Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Popular Hound Dog Breeds From the UK
Many of the most popular dogs in the UK are hunting dogs. These common and well-known breeds include the Labrador Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, and Golden Retriever. Hound dogs are not as popular, but there are a lot of great dog breeds to choose from. Here are five of the best hound dogs developed in the UK:
- The Beagle
- The English Foxhound
- The Otterhound
- The Bloodhound
- The Scottish Deerhound
1. The Beagle
- Weight: 15 kilos
- Life expectancy: 12–13 years
This is the most popular of the scent hounds, and they have been around the UK since the time of Queen Elizabeth I. She kept Pocket Beagles and would let them loose to “sing” for her guests.
Beagles are among the top ten dog breeds in the US. They are popular because they are small (about 15 kilos), and because they are great family dogs. They like cats, are smart, and are so friendly that they do very well with strangers (but also make terrible watchdogs). Although they are smart, one reason Beagles did not do well in Dr. Coren's intelligence ratings is that they are difficult to train.
This breed is also as healthy as an old hound dog. Ear infections can be common because of their anatomy, and a few dogs have eye problems. Beagles are occasionally prone to epilepsy, and some other dogs may develop immune-mediated arthritis. Beagles are so healthy, however, that they are a common target for laboratories that perform animal experiments. About 95% of all dogs used in testing are Beagles.
The average life expectancy for a Beagle is about 12 or 13 years. Beagles are real chowhounds and can become obese as they get older.
Beagles are great at finding a scent anywhere, which is why they are so popular as drug detection dogs at international airports. No dog is perfect, and those noses get them into trouble at times. When they get a scent they ignore commands, and if they are following a rabbit or something else as interesting, they will run and run until they are lost.
That is when the singing will begin. Beagles do not usually like to be alone and are great howlers when unhappy, curious, or just passing time! They were developed for beagling, of course. Dogs were small enough to allow kids to follow them on ponies, yet tough enough to run through brush and ignore all else in their quest to get a rabbit.
Even if you do not want to keep a pack of dogs and hunt live animals, this small dog makes an excellent companion. “Nothing but a hound dog”? No, the Beagle is much more than just a hound dog.
2. The English Foxhound
- Weight: 35 kilos
- Life expectancy: 12 years
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The Foxhound dog is a scent hound, like the Beagle, bred to hunt foxes, as the name suggests. Breeders crossed Fox Terriers, Bulldogs, and Greyhounds to come up with this dog.
If the Beagle is a Foxhound in miniature, this is a BIG Beagle. This breed is tall, and weighs up to 35 kilos (80 pounds) or more. A dog this big needs plenty of exercise and eats a lot, so they never became quite as popular as their small cousins, the Beagle. They are about as healthy as a Beagle, however. Some dogs have hip dysplasia, and others might be prone to renal problems or epilepsy. The average life expectancy is about 12 years.
Although this dog was developed to hunt and live in a pack, they make a good house pet and get along with humans, kids, other pets, and especially other dogs.
3. The Otterhound
- Weight: 35–55 kilos
- Life expectancy: 10 years
This hound dog from the UK is considered a vulnerable native dog. Only about 1000 dogs are left around the world. These dogs weigh anywhere from 35 to 55 kilos (about 80 to 120 pounds) and have long rough coats, webbed feet, and a deep voice when they find their prey.
They were bred to hunt otter, of course. Otters were placed on the protected species list in 1978 and hunting in the UK stopped. Some are still used to hunt mink but most of the hunting dogs have died out.
Otterhounds are usually healthy, but like most big dogs they are prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, and arthritis when they get older. Since they have hound dog ears, they are also prone to ear infections.
The average lifespan is about 10 years. Since otter hunting is illegal, and mink hunting is not likely to catch on, this dog breed may eventually become extinct. Only 15 dogs were registered with the kennel club in Britain in 2011.
If these dogs were renamed "Chewbacca Hounds" they would become very popular.
4. The Bloodhound
- Weight: 50 kilos
- Life expectancy: 10 years
This large scent hound was originally bred to be a boar hunter. The original dogs were probably from France (St. Hubert Hounds), but when brought to the UK their tracking ability was developed even further.
Bloodhounds can pick up an old scent, a scent that goes across water, and even tell the difference between an old and new track. They probably have about 5 billion cells that pick up scent, whereas humans have about 5 million.
They are big dogs, usually up to about 50 kilos (110 pounds), with a dark body and a well-known wrinkled face. Their floppy ears might help them pick up scents. One dog even found a trail over 300 hours old!
These dogs are prone to bloat. Bloodhounds also get ear infections because of their anatomy, skin infections because of all those folds, and are prone to problems with their eyes.
Bloodhounds live about 10 years. Despite their size and reputation as a tracker of humans, this breed is usually affectionate and calm.
5. The Scottish Deerhound
- Weight: 50 kilos
- Life expectancy: 8 years
This breed is actually a sighthound, similar to the Greyhound, but it was developed by the Picts and Scots to chase deer. They are not as fast as a Greyhound on flat ground, but in the rough Scottish country, they can outrun that breed.
Deerhounds do not need a lot of room to run but they do need to get out and burn off their excess energy. Like the Greyhound, they will spend most of the day sleeping, but if they cannot run they will probably develop behavioral problems.
These dogs are tall and weigh up to about 50 kilos (110 pounds). Like a lot of giant dog breeds, the Scottish Deerhound has some problems. They are prone to bone cancer (osteosarcoma), bloat, and heart disease (cardiomyopathy). The average life expectancy is only about 8 years.
Scottish Deerhounds are friendly dogs but they are like Beagles when it comes time to chase—everything else is forgotten when it is time to hunt.
Consider Adopting Your Next Canine Companion
Beagles might be available at your local animal shelter, and even if you are looking for one of the other hound dogs you should check and see what is available. Sometimes dogs are dropped off at the shelter when someone moves, gets married, etc.. Petfinder.com can put you in contact with other animal shelters that have hound dogs available, and you can also try finding a rescue organization by typing the dog breed and city name into your search engine.
If you want to contact a breeder, visit a dog show or tracking event. A hound dog puppy may not be available at the moment, but you can be put on a waiting list.
Please do not buy a puppy from a pet shop or internet puppy wholesaler. You will be supporting a puppy mill and the dog you bring home will probably have housetraining and other behavioral problems.
That is not the right way to start out with a hound dog or any dog!
Questions & Answers
Question: Are Beagle dogs good family pets?
Answer: Beagles are excellent pets. They are bred to be pack animals so are very social, although if you are into obedience trials this is not a good choice. Beagles also do not bark much but yelp, a lot, and some people do not like them for that reason.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 20, 2013:
That is a really interesting question! I do not know an exact number, but I think most countries can claim at least one or two extinct breeds.
Mary Craig from New York on June 20, 2013:
Another great trip through doggyland. I don't have to tell you, everyone loves a beagle. We once had a beagle mix and she was just a doll!
It is sad to think the otterhound may become extinct. I wonder just how many dog breeds have actually become extinct?
Voted up, useful, and interesting.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 19, 2013:
Beagles probably are more American than most humans in America. The AKC always has them in the top ten,but in the UK they are about the 30th most popular dog. Sounds like they found their place in this world.
Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on June 19, 2013:
Interesting hub. Although we always adopt golden retrievers, I love beagles- especially as puppies. Their howl is too funny. Didn't know they were from the UK! Voted up.