By Alicia Kort
Felix Chacon / Stocksy
When you hear “Hound Dog,” your first thought may be of Elvis’s famous song. Despite what the King of Rock and Roll claims, Hounds usually don’t cry all the time if they’re getting enough mental stimulation and exercise, but they do often have unique, shrill barks.
Of course, Hounds are so much more than their voices. These extremely intelligent dogs are also gifted hunters and are usually divided into two groups: Scent hounds and sighthounds, who are each named for the primary skill that makes them top-tier hunters. Read on to learn about the different types of hounds and noteworthy breeds within the two types.
What is a hound dog?
A hound dog is a dog that’s bred for hunting — specifically for using their powerful senses to track down targets. Scent hounds use their extraordinary sense of smell while sight hounds use sharp eyesight, to track and chase.
- Scent hounds typically have a long snout.
- Their noses are prominent, containing a large number of scent receptors for effective tracking.
- Scent hound eyes are often set more forward on the face, offering better focus on scents near the ground.
- Their long and hanging ears help trap and funnel scents toward the nose.
- Their lips may be droopy, helping to trap scents near the nose.
- Sighthounds tend to have sleek and aerodynamic heads.
- Sighthound eyes are often large and positioned on the sides of the head, providing a wide field of vision.
- Sighthounds have long faces, but their noses are usually smaller in comparison to scent hounds.
- Ears can be folded back to reduce wind resistance when running at high speeds.
It’s all about scent hounds
Scent hounds use their keen sense of smell to find people, food, prey, and other objects, even when they’re miles away. They have more olfactory receptors than other dog breeds. For example, the Bloodhound (a scent hound) has about 300 million olfactory receptors, whereas humans have about 6 million. The average dog can sniff four to five times within one second, so imagine how quickly a scent hound is able to parse out a single scent when they’re on the move.
Scent hounds are usually low-riders with short legs that make keeping their noses to the ground easier. Their short stature also allows their ears to absorb the smells they brush past, allowing scent hounds to linger over the scent even if they’ve technically moved on.
These dogs prefer to be sniffing at all times, preferably with a goal in mind, so to keep your scent hound mentally stimulated, you could hide a treat in the house and send them on a hunt to find it (but be prepared for the game to end quickly). Because of their single-mindedness, it’s recommended that scent hounds are always kept on a leash or in a fenced backyard.
The low-slung and long-eared Basset Hound was bred for tracking, and their nose is considered only second best to the Bloodhound’s with more than 220 million olfactory receptors. Their little legs are built for endurance instead of speed, so they can follow scents easily for hours — and once they’re on the scent, they change from calm to stubborn in seconds.
This breed only reaches 15 inches at shoulder height but can weigh up to 65 pounds. Despite their short coat, they can shed a lot and should be brushed weekly. Basset Hounds make good companions to families with young children and other pets.
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The Beagle is a scenthound with around 220 million olfactory receptors and a hunting companion bred to be a prey tracker. They used to rove around in packs to find rabbits, hares, and more, so once they get ahold of a scent, they’ll want to follow it forever. Because of their pack history, Beagles don’t like being left alone and can become destructive.
This small breed can be as tall as 15 inches at shoulder height and weigh as much as 30 pounds. They’re great with other pets and young children, though they aren’t the biggest cuddlebugs. Beagles require an hour of exercise per day, mental stimulation, and weekly brushing because although their coat looks short, they actually have a double coat.
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The Dachshund may be a squat breed, but they have a keen sense of smell and are fierce hunters who can even hunt below ground and ferret out prey hiding in holes or dens. They are the smallest scent hounds and come in two sizes: Standard (weighing up to 32 pounds) and Mini (weighing up to 11 pounds).
Dachshunds have big personalities despite their small stature. They have a courageous independent streak that can cause them to be a bit mischievous and have a high endurance — they can seem tireless at times. However, they can become seriously injured if they jump off furniture, sprint up and down stairs, or run for long distances, so they should be taken on two moderate walks per day. Dachshunds can also have three types of fur — smooth-haired, long-haired, and wire-haired — so their grooming needs vary.
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The Bloodhound has the strongest olfactory receptors out of any other dog, with about 300 million receptors. This long-eared breed also picks up many smells with their ears and can be as tall as 27 inches tall at shoulder height and weigh up to 110 pounds, making them the largest scent dog on this list. Their short coat is surprisingly dense, so it will shed several times each year and requires weekly brushing.
Bloodhounds’ sad, droopy faces and all-over body wrinkles might make them look like they’re happy to laze in your backyard or on your couch all day, but they require long walks plus extra playtime (in a fenced yard, so they don’t wander off after a smell). The Bloodhound can be an affectionate addition to any family.
