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Get to Know the American Foxhound: America’s Native Son

Created in part by founding father George Washington, the American Foxhound is considered the "first dog" of the U.S.

Caroline Coile  |  Oct 5th 2015


The American Foxhound is one of the most iconic American breeds. Its ancestors were British, but like all things that came to the New World, the American version added its own style and independence.

American Foxhound by Shutterstock.

American Foxhound by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the American Foxfound

  • The dog is still easily confused with the English Foxhound, as well as the Harrier and Treeing Walker Coonhound. But these dogs are slightly taller and much finer boned than the English Foxhound, much taller than the Harrier, and slightly larger than the Treeing Walker. He has a more arched backline than any of them.
  • The first recorded foxhounds arrived from England in 1650 with Robert Brooke, whose family continued breeding them for the next 300 years.
  • Besides being the “father of our country,” George Washington was also the “father of our Foxhound.” He was instrumental in the breed’s early development by breeding descendants of Brooke’s English Foxhounds with French Foxhounds. The latter, also known as Grand Bleu de Gascogne, were a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette.
  • In the Southern United States, hunters further developed the breed into a more streamlined, faster version that could catch a fox or chase a deer. The breed’s home states are considered Virginia and Maryland, however, as many continued to be used to “ride to the hounds” in those areas. They became popular with the landed gentry as foxhunting was considered an elite pastime.
  • At some point, Irish Foxhounds were added for greater speed.
  • The Foxhound’s bay, which he gives freely on the hunt, is noted for its melodious sound and the ability to be heard at a distance.
American Foxhounds by Shutterstock.

American Foxhounds by Shutterstock.

  • The breed was among the very first recognized by the American Kennel Club, in 1886.
  • The American Foxhound gave rise to many substrains, most of which were developed in Southern states to hunt a variety of species, including raccoons, over various terrain. These strains include the Walker (recognized as a separate AKC breed), Trigg, July, Calhoun, Goodman, and Penn-Marydel. The Penn-Marydel, as its name implies, was developed in slightly more northern states and is the most popular strain for riding to the hounds.
  • The American Foxhound is the state dog of Virginia.
  • Although a Foxhound was entered at the Westminster dog show as early as 1877, only two have ever won the Hound group there, the latest in 2013.
  • Of the 178 AKC breeds, American Foxhounds are the 174th most popular. But most Foxhounds are kept as hunting pack dogs and aren’t AKC registered, so this ranking may underestimate their true number. Still, they are not popular as pets, even though they make excellent (if independent) companions.
  • Owners of English or American Foxhounds include George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. No current celebrities seem to own one, though.

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

Read recent stories by Caroline Coile:

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier