American Foxhounds developed from a line of hounds that were transported in1650 by Robert Brooke from England to the colonies. Mr. Brooke eventually established a breeding and working pack of black-and-tan foxhounds in America. It is believed that Brooke’s foxhounds of Maryland were used as the foundation for the Black-and-Tan Coonhound, another original American breed. In the early 18th century, additional English Foxhounds were brought to this country – this time, to Virginia. George Washington received a pack of foxhounds from his patron, Lord Fairfax, in the mid-1700s. Washington kept, bred and hunted American Foxhounds throughout his life and maintained detailed records and pedigrees that established some of the best early examples of the breed. In 1785, General Washington received several pairs of large French hounds from the Marquis de Lafayette, the most notable of which was a dog named Vulcan. Washington used the French imports to increase the size of his American Foxhounds. In the 1830s, hounds imported from Ireland were crossed with the now larger American Foxhound to increase its speed. Crosses between the three ancestral foxhound types – the English, French and Irish – ultimately led to the American Foxhounds of modern times.
The breed was developed specifically to hunt the indigenous American grey and red foxes in open fields, woodlands and river valleys. However, the native grey fox was fairly slow, and the native red fox was uncommon in the eastern United States, where foxhunting was becoming so popular. Accordingly, American hunters imported and released the much fleeter English red fox, giving hunter and hound a much more invigorating and satisfying chase. Eventually, the native and imported foxes interbred, creating an admirable adversary for packs and people. Foxhunting during early American history was primarily a field sport of the wealthy. The sport gradually moved across the mountains as the country also expanded west, and became popular among all classes of regular people.
Today’s American Foxhound is used for at least four separate tasks in this country, requiring slightly different talents in each: 1) in field trial competitions (requires great speed); 2) as scenting “trail” dogs (require great speed); 3) as foxhounds used to hunt at day and night (requires a slower, more focused hound); and 4) as pack dogs carrying upwards of 20 to 25 pounds, used by hunt clubs and farmers (requires great strength and stamina). American Foxhounds are prized for all of these qualities. Although still an uncommon breed, the American Foxhound is still a lively but somewhat independent family companion and show ring competitor. Bred to be a pack animal, they do enjoy the company of other dogs.
The average life span of the American Foxhound is 11 to 13 years. Breed health concerns may include congenital deafness, eye problems, ear infections, hip dysplasia, Pelger-Huet anomoly and thrombocytopathy. Overfeeding can easily lead to obesity.