Let’s Talk Breed Education!
A HOUND OF A DIFFERENT COLOR
BY SANDRA MURRAY The Plott
“When is a coonhound not a coonhound? When it’s a Plott Hound.” —David Michael Duffy, Hunting Dog Expert
T he Plott has his own unique look among the scenthounds for a good reason. His ancestry does not include the Foxhound nor does it hold a direct infusion of Bloodhound genes. Rather, the Plott owes his singular appearance to his immediate ancestors, the old Hanoverian Hounds of Germany. Their existence traces back to the 5th century in that country. These German dogs served as efficient boar hounds when the forested lands of Germany and Bavaria held a plentiful supply of wild boars. THE PLOTT FAMILY The Plott family bred and raised these Hanoverian Hounds in the early 18th century. So, when Elias Plott decided to emigrate with his family to the NewWorld, he brought some of his best dogs with him. The family first settled in Pennsylvania within a com- munity of German immigrants, and his son, George (Johannes) Plott (born in Germany in 1743) found a wife within that com- munity who had also come from Germany. Before the American Revolution, George and Margaret joined a large number of fel- low German immigrants who headed for a new life in the wilds of western North Carolina. George took several of his Hanoverian Hounds with him. George and Margaret had nine children, all of whom contributed—both themselves and then through many gen- erations of their offspring, right up to the present—in the creation of a tough, brindle scenthound like no other. “...THE PLOTT OWES HIS SINGULAR APPEARANCE TO... OLD HANOVERIAN HOUNDS OF GERMANY. ” Sandra Murray was a longtime contributor to SHOWSIGHT Magazine who passed away in January of 2017. We are once again grateful to be able to share one of her articles here, which first appeared in the June 2016 edition of Sight & Scent Magazine, for the benefit of new and long-term readers.
A Medieval print of hounds holding a wild boar for the hunter to kill. photo courtesy of Wikimedia
No wild boar existed in North Carolina at that time for the Plott family’s hounds, but plenty of black bears inhabited those mountains. George’s hounds eagerly took to trailing this large game animal. So began the development of this unique hound named after Herr Plott in honor of the multi-generational breed- ing program pursued by him and his large family. The mountainous terrain required a leggier, more agile hound than the old Hanoverian, so the Plotts practiced selective breeding to produce a taller, lighter-framed hound that could navigate the mountainous terrain with speed and agility. However, very little outcrossing occurred, nor did any Foxhound blood ever enter the gene pool. The Plott retained his distinctive brindle coloring from his Hanoverian ancestors.
In 1750, Johannes Plott brought five of these Havoverian Boar Hounds with him from Germany to the mountains of North Carolina. photo courtesy of Wikimedia
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THE HOUND OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: THE PLOTT HOUND
They are the suspected culprit in con- taminating the spinach crop with e-coli bacteria in 2006. As a result of their pil- laging, there is no set season to hunt feral pigs—it’s open season all year long. Feral pigs can be extremely aggressive. Hence, the need for a tough, aggressive, fearless hound to hunt them; exactly the qualifi- cations met by the Plott. In addition, he can compete with the traditional coonhound breeds in that oh- so-crucial “voice” of hunting hounds. Although this trait has no measureable standard, it still ranks high in importance for Plott owners. Joe Burkett, DVM, a longtime Plott breeder, speaks of what he listens for in his dogs: “For me, the ideal remains a beautiful hound that opens and trails with a bawl on track and finishes the chase with a distinctive chop at bay or on tree. The voice change in tone, pitch, and volume communicates to the houndsman the progression and state of the chase.” For those of us who remain relatively ignorant of many of these scenthound terms, Burkett explains, “Most Plotts are ‘chop mouths.’ They use short, sharp barks when they ‘open,’ meaning they’ve located the scent of their quarry and begun to trail. Plotts may ‘bawl’ while trailing, using a longer, more prolonged voice. Each hunter must recognize his dog’s ‘change over bark’ when the quarry is cornered or treed, and the dog reverts to an excited ‘chop.’ Plotts will not have the long, protracted ‘bawl’ of a Black and Tan Coonhound or a Blue Tick. The fact that the Plotts are used for ‘coon hunting’ is simply another chapter in their versatile character. I suppose that, to me, they have always been Plotts, not strictly coonhounds! Being a Plott always said something more to me than being just a coonhound.” Although in the eastern half of the country he hunts mainly raccoon and feral pigs, the Plott can still use that “bawl and chop” on large carnivores in the western lands of the US, Canada, and parts of Mexico. Writer Richard B. Woodward notes, “Outdoorsmen from as far away as Africa and Japan hold the Plott in near-mystical esteem as perhaps the world’s toughest dog. Bred to track, run down, tree, and if necessary, grapple with a baying 500-pound bear eight times its size, it is often overmatched but rarely chastened by that fact. Inspect the coat of one that has worked in the woods for a year or more, and you will likely find slash marks from a bear’s claws or a hog’s tusks. Plotts will routinely stay on game, alone or in packs, for days at a time. Willing to
A Plott intent on following a trail over rough terrain will not be deterred. The Plott is a most determined hunter. photo, Wikimedia
Two unidentified members of the Plott family with their hounds before a hunt. photo courtsey of appalachianhistory.net/
The fame of the Plott family’s hounds spread throughout the Smoky Mountain region of the Southeast. So proud of this homegrown scenthound were the citizens of North Carolina, that in 1988, the Plott Hound became North Carolina’s official state dog. One of the Plott’s notable attributes remains his versatility. The New World offered more than bears for sportsmen who hunted with Plotts. Western North Carolina, before the Revolution and for decades after, held a wide variety of large game; cougars, wolves, and bobcats as well as the bears. The toughness of the Plott and his ability to track a cold trail so impressed local land owners that they came to the Plott family to buy hunting dogs and breeding stock. As the nine Plott children grew up and moved into adjacent regions and states, they took their hounds with them, furthering the fame and popu- larity of this new breed. VERSATILITY OF THE PLOTT The Plott’s versatility became evident as the large predators were mostly eliminated from the Southeast of the US through hunt- ing and habitat loss. Sportsmen turned to raccoons, a varmint that was both plentiful and adept at egg stealing and crop raid- ing. The Plott’s keen nose and relentless Champion littermates, CH Simmons IN Storm’s Gotcha with her littermate GCH Simmons IN DayDream’s Gotcha winning the Pairs Championship at a UKC show. The Pairs Class is similar to the AKC Brace Class in that the dogs should be as similar as possible. Amanda Alexander handled Storm while Elwod Simmons handled Dream. Both Storm and Dream retired at Amanda’s kennel. photo courtesy of Amanda Alexander
Due to their drive, courage, and toughness, Plott’s still hunt large game today. photo courtesy of houndscene.com
tracking drive, coupled with great endur- ance, made him a superb coonhound. How- ever, he is much more than that. Although wild boar may not have reached the mountains of North Carolina when George Plott first settled there, they would soon arrive. Feral pigs had already entered North America thanks to Span- ish expeditions, both as a food source as well as for hunting sport. Hernando de Soto and Juan Ponce de León introduced Eurasian domestic swine to Florida in the early 16th century. Other European immigrants introduced various species of hogs throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and due to the lack of fencing, many of those went feral. Given that sows can typically have 14 piglets in a litter, it didn’t take long for feral hogs to proliferate throughout the Southeast. Thus, another primary use of the Plott today is on wild boar—feral pigs that have exploded in population numbers. Biologists estimate that five million feral pigs now roam the US. They currently proliferate throughout the Southeast, California, Hawaii, and into the Midwest and even the Northeast, presenting a real threat to agriculture. Feral pigs can dev- astate 40 acres of forest in a single night and destroy acres of crops within hours.
