The first stud books of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of England date before 1800. English Foxhounds probably were developed starting in the late 1500s or maybe even earlier, likely descending in part from the St. Hubert Hound that was brought to Britain by the Normans after the invasion of 1066. Before the 16th or 17th century, foxes in Great Britain were treated like other vermin, to be extinguished by whatever means was on hand. Somewhere around the 17th century, English hunters began breeding hounds to specialize in tracking, hunting and killing the native English red fox, with riders following on horseback in the traditional British fashion. This coincided with the disappearance of English forests and the corresponding dwindling deer population and led to the English Foxhound we know today. They were developed by crossing the old Southern Hound (a big, slow, deer hunter with an excellent nose) with some form of northern sighthound (then called a “gazehound”), possibly the Greyhound, for its endurance and speed. Fox-hunting eventually replaced stag-hunting as the most popular sport of the English gentry in the 18th century. By the 1800s, many large standardized packs of English Foxhounds existed in Britain. Breeders continued to refine its speed and scent-tracking abilities for the next several hundreds of years. English Foxhounds came to America in the late 1700s, where they became the forefathers of the American Foxhound and contributed to the development of other foxhounds, scenthounds and coonhounds.
Throughout the breed’s existence, the Foxhound also has been used occasionally to track other types of game, but the primary focus always has been on the fox. The English Foxhound’s stamina is legendary. It was bred for endurance and pack compatibility, being friendly towards other dogs and docile with people. However, any small furry animal that runs from a foxhound is at tremendous risk of not running far. The English Foxhound exists in large numbers today with a world-wide following, but it is rarely seen in the American conformation show ring. It is used for hunting and in field trials and dragging competitions and exhibitions, where its “battle scars” do not deter from its accomplishments.
The average life expectancy of the English Foxhound is between 9 and 11 years. Breed health concerns may include epilepsy, hip dysplasia and kidney ailments. These are remarkably healthy dogs.