Say Hello to 5 Classic Hound Dog Breeds

Hound dog breeds may not top your typical lists for smartest dog breeds, but that might be because they weren’t developed to follow human training to a tee. Let’s hear from a few hound dog breeds right here.

A beagle sniffing while out on a walk.
A beagle sniffing while out on a walk. Photography ©Halfpoint | Thinkstock.

Hound dogs are hunters by nature. Some howl, some bay and some slobber. Hound dog breeds are generally friendly, curious, committed to following a scent, and regularly named (uh-oh!) on the dumbest dog breeds lists.

In Stanley Coren’s 1994 Intelligence of Dogs report, no hound dog breeds topped the list. In fact, many hound dog breeds sit near the bottom. Coren concentrated on working and obedience intelligence, focusing on a breed’s ability to learn commands. But hound dog breeds weren’t developed to follow man’s ceaseless commands. Instead, hound dogs hunt with instinctive intelligence, often independently and out of sight. When we try to teach hound dog breeds to sit, stay or come, we are asking for working and obedience intelligence. That’s not their strong suit!

Let’s meet a few hound dog breeds and hear their side of the story.


Beagle. Photography courtesy Cassie Miller, Milroc Beagles.
Beagles are one of the most popular hound dog breeds. Photography courtesy Cassie Miller, Milroc Beagles.

Although often associated with 18th-century British hunters in artwork and books, we’re actually linked to more ancient hounds. We Beagles are famous for our keen sense of smell. We’re distinguished for successfully chasing down rabbits and other small game. These days we’re primarily family dogs, but we’re also employed to detect harmful substances in airport luggage. We’re celebrated for our kind and merry disposition. And while we love exercise, we don’t beg for nonstop workouts. We’re also sturdy but conveniently mid-sized, and can live comfortably in apartments. No wonder we’re the most popular of the hound dog breeds!


Bloodhounds are lovable scenthounds. Photography ©alkir | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

We’re the large, gentle-eyed hound with the especially saggy facial folds. We make this list of hound dogs breeds because we’re tireless and passionate for following scents. We were originally developed in England for hunting and catching poachers. By the way, our name associates us with aristocrats (gentry blood), not blood on a trail. More recently we’ve been working in the United States, helping locate lost hunters, children, backpackers or the elderly. We also excel in tracking sports, and we relish a good outdoor adventure. We won’t, however, typically gather accolades in obedience competition. Why are you all so bossy, anyway?


Greyhounds are known for racing but they’re also among the top hound dog breeds, too. Photography courtesy Ernie Slone.

A sweet and calm sighthound, we’re proud to wear the label as the fastest dog. You’re likely familiar with us from our racing history, but track racing (with circular or oval tracks) didn’t become popular until the 20th century when the motorized lure was developed. Before track racing, we enjoyed the sport of coursing. You’ll see our ancestors in European artwork, often depicted hunting with the lord of the manor. Today, we’ll shine in lure coursing (we chase a plastic bag rather than live animals), but we tend to nap the rest of the day. We retired racers adapt rather readily to new homes. Hopefully there’s an especially soft couch waiting for us …


Borzois are sighthounds. Photography ©volofin | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

We’re sighthounds, developed in Russian for both speed and agility. A favorite with nobility, we hunted wolves, hares and other prey animals on the Russian plains. Distinct from our scenthound cousins above, we sighthounds aren’t preoccupied with smells. Instead, we spot our prey, take off, and keep our quarry in sight until we overtake it. Not surprisingly, we can detect motion quickly; our vision is keen. We’re graceful, elegant and aristocratic. Like other hound dog breeds, we were bred to think for ourselves. After all, when we hunted we were released by humans, not ordered around.

Basset Hound

Basset Hound.
Those long Basset Hound ears aren’t only adorable — they serve a purpose, too! Photography courtesy Jennie Hibbert, Maple Street Bassets.

Easy-going and approachable, we’re celebrated for our bays and howls. We were bred in France to trail small game steadily and slowly, so humans could keep pace. Our long ears are lovely, but they also serve a purpose: they help stir up the scents of prey. We sometimes work in packs to drive small prey out from cover into open land for our hunters’ benefit. Today, we shine in tracking, field trials, hunt tests and scent work. Sports that make use of our amazing noses are our favorites.

Tell us: Do you have one of these hound dog breeds? What hound dog breeds would you add to the list?

Thumbnail: Photography ©Halfpoint | Thinkstock.

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11 thoughts on “Say Hello to 5 Classic Hound Dog Breeds”

  1. Pingback: Does Your Dog Make the List of the Dumbest Dog Breeds? – Comforts 4 Pets

  2. Pingback: Does Your Dog Make the List of the Dumbest Dog Breeds? – Pet Dedicated

  3. Pingback: | Chippiparai Dog. The small game hunter

  4. Best freeing dog ever is my Black Mouth Cur, which I have yet to seen profiled on your site. These dogs are amazing. I will never own another breed.

  5. Our Walker Hound was a rescue and totally shut down when we brought her home. She has proven to be the smartest, quickest learning dog we ever had (Goldens and Labs). She has a whole repetoire of tricks, reads commands, and taught herself how to play the piano. Maybe hounds have been neglected and not given a chance to prove themselves thanks to preconceived generalizations about their intelligence.

  6. We have had 2 BEAGLES. Currently, Budinger (BUDDY), who is the best dog in the world. He is smart, affectionate, inquisitive, precious and we will only have BEAGLES. Not only good looking, but soooo cuddly and sweet.

    Pollard family

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