Dogs classified as hounds were bred to pursue warm-blooded quarry. Hounds can be either “sighthounds” or “scenthounds.” Sighthounds (Whippets and Greyhounds, for example) use keen vision and speed to spot and pursue prey. Scenthounds—whether a Beagle pursuing a rabbit, or a Bloodhound on human scent—use an uncanny sense of smell to follow a trail over a distance to locate their quarry. Blueticks and their coonhound cousins are scenthounds.
Like all coonhound breeds, the Bluetick is an American creation. Bluetick bloodlines are said to extend back to before the country’s founding, specifically to French staghounds given to George Washington as a gift from his great friend, the Marquis de Lafayette. These were huge, ponderous dogs, easy to follow on foot. Breeders mixed in some English Foxhound along with a few other hound breeds to develop a high-endurance and meticulous hunter with a “cold nose.” (This is raccoon-hunter lingo describing a dog capable of working long, even days, and old scent trails.)
These early Blueticks were used by frontiersmen in pursuit of the wily raccoon, but were often expected to work in packs as a big-game hunter on such dangerous quarry as bear, wild boar, lynx, and cougar. In the early 20th century, Fred Gipson, author of “Old Yeller,” wrote about a line of famous Blueticks: “In this breeding, they’ve got a big, bell-voiced hound with a nose that can pick up a week-old trail, the endurance to run that trail 30 hours at a stretch, and the lusty courage that’ll make him tackle anything that won’t take a tree before he catches him.”
The breed has changed little since Gipson’s time. Blueticks are still a raccoon hunter’s delight and are still fixtures in Southern culture. Since 1953, the Bluetick Coonhound has been the University of Tennessee’s sports mascot.
Temperament: devoted / smart / tenacious
Height: 21 to 27 inches
Weight: 45 to 80 pounds
Life expectancy: 11 to 12 years
The Bluetick Coonhound is generally a healthy breed. Any deep-chested dog may be susceptible to bloat, a sudden and life-threatening condition where the stomach distends and can also twist, cutting off blood supply to organs. Owners should educate themselves as to the symptoms that indicate bloat is occurring and what to do if so. The Bluetick’s low-hanging ears should be checked daily for any signs of infection. As with all breeds, the teeth should be brushed regularly.
The Bluetick Coonhound has a short, glossy coat that sheds only moderately. Weekly brushing with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt, or a hound glove will help to remove loose hairs and keep him looking his best. In general, Blueticks require only an occasional bath, unless they’ve gotten into something especially messy. As with all breeds, the Bluetick’s nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.
Blueticks are bred as hunting dogs and benefit from getting plenty of exercise, although they also enjoy time spent snoozing at their owner’s feet. They will enjoy play sessions with their owner in a securely fenced yard, or long walks on a leash’¿remember that he is a scent hound with a strong prey drive. In addition to hunting and field trials, canine sports like agility and tracking are good outlets to channel the Bluetick’s energy.
As with all breeds, early socialization and treats can be beneficial aids in training a Bluetick.
The Bluetick Coonhound should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.