The Bluetick Coonhound is a fairly new dog breed. It was developed in the southern United States in the early 1900s, for the specific purpose of hunting raccoons and other small wild animals. Its ancestors include the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, the Staghound and other French hounds that were brought to America during the early days of colonization. Traders, dog dealers and other people traveling through isolated rural areas of the deep South could not help but notice those beautifully–voiced hound dogs, which contributed to most of the present Coonhound breeds. American hunters found the French hounds to be too slow on the tracking trail. However, when they crossed them with American hounds, they found that the offspring had better cold-nosed trailing abilities and improved endurance. (Having a “cold nose” refers to a dog’s ability to follow an old trail left by whatever animal is being pursued.) Combinations of French hounds, English Foxhounds, Bloodhounds and a number of American dogs of unknown ancestry led to today’s Bluetick Coonhound, which is now recognized as a breed in its own right.
In the early days of their development, different strains of Blueticks were known by the various geographical regions where they were bred and lived. The most well-known of these were the Ozark Mountain, Sugar Creek, Old Line, Smokey River and Bugle lines. The Bluetick Coonhound was first registered by the United Kennel Club (UKC) under the name “English Coonhound”. However, Bluetick breeders wanted to retain and promote the larger size, colder nose and slower hunting style of their dogs, rather than lumping them together with the hotter-nosed, fleeter and less stoic English hounds. In 1945, American Bluetick breeders formally rejected the UKC’s “English Coonhound” designation and directed their efforts toward establishing their breed as the Bluetick Coonhound, for once and for all. The United Kennel Club officially recognized the Bluetick Coonhound as an independent breed in 1946. For a short time after that, Coonhound puppies with blue ticking were called Blueticks, and those with red ticking were called English Coonhounds. This practice stopped as each different variety of Coonhound gained its own staunch supporters and became independently recognized as separate breeds. In 2009, the American Kennel Club accepted the Bluetick Coonhound for full registration as a member of its Hound Group.
Bluetick Coonhounds are a fairly healthy, hardy breed. Their average lifespan is 10 to 12 years. Their large, pendulous ears are prone to becoming infected and should be checked and cleaned regularly. This breed has an increased risk of developing a neurological condition called polyradiculoneuritis, which is similar to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in humans. It usually presents as a sudden, progressive paralysis in all four legs. Most dogs spontaneously recover from this condition slowly over time. Some dogs are thought to develop polyradiculoneuritis as a result of being bitten by raccoons, which is why the disorder is also sometimes referred to as “Coonhound Paralysis.” However, many dogs that develop this condition have no history of exposure to raccoons or raccoon saliva.