Bluetick Coonhound portrait with illustrated embellishments

Bluetick Coonhound

A regal and determined hound, the bluetick coonhound can be a wonderful hunting companion and gentle best friend wrapped into one shiny body. Needing an outlet for their “houndy” behaviors, these special dogs could amaze your neighbors with their ability to “sing”. Find out if this unique breed is a suitable addition to your lifestyle.

Shiny, sleek, and dignified, the bluetick coonhound is an adept hunting companion with quite an ability to make "music," baying, howling, and barking when they find it necessary (which might be often!). 

Bred to track and pursue large quarry like raccoon, wild boar, and even cougars by way of their nose, the bluetick is a large, active breed with an almost unmatched smelling ability. With male dogs reaching 27 inches tall and weighing up to 80 pounds (females being smaller), these guys don't do well being cooped up in the house all day. 

Smart and full of great energy until they finally need a nap near your feet, the bluetick coonhound may not be the best choice for first-time dog owners or city dwellers as they require lots of daily, creative ways to use their senses to keep them mentally and physically healthy. They need access to a large, fenced-in area and should experience daily adventures that allow them to follow their nose. The bluetick coonhound does best with an owner who understands their amazing noses can quickly lead them to trouble.

Appearance 

Sleek and distinguished, the bluetick coonhound is considered a large breed. Males can grow to be 22–27 inches tall and weigh anywhere from 55–80 pounds. Females tend to be a few inches shorter and typically weigh 45–65 pounds.

Bluetick coonhounds stand out, with their name coming directly from their coat pattern. They are a unique-looking breed with their black, blue, white, and sometimes tan coats covered in small black spots (ticking). They are muscular but slender under their short, course coats. These dogs do shed moderately but nothing a good weekly brushing can't handle. Although this breed does not require regular trips to the groomer, you may find that your bluetick often needs a good bath after they go on long excursions outdoors.

The long, darkly colored ears of bluetick coonhounds are charming, giving them a very "houndy" appearance and their well-arched, catlike paws show how quick and efficiently they can pursue an enticing smell.

Temperament 

Determined and bright, the bluetick coonhound can be an amiable companion for a home that is prepared to meet his needs. These dogs were bred to be well-oiled scenthound machines, capable of tracking down even the most difficult of scent trails. When left without ample opportunities to use their keen senses, the bluetick coonhound is not a happy camper. This means it's imperative for bluetick owners to provide plenty of opportunities to get outdoors, including activities like hiking or daily runs with their owner. Athletic but also excellent nappers, the bluetick is an adaptable breed.

Any potential bluetick owner should understand these dogs are talented "crooners"—they will bay, bawl, bark, and howl when they feel the need and this especially true if they are bored or underemployed. This "singing" is beautiful music to a hunter's ears. A "bay" is a vocal sound similar to howling except for bays can be more intense, with varying pitches and tones. This unique sound is key for notifying their human they'd found a critter, especially if the human is a great distance away and needs to catch up to their hound.

"Coonhounds in general are also known for being quite vocal, and can be known to bay or bark when excited/curious," says Alicen Tracey, DVM at Den Herder Veterinary Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, and a Daily Paws Advisory Board member.

Whether he is on a hike, roaming the backyard, or suddenly snoozing at your feet, the bluetick makes a sweet, affectionate companion in a home that has access to a large, fenced-in yard and ample green space to investigate. Because these guys can become easily focused on the sights, sounds, and smells of the world around them, they do best in a household that has active adults and older children prepared to guide them.

The bluetick coonhound may seem single-minded when it comes to following his nose and taking interest in strange creatures. Starting right away in puppyhood, and continuing through adulthood, the bluetick should be taught important necessary skills, especially walking on leash and coming when called. Extra care should be taken to socialize a bluetick coonhound puppy, making sure they meet all sorts of animals and people, visit many different locations, and experience lots of new things before they mature.

The bluetick coonhound is a wonderful candidate for canine sports. Keen to investigate and experience the world, these dogs do well in competitive activities like tracking, rally, agility, scent work, and obedience, where they can put their super-strong sense of smell and sight to work for a purpose. As with all dog breeds, the bluetick does best when taught to navigate life via consistent positive reinforcement training.

Living Needs 

Affectionate and often silly, the bluetick coonhound is a sweet and devoted best friend. Because he is such a dedicated canine, he will not like being left home alone in a kennel all day and doing so may make him want to express his thoughts through loud baying, howling, and barking. If you don't want your neighbors to get upset with you, make sure you provide a comfortable retreat for him (away from distracting windows) when you must be away. 

