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A Redbone Coonhound
|Country of origin||Southern United States|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The Redbone Coonhound is an American breed of dog widely used for hunting bear, raccoon, and cougar. Their agility allows them to be used for hunting from swamplands to mountains and some can be used as water dogs. The American Kennel Club standard says, "The Redbone mingles handsome looks and an even temperament with a confident air and fine hunting talents." This breed has been registered with the United Kennel Club since 1904 and the AKC since 2009. This is the type of hound featured in the novel Where the Red Fern Grows.
The Redbone Coonhound has a lean, muscular, well proportioned build. The body type is typical to the coonhounds subgroup, with long straight legs, a wide barrel chest, and a head and tail that are held high and proud when hunting or showing. The Redbone's face is often described as having a pleading expression, with sorrowful dark brown or hazel eyes and long, drooping ears. The coat is short and smooth against the body, but coarse enough to provide protection to the skin while hunting through dense underbrush. The large paws have especially thick pads, with webbed toes, and dewclaws are common. The nose should be black and prominent. The ears are floppy and should extend to nearly the end of the nose if stretched out. Coloration of the nose is always black and the coat color is always a rich red, though a small amount of white on the chest, between the legs, or on the feet is permissible, though not preferred. Variations of black fur on the face and muzzle are also not uncommon.
Males should be 22-27 inches (56-68.5 cm) at the shoulder, with females slightly shorter at 21-26 inches (53–66 cm). Weight should be proportional to the size and bone structure of the individual dogs, with a preference towards leaner working dogs rather than heavier dogs. Generally, weights will range from 45 to 70 lbs (20.5 to 31.75 kg).
The Redbone Coonhound is an excellent companion and family pet, with some special considerations. They love to be with their owners and family, and are happy just doing things with their humans, or sitting nearby, watching them: a Redbone Coonhound who has been left out of the family fun or penned up during the party is often a heartbroken one. Overall, they are very affectionate and loving: they will often leap to their feet barking loudly to greet their master upon his return home and a typical Redbone will shower everyone with love, licking the faces of family, friends, and possibly other dogs. However, a dog of this breed typically will not seek attention as fervently as other breeds (such as a Labrador Retriever). They are very happy if petted, and love it. They are also a very boisterous breed: as explained above, adult Redbones grow to a large size. They may not know how big and strong they are when young and thus may accidentally knock over elderly adults and young children if left untrained or never taught the command "heel," so basic obedience should be emphasized with this breed. The Redbone is an extremely vocal dog, as would be expected of a hound. The breed is known for its distinctive "drawling" bark, also known as a "bay." Hunters who use the breed follow the sound of the loud howls as the dogs track quarry. It takes training to first control their excited, emotional, booming barks, but also to help provide the hounds an outlet for their 'tracking' desires that sometimes drive their vocalizations. A Redbone Coonhound will have a "specific" bay when it has an animal either treed or cornered. This bay is very much distinguishable from their normal day to day baying.
If not hunting with the dog, an excellent outlet is to train as a watchdog, seeing that it's a perfect alarm call as well as a highly alert and focused breed. As watchdogs, Redbones are unusually aware of the dress, smell, ethnicity, and territory of their owners, and have been known to "protect" the yard against service providers such as postal workers and garbage collectors. Their deep, excited, and constant bark along with large canine teeth can be most intimidating to the unwary intruder.
Redbones do not reach full physical and mental maturity until the age of two years, comparatively slower than many other breeds. As with all breeds, puppies and adolescents are more energetic than adults and need lots of activity or they will become destructive, often chewing furniture, chewing shoes, and snooping around the garbage. When going through obedience training it is imperative for a pet owner to know that harsher methods are not effective with this breed. Coonhounds are typically stubborn but can also be sensitive; being overbearing can frighten the animal. Once trained and aware of its size the breed is known to be very gentle and can be trusted with children, easily tolerating a small child playing tag or a crawling baby tugging on its long ears. While playing with older children they will happily jump into the family swimming pool to play. The dogs are adept in the water and can be compared to other water-loving breeds like the Labrador Retriever in swimming ability.
Coonhounds are in the same group as well known breeds such as the Beagle, Basset Hound, and Bloodhound: they are bred primarily to track game using sight and scent over long distances. They also instinctively mark their position for following hunters by vocalizing as they catch up with their quarry. Therefore, this breed will have the desire to chase small animals such as rabbits, squirrels, badgers, or even cats. A Redbone Coonhound should have a tall fence to retain the animal and keep it from wandering.
