Let’s Talk Breed Education!
Redbone Coonhounds FROM A JUDGE’S PERSPECTIVE
BY LORI MILLS
W hen judging and evaluating Redbone Coonhounds, I look for the overall dog. I start at the head and work down over the body to the feet, legs, and tail. I am looking for a nice, houndy head, with a nice ear set; not Bloodhound in type and not high set with a Sporting dog type of ear hang or length. The standard says it should reach almost to the end of the nose, not to the middle of the cheek. I like it touching the nose in length, proportionate with the dog’s head. A good, dark eye or, in exception, a hazel-colored eye, is usually coordinating with a medium-golden red coat. A darker dog with a lighter eye is not favorable. When looking into a Redbone’s eyes, it is a pleading expression you are looking for. It is usually a look that melts most people’s hearts. (You almost cannot tell them “no” on whatever they are asking for.) A nice, well-balanced head is the first thing you should see in the breed. Then, reaching down the neck, it should have a slight arch in it, and the throat should have a slight fold under the jaw. Then onto the back, a nice lay of shoulders and a good spring of rib. Slightly taller at shoulders than the hips… not necessarily seen but felt. A dog should not look like a drag race car running around the ring, or standing still, higher in the rear than the front. I look for adequate muscle. Red- bones have a leaner, tighter muscle. This varies with dog type, but must be present; not flabby or boney. A nice saber-like tail is free of curl and heavy brush. This is a single-coated breed and has a short length coat with various shades of red, varying from a golden red coat to a dark mahogany coat. Note that the coat changes during the lifespan of the dog. As the dog gets older, the coat starts to get lighter in color,
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and grey can appear on the muzzle, cheeks, and toes as early as four years of age, much like a Plott graying in the same areas. The hindquarters should never be straight or cow- hocked, as this doesn’t allow for a free-moving dog, nor should they be over-angulated. The forelegs and pasterns should be straight and the feet well-padded and cat-like, with nice, short toes. Front legs should not toe in or out, but should be straight-on when viewed. Front dewclaws are left on, for another source of grabbing onto the tree while baying (treeing) game. Back dewclaws are a fault; not permissible. Most of the Redbones are also left with some length of nail; not long toe nails, but not nubs. They have a purpose in their hunting. Redbones have a distinctive, flowing movement. It is deliberate in stride. They are not to be moved and run with like a Sporting dog. The dog is “wind-ing” the air and hunting for game as it is moving through the terrain that includes swamp, rivers, creeks, fields, woods, and mountains. A dog that is running wide-open is most likely overrun- ning the scent and losing his game trail. In the same terms, a dog that cannot move freely, and have reach and drive, and just pokes along—and is going to have to catch a cab to get to its game because, by now, it is in the next county. These dogs are hunters and should be viewed as such. Dogs that are dual-purpose hounds will most likely tote battle scars, pieces of ear missing, split ears, scars on their head or legs, and clouded or blinded eyes. They will also be missing hair sometimes, especially under the chest, from underbrush, and around the throat area from tracking collars and/or multiple collars worn while hunt- ing and training. Also, when the hair grows back, it comes back white in most cases. You can tell the difference between white hairs scantily on the throat from being pulled out or rubbed off and that of being white [markings] up the throat, which is totally differ- ent. Being a breeder and hunter, I easily overlook these battle wounds and take them in with admiration. Redbones should give an overall impression of being sound and athletic, with the dog being judged as a whole package and not a specific color or height. Everything should be in proportion. The Redbone, when viewed from a distance, should have a distinction in sex also. The bitches and dogs shouldn’t have to have an “undercarriage” check in most cases. The bitch is a little more elegant in most cases and has more tuck- up. She may also not be as heavy in body, but should have enough substance about her to take on her quarry of game. The dogs in temperament are very even-tempered, but are very aggressive on game. The show ring is tolerated by most. I’m not saying they do not enjoy showing, but most of them come to life when game is present—almost like turning on a light switch. So, when making my choices, I look for the dog that has substance and structure to help denote its ability to do its job, with breed characteristics known only to the Redbone. A 20-pound coon or 500-pound bear or hog can be hunted by the same exact dog, so it has to fit the standard to be able to do its job. They meet their game head-on in most cases. Remember, they do not need to become the prey. But if the tables are turned, Redbones need to be able to stand their own ground.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR My name is Lori Mills and I am a Judge and Breeder of Coonhounds. I have been directly involved with Coonhounds all my life, which is pushing five decades. I have hunted these dogs in almost every aspect possible, which includes coon, deer, hog, bear, and cat. When judging or evaluating any breed, I find myself not only resorting back to the breed standard, but also to the purpose for which the dog was refined.
