Hound dogs are dogs that share the common ancestral trait of having been bred and used primarily for hunting.
While this group of dogs is extremely diverse, most have been selectively bred over centuries to be fast, agile, and have a strong sense of smell.
Hounds are friendly, smart, and have an endless amount of stamina. While steadfastly loyal, many hound breeds have a stubborn streak, so these dogs do best with an experienced owner that has a firm and consistent training approach.
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Hound Dog Overview
There are 32 types of hound dogs that are recognized by the AKC, each with its own unique qualities and hunting abilities.
Hound dog breeds are typically categorized according to their preferred hunting style:
- Sighthounds: these dogs track and hunt prey using their speed, keeping the prey in sight at all times. They are fast runners and help the hunters in tracking, running down, and tiring out the prey.
- Scenthounds: these dogs track and hunt prey using their strong sense of smell. They have highly sensitive noses that can isolate the smells of prey (or even people) and track them accordingly. Scenthounds also have great stamina.
- Unclassified: many hound dogs are not classified as sighthounds or scenthounds, as they are not strictly either. These dogs use both sight and scent to track and hunt their prey.
In addition to differences and classifications according to hunting style, hound dogs are also quite diverse in their size and appearance.
Some breeds, like the Afghan hound, have long, silky coats. Others, like the beagle, have short, double coats. Small breeds measure around 10 inches tall and weigh under 20 pounds, while large hound dogs, like the Irish wolfhound, can reach a towering height of 32 inches, and weigh up to 120 pounds.
Large Hound Dog Breeds
Large hound dog breeds stand 23 to 32 inches tall and weigh 60 to 90 pounds on average. The most well-known of these breeds are the greyhound, Irish wolfhound, bloodhound, Afghan hound, and saluki.
Greyhounds grow up to 30 inches tall and weigh between 60 and 70 pounds, with males being larger than females. Despite the breed’s name, greyhounds have short, smooth coats which come in several colors, including black, blue fawn, red, and white.
While affectionate, adaptable, and easy to train, greyhounds do have an independent nature and need an owner that is firm and patient. These dogs are energetic and require at least an hour of exercise every day.
The tallest AKC-recognized breed, with males reaching up to 32 inches in height and females up to 30 inches, Irish wolfhounds weigh between 105 and 120 pounds.
Irish wolfhounds are double-coated dogs with wiry outer coats, and while the breed’s coloration varies, the most common colors are black, gray, cream, red, and white.
The breed is brave, calm, and is a quick learner. Proper socialization and training are crucial from an early age because it’s known to be stubborn. Irish wolfhounds are moderately active and need a minimum of one hour of exercise daily.
The bloodhound is between 23 and 27 inches tall and weighs around 80 to 110 pounds. Bloodhounds have smooth coats that are either black and tan, liver and tan, or red.
These dogs are gentle and affectionate scent hounds renowned for their dignified looks. Training is relatively difficult because bloodhounds are notoriously stubborn and need at least two hours of exercise per day.
Afghan hounds stand 25 to 27 inches tall and weigh around 50 to 60 pounds. This breed has a long, silky coat and comes in a wide range of colors, including black, cream, tan, red, white, and silver.
These dogs are sweet, loyal, and dignified, though their independent nature makes the breed moderately difficult to train. Afghan hounds are energetic dogs, so they require at least two hours of exercise every day.
Saluki males reach a height of 23 to 28 inches and weigh between 40 to 65 pounds, with females being slightly smaller than males.
The breed’s coat is either smooth and short or feathered. It often comes with grizzle markings or partial color markings, commonly including fawn, white, black, cream, chocolate, or gold.
Aloof and intelligent, but with a sensitive nature and short attention span, salukis are challenging to train. These dogs are active and should be exercised for two hours per day.
Medium Hound Dog Breeds
Medium-sized hound dog breeds are 15 to 25 inches tall, on average, and weigh around 40 to 70 pounds. The most popular medium-sized hound dog breeds are American English coonhounds, basset hounds, and whippets.
American English Coonhound
American English coonhounds stand 23 to 26 inches tall, with a weight between 45 and 65 pounds. The breed has a short, hard, and protective coat that comes in many different colors, including black, red, brown, and blue.
These dogs are sociable, gentle, and intelligent dogs that love the sound of their own voice. The breed is easy to train and requires an hour of exercise at minimum per day, with time to jog and play, to satisfy their energy.