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THE HOUND OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: THE PLOTT HOUND
This Plott wears the usual brindling pattern that can come in a wide variety of shadings in the background color. Even black and buckskin colors are allowed, although any of the brindle coloration is more common. photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Amanda Alexander’s superb Plott, BIS GCH CNC CCH Black Monday, was bred by Christina Officer. “Monday” is the first AKC Plott champion, the first Plott Best of Breed Westminster winner, the first and only Best in Show winner, Night Champion, Bench Champion, and is still the top-winning Plott in the history of the breed in AKC. Monday went on to win the breed at Westminster three times. His son, “Capone,” has won three times, and his nephew, “Vito,” has also won the breed three times. Black Monday sports the distinctive black saddle marking of some Plotts. photo by B. Knoll
sacrifice themselves before they’ll run from a showdown, they are the ninja warriors of dogdom. By comparison, the Beagle is a layabout, and the Pit Bull a pansy.” Plott breeder, Burkett, adds that these hounds are more aggressive than the typi- cal coonhounds. “Sometimes a cornered bear will not go up a tree, but just sit down to catch his breath. Other coonhounds will simply bawl at that bear and then take up the chase again when the bear runs off again. Not a Plott! He will leap in for a bite, pulling out a bit of hair in the process, forcing the bear to climb up a tree to avoid this brindle fury.” It’s nearly unimaginable that a dog of about 65 pounds would fear- lessly take on a 500 pound bear, but such is the utter fearlessness of the Plott. Given their temperament and superb nose, Plotts make wonderful search and rescue dogs. They also assist the USDA Border Patrol “Tick Force.” The Texas fever tick carries a fatal hemolytic disease seen in cattle and sheep that can decimate herds of livestock. Although the US eradi- cated the fever tick from our soil in 1943, constant diligence is needed to prevent stray Mexican cattle from wandering onto US land and infecting cattle here. “Tick riders” patrol the border from the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas west to the Pacific Ocean. These riders use Plotts to track, bay, and help capture maverick Mex- ican cattle that have crossed into the US.
The Plotts help protect the multibillion dollar beef cattle industry all along our southern border. AKC ACCEPTANCE BRINGS MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE PLOTT With the acceptance of the Plott into the regular classes and activities of the AKC in 2006, new challenges and oppor- tunities face breeders of this superlative hunting hound. Burkett believes, “The AKC conformation events and field tri- als that now include the Plott will afford the all-American Plott its long overdue and much-deserved recognition as one of the world’s finest scenthounds and [the] American workingman’s dependable and versatile working dog.” The AKC performance events offer the Plott many opportunities in which to shine. Burkett notes, “The Plott’s intel- ligence, tractability, and desire to please their master make them trainable for any- thing…” In addition to the obvious choice of field trials, the Plott can excel in agility, tracking, nose work, rally, obedience, dock diving, and much more. Unlike the softer expressions of the oth- er scenthounds, the expression of the Plott, as described in the breed standard, should be “confident, inquisitive, determined,” as befits this most determined of scenthounds. True to his history as a mountain dog that had to cover a great deal of rough
Another of Amanda Alexander’s Plotts, RBIS GCH CGCH Mob Boss Vito’s Gotcha, who won BOB at Westminster K.C. three times. He is a nephew of Black Monday. Vito has that distinctive Plott Hound expression that reflects the breed’s intelligence, fearlessness, and confidence, coupled with a regal bearing. The Alexander Plotts have won the breed every year since they have been eligible to exhibit at Westminster. Rhonda Cassidy, photographer
Eight-week-old Plott puppy, Mob Boss Bear Pen’s Gotcha, sired by CH Alexander’s Mob Boss Goomah out of Bear Pen’s Horse With No Name. The unique temperament of the Plott emerges even in young puppies. They are very active and tend to growl sometimes before their eyes are even open. photo courtesy of Amanda Alexander
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THE HOUND OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: THE PLOTT HOUND
“A PLOTT’S LOVE AND LOYALTY BELONG TO HIS HUMAN AND TO FAMILY MEMBERS; HE IS WONDERFUL WITH CHILDREN, LOVINGLY GUARDING THEM FROM HARM.”
