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When scenthounds navigate the world around them, they follow aromas in the air, on the ground, and across the water. While hunting for game, these hounds use their long ears and large nasal cavities to collect smells that help them locate prey over long distances. Scenthounds rely on their high endurance to track their quarry. A few super-sniffing dogs hunt by sight, too. On the trail, many scenthounds vocalize a series of deep bays—”A-roo” “A-roo” when they’re excited, nervous, or fearful.

As loyal companions around the house, these hounds aren’t required to track missing persons or bring home small animals for the family’s dinner. Still, their scenting instinct aids them in competing in AKC dog sports such as conformation, obedience, AKC Rally, agility, and AKC Scent Work.

The American Kennel Club currently recognizes 20 scenthounds as part of the Hound Group, with the Basset Fauve de Bretagne set to join the group soon. The AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS) includes breeds with highly sensitive noses.

American English Coonhound

American English Coonhound head portrait outdoors.
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Descended from English Foxhounds brought to America in the early 1800s, the American English Coonhound is a favored hunting companion. Deep-chested with a soft expression, this sleek hound is known for its speed and endurance. Mellow at home, but when competing in an AKC Raccoon Hound Event, this dog is tenacious and determined to pursue raccoons.

American Foxhound

American Foxhound standing in the park.
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An avid fox hunter, George Washington helped develop the American Foxhound to chase a fox but not kill it. Known as the state dog of Virginia, this breed has longer, more finely-boned legs than an English Foxhound’s. When given plenty of exercise, this breed is sweet-tempered, low-maintenance, and easy-going around the house.

Basenji

Basenji standing in the grass.
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Using sight and scent to hunt, the Basenji has an intense instinct to pursue the game. Known as Africa’s “Barkless Dog,” this breed doesn’t bark like other dogs but emits odd sounds resembling a mix between a chortle and a yodel. With catlike behaviors, such as grooming itself like a cat, this small and graceful hound needs a well-fenced-in yard. The Basenji excels at lure coursing, tracking, obedience, and agility.

Basset Hound

Basset Hound walking in the grass.
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Low-slung and low-key, the Basset Hound is known for its endurance rather than speed. “Historically, Bassets hunted rabbits and deer, but on my property, they occasionally bring home possum and other small game,” says Sylvie McGee, President of the Basset Hound Club of America, Judges’ Education Chair, and AKC Gazette Columnist. “They never turn off their eyes and ears to follow a scent and can compete in conformation and Basset Hound Field Trials on the same day.”

Beagle

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Merry, outgoing, and curious, the Beagle is easygoing with a sweet expression. A top-notch hunting dog bred to work in packs, this small hound is trained to follow the trail of a rabbit or a hare without harming them. The Beagle is happiest when exercising and takes their job seriously when competing in the AKC Beagle Field Trials.

Black and Tan Coonhound

Black and Tan Coonhound sitting in the forest in the fall.
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A large, nocturnal hunter who competes in AKC Raccoon Hound events, the Black and Tan Coonhound descends from colonial foxhounds from Europe. The coal-black breed with tan accents and distinctive “pumpkin seeds” above its eyes dates back to early American settlers who depended on this dog to supply meat, fur, and fat.

Bloodhound

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When the Bloodhound shows up to pick up a scent and search for a missing person, everyone acknowledges this dog as the king of all tracking hounds. Their accuracy and determination are indispensable to law enforcement and search parties. Bred around 1000 AD in a Belgian monastery called St. Hubert’s during the Middle Ages, the Bloodhound followed a trail over long distances to find deer and wild boar.

Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick Coonhound standing in the grass.
© 2017 Mary Swift Photography

The Bluetick Coonhound is intelligent and deeply devoted to its owner. Named for its mottled, or “ticked” black-and-blue, glossy coat, this breed is known for being a large, nocturnal hunter. “I love listening to a Bluetick trail game,” says Amy McDonald, President and Chairman of the Board of the AKC Parent Club’s National Bluetick Coonhound Association. “When on a search, the Bluetick bays, bawls, or sounds out distinctive chopping barks. Some Blueticks would rather tree a raccoon than track it, but Blueticks are versatile hounds who make great companions.”

