American dog breeders set out to develop dogs that could handle these new conditions.  Their primary stock was the Fox Hounds so prized among the English nobility.  English Fox Hounds form the basic stock from which the American Fox Hound, as well as five of the six breeds of Coonhounds, descend.  In the American colonies, those English Fox Hounds which were bred to the new continent were bred more heavily.  Additionally, other dog breeds were added for desired qualities.  According to the records of the University of William and Mary, Bloodhounds began to be imported into the American Colonies as early as 1607.  It is known that Bloodhounds were injected into the Bloodlines of American hounds to increase their sense of smell and tracking abilities.  French Hounds figured prominently in many American hound lines as well.  George Washington is known to have received at least five French hounds from General Lafayette, which he added to his Fox Hound Pack.  Additionally, some number of Grand Bleu de Gascognes was present in French Louisiana, which was annexed by the United States in 1803.  By the middle of the 1700’s, it was clear that American Hounds were distinct from their European ancestors and began to be called Virginia Hounds.

 

Unlike in Europe, where the nobility was primarily responsible for the keeping and breeding of hounds, in America, the sport was far more egalitarian and was practiced by people of all classes.  This was particularly true in mountainous and swampy regions.  Hunting with dogs became one of the most popular forms of recreation in the American South.  In particular, raccoon hunting became favored.  As a result, many breeders worked to further their own lines of dog.  Because many of these breeders worked in relative obscurity and kept few if any written records it is impossible to know exactly what dogs went into the breeding of the Coonhound breeds.  Additionally, many hunters would add a dog of completely unknown ancestry into their lines if it had skills, abilities, or an appearance characteristic which they desired.  However, it is generally believed that American Fox Hounds and most Coonhounds are primarily descended from English Fox Hounds, with some addition of other breeds, in particular the Bloodhound.

 

There is comparatively little debate when it comes to the Bluetick Coonhound.  The dog is almost universally believed to be the result of mixing American Fox Hounds and Coonhounds with the French Grand Bleu de Gascogne.  There is some dispute over which breed favored more prominently into the Bluetick’s origin.  Some breeders and experts believe that the dog is primarily descended from Fox Hound, with the addition of some Grand Bleu de Gascogne influence.  Others believe that the Bluetick is primarily descended from the Grand Bleu de Gascogne with the addition of some Fox Hound influence.  While it will probably never be known for sure, it is very difficult to not see the similarities between the Bluetick Coonhound and the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, and that the two breeds are obviously closely related.  In many ways, the Bluetick Coonhound, especially a variety of Bluetick known as an American Bleu Gascogne, looks and hunts much more like a Grand Bleu de Gascogne than an American Fox Hound.

 

Coonhounds were initially bred primarily for performance, with a fair amount of intermixing between breeds.  Early breeders also kept very poor records.  However, breeders began to be more careful and to keep better records with the growing popularity of organized raccoon hunts.  These hunts were competitions held to see which hunter and his dogs could capture the greatest number of raccoons over a certain time period.  These hunts inspired a great deal of competition among their participants.  A great deal of personal prestige and notoriety was to be gained.  Winning dogs were highly valued.  Eventually, Coonhound breeding became more standardized.  However, many Coonhound breeders were vary of joining major kennel clubs out of fear that their dogs would no longer be bred primarily as working dogs, and their hunting abilities would be reduced as a result.  Eventually, some of these fears subsided and the English Coonhound, which the Bluetick Coonhound was originally considered a variety of, was registered with the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1905.

 

Because they were primarily bred as hunting dogs, initially most coonhounds were considered to be the same breed with different coat varieties.  For example, tri-colored dogs were known as Treeing Walkers, blue-spotted dogs were known as Blueticks, and red-spotted dogs were known as Redticks.  Eventually, fanciers of the different types began to go their separate ways.  Treeing Walker Coonhounds were first recognized by the UKC. in 1945, and Bluetick Coonhounds were recognized the following year.  Also in 1946, The Bluetick Coonhound Breeders Association of America (BBOA) was founded in the home of C.O. Smith in Illinois.  There are still some English Coonhounds with blue-spotting and some which are tri-colored, but most are now red-spotted.  The primary dispute between Bluetick and English breeders was over the dog’s nose.  Bluetick breeders value a dog with a “cold nose” meaning that it will follow a scent for a very long time, no matter how old the scent is.  English Breeders favored a dog with a “hot nose,” meaning one that will primarily follow newer smells that are more likely to result in the rapid treeing of an animal.  Generally, “cold-nosed” dogs follow trails at a slower pace and “hot-nosed” dogs will trail at a faster pace.  There is still a tremendous amount of debate and discussion among hunters as to which type of dog is advisable under any number of conditions.  Most Coonhound breeders have long favored the UKC due to its focus on breeding working dogs.  Many viewed the American Kennel Club (AKC) with suspicion.  As a result, Bluetick Coonhound breeders long resisted registering their dogs with the AKC.  However, this suspicion is slowly evaporating, and the Bluetick Coonhound was finally recognized by the AKC’s Hound Group in 2009.

