Showsight Presents The American English Coonhound

ENGLISH COONHOUND AMERICAN

Let’s Talk Breed Education!

JUDGING THE AMERICAN ENGLISH COONHOUND

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By Penny Jessup

aving been a fancier of these ticked up hounds for a number of years, I became passionate about the breed after I heard my

I have had an English female win the 2012 AKC World Championship Bench Show and additionally a second English Coonhound female win the 2013 UKC World Championship Bench Show. My endeavors with this breed have brought me heartache and also incredible joy and while I have a deep appreciation for all the Coonhound breeds, the English hounds do hold a special place in my heart. One thing lots of folks ask is “why is this breed called the AMERICAN ENG- LISH Coonhound?” Th at’s a fair question. For all the years until AKC formally rec- ognized this breed, it was only known as the “English Coonhound” so my interest was piqued as well. As it was explained to me, it was to avoid any confusion with any- one thinking this was a Coonhound breed developed in England and brought there. Th is is a purely American breed, developed primarily in the southeastern United States to run and tree game. So while the name “AMERICAN English Coonhound” seems a misnomer in name, it actually recognizes the breed accurately and I can accept that and appreciate that. I feel there would not be much I can tell any current AKC conformation judge reading this article about movement and how these hounds should place their feet for e ffi cient and e ff ortless movement. My goal therefore is to discuss finer points of the breed in hopes you will better under- stand the breed when you next judge them in your rings. One thing to note… of the 6 Coon- hound breeds presently recognized by AKC, all of them are unique both in their ancestry and their nature and char- acteristics. While all but the Plott have a shared heritage leading all the way back to the foxhound, the English Coon- hound is probably the most diverse of all

first English Coonhound track and tree a raccoon during training season in fall of 1990. Our party went on quite a bit of a walking hike after the hounds trailed out of hearing across the hills and hollows of eastern Kentucky. To witness hounds doing what they were bred to do and doing it out of instinct was so thrilling! Th ere is nothing sweeter than hearing a hound on chase giving voice and then hear that voice change over to a tree bark announc- ing “I’ve got the quarry treed…come to me.” And as this was just training season, we found the coon with our lights, then rewarded the hounds with pats and praise and “ok..leave it…let’s go.” Wow…it was an experience I enjoyed and I from that time forward I found myself hooked on these ticked up hounds! Th at was in 1990 and by 1992 I was dabbling with raising, showing, and hunting them. Hello my name is Penny Jessup and today I have a small hobby kennel in the rolling hills of north central North Carolina along with my husband and 2 children. My husband participates in competition coon hunts and I like to show. We are very active with our hounds, both in the woods and in the shows and we strive to raise quality hounds that can be dual purpose show and hunt as well as loyal companions. While I am not pres- ently an AKC licensed conformation judge, I am however an AKC and UKC licensed Coonhound bench show judge and have been for least 15 years. I have participated in the Coonhound program for over 20 years and during that time,

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the Coonhound breeds. You will find less consistency from dog to dog. One hound may be redtick in color and have a square blocky head and be heavy boned and the next may be lighter boned, short eared and bluetick in color. Learning to appre- ciate these ticked up hounds for their unique attributes is what we strive for… Let’s just start at the head and work our way through the dog… As with most hounds, we want a nice broad head with a kind hound expression and a square muzzle. Th e planes of the skull and the muzzle should be parallel. Preference to the darker eye, black nose and preference to a nice low ear set. Look- ing at the hound straight on, ideally the ears should set approximately at a level with the corner of the eye. Historically I will tell you that there are several lines of English Coonhounds who display shorter ears and higher ear sets. Th at is not pre- ferred but it is present in the breed. In addition, while we do not ever expect an

English Coonhound to display the long ear present in a bloodhound of even the Black and Tan Coonhound, I do not believe any English Coonhound should be disqualified nor heavily faulted for an ear length that extends slightly past the end of the nose. Th is ear is desirable in the breed. Th e neck and topline are significant in this breed. Th ere should be a graceful neck rising from a powerful body taper- ing upward to the skull. To form a nice smooth topline, we always want our Eng- lish Coonhounds to be slightly higher at the withers than at the hips. And by saying slightly higher…that’s exactly correct, this should not be exaggerated. Imagine a fine bead of water running down from the back of the skull, down the neck, across the withers then slow- ing down as that bead reaches the back and across the loin. Th e neck should blend smoothly into the back. Th e ribs of a mature English Coonhound are well

sprung and when seen from above show a definite width tapering to a muscular loin, almost like the waist on a person. Th e tail set lies immediately at the end of the croup and not too low. Th e tail should be carried gaily and not hooked. No excessive brush on the tail is present. From a side profile a nice topline is complimented well by a smooth under- line that tucks up gradually behind float- ing ribs. Th is tuck up should never be exaggerated as with a whippet. Th e rib cage extends down to the elbow show- ing adequate lung space. It is essential that this breed display a good deal of lung space and a racy, powerful body as it is important for a hound to be able to give chase and hunt all night if that is the desire of the owner. Although many hounds are not asked to do this…they should be built to do so. Th is type of body will allow the English Coonhound to achieve the e ff ortless trot characteristic of the breed.

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Both front and rear angulation is very important to this breed to help them achieve the best drive and reach when in motion. A well laid back front shoul- der and a nice well bent stifle are highly desirable. But, overall balance front and rear will usually result in well moving English hound. Historically, legs and feet are crucial features of a sound English Coonhound. When viewed from the front and from the rear, we want to see straight legs leading to a well rounded, catlike foot showing a strong arch over the toes. Splay feet are not desirable and would result in a Coonhound that will break down after a few short years of hunting in the field. As judges evaluate these hounds and lay hands on them, they will be able to appreciate the athlete the English Coon- hound is. But, as you step back and take a final look at your ring of American English Coonhounds, you will likely see hounds of many di ff erent color patterns. From my experience, the “redtick” or the red and white ticked is the most common English Coonhound color. But, as men- tioned earlier… these hounds represent the most diverse of all the Coonhound breeds and that is easily seen with the color. You will also see blue and white

ticked (almost like the Bluetick Coon- hound), tri-color with ticking, along with red and white and blue and white. All of these must include at least 10% ticking across the body or it is a disqualifica- tion. Th is variety of colors can easily be understood if you will recall that until the 1940s the Bluetick and the Treeing Walker Coonhound were once registered all together as English Coonhounds, that is…until their fanciers petitioned to have them recognized as their own individual breeds. And so the genetic makeup is very diverse and even a mating of two red and white ticked parents today can result in any of the above mentioned colors. But, let me make this very clear…there is not any one preference for any particular color. An American English Coonhound of any color should be judged equally based on their physical attributes without regard to color. In summary, please know that the American English Coonhound is a canine athlete with a powerful racy body that needs to be able to go to the woods at night and perform for its owner. And then poten- tially sleep at the owners’ feet at night! Th is hound is confident and happy… a family dog! Take time to appreciate its diversity and its unique characteristics!

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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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COONHOUND STRUCTURE: FORM EQUALS FUNCTION

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 1.

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.

Movement

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