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The Bluetick Coonhound is named for their blue-and-black “ticked” pattern on their backs and legs, and, unlike other scent hounds on this list, were bred to be nocturnal hunters and sniff out raccoons. Like other hounds, however, these dogs have a strong urge to follow their noses, and if they aren’t given enough mental stimulation and physical activity, they can become destructive.
Bluetick Coonhounds, which can be as tall as 27 inches and weigh up to 80 pounds, are large hunters with even bigger prey drives. This breed knows how to separate work from rest, though, and is more than content to chill at home if their needs are met. They get along well with other pups thanks to their tracking background. Their shorter coats need to be brushed weekly, and owners can expect them to shed moderately.
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Sighthounds see it all
Instead of using their noses, sighthounds use their eagle-sharp eyesight, large range of vision, and speed to bring down prey. Scent hounds were bred to help humans, but sighthounds were bred to hunt on their own.
Sighthounds have light, lithe bodies that are deep-chested, thin at the waist, and boast long legs, which help them sprint after prey — and maintain that speed for miles. In fact, sighthounds were bred to bring down quick prey, like hares, but also larger prey, like deer and even wolves.
Greyhounds are the speediest of the sighthounds (they can reach 45 miles per hour), and their entire bodies were designed for hunting success. Their eyes are wide-spread so that they can survey the land around them for the slightest movement, and they have a large range of vision — Greyhounds can have a 270-degree range of vision, while humans have 180. Even their feet are padded to give them a springier step.
These affectionate large pups are relatively low-energy in their homes, though they need plenty of opportunities to show off their sprint. Greyhounds can reach up to 30 inches at shoulder height and weigh up to 70 pounds. This breed can be myriad colors and patterns, but their coat is short and requires weekly glove run-downs.
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The majestic Borzoi is a long-haired, large sighthound — they can reach up to 105 pounds and more than 28 inches at shoulder height — originally bred to be a wolf tracker and hunter. This lithe pup has a mind of their own and doesn’t react well to aggressive training. The Borzoi can be lazy around the house but requires long walks and the opportunity to run around in a fenced yard. It’s important to note that they will sprint after anything that moves, so they should be kept contained due to their high prey drive. As for grooming, the Borzoi’s long coat will require weekly brushing and will shed profusely once a year.
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Smaller than the Greyhound and Borzoi, the Whippet reaches 22 inches in height and can weigh as much as 40 pounds, but can still run at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. The Whippet looks like a miniature Greyhound in many ways, and their temperament is similar to other sighthounds; they love to lay around the house but will spring into action when something catches their eye and need to be kept mentally stimulated with activities like games of fetch or agility training. Whippets are incredibly cuddly pups who make great companions to small children and other pets. This pup’s short coat is low-maintenance and only requires brushing once a week.
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The Saluki is an Egyptian breed that boasts the honor of being one of the oldest dog breeds out there. With their long-haired ears — will end up covered in food from their food bowls if they are not pulled back — and bushy tails, Salukis slightly resemble lions. The rest of their coats are relatively short in comparison and can be either smooth or long-haired (the latter will require more grooming). Salukis can reach speeds of 42.8 miles per hour, making them second in speed to the quick Greyhound, and can weigh up to 65 pounds and reach 28 inches in shoulder height.
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Like the Saluki, the Pharaoh Hound originated in Egypt thousands of years ago and boasts a lithe frame. Pharaoh Hounds were bred to speed over rocky terrains (they can reach up to 35 miles per hour), and their short tan coats help them blend in with that terrain when they’re on the hunt. This breed can reach up to 55 pounds and 25 inches at shoulder height, and their short coats only require a weekly brushing.
This sighthound isn’t all work and no play, though — they’re considered very devoted pets and get along well with other dogs and young children. This large breed sighthound requires more exercise than some other sighthounds; they should be allowed to run in a yard or will need two long walks per day.
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How big do hound dogs get?
Hound dogs can range in size. A large hound, like the Irish Wolfhound, can weigh up to 180 pounds, whereas smaller ones, like Beagles, can weigh under 20 pounds.
How big do hound mixes get?
Like their purebred counterparts, hound mixes can range in size from over 100 pounds to less than 20 pounds, depending on the breed mix.
How do you train a hound dog?
Because they’re scent-driven and independent thinkers, some hound dogs are stubborn and require patient, consistent training to best channel their energy and instincts.
Is a Beagle a hound dog?
Yes, Beagles are considered hound dogs. Beagles are famous for their super sniffing skills and are classified as scent hounds.
Are hounds good family dogs?
Yes, hounds can make great family dogs as they’re generally friendly, social, loyal, and affectionate with their human packs.
Sight Hound vs Scent Hound
Canine Olfaction: Physiology, Behavior, and Possibilities for Practical Applications
Tips for Training Scent and Sight Hounds
The Science of Sniffs Disease Smelling Dogs