The Plott Hound is one of only four dog breeds developed exclusively in America; and although not previously in existence as a unique type prior to the 18th century, the Plott Hound can trace its ancestry to an archaic breed of dog called the Hanoverian Hound. The Hanoverian Hound was developed in Germany and is believed to have originally descended from medieval Bloodhound breeds. This lineage therefore, makes the Plott Hound undeniably ancient in its pedigree, and the only Coonhound breed not claiming British roots.
The Plott Hound, although possessing an old and noble lineage, has a well documented history of its specific genesis and development. The story of the Plott Hound begins in Germany, with five Hanoverian hounds; one of which is thought to have been cross-bred with a Weimaraner. The ancient Hanoverian Hounds were outstanding scent Hounds, known to tireless in their tracking and pursuit of prey over long distances and challenging terrain. In 1750, the owners of this group of Hounds, two brothers of the Plott family, seeking more opportunity boarded a ship bound from Germany to America, bringing five of their talented dogs along with them. While traveling by ship from Germany, one of the Plott brothers fell ill and died. The surviving brother, Johannes George Plott along with his Hounds, would settle in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. These five dogs would be used to form the foundation of the Plott Hound breed in America. In Germany, the Hanoverian Hound was known for skillfully hunting wild boar, but the diverse amount of wildlife in America allowed hunters to use their hounds in the pursuit of a wider variety of prey such as the bear, mountain lion, bobcat, deer, and raccoon, in addition to wild boar. For the next several decades, the hunting skills of the Plott Hound were further developed and refined; and the breed began to emerge as a distinctive type.
In 1780, an aging Johannes Plott passed his prized pack of Hounds to his son Henry Plott. Henry Plott would take great care in maintaining the purity of his father’s original breeding line by keeping detailed records of breedings and the individual abilities of specific dogs. His documentation recorded such specific facts as which dogs were the best trackers, which were the best fighters, and which were the best tree dogs; among other breed information such as size, coloration and temperament. So meticulous was Henry Plott’s record keeping that John R. Jackson, of Boone , North Carolina was inspired to write: “In the mountainous western section of North Carolina lay the frontier, then a virtual game-laden paradise. Deer hides, especially, and other animal pelts could be harvested in great quantity. It was here to this wilderness area that Henry Plott settled and concentrated his efforts in establishing a highly successful big-game dog, a dog especially adept at hunting bears.” Thus the legend and reputation of the Plott Hound became well known among local hunters.
At this time in American history, family bred Hound lines often took on the name of the breeding family. The Hounds bred by Henry Plott therefore took on his name and by the 1800’s were referred to as Plott Hounds, or simply Plotts. Because the Plott Hounds were considered to be family dogs they were rarely sold to others. The breed did possess an uncanny ability to cold-track, fight, and even tree the American Black Bear however, and due to their superb hunting abilities the Plott family’s hounds became well known throughout North Carolina and in the surrounding areas. They would earn a reputation as smart, well-rounded hunting dogs with keen instincts and outstanding skills. Although locally they were quite popular, for many decades the geographic isolation of the Smoky Mountain region would keep the breed virtually unknown to those outside it.
News of the Plott Hounds’ skill and ability would however, spread further than its home state of North Carolina over time. A local myth claims that a hunter from Georgia had heard of the Plott Hound and its reputation. Intrigued by their famed abilities, the hunter sought out the Hounds and their creator, Henry Plott. The two men became friends and hunting companions, each bringing their own breed of Hound along on their hunting excursions. The tale continues that the hunter from Georgia was so impressed by the Plott Hound that he eventually convinced Plott to allow him to cross-breed one of his female Hounds with a member of the Plott Hound line. This is the only alleged cross-breed that the Plott Hound had participated in. When Plott’s male Hound was returned to him by his friend, the hunter also presented Plott with a male puppy from the cross-bred litter. It is further said that Plott adored the little puppy, and therefore incorporated it into the breeding line of future Plott Hound litters. This single cross is believed to be the only introduction of new blood into the pure bloodline of the Plott Hound. This cross is thought by some to be a contributing factor to the breed’s extreme stamina and endurance, as well as its size and strength.