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History of the Redbone Coonhound By Christine Smith Redbone Coonhound
The history of the Redbone Coonhound is one that is not well documented. It’s a history that you would more likely hear about while sitting at the feet of your great-grandpa. Coon hunting was once a well known tradition that has seemed to have faded in this modernized world. However, there is a group still thriving, almost like a “Secret Society”. The great coon hunters from this soci- ety are who founded these f lashy, red-coated, hard hunting dogs we know as Redbones!
Birdsong. Birdsong also acquired a pack of hounds from Dr. Thomas Y. Henry. From these Scottish and Irish Foxhounds is what is to be believed the foundation stock of the modern day Redbone. W.B. Frisbee, a Redbone owner from the early to mid 1900’s, said….. “The Redbone Coonhound originated in the South in the slave days. They were used to catch runaway slaves and by the trustees to catch coon and opossum…. At that time they were a large, heavy
and Redbone strains of Col. Mile G. Harris of GA; could be the beginnings of the Redbone. The July hound was a product of hounds, Tickler and Lade, from Nimrod Gosnell of MD. Tickler was a red hound with white on his neck while Lade was a tan female of a medi- um size. Harris’ other hounds, Proctor and Redbone strain, where large red hounds with long ears hanging like win- dow curtains. After Col. Harris’ hearing and eyesight started to fail, he gave his pack of hounds to friends in Putnam Co., GA. The July hound eventually went to one of the friends, George L.F.
hound and were open trailers on the trail of game…. Had deep bawling voic- es, color was red with black saddles on backs, with red or tan heads and ears. And even then some were solid red.
Going back to before the Civil War, Redbones were already well established. To give an exact year is too hard. I believe that a lot of the old red dogs that
are noted in history and believed to be Bloodhounds, were actually Redbones. Stories tell that Davy Crockett even kept a Redbone for a companion at some point. After much research, here are some of my personal findings that came through putting pieces of the puzzle together… As the stories go, crossings with the Foxhound “July” and also the Proctor
When the slaves were freed and they were no longer needed…. (for that pur- pose)….they were crossed with the Irish hounds to get a lighter, faster hound…. So now they are good trim built hounds that have good cold noses and will range out for a great distance to find their game and will tree it and stay for hours until their owners find them and get the game or call them
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History of the Redbone Coonhound
By Christine Smith
away. They are now and always have been a one man dog and will fight for their master. It is almost impossible for a stranger t o pick one of them up in the woods…” These traits make Redbone Coonhounds unique to the other Coonhound breeds as they were bred first for their looks; to be a solid flashy red dog, medium in size. And after achieving their goal, dedicated breeders focused on the hunting ability again. Thanks to hunters and breeders like Brooks Magill, Roy Blakesley and many more, the Redbone breed evolved into what we see today. W.B. Frisbee spoke the truth; Redbones are an American bred hound originating from the south. Their beau- tiful red coats, whether dark as
mahogany or a golden sheen of red, are a product of determined breeders who set out to produce a medium sized, solid red, eye-catching hound. As I said before, the history of the Redbone Coonhound is somewhat hid- den inside of the “Society” of great coon hunters, past and present. As Roy Blakesley says, “Thank the Lord there were enough good men interested in the breed to stay with it, and bring the breed to where it is today. The Redbone breed is the youngest breed of the old breeds of hounds, but are the oldest breed of tree hounds we have, were never used as trail hounds as a breed, were bred and used for tree game from the start.” And of course in his opinion, “The finest breed of tree hounds in the world.” ■
“ Thank the Lord there were enough good men interested in the breed
to stay with it, and bring the breed to where it is today. . .
The finest breed of tree hounds in the world.”
