American Foxhound: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Pack of American Foxhounds with horse in field

  dageldog / Getty Images

The American foxhound is a distinguished dog breed with history and heart, and while it may share a resemblance with one of America's most popular dogs, this hound is more than a bigger Beagle. The hardworking foxhound is all American, despite its British and European heritage. One of the few breeds domestically bred in the United States, this leggy and loud hound is best recognized for its melodious bay and its amicable nature.

Historically speaking, the American foxhound was prized for its pack hunting prowess and is a favorite choice among hunters, particularly on horseback. However, in more recent years, the breed has found a place in family homes and hearts, thanks to its easy-going nature and friendly disposition. Just be forewarned that this breed has boundless energy that needs a daily outlet to avoid undesirable and destructive behavior. But if you can provide the right environment for the American foxhound, you’ll have a loyal and even-tempered dog.

Breed Overview

Group: Hound

Height: 21 to 28 inches

Weight: 60 to 70 pounds

Coat and Color: Medium-length coarse coat close to the body; most common colors include a combination of white, black, and tan but shades of blue, red, and cream are also acceptable.

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the American Foxhound

Affection Level Low
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the American Foxhound

The history of the American foxhound starts across the pond. English foxhounds were brought over from Britain in 1650 to colonial America by a man named Robert Brooks. However, the new frontier had its own topography and challenges and it was recognized early on that the breed needed longer legs to better cover the land and keep pace on a hunt. The English foxhound was bred with other European hounds and the resulting hunting companion came to be known as the American foxhound.

Perhaps the most famous breeder of the American foxhound was George Washington—it turns out that America’s founding father is also key to developing the American foxhound as we know it today. Colloquial history holds that in 1785 Washington began breeding the hounds with French hounds he received as a gift from the French Aristocrat and American military commander Marquis de Lafayette. Later, the dogs were crossed with Irish hounds to create a speedier animal that could keep better pace with the foxes popular in hunts of the day. Washington kept careful records regarding the breeding and pedigree of his pack, and thereby greatly contributed to the growth and establishment of the breed.

The American foxhound was first bred in Maryland and Virginia and received AKC recognition in 1886. As a nod to the breed’s rich history in the area, Virginia made it the official state dog in 1966. While not known as a popular household pet, the American foxhound has been bred and prized for it’s sporting ability and seemingly endless stamina. The sport of foxhunting has greatly contributed to the breed’s longevity. In fact, early American history shows that foxhunting was one of the most popular sports for American gentry until the time of the Civil War. Even today, the sport is popular in equestrian society and relies on the participation of pack hounds—many of which are the classic American foxhound.

Illustration of American Foxhound in 1894, black and white foxhound
 THEPALMER/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

American Foxhound Care

Understanding the nature of the American foxhound is key to having a happy life with this easygoing but energetic dog breed. It’s important to remember that these hounds were bred for their speed and stamina. They have a seemingly limitless amount of energy, and so they have significant exercise needs. Be prepared to spend at least an hour or two once or twice per day exercising your foxhound, and it’s even better if you have a secure, fenced area for your dog to run in as a supplement to structured exercise time. These dogs love to be on the move and if they’re left alone in the house all day, they can become destructive.

As pack animals, American foxhounds also aren’t happy to lead a solitary life. They crave companionship—whether it’s human or animal. They do best in a home with people around most of the day, or when paired with another dog or two for constant company.

If you can meet the exercise and environment needs of the foxhound, you’ll be delighted by the breed’s easygoing and friendly nature. When well-exercised and well-socialized, not much seems to rattle the foxhound. They’re particularly noted for being very patient with children and can be good family companions. However, keep in mind that like other members of the hound group, this breed was bred to work. So they’re not lap dogs by any means and tend to be less affectionate than some other breeds of dog. The best way to sum up an American foxhound’s personality may be docile but reserved. Their reserved nature can transfer over to their feelings toward strangers—foxhounds can be shy or standoffish with people they don’t know.

The attributes that make the American foxhound a superb hunter may be a challenge for city life. The dogs possess a unique and far-reaching bay (a special bark typically exhibited by the dog when hunting). This bay is particularly melodious according to experts, but won’t sound much like music to your neighbors if your dog spends hours baying during the day or night. When left alone too long, some foxhounds develop separation anxiety and bay excessively. It should be noted that baying in itself is an inherited behavior and can’t be trained out of the dog. Hound enthusiasts love the unique bark, but it can be a nuisance to neighbors if it’s left unchecked.

Like other scent hounds, the American foxhound has a keen sense of smell and a one-track mind when it gets on the trail of prey. For this reason, you should never trust your foxhound to walk off-leash—especially in the city where the threat of being hit by a car or becoming lost are even greater. Owners of foxhounds consistently comment that the dogs can seemingly forget all commands when in pursuit of prey.

The foxhound has an independent streak that helps it excel in the field but can be a challenge in household settings. It’s widely recommended that you make obedience training a priority from an early age. Otherwise, you may find that you have a stubborn dog on your hands that resists learning the basics of house training or recall commands.

One area where the foxhound is particularly low-maintenance is when it comes to grooming. These dogs have a medium-length coat that lies close to the body. The coarse hair doesn’t become easily matted and a once-per-week brushing should keep the coat in good condition. You may need to occasionally bathe your hound, but this is typically only necessary if your four-legged friend gets into a stinky situation.

Two American Foxhound puppies in wooden box
 Andrew Fladeboe/Moment Open/Getty Images
American foxhound in snow
 Pro16productions/iStock/Getty Images
American foxhounds and horse
 Ingram Publishing/Getty Images
American foxhounds in pursuit on a hunt
Dageldog/Getty Images

Common Health Problems

One of America’s oldest breeds, the American foxhound has remained very genetically healthy. The breed is known for being hardy and healthy. However, the long ears do require regular inspection to ensure that they don’t harbor moisture, bacteria, or wax build-up.

Other health problems sometimes encountered in Foxhounds include:

Diet and Nutrition

Like all dogs, the American foxhound thrives when fed a quality commercially available or homemade dog food. However, keep in mind that these active canines will require a protein-rich food source and it’s best to skip formulas with a lot of filler.

One other thing to note is that this breed can be food-oriented and will overeat if given the opportunity. Feed your dog two measured meals a day, while keeping treats to a healthy minimum.

Pros

  • Generally healthy with a low maintenance coat

  • Easy-going and patient with kids

  • Great stamina as a hiking or running partner

Cons

  • Requires considerable daily exercise

  • Loud and unique bark that may disturb neighbors

  • Strong prey drive that tends to override dog’s obedience

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Foxhound

Finding an American foxhound to call your own can be a challenge. Despite being an early American dog breed, they’re quite rare. Primarily, these dogs have been bred and kept for the traditional sport of foxhunting. Hunt clubs are the principal breeders of these dogs.

As with any breed, it’s always advisable to check with local rescues and regional or national breed group rescues. The energy demands of this breed can contribute to surrender of these elegant animals. If you have the time and circumstances to make a rescued American foxhound part of your pack, you’ll be satisfied to know you helped a dog in need.

Check out these resources if you're in search of an American foxhound:

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

The American foxhound will bring great joy and unique challenges to your household. Do your research to determine if this sporty but sensible breed is right for your circumstances. Contacting the breed association or rescue groups can be a great way to learn more about the personality and needs of these dogs.

You might also be interested in these related hounds: