This changed with the waning of the Middle Ages. As the population grew, the forests receded and the deer population dwindled. The British gentry, wishing to continue their ritualized horses-and-hounds pastime, slowly phased out stag hunting in favor of a new type of quarry: the red fox.
The traditional British foxhunt, with packs of bawling hounds and mounted hunters thundering over rolling acres of lawn and hedge, began in the 1600s. “Masters of hounds” developed a dog for this lordly pastime by breeding big stag-hunting hounds (for nose and endurance) to leggy Greyhound-type hounds (for speed and agility). The result was the English Foxhound, whose form and demeanor remain remarkably unchanged today.
By the 1700s, foxhunts were all the rage among the English upper crust. Colonial American sportsmen, including George Washington and his wealthy Virginia neighbors, recreated a bit of their mother country by staging English-style foxhunts on their plantations. Washington was a key figure in creating the American Foxhound, a slimmer, taller hound developed by crosses of English Foxhounds to imported French hounds from the kennels of the Marquis de Lafayette. It is likely also that English Foxhound blood courses through the veins of coonhound breeds developed by American frontiersmen.
English Foxhounds are generally healthy dogs. There are several health considerations owners should be aware of; large and deep-chested breeds are susceptible to gastric dilatation-volvulus, or bloat, a sudden, life-threatening stomach condition. English Foxhound owners should learn what signs to look out for and what actions to take should they occur. Low-hanging ears such as the Foxhound’s can be prone to infection, so the ears should be checked regularly. The teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.
The English Foxhound’s short, hard, dense, and glossy coat requires minimal maintenance. A weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush or a hound glove will help to remove dirt and loose hair and keep the dog looking his best, and an occasional bath (using a gentle shampoo) can help keep him from having a doggy odor. The ears should be regularly inspected and cleaned if needed with soft gauze and an ear-cleaning solution’ the dog’s breeder or the veterinarian can recommend a good brand to use. The nails should be trimmed often if not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort and problems walking and running.
The English Foxhound is an easygoing dog but does need plenty of daily exercise and outdoor activity. The breed is a good one for an active family with plenty of acreage. English Foxhounds are not recommended for city or apartment living, as their space will be too confined. They are high-energy dogs, but with the proper amount of exercise, they are gentle, social, and relaxed indoors. Since they are bred to run for miles, they can make good hiking and running companions. Daily long, brisk walks are important for this breed. As scent hounds, they may want to run off and explore an interesting scent, so it is important to keep the dog on leash unless in a safely enclosed area. The breed can participate in obedience, tracking, agility, coursing ability tests, rally, and other canine sports and activities.
Like many other hounds, English Foxhounds generally have an independent nature and can be stubborn. Training takes consistency, patience, and an understanding of scent hound temperament. They respond well to calm, loving, but firm leadership and are willing and able to be obedient once the pack order is established. As pack hounds, they love the companionship of other dogs and people, so they do well in families with other dogs and children. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the English Foxhound grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.