The British Isles consist of vastly different types of country and therefore hounds have evolved over time to suit different countries. Thus a different a sort of hound is required in the steep fell of the Lake District (inaccessible to the horse) than in the hard riding fields of Leicestershire. However, hounds require some ‘generic’ qualities no matter what sort of country they are hunting as shown below:
- Nose. Hounds hunt by following a scent rather than by sight.
- Stamina. Hounds hunt for many hours a day, two or sometimes three days per week.
- Cry. Cry or tongue is very important so that the hound can let other hounds (and the Huntsman and followers) that it has the scent.
- Pack sense. Hounds need to work as a pack and not become too independent
- Speed. When foxhunting was allowed hounds needed to able to put pressure on the fox during a hunt
- Drive. The ability to keep going forward and not to dwell on the line.
- Courage. The get back to the pack when separated, to enter thick cover and to kill his fox.
- Fox sense. Hard to explain but this is what makes certain hounds stand out from the others. Those who have it find and kill more foxes than others.
The Foxhound has been very carefully bred and in many cases pedigrees can be traced back to the early 1700’s, however the first volume of the Stud Book was not produced until 1841. The types of hounds mainly seen today are:
The Modern Foxhound
The Old English Foxhound
The Fell Hound
The Hill Hound
The Welsh Hound
The West Country Harrier
Most packs now hunt the Modern Foxhound but many have been bred using a judicious blending of Welsh blood. In some cases packs have out crosses to other types the most recent being the American.