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Judging the Redbone Coonhound By Christine Smith Redbone Coonhound
Imagine the dark of the night surrounds you. It’s late and you have just decided tonight is going to be a great night! You see, you just cut your hound, Red, loose to go and do what he does best, tree a coon. This is the first image that should enter your mind when you see a Redbone Coonhound in your ring. Redbones can travel numerous miles while hunting night after night. When judging the breed, it’s important to put emphasis on whether or not they look like they are capable of doing their job in the woods. Size is extremely important in the breed. The height standard calls for 22-27 inches in males and 21-26 inches in females; mid-range being preferred. Height is important but remember 2 words that are scattered through our standard are proportioned and square. No matter the height, a Redbone should be equal in height as they are in length. They are a medium sized hound and are never to be overdone. Let’s go back to the darkness of the night, it seems silent at first but then you hear it. The long bawl of your Redbone letting you know he is aggressively on the trail of his game. Sounds like Red has done what he does best; picked up an older track but he’s working it out. All the while, he keeps letting you know where he’s at and how it’s coming along. Until finally you hear it, the chase has come to an end. Old Red has barked a locate, letting you know he ran the coon up a tree and he’s settling in on a chop at the base of the tree. Now comes the hard part as a hunter, making your way to the tree and your hound. As you’re walking you can’t help but think Red has just covered probably triple the ground you are. The terrain is more difficult than you imagined at the start of your hunt. So all the while you’re thankful that Red’s feet are nice, tight, cat paw like because a flat foot wouldn’t be forgiving out here. As you climb over the barb-wire fence, the relief overwhelms
you that your dog isn’t too tall and has a great level topline and a tail set mid- croup. If his tail was to be carried beyond the point of his ischum, we’d be patching a torn up tail tonight. Over the hill you’re climbing, you can hear the stream bubbling, with Red still in the distance letting you know you are closing in on him. All you can think is Red is one heck of a Coondog, with his large black nose and nostrils open and popping from the scent passing through it. For him to not be fooled by Mr. Coon going through the water was probably from help of his long ears gathering up the scent and brushing the tip of his nose. With his round eyes open bright he sought out the trail. Knowing that Red is built right with a 90 degree shoulder and rear end, giving him the correct amount of reach and drive to push through the tough woods night after night is such a relief. Watching where you walk you realize that the paw prints in the dirt are like Red’s rear feet took place of his front almost perfectly. After walking the mile, so to speak, you are finally closing in. Red is still at the tree, barking with every breath. You shine your light in front of you, just to be amazed at what’s in front of you. There’s Red stretched out on the tree, belly rubbing with his front feet clinging to the side most likely where the coon climbed up. The sheen of the deep solid red coat is magnificent, as you see his head throwing back with every bark and his muscles rippling with definition. It’s definitely a remarkable scene with extreme intensity! After looking up the tree with your light and finding the coon, it’s time to leash Red up and head out of the woods. Petting Red up, he looks up at you with his pleading expression, knowing all the while he has done a great job. Now that the jobs done, Red calms down and mel- lows out as he walks beside you, proud of his work and pleased that he has made
his master proud and happy with him. Important points to remember when judging is a Redbone should have a strik- ingly beautiful red coat. When they enter the ring they should move out effortless- ly, showing in a nonchalant manner, never over animated. The Redbones nat- ural temperament is laid back and gentle unless they are hunting and should pre- sent themselves that way in the ring. They should be moderate in size, not overdone, equal in height to length with medium bone. Starting at the head, the skull should be equal in length to the muzzle. The ears should reach the tip of the nose or beyond as well as a slight fold of skin below the angle of the jaw. The topline should never be sloping, instead it will be level. The chest should reach to at least the elbow. The tail is not to be car- ried gay, over the back, past the ischum. Tight, cat paw type feet are a must. The shoulder and rear are to be a 90 degree angle. Most importantly, a Redbone should be square in all aspects from the head to the body. When presented in Group, remember to ask yourself, is this Redbone square, level topline, medium in size, with a pleasing look and good feet? To place in Group, they should be as close to the breed standard as possible and should never be overdone. When judging the Redbone Coonhound whether in Breed or Group these thoughts of doing what they are bred to do should be fresh in your mind. The ability to hunt lies first and foremost in whether or not they are built conformationally correct. ■
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Coonhound FORM EQUALS FUNCTION STRUCTURE
BY NANCY WINTON, DRY RIVER KENNELS
N ow that coonhounds are in AKC conformation shows, it is becoming increasingly important that we focus on the correct structure that our hounds need to do the job they were bred for. With the coonhound, one needs to especially concentrate on structure and balance. As you know, the back is divided into four sections; the withers, back, loin, and croup. Behind the withers is the back, then the loin, then the croup, and the vertebrae go back all the way to the end of the tail. In certain coonhounds today, more in some breeds than in others, we’re seeing a short rib cage and a long loin on a regular average-backed dog. The dog might be the right length in the back, but if the rib cage doesn’t go back far enough into the loin, it’s not going to have enough cavity that it needs for the heart, the lungs, and all the organs. A short back, combined with a long loin, makes a coonhound weak and unable to run long distances. In coonhounds especially, strength over the loin and lung space are needed. Many of the top-winning Treeing Walkers are sadly lacking in shoulder angulation and would never make it in the field. What’s really important about the shoulder blades is not just the layback; not just the way the blades are angled. The shoulder blades are angled at 45 degrees , as is the upper arm, forming a perfect 90-degree “L.” A good shoulder is oblique, the way a bone curves back into the curvature of the body. The shoulder bone cannot stick straight up, out of the dog’s back, and be efficient. They’ve got to come back together a little bit, lay back, and curve back into the body. Another important point regarding the shoulder assembly is the point of the elbow. The point of elbow is directly under the withers, right under the top of the shoulder blade, in a perfectly straight line. You could run a plumb line and drop it right where the shoulder blades meet and it will come straight down through the elbow to the floor, right behind the foot. I’ll guarantee that you won’t see many dogs made like this. What you’ll see is a shorter upper arm, or an upper arm pitched at an angle that forces the elbow in front of the shoulder. That combination leads to bad action on the front. So, look at the front assembly very carefully. Visualize a big circle, with a straight line dropping through it, cutting it in half, meeting the elbow, meeting the ground. It will be the focal point on a well-made dog. There’s a good reason for this. The heart, lungs, and all of the organs that make them run are right there. They better have that depth, that balance. Look at how this dog’s chest (far left) comes down and meets his elbow. There must be enough depth of brisket for lung capacity. There are many dogs whose elbows are too far below their brisket line.
