11 of the Most Popular Hound Dog Breeds Both Big and Small
Regardless of size or origin, all hounds have one thing in common: they were bred to hunt.
The dogs that the AKC recognize as the Hound Group is a diverse variety of dogs. Encompassing some of the most iconic breeds in the world, including one of the largest dog breeds on the planet as well as some of the smallest, hounds come from a wide range of geographic regions and cultures. But one thing they all have in common is their love of the hunt. Bred to be tracking and hunting dogs by virtually every culture that has raised them, hounds possess excellent noses and high amounts of stamina. Tracking scents, chasing game, and deep bonds with their human companions are all hallmarks of this diverse group of dogs.
However, because of the incredible diversity within the group, one hound does not, in fact, fit all. Every individual dog is unique! With that in mind, here is a list of hound dog breeds that exemplify the steadfast, intelligent, wonderful dogs that can fit a variety of needs or situations.
It’s hard to beat the Afghan hound in terms of pedigree. Dogs resembling the modern Afghan have been traced back through thousands of years of middle eastern history. Native to Afghanistan and blessed with keen, panoramic vision, Afghans are athletic hunters who rely on their super-strong sense of sight to visually stalk prey over large distances. Sure, they may look a bit like Cher circa 1968, but underneath those famously long locks lies the tall, slender body of a distance runner.
One of those iconic dog breeds who are instantly recognizable to just about anyone, Basset hounds have been popular among hunters and families alike for decades. Long prized by rabbit hunters, Bassets have one of the keenest noses in the dog kingdom, rivaled only by the Bloodhound in accuracy and ability. At home, their relatively low exercise needs and willingness to cuddle up on the couch have long endeared them to families and older owners. Keep in mind, however, because they tend to have strongly independent personalities, it can sometimes take some extra love and patience to train them. Although, every individual dog is different!
It’s rare for any creature to be able to claim to do something better than anyone else in the world, but here we are: the noble Bloodhound’s sense of smell is second-to-none. Long prized by law enforcement agencies around the globe for their unparalleled tracking abilities, once a Bloodhound locks on to a scent, their target is as good as found.
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One of the tallest breeds recognized by the AKC, Irish wolfhounds are gentle giants in the dog world. And we really do mean giant! These pups are the size of a small pony—commonly found in excess of 30 inches tall. As their name suggests, these massively powerful dogs were originally bred to track and hunt wolves. In more modern times, however, the breed has been cultivated to have a sweet, easy-going disposition that makes them surprise favorites among people with children.
Joining the Afghan as one of the oldest hound breeds, the Basenji was prized in its native Africa as a versatile, adept hunter. The hunting instinct remains strong in the breed even today, making a fenced yard a must. For pet parents who have active lifestyles and want a running companion or a partner to engage in agility or flyball competitions, there are few dogs that can match the Basenji’s motor and stamina.
Originally bred for hunting lions, Rhodesian ridgebacks are another well-built, incredibly strong breed of hound. Modern Rhodesians maintain a powerful prey drive, making fenced yards and strong leashes a must, but the breed is also noted for their incredible patience with small children and their adaptability into a variety of family lifestyles.
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Another iconic breed, the beagle is immediately recognizable to even casual dog lovers. Noted hunters of fox and rabbit even today, beagles are sighthounds blessed with huge reserves of stamina. This makes them best suited to human companions that live more active lifestyles, but beagles can be happy with a large yard and some spirited games of fetch. They are also excellent competitors in agility, flyball, and retrieval competitions. Just make sure that you—and your neighbors—are prepared for the famed “beagle bay” before you bring one into your home.
Dachshund translates from German as “badger dog,” belying these little dogs’ hunter origins. Now almost exclusively family dogs, Dachshunds make excellent companions for apartment living, as well as for older owners. Their low-slung bodies require less exercise than most of their larger hound cousins, but great care must be taken to make sure they don’t become overweight, and put safety measures in place around your home so as not to put too much strain on their long spines.
Closely related to the Irish wolfhound, the Scottish deerhound is another very tall, incredibly powerful breed. Sighthounds that were originally used for stalking 400 pound red deer across the rocky Highlands, the deerhound is capable of running for extended periods of time at nearly greyhound speeds.
An excellent choice for urban dwellers, whippets are small, slender dogs who rarely bark and require surprisingly little exercise, outside of a few rambunctious games of fetch per week. Bearing a strong resemblance to small greyhounds, the whippet is every bit as fast as you’d think, which has made them champion flyball and lure course competitors.
Another ancient breed, the saluki is the oldest known domesticated dog on record. Dogs resembling salukis can be seen in artwork dating back 4,000 years and they’ve been known as the royal dog of Egypt. A relatively rare breed, salukis come with their own unique challenges to ownership. Salukis are some of the fastest dogs in the world and are also blessed with incredible stamina, meaning that any potential saluki owners should have plenty of room for them to roam, or several outlets for them to work off those prodigious reserves of energy.