at shows. They typically prefer their mas- ter and aren’t the “social butterfly” of the coonhound world.” For judges of the Plott, their challenge remains to sort through the many varia- tions and styles of Plotts to reward those dogs that best match the breed standard. As Burkett observes, “…Two hounds could easily be of similar conformation qual- ity, but appear as substantially different styles.” Regional separation and type of game hunted with the Plotts created this wide variety, so it will take years to sort out a more uniform breed type that breed- ers and judges can agree should prevail. Achieving that goal for this breed will be well worth the effort. The Plott, with his singular history, appearance, and tempera- ment, deserves a solid future. Grateful thanks to Joe Burkett, DVM, of White Deer Kennel and Amanda Alexander of Alexander Hounds for their invaluable infor- mation and explanations concerning Plotts. RESOURCES: 1. The Plott Hound, Wikipedia Free Ency- clopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Plott_Hound 2. Featured Breeder Questions and Answers, Joe Burkett DVM, White Deer Kennel Plott Hounds, Sight & Scent, August 2007. http://whitedeerkennel.com/sightnscent.htm 3. Great Plott! The toughest dog on the plan- et makes its debut at Westminster, Richard B. Woodward, Slate, Feb. 12, 2008 http:// www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/ heavy_petting/2008/02/great_plott.html
hyperaware of their surroundings, which is an important trait to have in a hunting dog. If they note a change in their environ- ment, they will fixate on that, wanting to investigate this difference. It becomes dif- ficult to pull their attention back to their human handler.” Alexander noted that when showing a Plott in conformation, if something catches the eye of a Plott in a neighboring ring, she has a challenge in bringing the dog’s focus back on her. Perhaps the most outstanding tempera- ment trait of the Plott is his unmatched courage. He truly is the “terrier” of the scenthounds in his total fearlessness when confronted with an opponent—no matter the size or the ferocity. CHALLENGES FOR BREEDERS AND JUDGES Realistically, most of the die-hard big game hunters using Plotts will not rush to AKC conformation events. For the Plott breeders who want to participate in con- formation competition to retain the cor- rect breed type, their challenge will be two-fold: To retain the legendary hunting ability of the Plott while avoiding the pit- fall of so many hunting breeds; having two distinct strains of Plotts, one for hunting and one for the show ring. If Plott breeders can work cooperatively to ensure the Plott remains a truly “dual dog,” success in both venues will follow. Alexander definitely strives for “dual dogs” in her breeding program. She shared some final thoughts on breeding Plotts: “We do not breed very often, as we feel there aren’t enough qualified homes to place pups and we typically keep pups we produce. Not every Plott should be bred just based on its pedigree, so our dogs won’t make an impact as far as in the breeding pen but moreso as breed ambassadors. When we do breed a litter, our focus is on conformation, ability, and personality. Our dogs that we show are also hunted and we never want to lose that function.” Plotts are not for everyone. They take a lot of socialization as pups and, although fearless when working, tend to be cautious
ground efficiently, the breed standard dictates, “With ample reach in front and drive behind, the Plott easily traverses vari- ous terrains with agility and speed. Legs converge to single track at speed.” Such structure and gait give him the endurance and agility for just about anything that his owner cares to do with this breed. Add to those traits a keen intelligence and a desire to please his human, the Plott should only increase in his popularity with those who love to participate in performance events with their dogs. PLOTT TEMPERAMENT The unanimous opinion among Plott breeders is that this “hound of another color” differs not only in looks from other coonhounds, but also in temperament. Plott breeder, Amanda Alexander, has been involved in Plotts for almost 15 years. The breed intrigued her with their striking color, look, and personality. Whereas the other coonhounds are gregarious people lovers, the Plott remains aloof to strang- ers. As Alexander explains, “Plotts tend to be aloof with strangers, and would pre- fer to be the one to approach a stranger first.” A Plott’s love and loyalty belong to his human and to family members; he is wonderful with children, lovingly guard- ing them from harm. To prevent a Plott from becoming a “one man (or woman) dog,” a Plott puppy needs a great deal of socialization to enable it to accept all of the people and experiences that come with our modern world. This is especially true if the puppy will be shown in conformation. To calmly accept handling by judges and the attentions of ringside observers takes careful preparation. Another hallmark of the Plott tempera- ment is their cognitive ability. They learn quickly and never forget anything! This can be both a plus and a minus in training, because the trainer must be exactly correct in training for any new task. The Plott will have it mastered quickly and permanently stored in his memory. As Alexander states, “Plotts are thinking dogs that think about everything.” She also adds that, “Plotts are
