Foxhounds had a long tradition in Virginia, earning a place on large plantations well before the American Revolution. However, after the war, Americans began moving westward, taking their dogs with them. In the backwoods of the South, they started to run into difficulties—foxhounds were bred to chase foxes across the land to their burrows. Many American game animals could climb trees, confusing the dogs.
In the first half of the 19th century, breeders set to work to remedy the situation. The English Foxhounds were crossed with Irish Foxhounds, a red breed known for its drive, fast pace, and keen sense of smell. This mix was probably the most influential combination used to produce a hound that could drive a raccoon or opossum right up a tree. However, other hounds from the British Isles may have been involved, as well as the cur, a Southern landrace perhaps best defined as any dog of any parentage that could hunt, herd, and guard the farm.
As time went on, coon-hunting dogs began to solidify into specific breeds. Each breed had a distinctive appearance, derived from the unique combination of hounds that went into its gene pool. One of the favorite breeds was a red dog, sometimes with white markings and sometimes with a black saddle patch. This type was popular by the late 1800s and was known as the Saddleback or the Redbone, perhaps from the hallmark color or perhaps from the name of coonhound breeder Peter Redbone.
The fledgling United Kennel Club, a performance-oriented registry, first recognized the Redbone Coonhound in 1902. By this time, many breeders had developed a preference for the solid red coloring, eliminating both the saddle and the white markings. Hunting abilities weakened for a time while the color goal took precedence, but the setback was short-lived. The competitive “nite hunt” emerged as a way for coon hunters to compare the merits of their dogs, spurring the breed to better and better performance.
Books and movies made the Redbone Coonhound somewhat more familiar to the general public than some of the other coonhound breeds. The breed was sufficiently widespread and well documented to achieve AKC recognition in 2009. While it is only the 143rd most popular AKC breed and is very rare outside of North America, the Redbone Coonhound remains a top choice among coon hunters across the nation.
The Redbone Coonhound is first and foremost a hunting dog, known primarily for treeing raccoons, either for fur or for competition. However, he is versatile enough to trail anything that leaves a scent, including opossums, deer, and formidable game such as bears and cougars.
Because the Redbone is more people-oriented than some of the other coonhound breeds, he can also make a good house pet provided that he is raised indoors from a young age. But his athleticism and working heritage must still be respected—a pet Redbone Coonhound needs plenty of exercise and will get along best with an outdoorsy owner who spends a lot of time hiking, jogging, or biking.
The Redbone Coonhound makes a good watchdog.
The Redbone Coonhound, for all his hunting instinct, is an easygoing dog. He loves people of all stripes, young and old, but is particularly loyal to his own people. He thrives on attention and enjoys being a part of the family. Once mature enough to control his enthusiasm, the Redbone is a great choice for homes with children, as he can put up with just about anything. He also gets along well with other dogs, but is somewhat unreliable around cats.
For a hound, the Redbone is surprisingly trainable, being gifted with intelligence and a strong desire to please. However, formal training bores him—there are too many exciting smells to track down to waste time drilling mundane maneuvers. Respect his limited attention span and keep training sessions short, sweet, and rewarding. Also, avoid resorting to force or domineering actions. Although afraid of very little, the Redbone Coonhound is sensitive at heart and will be devastated if his beloved master treats him harshly.
Creative thinking is the Redbone’s strong suit. He loves to explore and he hates to be left alone, so the backyard must be coonhound-proofed if he will be spending time there unsupervised. The fence should be high, sturdy, and sunk low enough into the ground to prevent tunneling.
On the trail, the Redbone Coonhound’s laid-back demeanor vanishes entirely. He travels fast and stops for nothing. Coonhounds usually work in packs, individuals coming and going periodically as they search for the trail. When a dog finds the scent, he bays loudly to alert the rest of the pack. The dogs then follow the trail through thick and thin until the raccoon is treed. Then the job of the coonhounds is to wait at the bottom of the tree and bay repeatedly, preventing the quarry from escaping until human assistance arrives.
The Redbone Coonhound is rugged and hardy, with no serious genetic defects known in the breed. He can easily live for a long time and enjoy good health nearly every day of his life.
A few bloodlines suffer from hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy, but these problems are not widespread throughout the breed.
Hunting injuries are the most common complaints among Redbones. Also, note that the breed’s long, floppy ears are prone to infection if not regularly cleaned. This is particularly important after a swim—the Redbone loves to swim.
- Suitability for families with children and other dogs.
- Minimal grooming requirements.
- Excellent health.
- Rugged build.
- Keen nose.
- Voice that can be heard a long way off.
- Musty body odor.
- Voice that can be heard a long way off.
- Untrustworthiness around cats.
- Ability as an escape artist.
- Need for a light touch in training.
- Exercise requirements.
- Poor cold tolerance.