 

The unique appearance of the Bluetick, as well as the breed’s popularity in rural areas has led to the breed making many appearances in popular culture.  Bluetick Coonhounds have appeared many times in American literature, perhaps most prominently in Where the Red Fern Grows as rivals to the Redbone Coonhounds Old Dan and Little Ann and in Savage Sam as the titular character.  The Bluetick Coonhound has also made many appearances in film and television, including the film Overboard with Goldie Hawn, the show Airwolf, and the introductory sequence to Chappelle’s Show.  A number of popular songs mention Bluetick Coonhounds, including ones written by Neil Young, Blake Shelton, Emmy Lou Harris, Charlie Daniels, David Allen Coe, and Justin Moore.  Perhaps the most famous Bluetick Coonhound of all is Smokey, the official mascot of the University of Tennessee’s athletic programs.  The Bluetick Coonhound was chosen by a student poll in 1953.  There is both a costumed mascot version of Smokey and a live Bluetick Coonhound.

 

Unlike many breeds of dog which are rarely used for their original purpose, most Blueticks are still hunting dogs.  Thousands of Bluetick Coonhounds can be found throughout America hunting raccoons and other game, particularly in Southern states.  Coonhound trials are still quite popular as well, although now some hunts do not end with the death of the raccoon.  However, the beautiful appearance of the Bluetick, as well as the breed’s loving and loyal personality is making more and more fanciers keep the breed as nothing more than a companion animal.

 

Appearance: 

 

In general, the Bluetick Coonhound looks similar to other large hunting scent hounds.  The breed has drooping ears, seemingly excessive skin, and a long snout.  What makes the Bluetick Coonhound so distinctive is the breed’s coat.  Bluetick Coonhounds have a coat that is white with a tremendous number of black spots, giving the dog the appearance of being blue-spotted.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are medium to large dogs.  Males are typically between 22 and 27 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 80 pounds.  The noticeably smaller females are usually between 21 and 25 inches tall at the shoulder and weight between 45 and 65 pounds.  Dogs may weigh slightly less if they are in hunting condition.  All dogs must weigh a proportionate amount to their height.  This is a working breed and should look the part.  American Bleu Gascognes, a variety of Bluetick Coonhound, are somewhat larger, with males being between 27 and 30 inches tall at the shoulder.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds have short, smooth coats.  The coloring of the coat is very important.  These dogs are white with black mottling.  This gives the appearance of blue fur.  These dogs often have large black spots on their bodies, especially their faces and ears which are predominantly black.  Dogs which are predominantly blue rather than black or which are much preferred by breeders and in the show ring.  These dogs may exhibit small tan markings around the eyes, face, and chest, as well as underneath the tail.  Many fanciers thought that the markings made it look as if the dog was covered in ticks, leading to the name Bluetick Coonhound.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds have long snouts and noses, which give them the maximum area for smell receptors.  These dogs also have comparatively wide heads.  Bluetick Coonhounds appear to have excessive skin on the jowls, face, and body, although not nearly to the extent of breeds such as the Bloodhound or the Basset Hound.  Bluetick Coonhounds have round dark brown eye.  These dogs have the sad, pleading expression that is so famous among scent hounds.  Bluetick Coonhounds have the long, drooping, floppy ears of most hound breeds, although there is substantial variation between dogs.  Some Blueticks ears are shorter and more closely resemble those of a Beagle, others have ears that are longer and more closely resemble those of Bloodhounds.  American Bleu Gascognes in particular have long ears.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are quite muscular and should appear as such.  In particular, the legs of the breed should be well-muscled.  Bluetick Coonhounds have a long tail, which is often held in the erect, saber-like manner of many hound breeds.

 

Temperament: 

 