4. (Johannes) George Plott, Duch- ess of Brookhaven, Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/
fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=103853935 – recent genealogical research has replaced the old narrative of George Plott’s arrival in the New World with this current, more accurate information. 5. Hog wild: Feral pig population explodes in U.S, Verna Gates, Reuters, Fri Jun 22, 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pigs- wild-idUSBRE85L1CF20120622
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History of the Plott By Erma Alexander Plotts
Peter Hildebrand was born in 1655 in the Palatine region in southwest Germany. In 1690, along with his wife Mary and three sons, Peter left Germany and traveled by ship to New York. A few years later, the Hildebrands would move to Lancaster county Pennsylvania. This while not the start of German immigration to the New World was a Bavarian crumb trail, which would eventually lead to North Carolina. In 1764, the ship Hero docked in Philadelphia, PA. Onboard, Conrad Hildebrand I, grandson of Peter. Conrad would move on to North Carolina where he became an extensive landowner. It is said that state land grants gave him all land located between Henry River and Jacob’s Fork River. Conrad flourished as a businessman and would later own a grist and powder mill which would help Americans fight the Revolutionary war. With land in what is now Mecklenburg, Catawba and Burke counties, it is hard to imagine that young Johannes (George) Plott did not come into contact with the Hildebrands as he made his way across North Carolina. The Palatinate region in Germany was a highly contested piece of property. Romans ruled it as well as the German monarchy however it had been besieged by both the French and British during the 1600 and 1700s. In fact, the area was at war from 1618-1648 during the 30 year war. King Louis XIV even threw his hat in the ring from 1689-1697. This was a war torn land that the Hildebrands and later the Plotts would leave. Why they left is pure conjecture and speculation but I like to think it is a combination of personal safety, financial security and religious free- dom that would see these two German families immigrate to a great unknown land. The Hildebrands would bring with them business sense and savvy while the Plotts great carry-on baggage would be five of their families best dogs. If you could search on Google Earth 1800, the area that the Johannes (George) Plott left in the Black Forest area of
Germany would look remarkably like the land that his family would eventually settle in the mountains of western North Carolina. The Black Forest, given its name by Romans for its perpetual darkness, even in daylight, averages between 2000-4000 feet in elevation with a highest point near 5000 feet. Tall pine trees nearly blocked out the Sun by day much like my home in North Carolina. Certainly in Johannes Plotts memories there was a resemblance. The area around Waynesville, NC is gor- geous. The mountains are tall, the gorges are deep and the abundance of game is unrivalled. This was both a dream come true for a hunter as well as a nightmare. In the Garmin friendly days of today it is absolutely astonishing that anyone ever made it home from these celebrated bear hunts. This land is unforgiving both to man and dog and it is no wonder the leg- end of the Plotts both family and dog grew exponentially from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s.
share a slight difference of opinion as to what the perfect Plott is, John and Von also had differences. In reading Bob Plott’s book, Strike & Stay- The Story of the Plott Hound , one will quickly see the dif- ferences in the style of dogs these brothers hunted. Von’s hounds were in fact hounds. Longer, low set ears and heavier boned bodies were at the end of Von’s leash while his brother John had the higher set, short- er ear of a cur. This is just a guess but I bet around the Thanksgiving table the conver- sation went like this: Von: “Whew doggie that was a race. Ole Happy struck a trail so cold that his nose near fell off from frostbite. That ole bear’s tracks must have been a month old but Balsam and Link put him up a tree.” John: “I heard that race Von. I couldn’t tell if you was on a bear or someone had escaped from the prison again.” You see John Plott was said to adhere more strictly to his father’s taste in Plotts. Cur-like features and grit to spare. In time, the official Plott standard would be writ- ten in favor of John’s ideal Plott but as breeders and judges you will still see the effects of both of these great houndsmen. Let’s dive into the standard for a minute. I want to cover some portions of the standard because they are the basic defining points of the breed. Granted, no one trait is a “Plott” it takes all but these two pieces really set them apart from the other five coonhound breeds. As I like to say at my seminars, the Spinone is the hound of the sporting group and the Plott is the sporting dog of the hound group. What I mean by this is that a Plott is not
