Did you know that each AKC registered breed (there are currently 192 of them) is assigned to one of seven groups: Herding, Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Working? And each dog was bred for a specific purpose. In honor of Hug Your Hound Day on Sept. 9, we’re studying up on what each of the 31 breeds in the Hound Group were bred to do.
This sweet and silly dog is definitely a head-turner. Sleek and elegant, the Afghan Hound also has a storied history: an ancient myth says that a brace of Afghan Hounds represented the canine species on Noah’s Ark. These fleet-footed hunting companions were once status symbols of royals, tribal chieftains, and aristocrats in Asia’s mountain kingdoms.
American English Coonhound
Frontiersmen developed the sociable and good-natured American English Coonhound to trail raccoons. Some experts actually claim that these athletic dogs are the fastest of the coonhound breeds, so if you’re looking for a running partner, this is the hound for you.
Meet the easygoing and low-maintenance American Foxhound. Known for their speed, endurance, and work ethic, these dogs excelled at hunting fox and were a favorite of George Washington. In fact, they were so beloved at Mount Vernon that they were named the state dog of Virginia.
Have you ever heard of a dog that doesn’t bark? Meet the Basenji. These small, graceful hounds are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They’re even depicted on ancient Egyptian artifacts. These versatile hunters have keen eyesight and are known as expert vertical leapers — a skill developed to scout prey in their native African grasslands.
What’s not to love about these droopy dogs? Originally bred in France, the Basset Hound was created as a scenting hound that was low to the ground and could plod over rough terrain. These dogs have keen trailing abilities, and their noses are known to be extremely accurate.
If you’re looking for a merry and friendly family dog, consider the Beagle. These small pack-hounds were bred to hunt rabbit and hare in England, as far back as 55 B.C. Beyond the breed’s great nose and musical voice, these dogs are curious and clever and make loyal companions.
Black and Tan Coonhound
Bright and brave, the Black and Tan Coonhound is snoozy in front of a fireplace, but tenacious when on the trail of a wily raccoon. Believed to be derived from Bloodhounds and foxhounds, the B&T became the first coonhound breed registered by the AKC (the year was 1945).
The Bloodhound does one thing better than any other creature on earth: find people who are lost or hiding. With unrivaled scenting powers, this independent and inquisitive breed is intensely devoted to his work, making him a natural choice for police departments around the world looking for criminals, lost children, or confused seniors.
Don’t let this sweet and affectionate charmer fool you: his relentless, off-the-charts prey drive makes him an avid hunter. In fact, Bluetick Coonhounds were often expected to work in packs as big-game hunters, taking on dangerous quarry like bear, wild boar, lynx, and cougar.
Aristocratic and agreeable, the Borzoi are large, elegant sighthounds that can be stubborn at times. This breed served 17th-century Russian aristocracy during extravagant hunting parties, finding wolves, foxes, and hares on massive estates.
Cherished for their loyal and gentle nature, the Cirneco dell’Etna was created thousands of years ago to chase rabbit, hare, and game birds across the rocky slopes of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. These dogs are so tough and durable that they were able to go without food or water for hours while on the hunt. The breed almost became extinct in the early 1930s, but a Sicilian aristocrat dedicated 26 years to reviving it. The AKC recognized this breed in 2015.
These spunky “hot dogs” are superstars of the canine kingdom. Coming in standard and miniature, the Dachshund‘s history goes back some 600 years. These clever and courageous dogs were bred to enthusiastically dig their way into badger dens and dispatch the deadly foe.
The English Foxhound is a pack-oriented, scent-driven hound that has a primal instinct for pursuit. They’re the perfect combination of beauty, balance, and utility, and served as hunting hounds for aristocracy in medieval England.
Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen
Yes, this breed’s name is a mouthful, but the meaning behind it makes it worth it: “Large, low, shaggy dog of the Vendée.” Also known as the GBGV, these French scenthounds are independent and outgoing and don’t tire easily. The GBGV was created to trail and catch hare in the bramble and brush-filled terrain of France’s Vendée district.
Meet the champion sprinter of dogdom: the Greyhound. This gentle and sweet-tempered dog’s story begins in Egypt, thousands of years ago. They were the hounds of pharaohs, designed to detect, chase, capture, and dispatch wildlife in the desert. Even though they’re more than just a pretty face, their beauty has been an object of fascination for artists, poets, and kings throughout the years.