Basset hounds grow up to 15 inches tall, weigh 40 to 65 pounds, and have smooth, short coats. Coat markings are common, and the most distinctive color combinations are black and white, black and brown, and a trio of black, white, and brown.
The breed is charming, loyal, and patient, though their stubbornness makes training these dogs difficult. Basset hounds are fairly active, needing around 30 minutes to an hour of exercise daily.
Whippets weigh between 25 to 40 pounds. Males stand 19 to 22 inches tall, while females are smaller, at 18 to 21 inches. The breed’s coat is short, smooth, and comes in several colors, including cream, fawn, red, and black.
Playful and laidback, whippets make wonderful family pets and are easy to train. However, these dogs are extremely sensitive and should be trained in a calm, gentle manner.
Whippets need moderate exercise, at least one hour per day.
American foxhounds weigh 60 to 70 pounds and stand as tall as 25 inches. Females are smaller than males. These dogs have short, hard coats that protect them from harsh environments. The coat is either black, white and tan, or white, black, and tan.
The breed is sweet and easygoing, but these dogs are tough to train because they’re stubborn and independent-minded. Like most hound breeds, American foxhounds are energetic and require plenty of exercise to keep fit and healthy.
Norwegian elkhounds weigh up to 55 pounds, are 19.5 to 20.5 inches tall, and have medium double coats and a wolf-like appearance. Breed colors include different combinations of black, gray, silver, and white.
These hound dogs are strong-willed and require an experienced owner who can be firm with training. Norwegian elkhounds have high energy and need to be walked for around two hours daily.
Small Hound Dog Breeds
Small hound dog breeds are between 8 to 16 inches tall, on average, and weigh under 32 pounds. Well-known small hound dog breeds include the beagle, dachshund, and basenji. According to the AKC, the beagle is the sixth most popular breed in the United States.
There are two AKC-recognized beagle varieties. One variety is under 13 inches tall and weighs less than 20 pounds, and the other is between 13 and 15 inches tall and weighs 20 to 30 pounds.
Beagles have smooth double coats that vary in color. Common color combinations include black and tan, brown and white, and red and white.
Beagles are inquisitive, playful, and social, but their stubbornness makes them moderately difficult to train. These small hound dogs thrive with at least an hour of exercise per day.
Standard dachshunds grow up to 9 inches and weigh 16 to 32 pounds, while miniature dachshunds stand 5 to 6 inches tall and weigh under 20 pounds. Dachshunds have three different coat types: smooth-coated, long-haired, and wire-haired.
Popularly recognized breed colors include black and cream, fawn and tan, cream, chocolate, and wheaten. Many dachshunds have brindle, sable, piebald, or dapple markings.
These dogs are fast learners and pick up commands quickly, but can be stubborn. Standard dachshunds should be exercised for at least an hour daily, and miniature dachshunds need 30 minutes of exercise.
Basenji males stand 17 inches tall and weigh 24 pounds. Females reach 16 inches in height and weigh 22 pounds. Basenjis have short, slick coats which are either black and white, black and tan and white, brindle and white, or red and white.
The breed is intelligent and alert, however, these hound dogs are extremely independent-minded which makes training difficult. Basenjis need at minimum an hour of exercise per day.
While basenjis don’t bark, they do make yodel-like sounds to communicate their feelings.
Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
The Portuguese Podengo Pequeno is 8 to 12 inches tall and weighs between 9 and 13 pounds. These hound dogs have two coat types — smooth and wire — and come in a wide variety of colors, often having white markings.
These dogs are playful and energetic. While independent, the breed is a quick learner and often eager to please, which makes training relatively easy. Portuguese Podengo Pequeno dogs need an hour of exercise per day with plenty of play time.
Hound Dog Mixes
Hound dog mixes are popular and diverse. These dogs take different attributes from both parent breeds, meaning each hound dog mix is unique in temperament, looks, and size.
Even mixes from the same parents can be vastly different. A hound dog mix may be more similar to one parent or exhibit an equal amount of both parent breed’s attributes.
Should You Get a Hound Dog Breed?
Hound dogs are energetic, intelligent, and affectionate dogs that make wonderful companions for those who lead an active lifestyle.
However, these dogs are stubborn and often difficult to train, so are best suited to an experienced owner that can be consistent, firm, and patient with training. Avoid hound dog breeds if you’re a first-time dog owner or can’t meet this breed’s exercise needs.