Dachshund

Dachshund sitting in the grass.
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Curious and friendly, long and low, the Dachshund comes in two sizes and three coat types of various colors and patterns. First bred in Germany more than 300 years ago as an independent badger hunter, this short-legged breed competes today in AKC Dachshund Field Trials and AKC Earthdog trials. In fenced-in areas, this breed follows rabbit and hare scent. Judged by their ability to search and explore, they are not encouraged to catch any prey.

English Foxhound

Best of Breed: CH Taillis Au Tarrant Tamsall, English Foxhound; Hound Group judging at the 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, FL.
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

With sturdy, long legs and tremendous stamina, the English Foxhound ran in packs in traditional British foxhunts. The breed’s pedigree traces back to the first English Foxhound registered in 1909. Today, this affectionate and gentle hound loves nothing better than running after the scent that a fox leaves behind.

Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen

Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen laying down in the grass.
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This sweet-faced scenthound likes to keep busy and seldom tires easily. A large, low, and shaggy dog of the Vendéen region of France, the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen is a rugged, courageous rabbit hunter who prefers the companionship of a pack.

Harrier

Harrier standing outdoors.
©Mary Bloom

Friendly and people-loving, the high prey-driven Harrier is a rare breed. Bred in medieval England to pursue hares, this scenthound is smaller than its relative, the English Foxhound, and more significant than the Beagle. The Harrier is an efficient working pack hound who enjoys pursuing hares today.

Norwegian Elkhound

Norwegian Elkhound standing outdoors.
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Known for its lush silver-gray coat, the Norwegian Elkhound carries a historical past. Among Europe’s oldest breeds, it sailed with the Vikings and appears in Norse art and legends. As companions and watchdogs, the ancient breed’s athleticism helped follow giant elk or moose and held these animals at bay until the hunter arrived.

Otterhound

Otterhound standing up on a fence.
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Big and boisterous, the even-tempered Otterhound is an ancient scenthound. Known for its thick, waterproof, shaggy coat, webbed feet, and affinity for swimming, this breed protected fish in rivers in medieval England from otters. Picking up an otter’s underwater scent trail all day, the Otterhound was a valuable hunter to the British gentry.

Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen

Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen standing in the grass.
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A vivacious rabbit hunter bred to work in a pack on the rugged west coast of France, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is a smaller version of the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen. This breed traces back to the 16th century with a distinctive wiry coat and saber tail.

Plott Hound

Best of Breed and VETC- -D-1: GCHB CH CGCH C-Cruz Mob Boss Vito's Gotcha, Plott; Hound Group judging at the 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, FL.
Photo by HOTdog

A relentless hunting dog with a mellow temperament, the Plott Hound is light-footed and tall with a flashy dark coat. Named North Carolina’s state dog, this scenthound descended from German Hanover hounds after Johannes Plott, a German immigrant, arrived in North Carolina and used the breed to hunt bears. Today, the Plott is a formidable competitor in AKC Raccoon Hound Events.

Redbone Coonhound

Redbone Coonhound standing in profile outdoors.
Nick Chase 68/Shutterstock

An American original breed developed by American settlers to provide raccoon meat and fur, the medium-to-large Redbone Coonhound has a sleek, mahogany coat. Fast, agile, and tenacious, this scenthound excels at night hunting in AKC Raccoon Hound events.

Treeing Walker Coonhound

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Despite its name, the Treeing Walker Coonhound is a fast runner who covers distance quickly with minimum effort. After trailing the scent of game that rushes up a tree, this tricolored hound remains at the base and continuously barks to alert the hunter. These qualities aid the breed’s performance at AKC Raccoon Hound events. The breed’s name, “Walker” comes from Thomas Walker of Virginia, who helped develop it in the mid-1700s.