This swift, prey-driven pack hound was originally bred in medieval England to chase hare (hence its name). The Harrier is considered one of the AKC’s rarest breeds. Sportsmen such as George Washington and his Virginia counterparts may have utilized this breed in creating uniquely American hounds.
Lithe and leggy, the Ibizan Hound was bred as a rabbit courser in Ibiza — one of the Balearic Islands off of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Nowadays, these dogs make perfect companions, due to their even-tempered and polite nature.
The Irish Wolfhound got its name because it could fearlessly and single-handedly dispatch a wolf in combat, when wolves were overrunning the Irish countryside during the 15th century. But these courageous and calm dogs almost did their job too well. Wolves came close to becoming extinct! This compromised the breed, since Irish Wolfhounds no longer served a purpose.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a robust, spitz-type dog and is among Europe’s oldest dog breeds. These dependable and confident dogs once sailed with the Vikings and herded flocks on remote farms, fighting off foes like wolves, bears, and (you guessed it) elk.
Big and boisterous, the Otterhound was bred in medieval England to hunt its namesake, the otter. Serving country squires and even kings, these shaggy-coated sweethearts still have an affinity for swimming, with assistance from their webbed feet.
Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
Similar to the GBGV, this smaller counterpart was bred to tackle the tough terrain of the Vendée. These headstrong hounds earned their living as rabbit hunters in coastal France. Although tenacious, the PBGV is happy and vivacious and gets along great with children and other dogs.
The ancient “blushing dog” of Malta, the Pharaoh Hound is a sleek, aerodynamic coursing hound, bred for high-speed pursuit on rocky terrain. They’re friendly and affectionate and are known for their smile and a face that practically glows whenever they are happy or excited.
North Carolina’s state dog, the Plott, has a unique history, in that he descends from German Hanover Hounds and not from English Foxhounds like the other coonhound breeds the AKC recognizes. The rugged and relentless breed used to be a big-game hunter that excelled because of its fearless, bold nature.
Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
Try saying this breed’s name five times fast! The playful Portuguese Podengo Pequeno was bred to be a no-nonsense rabbit hunter in the ancient Iberian countryside. Called “the world’s smallest hunting dog,” this breed exceeded expectation in its role, due to its quickness and athleticism.
This American original is easy-going and amiable, mellow at home, but a tiger on the trail. American settlers developed the Redbone Coonhound, along with the other coonhound breeds, to help them secure a steady source of raccoon meat and fur. This dog’s sleek and stunning red coat makes him a head-turner everywhere he goes.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback became famous in Africa for confronting and confounding lions and other dangerous prey, like leopards and baboons. His hallmark (and namesake) is the ridge, or stripe of backward-growing hair, on his back. Known as an all-purpose “Renaissance hound,” these dogs are fiercely independent and have a strong prey drive, but are also affectionate and even-tempered.
Slim and athletic, the Saluki is one of the world’s oldest breads. These swift sprinters served kings, including Egyptian pharaohs, as hunting hounds for thousands of years, and they even date back to Alexander the Great’s invasion of India in 326 B.C.
Like the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deerhound is one of the tallest dog breeds, and as its name suggests, it was bred to stalk giant, red deer. Regarded as the “Royal Dog of Scotland,” these gentle giants are dignified and polite.
Recognized by the AKC in 2016, the Sloughi is one of the newer breeds to join the Hound Group. The exact history of these dogs can’t be pinpointed, but we do know that Egyptian nobles favored them as hunting companions. A classic sighthound, the Sloughi is gentle with loved ones, but a bit aloof when it comes to strangers.
Treeing Walker Coonhound
If you’re looking for a smart, brave, and sensible hunter, you can’t go wrong with the Treeing Walker Coonhound. So beloved, these dogs were nicknamed “The People’s Choice” among coonhounds. Patience is an understatement when it comes to describing this breed, because they will track prey up trees, bark vigorously, and wait as long as it takes for their hunting partner to arrive.
The Whippet is lightning fast. A smaller version of the Greyhound, these dogs were designed to race and hunt rabbits, but for coal miners instead of kings. Their endeavors paid off: this sleek breed can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, making them fantastic in the world of lure coursing today.