The Plotts of yesterday and today show very little change. In fact, I can find you a dozen real live Plotts today that we can match to photos from yesterday. The biggest changes in the breed type itself actually occurred within the Plott family itself. John and Vaughn (Von) Plott were brothers and the sons of Montraville Plott. Just as many of today’s Plott breeders
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History of the Plott
By Erma Alexander
hound-like when compared to the Bloodhound, the Black & Tan Coonhound or the other scent hounds for that matter. It is far more like a German Shorthaired Pointer than a Bloodhound. While the Plott is NOT a “head breed”, the head- piece does distinguish it from the other coonhound breeds. From the Plott stan- dard, “ Ears- Medium length, soft tex- tured, fairly broad, set moderately high to high. Hanging gracefully with the inside part rolling forward toward the muzzle. ” The standard goes on to give a length range that unlike the old black and tan standard, does not promote length of ear but lack thereof. In fact, in an effort to remove the “hound-like” appearance in some Plott strains, a disqualification was added. “ Disqualification- Length of ear extending beyond the tip of the nose OR hanging bloodhound like in a long, pen- dulous fashion .” None of us today know the exact mixture that made a Plott. What we do know are the important traits that our Plott forefathers thought a Plott should have. As long as we breed for a bal- ance of these traits we will keep “Plott”ing along however if we place more weight on one trait over others we end up with prob- lems. For example; we really want a dog that aggressively engages the bear, hog or lion. We breed for a terrier-like tenacity that will eventually lead to a lot of injured or dead dogs. On the other hand, if we con- tinuously breed for scenting abilities we may end up with dogs that will not active- ly engage the game which in turn either gets other dogs injured or killed or loses the game being hunted. These traits are all well and good but do they translate to physical characteristics? The high-eared, almost terrier-like look of some Plotts give them an aggressive look that to me denotes that very trait, while a Bloodhound-like long ear look suggest a softness and ability to track. John Plott wanted a more medium type nose and high set, medium length ears to go with it. Eventually, this is what made it into the breed standard. These observations of mine do not mean that a shorter eared dog can’t strike, trail and tree a cold track in no way shape or form. What I want you to
focus on is the look. A Bloodhound LOOKS like it can smell into tomorrow if it wanted to. An Airedale Terrier LOOKS like it would tear the hide of a bear, boar or sofa if given the chance. Whether they will, can or do is not up for debate. The desired look of these Plotts, have with- stood the changes in hunting and sport for the breed and are basically the same today as they were in John Plotts day. As I stat- ed earlier, the Plott is NOT a head breed although when judging for breed type the head-piece will and should play an impor- tant role.
taste however, I find white extending beyond the chest and up the throat very offensive. Even with that, I would not let color be my final point of judgment. While on the topic of color, you may see Plotts or other coonhound breeds with freeze brands on their flanks. These are for iden- tification purposes only and should not count against the dog. If they obscure your ability to judge the dog in question have the handler turn it around as they are typ- ically on one side of the dog. This mark- ings allow the owners to quickly separate packs when gathering the dogs after a hunt and they discourage theft of dogs that sell for large sums of money. The most important part of the Plott breed standard is the general appearance. When a Plott walks into the show ring, or pops out of your dogbox on a leash this is what I expect to see: “ A hunting hound of striking color that traditionally brings big game to bay or tree, the Plott is intel- ligent, alert and confident. Noted for sta- mina, endurance, agility, determination and aggressiveness when hunting, the powerful, well muscled, yet stream-lined Plott combines courage with athletic ability .” The temperament of the breed can seem aloof but they should never be fearful. Many times in my seminars I use the phrase, “if it looks wrong, it probably is wrong.” I naively assume that the judges I see are dog people and I will continue to err on that side of things. Maybe you have been hunting with dogs before and maybe you have not. You need to picture the Plott doing its job and then say, can that dog right there do that job? If the answer in your mind is yes, then you are looking at a Plott. A great reference tool for this breed can be found in Strike & Stay, The Story of the Plott Hound, by Bob Plott. It is a very informative book on the Plott family and I believe it can be purchased at www.bob- plott.com . If you are just a hound person it is a must have for your library. If you are a Plott person it is a fair and comprehen- sive history of your breed. If you are a hound judge or a potential hound judge it is a photographic bible in learning the desired look of this breed.
