10 Best Hound Breeds for Following a Scent

Dogs With Noses That Know No Bounds

Dachshund Sitting On Grassy Field

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A dog’s nose is a pretty magical thing, featuring about 300 million olfactory receptors compared to humans' paltry 6 million. Scientists have determined their sense of smell to be anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than humans. Plus, dogs have 40 times more brain space devoted to analyzing the odors they encounter. All dogs are impressive when it comes to the power of their snouts, but some are even more impressive than others.

Here are 10 of the most celebrated scent hound breeds.


Plastic food and water dishes harbor bacteria that can be harmful to your dog’s nose. Switch to ceramic, glass, or stainless steel to resolve issues like dryness, redness, and sores. 

Breed Characteristics

Scent hounds primarily use scent—and not sight—to navigate the world around them. They generally have long ears that hang close to the ground to help “scoop up” scents as they go and short statures that ensure they’re always closer to where the odors are. Many of these dogs are used for hunting; working in search, rescue, and recovery; and serving as specialized sniffer dogs.

  • 01 of 10


    Beagle sitting in grass

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    Beagles have one of the best noses in the entire canine kingdom, plus a keen intelligence that comes in handy when you’re trying to pick up a particular scent. Their small size, athleticism, and natural affinity for agility make beagles a formidable scent hound with plenty of energy to keep on the trail for hours on end. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 13 to 15 inches

    Weight: 20 to 30 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coat in tricolor (tan, black, and white), red and white, and lemon and white

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

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    Long hair miniature Dachshund

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    That wiener dog stature isn’t just for show. Despite their small size, dachshunds are prized hunters that use their noses to track subtle scents both on the ground and in the air. They’re the only scent hound certified to hunt both below and above ground—pretty impressive for such tiny pups. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: Standard: 8 to 9 inches; miniature: 5 to 6 inches

    Weight: Standard: 16 to 32 pounds; miniature: less than 11 pounds

    Coat and Color: Shorthaired, longhaired, and wirehaired coat varieties; colors include black, tan, fawn, beige, blue, chocolate, and red with various markings, such as dapple, piebald, brindle, and sable

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years

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    Basset Hound

    Basset Hound standing on rock

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    Another short breed with incredible scent capabilities, the basset hound has been bred for years to help on the hunting field and has a natural ability to pick up on and track even the most subtle smells. It’s no surprise that they’re also quite squat in stature—a useful characteristic when your job is to keep your nose to the ground. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: less than 15 inches

    Weight: 40 to 65 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short hair; colors include black and mahogany, white, brown and tan, red, and lemon

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

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    English Pointer

    Black and white English Pointer

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    Pointers aren’t short and stocky like the other scent hounds, but this breed is still one of the best hunting companions. They have an exceptional talent for air-based prey. They feature a deep muzzle, wide nostrils, and ultra-powerful sniffers that are quick to pick up the trail of game birds. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 23 to 28 inches

    Weight: 45 to 75 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coat, sometimes solid and sometimes with markings; color combinations include white with liver, lemon, orange, or black markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 17 years

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  • 05 of 10

    American Foxhound

    American Foxhound standing outside

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    With a name like the American foxhound, it shouldn’t be a surprise that these dogs excel when it comes to their scent abilities. This breed absolutely loves to put their nose to work and are one of the few scent hounds that heads out on their own to track while their humans stay in place. When they catch a scent, they let out a unique bark called a “bray” that alerts their companions to the trail. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 21 to 25 inches

    Weight: 60 to 70 pounds

    Coat and Color: Looks a lot like a beagle but with a tall and lean frame; medium-length coarse coat close to the body; tricolor; most common colors include a combination of white, black, and tan but shades of blue, red, and cream are also possible

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

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    Brown and white Coonhound outside

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    There are quite a few varieties of coonhounds, including bluetick, English, black and tan, and redbone, and they all have highly prized noses and scent work capabilities. Where the various coonhound breeds differ is in what their noses are best for. Some are best suited to “hot” work (fresh trails), and others more adept at “cold” work (old trails). 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 20 to 25 inches; depends on specific breed

    Weight: 40 to 100 pounds; depends on specific breed

    Coat and Color: Varies based on the breed; short or medium length and smooth or coarse coat; colors vary widely, including black and tan, tan and white, brown, red, bluetick, redtick, and brindle (yellow, red, tan, brown, black, and gray brindle)

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

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    English Springer Spaniel

    English Springer Spaniel outside

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    The English springer spaniel can pick up all scents and is a pro at detecting both hot and cold scents as well as picking up scents in both wet and dry conditions. This scent hound can notice smells in the wind and are good on the trail, too. This ability to apply their impressive snouts to a wide range of conditions has made this breed preferred for tracking explosives, narcotics, and even human remains

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 19 to 20 inches

    Weight: 40 to 50 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length flat or wavy, glossy topcoat; short, profuse, and soft undercoat; black or liver with white markings or the opposite; blue or liver roan are also common; tricolor, which includes black, white, and liver or tan markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

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    Senior Bloodhound dog

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    Bloodhounds are the poster child of the scent hound breed and are one of the original tracking breeds. They've been putting their noses to work on the hunt as early as 1000 and have a one-track mind that does not like to give up on a scent. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 23 to 27 inches

    Weight: 80 to 110 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, dense, loose coat in tan, black, liver, and red; darker coat colors tend to have flecks of white, black, gray, or brown

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

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  • 09 of 10

    Basset Griffon Vendeen

    Basset Griffon Vendeen standing outside

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    They look more shih tzu than hound, but the basset griffon vendeens are all hound with excellent scent-tracking skills. For centuries, this breed has been using its superior nose work abilities to help track rabbits and other small prey with a remarkable ability to keep on track regardless of the terrain and conditions.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 13 to 15 inches

    Weight: 25 to 40 pounds

    Coat and Color: Rough, scruffy, and shaggy with extra length around the eyes and chin; double-coated, long, rough outercoat and soft, thick undercoat; colors includes tricolor, yellow, orange, black, and sable

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

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    Wet Harrier dog standing in the grass.

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    You might not know much about the harrier, which is an English scent hound breed that hasn’t made much of an appearance in popular canine culture (the AKC ranks them 189 out of 195 breeds). They might fly under the radar but are no stranger to the hunt with short legs and strong noses that can carefully follow any animal they set their snouts on. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 19 to 21 inches

    Weight: 45 to 60 pounds

    Coat and Color: Looks like a larger beagle or smaller foxhound; thick, short coat that comes in tricolor (black, brown, and white) or red and white

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Breeds to Avoid

All dogs have exceptional noses, but they’re not all worthy of serving as scent hounds. Some breeds that aren’t ideal if you’re looking for scent hound qualities are short-snouted breeds like English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and boxers as well as notably non-scent dogs (but instead, sighthounds) like greyhounds, whippets, and Afghan hounds.