Roughly a hundred years would pass in the history of the Plott Hound with no further incidence of cross-breeding. The Plott family carefully monitored their Hound line during this time; and in the early 1900’s it was determined that in order to maintain the breed’s health and breeding viability, additional outcrosses should be considered. They consulted with neighbor and fellow hound breeder, G. P. Fergusen, who had also kept Hounds for many years and had often hunted with his dogs alongside the Plott Hounds. Fergusen studied the local breeds of Hound in an effort to locate an appropriate match to enhance the current breeding stock of the Plott Hound. The goal was to maintain the Plott Hound’s current temperament while enhancing its hunting abilities. Fergusen decided on the Belvin Hound as a the perfect mate for the Plott Hound. The Belvin Hound was another local hunting Hound of the black-and-tan variety. The introduction of new genetics would allow the Plott Hound to retain its general appearance while enhancing its health and solidifying the strength and consistency of the Plott Hound’s bloodline.
This cross would help to further develop and improve upon the Plott Hound breed. Although bear and wild boar hunting decreased in popularity during the 20th century, raccoon hunting would not and the Plott Hound, like many other Hound breeds developed in America would find itself lumped into the category of Coonhound. Warren H. Miller, in his book The American Hunting Dog, 1929, wrote of the Coonhound: “Used for deer, coons, bear, wild cat and all kinds of treeing “varmints,” (the Coonhound) has had as much to do with the development of our country as the pioneer himself. He was the pioneer’s dog in fact, and for the last three centuries has been the hunter’s dog all over the backwoods. In the old days we had to take our meat as we found it, running wild in the forests…”
The Plott Hound is one of only six Coonhound breeds registered with the United Kennel Club (UKC). The UKC recognized the Plott Hound as a specific and unique breed in 1946. The Plott Hound still boasts the purest bloodline of all the Coonhound breeds. It is also the only dog to have been originally bred in North Carolina, and on August 12, 1989 it was adopted as the state dog there; a great honor for the breed. In 2006, the American Kennel Club (AKC) finally gave full recognition to the Plott Hound, officially placing the breed in the Hound Group. Today, the Plott Hound continues to excel in big-game competitions and hunting, however it is still one of the least known breeds in America. The Plott Hound is currently ranked 134thout 167 breeds on the AKC’s 2010 most popular dog breeds list; up from 126th place in 2009.
The Plott Hound is a medium sized dog with a strong physique. Standing 20 to 25 inches at the withers, and weighing between 40 and 55 lbs., the Plott Hound is built for endurance, with a sleek and agile frame. The Plott Hound is athletic and determined.
The head of the Plott Hound is carried high with tight facial skin, and a slightly flat skull that is rounded at the crown. The eyes are prominent, expressive, and inquiring. They are brown or hazel in color, with tight black lids. The ears are set high on the skull; soft and broad, they hang charmingly angled toward the muzzle, which is square and moderately sized. The lips and nose of the Plott Hound are black and the teeth should display a precise scissors bite.
The muscular neck of the Plott Hound gives way to a softly sloping topline with a strong and level back. The shoulders are clean and well-muscled, with straight legs. The front feet are sufficiently padded and tight, with strong toes. They are set directly below the leg. A wide, deep chest with well sprung ribs leads into a gently arched loin. The hindquarter is bent at the stifles and hocks, with wide, rounded hips. The back feet are built the same as the front feet; however they are set slightly behind the line of the back leg.
Most Plott Hounds possess a short, single coat of glossy hair. A rare exception to this rule is a double-coated Plott Hound. Whether the dog is a single or double-coated specimen, the Plott Hound’s coat is always dense and smooth. Generally, brindle is the preferred color for the coat. Brindle has been described as a striped, streaked, or speckled patterning in the coat that includes the following colors: black, yellow, blue (maltese), brown, buckskin, tan, chocolate, liver, red, orange, gray, and fawn. A solid black Plott Hound, one with a black base and brindle trim, or a brindle dog with a black saddle spot are also accepted. Rarely seen is a solid, light coated dog, but it is possible.
A loyal companion, the Plott Hound was bred to be fearless and tough; brave enough to hunt large game such as bear and wild boar. The Plott Hound has often been said to be of two personalities, as good a family companion as it is a hunting partner. When with family, the Plott Hound is active, loving, and engaged. The Plott Hound is not an overly demanding breed; while they flourish when in close contact with human companions, the Plott Hound can also tolerate being left alone. When kept indoors the Plott Hound will generally find a quiet spot of its own in which to relax. It is however, equally as pleased to be left outside in the yard in appropriate weather. In the Plott Hound’s home life, it displays an unexpectedly calm attitude. It is a gentle breed that shows great patience with children, commonly being well behaved and friendly with other animals as well.
While hunting, the Plott Hound displays a very different temperament. When tracking its prey, the Plott Hound is fast, strong, and resolute. The breed is good in the water and is willing to hunt over any type of landscape; being deterred neither by mountain nor marsh. When the Plott Hound takes hold of a scent it will lock-on to it. Fresh scent from its prey will cause the Plott Hound to be off and running. However if the scent is older, the Plott Hound with work meticulously to track and locate its prey. A determined breed, the Plott Hound will fearlessly stand against a 500 lb. bear or an angry boar and keep the animal contained until the hunter is able to subdue the prey with his rifle.
This boldness of character creates in the Plott Hound a lack of fear when faced with other animals, even animals of a much greater size. Therefore, the Plott Hound can be prone to aggression and dominance if not properly socialized in the dog’s early development. The Plott Hound commonly maintains a strict pack mentality. If the pack order is not firmly established, the Plott Hound will try to dominate others in the household. Behaviors such as being possessive of their food and being impatient with others are signs of their dominance and should be corrected early in the dog’s training. When raised with other pets in a home with a strong sense of pack hierarchy, the Plott Hound will behave respectfully of its housemates.
Establishing leadership with your Plott Hound is important early on. The pack mentality will create in the dog a natural respect for the pack leader. Once the Plott Hound knows that you are in charge of the household, the dog will know and understand its place in the home and will behave accordingly. An experienced dog owner will have little trouble training a Plott Hound. Plotts are easy to train in the home and obedience lessons will often be quick and successful if begun early in the dog’s development. Training should be consistent and fair; the lessons should always be conducted with praise and reassurance to ensure that the dog will respond well to the training. Treats and positive reinforcement should always be a part of the training lessons for the Plott Hound. Although the make a great family pet, hunting instincts are deeply bred into the Plott Hound and therefore, little training will be required in that area if the dog is intended for use in the field.
Boundaries are essential with this breed, making the consistency of rule enforcement extremely important to the Plott Hound. Typical of the Hound family, the Plott Hound can be independent and stubborn. The breed is also likely to forget its lessons if not regularly practiced. A Plott Hound should begin training as a puppy, and as early as possible. As the Plott Hound ages, it can become very strong-willed and will test bad behaviors to see what it can get away with. Therefore, repetition and consistency in training lesson is vital for the Plott Hound to become a well developed and properly adjusted adult member of its household. The Plott Hound also does well when observing the behavior of an older dog that has already been properly trained.
The breed is not recommended for a first time dog owner, as the Plott Hound requires a firm, patient, and consistent owner. Positive reinforcement is always recommended for the breed as harsh treatment will cause the Plott Hound to rebel against the handler and the lessons. The Plott Hound shows no fear when faced with a 500 lb. bear, and is unlikely to be afraid of you; scare tactics and negativity will therefore only prove a disadvantage to the dog during his training and development. A meek or passive owner will be unable to successfully establish the pack order with a Plott Hound, making it necessary for the owner to be strong and confident when handling the dog. The Plott Hound is said to have a short memory for its lessons, but a long memory for its relationships with people and other animals; if treated poorly, the Plott Hound may retaliate if given an opportunity.