Hunting dogs require a good deal of exercise to stay happy and healthy. The breed is best suited to the countryside or suburbs; urban environments are less than ideal but workable so long as they get roughly an hour and a half or more of walking per day. Redbones are known to have an independent intelligence especially well suited for problem solving. This can be an issue if the problem they want to solve is their backyard fence or the dog-proof garbage. Most Redbones require leashes to avoid wandering. In a hunt setting they will often make quarter mile loops away from the pack searching for scent of their prey before returning or using their bay to raise the alarm, thus bringing the pack to their aid. Because of their instinctive desire to follow scents, they are eager to follow their noses and may ignore their owners' commands-they should not be allowed off leash in an uncontrolled area.
In the late 18th century, many European type hunting dogs were imported to America, most of them of Scottish, French, English, and Irish ancestry: the English Foxhound, the Harrier, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, the Welsh Hound, the beagle, and the Bloodhound were among these. Most often, these dogs were imported so that wealthy planters of the Tidewater could mimic the European gentry and engage in foxhunting, with smaller amounts of dogs winding up on small farms. However, after the American Revolution, as settlement pushed farther West and deeper South, hunters discovered they had a problem: the hounds imported from the late 18th and early 19th century British Isles and France were bred to hunt in different terrain than what was on offer in the American South. By late in the reign of George III much of the original oak forests of England, Scotland, and Ireland had long since been cut down to service the Royal Navy and many of the peat bogs were being mined for use as a source of fuel; with the exceptions of badgers, rabbits, and foxes much of the original fauna that would have inhabited these lands had become extirpated over time. The French aristocracy owned a few private reserves for themselves to hunt in, but typically their dogs could get away with having a colder nose as the amount of land to hunt on was still limited. This was in stark contrast to the American South, which included many hundreds of miles of subtropical bald cypress swamps and hardwood forest . The terrain was loaded with animals that would fight back viciously to the death, like alligators, black bears, porcupines, cougars, or raccoons. When confronted with such conditions the European breeds were almost useless since none of the aforementioned animals burrow into the ground or passively run from trouble: when confronted with prey that climbed a tree or in some cases tried to throw off their pursuers in deep, swampy water, the dogs would mill about pacing below the tree, confused. When confronted with porcupines, they would sometimes even flee when the lead dog was quilled. Over time, Southern hunters would selectively breed dogs that would not back down, had great stamina, and would "hound" their prey until they treed or cornered their exhausted quarry, leading to modern coonhounds.
In the late 18th century Scottish immigrants brought with them red colored foxhounds to Georgia, dogs which would be the foundation stock of the Redbone. Later, c. 1840 Irish bred Foxhounds and Bloodhound lines were added to the mix. The name would come from an early breeder, Peter Redbone of Tennessee, though other breeders of note are Mr. Redbone's contemporary, Georgia F.L. Birdsong of Georgia, and the Dr. Thomas Henry in the 19th century. Over time, breeders followed a selective program that led to a coonhound that is more specialized for prey which climbs trees relative to European hunting dogs, was unafraid of taking on large animals, was agile enough to carry on over mountain or in meadow, and liked to swim if necessary. They were ideal for pack hunting of both small and larger prey. Originally, the Redbone had a black saddleback, but by the beginning of the 20th century, they were an uninterrupted red tone.
Like many American hunting dogs, especially those from the South, they were widely known and loved by hunters and farmers, but totally unknown in the show ring. Recently, this has changed, and the Redbone has found recognition by the two major American kennel clubs. The breed was classified at the AKC Westminster show for the first time in 2011. Unfortunately, for reasons of its main use as a hunting dog rather than a show dog Redbones are extremely rare dogs outside of the United States. There are very few breeders outside of North America of this hound and it is virtually unknown in Europe or Australia.
The Redbone Coonhound is also shown in books and films such as "Where the Red Fern Grows." "Where the Red Fern Grows" is a story about a young boy and his coonhounds enjoying life with the hunt. The book is found at many library's across the country and teaches a lifelong lesson about love and friendship.
Famous Redbone Coonhounds
- Where the Red Fern Grows is a story about two Redbone Coonhounds ("Old Dan" and "Little Ann") and their owner Billy Colman. The book was written by Wilson Rawls in 1961, then turned into a movie in 1971.
- The Outlaw Josey Wales is a story of a Civil War Veteran who has everything, including his family, taken from him by a group of renegade Union Soldiers. During his quest for vengeance, he picks up other loners who accompany him on his path, one of which is a Redbone Coonhound.
- Redbone Coonhound, American Kennel Club, retrieved 11 August 2014
- Walker, Ben (14 February 2011), "New dogs hope to learn old tricks at Westminster", Seattle Times
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