The bluetick coonhound is very adaptable but does require a home with a secure, fenced-in yard. These guys can jump and are prepared to investigate trees, fence tops, and any other structure where a critter may be living. No ordinary fence will do so be prepared to invest in a 6-foot privacy fence around your backyard. He will enjoy going for long walks, hikes, and romps in a big backyard but then needs to be allowed a comfy spot near you for rest and relaxation.

Apartment living may not be an ideal situation for a bluetick if you are the type of owner who finds long morning walks unpleasant or doesn't enjoy lots of trips outside every day. This large, sometimes bouncy breed can unknowingly wreak havoc in a small space and combined with their ability to track anything that moves, these dogs need an owner that is prepared to teach them life skills such as leash walking, coming when called, and giving attention. Spending ample quality time each day venturing outdoors and playing stimulating games will go a long way in helping a bluetick feel more comfortable in any home space. 

When the bluetick decides something outside is extremely interesting they may not notice small children or unprepared family members. Keeping them engaged while on leash is a good way to help prevent any mishaps and understanding that their uniquely exuberant nature makes them better-suited for households with older children and more active adults.

Care 

The bluetick coat gives off a sleek and shiny appearance with his short, coarse hairs that require weekly brushing to help with shedding. Blueticks' coats don't provide much protection in cold winter months so owners need to ensure their dogs have access to warm, cozy spaces and sweaters and coats for outdoor trips. Just like with any breed, bi-weekly nail trims are crucial to keeping the bluetick paws healthy and ready for action.

Although you don't need to spend lots of time and money at a groomer each month, you will need to invest in proper gear for quality exercise such as a body harness, long-line leashes, and lots of interactive and enriching toys, plus that 6-foot fence around your yard. These dogs can get carried away with their nose quickly, forgetting their surroundings (and even you!) so it's not a good idea to let them roam freely-off leash in areas—especially ones that are heavily populated with cars, other dogs, or unsuspecting humans.

"Due to the nature of their breed as a scenthound, they do tend to follow their nose which can sometimes get them in trouble," Tracey says.

Health

The bluetick coonhound is a healthy, sturdy breed that lives on average 11 or 12 years. Their size, activity level, and sometimes insatiable desire to smell out interesting things may make them susceptible to cuts, scrapes, and leg injuries or pesky particles finding their way into their noses. Caution should be taken to ensure your bluetick is safe and happy when out on an adventure.

Like many large breeds with deep chests, the bluetick coonhound is vulnerable to gastric torsion, also known as 'bloat,' which is a very serious and life-threatening condition. Care should be taken after a bluetick engages in extensive bouts of exercise to ensure they rest before drinking too much water or eating.

With their charming long ears, blueticks are also prone to getting ear infections, so owners should check and clean the ears regularly.

"Floppy ear dogs are prone to the development of ear infections—and these floppy ear dogs are no exception. Ear infections can be caused by a variety of culprits including ear mites, yeast, or bacteria. It is important to distinguish between the three as they require different types of medication," Tracey says.

Many breeds are prone to issues of the hip joint, specifically hip dysplasia, which is a degenerative joint disease, Tracey says. Owners should have their bluetick coonhound's hip checked by their veterinarian as they grow and age.

History 

Like all coonhound breeds, the bluetick coonhound is an American scenthound, but it is thought that the bluetick's breeding origins extend before the founding of the nation. The breed can be traced to the French Grand Bleu de Gascogne and the English foxhound.

As a scenthound, it's in the bluetick's nature to hunt and pursue prey with their powerful nose. With their amazing smelling ability, these dogs were bred to track the scent of quarry and would force the animal to climb a tree (called "treeing"), giving the hunter easier access to them. Early blueticks were a favorite breed by frontiersmen and when not pursuing animals like raccoons, they accompanied their handlers on big hunts for large game such as black bear, lynx, and even cougars.

Breeders of the bluetick developed the breed to have a "cold nose", meaning they can track a scent that is hours or even days old. This skill makes them well-suited for search-and-rescue and scent work.

A Southern favorite, the bluetick is the Tennessee state dog and has been the mascot of the University of Tennessee since 1953.

Fun Facts

  • Author Fred Gipson, known for the long-time popular book (turned movie) Old Yeller, sums up the bluetick fabulously: “...they’ve got a big, bell-voiced hound with a nose that picks up a week-old trail, the endurance to run that trail 30 hours at a stretch, and the lusty courage that’ll make him tackle anything that won’t take a tree before he catches him.” 
  • The main character dog in the Old Yeller movie sequel, Savage Sam, is also a bluetick coonhound.
  • The bluetick coonhound may be related to the “French staghound,” a breed of dog that was gifted to president George Washington from Marquis de Lafayette, the French general.
  • The distinctive sounds of the bluetick coonhound are sometimes known as “singing,” as these pups are capable of producing loud, sustained bays that were designed to carry over long distances during hunting expeditions with their owners.