Due to their breeding and their general temperament, early socialization is important to the breed. Early exposure to new people and things will help to assist the Plott Hound in growing into a well-adjusted adult dog. As they can display aggression and dominance instinctively, this early exposure to others will help to strongly established a much needed pack hierarchy and proper place in that pack in the mind of the Plott Hound. The Plott Hound plays well with older children who known and respect the dog’s boundaries. Young children should always be supervised when playing with the Plott Hound. They do not know how to properly treat a dog at their tender age and a Plott Hound may attempt to put a child in its place once the dog’s tolerance for rough play is expended.
The general temperament of the Plott Hound can be successfully adjusted based on breeding needs. If the dog is bred for the field, he may be more high-strung, active, and energetic than a companion dog. Due to early breeding in the Plott Hound’s history, it is a strong and enthusiastic hunter; thereforeall members of the breed require ample amounts of exercise. Two walks a day will be necessary for the Plott Hound to meet the dog’s exercise and activity requirements, as will be frequent trips to a park or beach where the dog can run, play, or swim. The Plott Hound will enjoy any outdoor activities such as hiking. The Plott Hound should be kept on a leash when not training for field work. The breed is a scent Hound and it is likely to aggressively follow its nose if it catches a scent. Once onto a scent, the Plott Hound’s intense focus may prevent it from being called back by the owner.
Trained to be a hunting Hound, the breed has a tendency to bark. They Plott Hound is a protective watchdog by nature and will bark to alert of suspicious activity. Because of their tendency to be a bit noisy, and their need for plenty of exercise, the Plott Hound is recommended more for an individual home as opposed to an apartment where it can disturb neighbors dwelling close by. A home with a fenced yard is good for when it is time to exercise and play, but the Plott Hound thrives on companionship with people and the dog should not be left in a yard for excessive lengths of time. An anxious or bored Plott Hound will look to amuse itself if left on its own for too long; and as the dog is a scent Hound, it will often entertain itself by searching for a scent to follow. Plott Hounds love a good adventure and are quick to explore. Their curiosity, together with their keen intelligence and their skills as excavators, makes them superb at planning and carrying out successful escapes. A highly agile breed, the Plott Hound will often climb over a fence or dig its way out of a pen if not properly secured.
Beyond the tendency to bark, which can be addressed through proper training; the Plott Hound’s only bad habit is drooling. Overall, the breed is an excellent hunting partner and with the appropriate training, and proper socialization and leadership; the Plott Hound also makes a fantastic family pet. The breed is known to be loyal, faithful, and protective of its family and home.
The Plott Hound sports a short but dense coat making it an easy to groom breed. A double coat can on occasion occur in the breed. The Plott Hound is neat and tidy by nature, often grooming itself with its tongue in a similar fashion to how cats bathe themselves. The breed can be brushed to remove dead hair, although the short coat does not require it often, and any dirt and debris may be easily wiped from the dogs coat with a towel or cloth. This will also help to bring out the glossy shine of the Plott Hound’s coat. Regular trimming of the nails is important, as is checking and caring for the ears, eyes, and teeth of the Plott Hound. The breed should be bathed as needed, but never excessively.
The Plott Hound is a hearty breed. Living an average of 10 to 12 years, the breed displays no major genetic health issues. They Plott Hound is known to be the healthiest of the Coonhounds, and one of the heartiest of all the dog breeds.
Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) has been seen in very few members of the breed and is the only hereditary disorder suggested for testing by veterinarians for the Plott Hound breed. CHD is a disorder in which the hip joint does not develop properly and can cause pain or lameness in the affected individual.
The Plott Hound is known to be a good eater. At times, the dog may consume large amounts of food which can cause bloat. In some cases, Gastric Torsion can occur. This is a condition in which the dog’s stomach twists, causing death. The dog should be allowed to rest after a large meal, as exercise can be a cause of Gastric Torsion.