Hounds are among the oldest of the major dog groups in the world. With their powerful senses and athletic bodies, they have helped humans track down prey almost since the dawn of civilization. There are generally two different types of hound dog breeds: the sighthound, which tracks its prey with sight and speed, and the scent hound, which patiently locates its quarry by tracking the scent from a distance. Some breeds have both excellent sight and scent, blurring together the two boundaries.
Altogether, there are more than a hundred different hounds from around the world. This article will cover the top 10 most popular and well-known breeds, ranging across many different types of hound dogs worldwide, from the rugged terrain of Afghanistan to the rolling hills of Ireland. All of the dogs on this list make for great companions and athletic playmates, but they need to be trained early as puppies to obey your commands and focus their attention because of their strong hunting instincts and wanderlust potential.
The Beagle is perhaps the most common of the many different types of hound dog breeds (the American Kennel Club ranks it as the sixth most popular breed in the United States alone). Easy-going, curious, and very charming, it was originally bred at some point in medieval England to hunt down hares (an activity known as beagling). Queen Elizabeth I was said to own a small breed called a Pocket Beagle, similar to the modern-day version. As a pack dog, the Beagle thrives on social interactions and companionship. It also enjoys activities that engage its wandering mind. This small dog is characterized by drooping ears, an erect tail, and a muscular body. The short, hard coat is normally covered in black, brown/tan, white, and blue markings.
The Dachshund, also known as the wiener dog or (in German) the badger dog, is characterized by a very long body and lively, charming personality. It was first created some 600 years ago to hunt badgers out in the wild. Its great sense of smell, its excellent digging ability, and its low-slung body close to the ground are all well-adapted for this singular pursuit. But the Dachshund is just as equally suited for companionship in the home.
Playful, affectionate, and fun-loving, this dog seems to charm everyone with its big personality. Queen Victoria was said to be particularly fond of this breed. Available in either standard or miniature size, this breed also has big drooping ears, a long snout, and a thin tail. The coat can be smooth, wiry, or even long-haired. It also comes in many different colors, including black, chocolate, cream, wheaten, tan, and fawn.
Possessing extraordinary athleticism and speed, the Greyhound is widely considered to be the fastest dog in the world, potentially reaching speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Their long legs, athletic bodies, and aerodynamic skull have made them symbols of speed and power. The Greyhound is an ancient dog, dating back at least 5,000 years to the Fertile Crescent. It became particularly popular in Egypt as a convenient symbol of the pharaoh’s power.
Today, however, this breed is mostly associated with dog racing. Despite their enormous reserves of energy, the Greyhound is surprisingly gentle and calm in the home. They know how to settle down and enjoy the company of people. The smooth Greyhound coat can come in a variety of different colors, including black, blue, red, and white, sometimes with brindle patterns.
4. Basset Hound
The long, drooping ears and wrinkly skin make it appear old and wise, even sorrowful, but the spry Basset Hound is an athletic and talented hunter. The name basset means “low” in French, referring to the short legs. It is thought that the friars of St. Hubert abbey in Belgium gradually bred this scent hound with enough strength and stamina to track hares over rough and difficult terrain. The dog eventually became a favorite hunting companion of the French aristocracy.
Today, the Basset Hound is still regarded as an incredibly loyal and friendly companion, especially well-suited for households with children because of its patient and gentle personality. The short and smooth coat is generally covered in black and white markings also mixed with brown or tan.
5. English Foxhound
The English Foxhound, together with its close cousin, the American Foxhound, is an integral part of the traditional upper-class English sport of fox hunting. While the practice is now banned, the English Foxhound remains an iconic hound dog breed for the island nation. Its gentle, affectionate, and hard-working personality has endeared this breed to many generations of owners. Featuring a hard, glossy coat of black, white, and tan markings (or just lemon and tan), the English Foxhound looks a bit like a larger version of the Beagle. The main difference between the English and American breeds is that the American Foxhound has a slimmer and taller body, thanks to crosses with imported French hounds.
The Whippet emerged from 19th century England as a smaller version of the Greyhound. While originally called the “poor man’s Greyhound,” this nickname doesn’t do justice to the elegant and talented working breed. Retaining the lightning-fast speed and affectionate personality of its ancestor, this medium-sized breed is quite popular in racing, lure coursing, and even dog shows. As long as they receive enough exercise, they are incredibly calm and gentle friends in the home. People of all ages can enjoy their companionship.
7. Afghan Hound
Sporting a very elegant coat of long and silky hair, the Afghan Hound is among the most ancient dog breeds in the world, dating back many thousands of years before recorded history to the region of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. While it’s a very capable sighthound with padded feet to deal with the rough Afghan terrain, this hunting breed is much more likely to appear on the show floor today. They are quite good-natured and sweet but also a little aloof and independent. All kinds of owners can enjoy this elegant and dignified breed in their homes.
Possessing an unrivaled sense of smell, the Bloodhound is an old breed, created to hunt deer and wild boar. It was later put to use tracking down lost and missing people. This has made it an ideal working dog for police and law enforcement today. The Bloodhound is easy-going, friendly, and enjoys the company of people, though obedience training might be a bit of a challenge as puppies. Physically, they look a bit like a large version of the Basset Hound. Weighing up to 110 pounds, it is characterized by a wrinkly face, big, drooping ears, and a long, erect tail. The short and hard coat normally comes in black and tan, liver and tan, or red.
9. Irish Wolfhound
This big, shaggy sighthound was originally bred to track down and hunt wolves. For this purpose, it was so successful that no wolves remained in Ireland by the 18th century. It is an enormous dog, weighing up to 180 pounds; the puppies are often larger than entire dog breeds. Surprisingly, perhaps, given its large size and its courageous and bold temperament, the Irish Wolfhound is a remarkably calm and affectionate breed, generally quite good with the family. The hard and shaggy double coat comes in a variety of different colors, including black, blue, brindle, cream, red, wheaten, and gray.
The Saluki is another ancient breed whose long history is thought to be closely associated with the Greyhound. Originating from the Fertile Crescent region, they have the same long legs, athletic body, and large aerodynamic frame. While not quite as fast as the Greyhound, there is some evidence that the Saluki might be a faster dog over long distances. A companion of royalty throughout human history, they also make for incredibly gentle and loyal pets. It comes in two different coat types: smooth and feathered. The latter has light furnishings around the ears and legs. Accepted coat colors include black, chocolate, cream, fawn, golden, red, and silver, sometimes mixed with tan or white.
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