Great Head Planes and Ear Set
left: Excellent Front and Shoulder Layback center: Excellent Front and Muscling, right : Too Straight
Sources from 2001 Winter Classic Judges Seminar
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The same is true about the hindquarters. The dog in this photo (below right) shows the relationship between the length of the two bones and the angle formed by them. We can’t see through to the bone, but look at the width of the thigh. I’ve never seen a coon- hound that had too much width of second thigh. In coonhounds, we’re also losing some angle from the stifle joint to the point of the hock. We’re getting too many dogs that look unbalanced, especially if they’re straight in the shoulder and straight in the hindquarter assembly. Look for second thigh, width of thigh. You have to observe this with your eyes and your hands to make sure they are correct. And remember that the tail is an extension of the spine. A tail that goes straight up may affect the pitch of the pelvis. Up front, you can really see and feel the shoulder blades. Again, balance is the key . If you see this in action, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ll say, “Now I get it. That is side gait.” That’s something we don’t look for enough when we judge. A dog can look pretty standing there with a handler posing them, but when you gait them on the ground there is nothing that can be done to make them look good. You can’t do it with the lead. What you see is what you get. And don’t let markings fool you—easy to do with a Treeing Walker’s markings especially. As a result, his shoulders might look different, but when you get your hands on him you will see where his shoulder blades are. Don’t be afraid to get your hands on those blades, to feel them. If you run your hands down the blades, and down the upper arms to the elbows, you can visualize what the angles are. The feet and pasterns are very closely tied together and they should be in balance with each other. You’ll hardly ever see great pasterns with bad feet, or the other way around. It’s usually a pack- age. We get to the point in coonhound shows that we’re looking for such tight feet that we might be getting a little carried away some- times. A great cat foot with a straight pastern is pretty to look at, but it doesn’t offer any shock absorbers to the force coming down through the shoulders. You’ve got to have a little spring, a little flex- ibility, to the slightly sloping pastern. Coonhounds are a scenthound and the tail carriage will be up. You want to see a dog that can extend its front, that can push behind, show balance, propulsion and locomotion movement with ease, and cover ground. Withers-back-loin-croup is all you need to remember. Four basic parts that better work together. If the withers are too steep, the shoulders aren’t laidback enough; there’s going to be a basic, functional problem. If the back’s too long or too short, there’s going to be a basic, functional problem. If the ribs don’t go back into the loin far enough, or deep enough, there’s going to be a basic, functional problem. Other problems to be aware of include a weak loin and a roach back. The croup’s got to have some pitch and some length. If a croup is too short and steep, it will affect the tail set. I hope that this will help in the judging of our coonhounds. They are a movement dog with good reach and drive. Coonhounds give meaning to Form=Function. “You want to see a dog that can extend its front, that can push behind, show balance, propulsion and locomotion movement with ease, and cover ground.”
left: Puppy—Good muscling, right: Older dog—Good muscling
left: Adult male—Good Inner and Outer Thigh, Great Muscling, center: Too Straight, right: Excellent Rear Angles
Figure 2. Dog 1. Correct Hind Angulation: Note the 30-degree slope of the pelvis. This provides the most power. Just as important is the perfect 130-degree angle of the back joint, providing the leverage to push the dog forward. Dog 2. Incorrect Hind Angulation. The pelvic slope of 10 degrees promotes the overly-straight stifle joint shown here. The back joint is also overly- straight at 148 degrees.
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