The Virginia State Dog

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Did you know that the American Foxhound is the Virginia state dog? Truthfully, I didn’t even know Virginia – or any state – had a state dog until recently! Why not, right? We have a state bird, so why not a state dog? No one asked me, but I approve. The American Foxhound temperament is sweet, affectionate, and they make great pets. I know that because I had two! They were “Mama’s girls” until they went out to hunt with Dad. Then they were brave little soldiers, focused only on the “battle”.

You’ve probably seen pictures – maybe in your grandfather’s study – of an excited pack of hounds beside their festively dressed owner on a horse? Those are foxhounds. That kind of fox hunting took place around the time of the revolutionary war and was a common sport, particularly in the rolling hills of Virginia. George Washington himself is noted for bringing the foxhounds into Virginia for hunting.

Born to hunt!

The bloodline of the American Foxhound is interesting. A gentleman in England is responsible for bringing his pack of hunters to North America. The amusing thing is that his dogs were not “pure” in any sense. They were all mixes of various hounds. George Washington made the breed more “uniform” by breeding them with the French Hound. He wanted to create “a superior dog, one that had speed, sense, and brains.” His resulting achievement is what we now know as the American Fox Hound.

An interesting tid-bit… George Washington had about 36 foxhounds and he named them all! They had names like Sweet Lips, Tipsey, Chloe, Drunkard, Vulcan, Venus, Taster, Truelove, and Searcher.

The American Foxhound really is one of the best hunting dogs. They hunt not only fox, but most any other small game. Some use foxhounds for hunting larger game like deer, particularly because of their fast running skills. My husband used them for rabbit hunting. They are scent hounds (as opposed to sight hounds). Because of their keen sense of smell, they can generally hunt anything you “tantalize” them with.

This superior sense of smell can get them into trouble too. The nose rules. Once they’re on a scent, it’s difficult if not impossible to get them to come back to you. We need to understand that to the foxhound, following that scent is inevitable. It’s what they do. If your foxhound follows a scent and leaves you in the dust, it’s not because he is being stubborn. He is an independent thinker and is doing what comes naturally.

Training your American Foxhound

What you don’t want, however, is a dog that will not listen to you. For his safety in the field and in life, Professional Dog Training is highly recommended. It’s important to know how to control the dog’s impulse without breaking the spirit or hindering the instincts of a great hunter. Let us help you with that. The Trainers at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts will provide you with the tools you need to manage the extraordinary qualities of your little hunter.

These dogs need lots of exercise. If you have one as a pet and are not into hunting, maybe you could consider field trials or lure coursing. They need something to do so that they do not become restless or perhaps even develop destructive habits from frustration. American Foxhounds have tons of energy and will become restless without something to do to burn off that energy.

The Beagle gets a bad rap for their baying, but these guys beat them by a long shot! They look – and sound – like they’re singing as those little heads go up and they bellow out several verses of a doggie-ballad. And they seriously can be heard for miles! There’s no sleeping at night if you have a couple of foxhounds outside. Again, I know that from experience.

An adult American Foxhound kind-of looks like an overgrown Beagle. As puppies, they look exactly like a beagle! The foxhounds have slightly longer – endearing – faces, and much longer legs than beagles. They are slim and agile. They have beautiful brown or hazel eyes and a happy, upward facing tail. They have short, dense coats and shed moderately. They are generally tri-color, but can be any combination of browns, reds, tans, cream, black and white with big patches of colors. They are hearty and robust, overall a very healthy breed.

A sweet, loyal companion

Because these dogs were bred to hunt in packs, they are great with other dogs. But because of their instinct to hunt small prey, some question their reliability around cats and small breed dogs. I don’t believe that is an issue with these sweet souls. With the right upbringing and introductions, they can live peacefully and lovingly with any other smaller animal. Likewise, they have always worked alongside horses, so if you’re looking for dog that does not fear large horses, this could be the one. Also, because they are so pack ingrained, there absolutely should be other animals in the household so that they don’t get lonely.

These pups are great with children and absolutely adore the companionship with their humans. My foxhounds were “reserved” around strangers, and I understand that is typical. They wanted to interact and be friendly – you could tell. Their tails would wag but they would hesitate to approach a stranger, and they had this look on their face like, “I’m not real sure about you…”. But after they found that Mom and Dad were okay with the approaching stranger, they were okay too.

An American Foxhound has never won a title at Westminster, but in 2013, an American foxhound named Jewel won Best in Show at the National Dog Show in Philadelphia. Yay! She was the first to capture top honors in the hound group. C’mon Westminster, can’t you see how perfect these dogs are?

Just in case you wondered, we also have a Virginia state bat. It’s the Virginia Big-eared bat. Who knew?!?

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