Bluetick Coonhounds tend to get along very well with people.  They have a reputation for being extremely affectionate and loving with humans.  Bluetick Coonhounds are well-known for getting along very well with children.  More than one Bluetick has been a child’s very best friend.  Many hunting Blueticks return from the trail to be very loving members of the family.  If you are looking for a dog that is sweet and gentle with your whole family, as well as most strangers, a Bluetick Coonhound may be a great option.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds were bred to work in packs.  This means that most Blueticks get along very well with other dogs.  If you are looking for a breed to introduce to pre-existing pets, a Bluetick may be a good option.  Some Blueticks will exhibit traditional dominance and bullying behaviors, particularly around new dogs.  One potential difficulty exists with very small dogs.  Bluetick Coonhounds that have not been socialized around small dogs may see them as prey animals to be hunted and possibly killed.  It is always best to carefully introduce and socialize your Bluetick to new dogs.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are hunting dogs.  They have been bred for centuries for this purpose.  As a result, many Bluetick Coonhounds exhibit very high prey drives and surprising amounts of aggression to non-human, non-canine animals.  Bluetick Coonhounds have a natural urge to pursue and kill animals such as raccoons and opossums, which translates to cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters.  Bluetick Coonhounds can get along perfectly fine with other animals if they have been raised and socialized with them.  However, if you have other pets, you may want to strongly consider a different breed.  It is probably not advisable to bring an adult Bluetick into a home with non-canine animals.  Also, just because your Bluetick Coonhound is very gentle with your family’s cats does not mean that it will not track down and attack your neighbor’s cats.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are known for being highly intelligent and great problem solvers.  They are also known for being affectionate and loving with their human masters.  One would therefore likely assume that these dogs are also easy to train.  This is unfortunately not the case.  Bluetick Coonhounds are known for being very stubborn and difficult.  They have selective hearing and will oftentimes do what you command only when it pleases them, and even then at the speed which they desire.  This is not to say that it is impossible to train a Bluetick Coonhound.  There are many very-trained Blueticks across the country.  It does mean that you will have to spend more time training your Bluetick than you would with other breeds.  You will have to have substantially more patience as well.  You may never get quite the results which you desire, either.  If you want a dog that will do a number of complex tricks, a Bluetick Coonhound is probably not for you.  Also, Blueticks are extremely food motivated.  Any training regimen with a Bluetick Coonhound is going to require a large number of treats.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds were bred to follow trails for many hours.  They will do so if given the chance.  It is imperative that you keep Blueticks on a leash at all times, unless they have been extremely well-trained.  Otherwise your dog will get on a trail and pursue it at high speed, and you will probably not be able to call it back.  Bluetick Coonhounds are extremely good problem solvers, as well as being some of the canine world’s greatest athletes.  These dogs are notorious escape artists.  If you intend on having your dog off-leash in your yard, you need to make sure that your fence is very, very tall, very, very strong, and has some means of preventing the dogs from digging.  Otherwise your dog will go over, under, or straight through.  You also need to carefully store your food.  These dogs have the desire, determination, and physical abilities to get onto counters and into drawers and refrigerators.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.  These are working dogs and need to be treated as such.  Bluetick Coonhounds which are not properly exercised can become destructive.  These dogs are more than strong and smart enough to be very destructive.  These affectionate dogs are likely to become jumpers and inappropriate greeters.  This is made worse by lack of exercise.  Simple training is likely to eliminate this problem.

 

One feature of the Bluetick Coonhound which may cause some problems in urban and suburban areas is the breed’s voice.  Bluetick Coonhounds are some of the loudest dogs in the world.  Some hunters claim that their dogs can be heard for miles away.  These dogs were bred to bay loudly when on their trail and when their game is treed, in order to alert their handlers when the chase is on and when it is over.  Their cries are considered a thing of beauty to hunters.  In a city, these noises are less desirable.  All Blueticks will make a fair amount of noise.  Bored Blueticks may howl for hours on end.  If you are considering getting a Bluetick Coonhound, you should listen to them first.  There may very well be some noise complaints if you put a Bluetick Coonhound in a suburban neighborhood.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

Bluetick Coonhounds have very low maintenance coats.  You should rarely, if ever, need to take a Bluetick Coonhound in for professional grooming.  Regular brushing is all that this breed normally needs.  However, these dogs are shedders.  In fact, many Bluetick Coonhounds are very heavy shedders.  Their fur is coarse and will stick to upholstery, carpet, and clothing quite easily.  You and your guests may very well get covered in dog hair on a regular basis.  Bluetick Coonhounds frequently have a strong “doggy” odor that many find unpleasant.  Some Blueticks have also been known to drool.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds do require extra care around their ears.  Their drooping ears are likely to get dirty, and possibly infected.  It is important that you regularly clean your Bluetick Coonhound’s ears.  It is advisable to begin this process from a young age, so older and stronger dogs cause you fewer problems.

 

Health Issues: 

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are a relatively healthy breed.  They have long been bred for hunting performance.  Unhealthy dogs would have typically been excluded from the gene pool.  Additionally, harsh climates with many diseases have created dogs with natural disease resistances.  However, these dogs do suffer from some health problems. 

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are known to suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia.  Some studies have indicated that more than 16% of Coonhounds are afflicted.  This condition occurs in almost all large dog breeds, and is found in Coonhounds at a much higher rate than most.  Dysplasia occurs when the hip or elbow socket is malformed, leading to painful arthritis.  Some dogs even go lame in extreme cases.  The condition has genetic links, but environmental factors can increase the likelihood of its appearance as well as increase its severity.  Preventative treatments for hip and elbow dysplasia do exist, but most have not been proven by veterinary medicine.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are also highly susceptible to over-eating and weight gain.  Like most hounds, Bluetick Coonhounds were originally bred in pack environments where dogs would have to eat quickly and as much as possible or not at all.  This has led to Blueticks having a tendency to eat excessively as well as being highly food driven.  Some hounds have been known to eat so much that their stomachs actually rupture.  You will need to carefully regulate your Bluetick Coonhound’s diet, as well as making sure that it is properly exercised.  You will also want to carefully locate any possible food, as Bluetick Coonhounds will go to great lengths for an extra snack. 

 

It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed.  The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.

 

Bluetick Coonhounds are susceptible to many of the diseases that are common among other dog breeds, among them:

 


 

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