by Kyle Dartnell
I recently added a new pup to the mix, a Bluetick Coonhound from Jared Moss' Best Gun Dogs kennel.
Jared is one of the country's preeminent breeders and trainers of GSP's, or German Shorthaired Pointers, and in the last few years he has also developed his own pack of Bluetick Coonhounds, with which he hunts lions in the mountains surrounding his hometown of Beaver, Utah.
Blueticks are a breed of scent-hound that originated in the Southeastern United States in the early days of the country. Many people believe the Bluetick developed from the ancient French hound, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, used in France to hunt deer, wolves and boar. As these large Gascogne hounds spread from colonial Louisiana, they were mixed with faster Anglo hounds, including foxhounds, black and tans, and cur dogs, creating a leaner, rangier dog, capable of hunting over the vast, rugged terrain of the Southern colonies while retaining the cold nose of the French hound. There is also speculation that the Bluetick descends from the pack of seven Gascogne hounds given to George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette, a cool story, but a rather slim gene pool and body of evidence to birth the breed.
Many people believe the Bluetick developed from the ancient French hound, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, used in France to hunt deer, wolves and boar.
The modern Bluetick Coonhound weighs between 50 and 75 pounds and measures 22 to 27 inches at the shoulder. Traditionally, the Bluetick'd Coonhounds of Applachia were very large dogs, but as coonhound trials gained popularity some Blueticks were bred to be faster, leaner dogs, and the breed bisected into the smaller "hotter" Bluetick Coonhound and the larger "cold-nosed" American Blue Gascond Hound.
As my first hound dog, Moxie stands out from the other dogs I have raised in a number of ways. To start, her feet are enormous; a couple days ago I noticed that her prints were the same size as an adult fox's tracks in the snow beside us. These freakish feet enable her to glide across the top of the snow while our adult dog pathetically post-holes his way through. There are a number of advantages for an animal in having large feet, including distributing weight on snow, increasing traction and balance, and dissipating pressure absorbed over miles on tough terrain. That said, we'll see if her feet stay this big. On a side note, foxes are unique amongst canines in that their two outer toes are larger than the two inner toes, the opposite of coyote, wolf, and dog tracks in which the inner two toes are larger.
Chimera dog: feet of a dwarf, legs of a jackrabbit, and the ears of an elephant. But why do hounds, the canine Chimera, have such gigantic ears? I have always thought that overly large ears in dogs were a fetish created by show breeders for cuteness at the cost of performance. Every wild animal that I can think of has erect, at least partially motile ears, in contrast to their domesticated equivalents such as dogs, cows, sheep, rabbits, and pigs, which all exist in variants burdened by floppy ears. Floppy ears seem to be an encumbering hallmark of domestication, a symptom of Darwin's "domestication syndrome.” Think silver fox experiment. Floppy immobile ears trap water leading to infection, block sound, prohibit communication through ear movement, host parasites, and get dirty and ripped. So why would hound dogs from working lines bred only for performance have large floppy ears?
One theory I encountered is that the hound's long drooping ears swing around wafting smells into its nose to aide on the track... Many wild animals depend for their life upon their sense of smell. My first thought is of bears, and the scientist confirms: they are the best smellers. And yet, no ponderous ears. Coyotes, wolves, foxes, raccoons, and even rhinos, the world's best sniffers and still no droopy ears. My theory is that hound dogs have big floppy ears for the same reason as elephants: to cool off. Hound dogs, running for miles in the mountains without the ability to sweat, let off heat by circulating blood in their ears, where a large surface area of blood vessels is exposed to the cold air.
While there's more I could say about Moxie, I leave you with this: at 8 weeks my Bluetick is a climber, a jumper, and a howler like I've never seen.