The tangible hallmark of the Plott breed if there is one, is the color. That is a big IF since there are so many variations to the color that are acceptable. I say tangi- ble because anyone can point to a beauti- ful brindle hound-like dog and assume Plott. It is easily recognizable although the true hallmarks of this exciting breed are mostly intangible. Their courage, tenacity and versatility have no limits and no means to easily measure. Color we can work with. “ Any shade of brindle (a streaked or striped pattern of dark hair imposed on a lighter background) is pre- ferred. ” This means if two equal dogs are exhibited, the one with brindle should place over the one without. I hope we all know that there is no such thing as two equal dogs and the color should seldom have impact on judging. The AKC standard thankfully allows the solid black and solid buckskin colored Plotts. “ Some white on chest and feet is permissible as is a gray- ing effect around the jaws and muzzle .” I suppose “some white” is highly subjec- tive and better left to your own personal
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By Amanda Alexander
he Plott is the only coonhound that is not a descendent of the fox- hound. Keeping this in mind while judging them and not compar-
ing them to the other coonhound breeds. ey are of German descent and were bred in North Carolina by the Plott fam- ily. Th ey were originally bred to hunt big game such as bear and wild boar and still do this day. A lot of hunters use them on raccoons also since they have a natural ability to track and tree game. Plotts of today compete in bench shows, water rac- es, field trials, nite hunts, aggression test and conformation shows. When judging the Plott your impres- sion should be of an athlete with moderate bone structure that can hunt night after night and for hours at a time. Plotts are striking with an intimidating look rather than a soft hound expression. Th ese are fearless hunters willing to risk it all to keep a boar or bear bayed until the hunters come in. Th ey are very alert and are always aware of their surroundings. Some are aloof with strangers as they typically have one “mas- ter” that turns them loose on game. Th is is a pack animal and works with other dogs, not to say there isn’t competition amongst the dogs themselves but they typically work together. One of the characteristics that sets the Plott apart fromthe other coonhoundbreeds is their color. Th ey are the only breed that comes in brindle. Several di ff erent shades of brindle is acceptable along with a black sad- dle and brindle legs. Plotts come in “buck- skin” which is also a fawn and “maltese” which is a blue coloring but is required to have a brindle base. Plotts can also be solid black. Th eir ears are set moderately high to high and should not have a pendulous look to them. It’s a disqualification if their ears go past their nose when checking length. Th ere’s nothing about a Plott that gives
you an impression of “houndiness”. Th eir head should neither be square or narrow but moderately flat skull with roundness at the crown. Muzzle is medium length with equal plains with the skull. Flews should not be excessive. Topline is level slopping from withers to hip slightly and tail set is below the croup. Th eir tail should always be carried up as this is in our standard and it shows temperament. A fearless, determined hunter as the Plott is does not hunt with their tails tucked but up and proud as they track game. Plotts feet are very important just as any hunting or performance breed. Th ey are the shock absorbers and a flat, splayed foot causes problems the whole way up the leg. Th is is a disqualification in the breed to have such feet and hunters
take this into consideration. All parts of the Plott are developed to accommodate rough terrain, and able to handle the impact of hunting day or night. Th eir coat can either be short and smooth but thick enough for protection or a double coat that has a softer under coat and a sti ff er outer coat for pro- tection. In my experience I have seen the Plotts that are mostly used on coon with a short smoother type coat and the big game hounds tend to have the thicker, harsh type coats with more brush on their tails. Plotts should cover ground e ff ortlessly when they are turned loose on game so they need to have proper reach and drive as an endur- ance hunter not a speed hunter. Th ey work by scent and use their voice to communi- cate with the hunter to let them know when
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they have reached their game. To bay is to hold their game in an area and keep it there till hunters arrive and to tree is to keep the coon up the tree by barking at it till hunt- ers come. Plotts are very pleasing dogs and with plenty of exercise and their attention directed can make wonderful pets. Always keeping in mind these dogs are prey driv- en so not all can cuddle on a couch with the cat. Some hunters choose to use freeze branding as a method of identification so some Plotts encountered could have white hair with initials or numbers that the ken- nel owner uses to identify his pack. Some of these dogs are worth a lot of money and to keep track of each other’s dogs at night its easier at times to see the white markings than a darker dog. No coonhound should
be penalized for scars, ripped ears as this is very much a working breed and should remain that way. BIO Amanda Alexander has been involved in coonhounds for 15 years with her fam- ily. Her father hunted and trapped for fur back in the 70s and 80s when fur was worth much more than what it is now. He had his favorite dogs that, night after night, proved to be outstanding dogs. When those dogs eventually passed away, he was left with a feeling he would never find dogs of their caliber and gave up the sport and since the fur price declined he didn’t have a desire to hunt. Eventually her father couldn’t go on without having
coonhounds around so Amanda took over the love of the breed and continue to hunt, show and raise all six breeds of coonhounds with him. Together, they have been in Plotts for 12 years now. Amanda is the current pres- ident of the Plott Association of America which is the parent club of AKC. She has been involved in all aspects of the breed, including owning a “Big Game Dog of Th e Year” in UKC and she owned the top win- ning Plott in AKC, BIS GCH CCH CNC CH Black Monday. Amanda currently shows his son--the top winning breeder/ owner/handled Plott in AKC. She has won the breed at Westminster six years in a row. Amanda plans to continue to promote the dual purpose show and hunting Plott.
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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 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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