Redbone Coonhound

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Redbone Coonhound
An adult male Redbone Coonhound
Common nicknamesReds
OriginSouthern United States

Males: 22-27 inches

Females: 21-26 inches

Males: 50-70 lb

Females: 45-65 lb
Coat Short and dense
Color Solid red or chestnut; white is allowed on the paws and chest.
Life span 12-14 years
Kennel club standards
United Kennel Club standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The streamlined Redbone Coonhound is an American original breed of hunting dog. They are even-tempered, mellow, and kindly at home, but a courageous, tireless, and determined hunter often used to track large game such as bear, boar, cougar.

Redbones are a medium-to-large hound dog whose muscles should undulate beneath a sleek and stunning red coat. The breed dates back to pre-Civil War and originated in the Southern United States. Its foundation stock originates from bloodhounds[1] and foxhounds thought to be brought by immigrants from Scotland. The Redbone is one of the most versatile of all the hounds.

The breed is distinguised from other hounds by its deep, often interrupted red coat. Bred to work on all kinds of punishing terrain, Redbones are fast and surefooted and move with a proud, determined gait. It is one of the few hounds that exhibits a "cold nose," or a trait that allows the Redbone to track a scent that is days old.

It has been registered with the United Kennel Club since 1902, and with the American Kennel Club since 2009.


A female Redbone in the field.

In the early 19th century, Scottish immigrants brought red-colored foxhounds to Georgia, which would later become the base of today's modern-day Redbone. Although Peter Redbone is credited with naming the Redbone and popularizing the breed for hunting, Georgia plantation owner and hunter George F. L. Birdsong should be credited with developing the breed in the early years. Birdsong resolved to develop a hound that could chase and deter red foxes, a new problem for the South during pre-Civil War times. Birdsong based his breeding on the hunting pack of Dr. Thomas Y. Henry, a grandson of Patrick Henry. Irish-bred Foxhound and Bloodhound lines were included in this new breed. Peter Redbone of Tennessee would further develop the breed and ultimately be named after him.

Over time, breeders followed a selective program that led to a coonhound that was adept at treeing wild-game, was courageous against larger animals such as bear and mountain lions, agile enough to track in the mountains or in the marsh, and could swim if necessary (one of the few hounds with webbed feet). Careful selection eventually produced a quick, courageous hound, with superior skills at tracking and exhibiting a cold nose. They are 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, it was replaced by an uninterrupted red tone.[2][3]

Description and Activities[edit]


A four-month-old female Redbone Coonhound
A two-year-old male Redbone Coonhound with black masking on the muzzle

The Redbone Coonhound has a lean, muscular, well proportioned build. The body type is typical to the coonhounds subgroup, with long straight legs, a deep chest, and a head and tail that are held high and proud when hunting or showing. The Redbone Coonhound has brown eyes and a face that is often described as having a pleading expression.[4] The dog's eyes may be dark brown to hazel, but a darker color is preferred.[5] The coat is short and smooth against the body, but coarse enough to provide protection to the skin while hunting through dense underbrush. Their large paws have especially thick pads, with webbed toes, and dewclaws are common. The nose is often black and prominent, with black on the muzzle and around the eyes, called "masking", not uncommon. The ears are floppy and will most likely extend to nearly the end of the nose if stretched out. 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 sometimes seen.[5] The white chest and feet markings that occasionally appear on Redbone Coonhound puppies today is most likely a throwback to the mixing of Bloodhound and Foxhound bloodlines. [6]

Males tend to 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 lb. (20.5 to 31.75 kg).[5]

Like most hounds, the Redbone is an affectionate, gentle dog that strives to please its owner when not hunting.[5]

Hunting and Search and Rescue (SAR)[edit]

Like most hounds, the Redbone will start a hunt in a linear pattern then gradually fan out and perform quarter-mile loops searching for or following the scent of their prey, before returning or using their bay to raise an 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. For this reason, they should not be allowed off leash in an uncontrolled area.

Redbones are frequently used to track and hunt American black bear, and cougar, though the practice has recently come under scrutiny as being harmful to wildlife and unfair hunting practice. Prominent Redbone breeder, Dee Gunter, says that contrary to popular belief, a properly-trained coonhound is never allowed to kill prey.

Joan Brehm's Redbone, Sula, performing search and rescue (SAR) training.

Outside of hunting, the Redbone has also been used for seach and rescue. In an area traditionally dominated by Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and Bloodhounds, some handlers have begun using coonhounds. Joan Brehm, Ph.D., president of Illinois Search Dogs, a nonprofit volunteer organization in Bloomington, Indiana, uses Redbone Coonhounds for SAR, remarking that she is "consistently amazed by the high sensitivity of their nose and their ability to locate the target odor in the smallest amounts and over extended periods of time and distance, They do not give up hunting for the target odor until they find it, no matter what.”

A Redbone tracking
Young Redbone Coonhound in the snow

Notable Redbone Coonhounds[edit]

  • 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 1974.[7]
  • The Hound That Thought He Was a Raccoon is a story about a young coonhound puppy raised by a family of raccoons. The film was made by Walt Disney Productions in 1960.
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales picks up a Redbone Coonhound, who accompanies him on his path.[citation needed]
  • Arthur Ownby, one of the main characters in Cormac McCarthy's first-ever published novel, The Orchard Keeper, owns a three-legged Redbone Coonhound named Scout. The dog accompanies him as he attempts to escape the authorities after a shootout at his cabin, and is later shot after Arthur is sent to live out the rest of his days in a mental hospital.
  • Ryan Steele, one of the main characters in VR Troopers, owns a Redbone Coonhound named Jeb who gains the ability to talk like a human.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bloodhound Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 2023-01-07.
  2. ^ Club, The American Kennel (11 November 2014). "The New Complete Dog Book: Official Breed Standards and All-New Profiles for 200 Breeds". i5 Publishing.
  3. ^ Club, American Kennel (18 December 2007). "The Complete Dog Book: 20th Edition". Random House Publishing Group.
  4. ^ "Redbone Coonhound Dog Breed Informationl". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "United Kennel Club Standard for the Redbone Coonhound". United Kennel Club. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Coonhound Breeds". Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  7. ^ Suddath, Claire (18 June 2010). "Where the Red Fern Grows". Time.