George Washington’s Favorite Dog Breed is Now America’s Least Popular
Among the multitude of dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the English Foxhound finds itself at the bottom rung of popularity, even below scarcely encountered breeds like the Azawakh and Pharaoh Hounds.
This breed’s journey to relative obscurity is intertwined with history. Notably, the first president of the United States, George Washington, played a pivotal role in importing English Foxhounds to the States and developing the American Foxhound. He achieved this by crossing English Foxhounds with slimmer, taller hounds imported from French kennels.
This trend isn’t confined to the United States. According to an article published by the Daily Mail, the English Foxhound is the breed most likely to go extinct in Great Britain. In 2022, only one English Foxhound was born in England—the breed’s country of origin. But what has made the public turn their backs on a breed with hundreds of years of history?
Here, we’ll delve into why the English Foxhound is facing the threat of extinction, learn what life with this dog breed is like, and answer some of the most common questions about this intriguing and ultra-rare breed.
Why Is The English Foxhound So Unpopular?
The English Foxhound originated in England in the 1600s—the result of purposeful breeding done by master hunters and hound handlers working for English nobility. By crossing large-game hunting hounds with super-fast Greyhound-type dogs, the English Foxhound was gradually developed and standardized specifically for fox hunting.
Fox hunts would be grand affairs led by enormous packs of dozens of hounds—mostly English Foxhounds. The dogs would use their superior scent to track and chase the red foxes, running long distances and at high speeds. English Foxhounds were perfect at what they were bred for, but the British fox hunt soon fell out of style and was eventually banned altogether.
Because English Foxhounds were no longer needed as hunting dogs, demand for the breed quickly began to dwindle. Those who tried to introduce English Foxhounds to their homes as companions found that a docile house pet life isn’t compatible with the needs or temperament of the English Foxhound.
Like most scent hounds, the English Foxhound needs a lot of stimulation and has extraordinarily high energy levels. Daily walks—no matter how many you take—aren’t enough to get their energy out. Combining the need for extensive daily exercise with an extra-high prey drive, the English Foxhound is a difficult dog for many everyday dog owners to keep.
So, are English Foxhounds unpopular, or are they just sort of…last century’s fashion?
Meet 4 English Foxhounds on Instagram
Though there are far fewer English Foxhounds than there once were and no fox hunts to keep them in high demand, there are still people around the world devoted to the breed! Let’s meet a handful of English Foxhounds to give you a look at the least popular dog breed in the United States…and England!
Turtle is the quintessential English Foxhound from his coat color to his earnest personality. Most English Foxhounds are a combination of black, white, and tan, and you can see this perfectly with Turtle. A sweet boy who loves to play, Turtle is lucky enough to have a Beagle “brother” to play with whenever he wants to.
Toad is the largest in a family of six hounds and a super good boy! Toad is a red and white English Foxhound with a gentle personality that makes him a fantastic family dog. Toad loves other dogs, people, and little kids, but he’ll also happily spend the day smelling the flowers and basking in the sunshine.
This beautiful girl is Rosie, a lovely little English Foxhound from North Yorkshire who was adopted by her forever family in 2020. Like many hounds, Rosie found herself in a shelter, but now she’s living out the rest of her days with an amazing family that takes her on plenty of adventures.
Frankie is an English Foxhound mix from Connecticut who would happily spend all day, every day, hiking! Like most English Foxhounds, Frankie has tons of energy and will always jump at the chance to get some exercise and stimulation.
English Foxhound Basic Info
Despite their lack of popularity, English Foxhounds are wonderful, loving, super-athletic dogs that can be fantastic companions for the right people. There’s truly nothing wrong with the English Foxhound, despite what their popularity ranking compared to other dog breeds might have you think.
English Foxhound Temperament
Because English Foxhounds were bred for one purpose for centuries, their personalities have remained basically unchanged ever since. Today’s house-pet English Foxhounds have the same social, stubborn, and tenacious personality as their hunting ancestors.
English Foxhounds often lived in groups of dozens or even hundreds of other dogs, requiring them to be even-tempered and gentle while still being assertive and confident. English Foxhounds are intelligent and capable of thinking for themselves, which means they may be selective with their obedience unless they see the benefit of following your training. Foxhounds love to be in a pack, so if you can give them a place in yours they’ll follow you happily.
Because of their superior sense of smell, English Foxhounds are very food-motivated and have high prey drive. This may make them reactive toward small animals, or a bit unreliable around small children. Though many English Foxhounds are very affectionate, their immense energy and strength may be too much in a household with little kids.
English Foxhounds are very high-energy and need plenty of exercise for their bodies and their minds. English Foxhounds can run for long distances, and have a curious nature that can get them into trouble. Training, puzzles, long walks to sniff, and playtime are all great ways to occupy your dog’s mind, but remember that English Foxhounds also need time to burn off that physical energy, which may not be mentally stimulating. You may be shocked at just how much energy an English Foxhound really has.
English Foxhound Size
English Foxhounds are medium-large dogs that stand around 24–25 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 60–75 pounds.
English Foxhound Health
The English Foxhound is a relatively healthy breed prone to very few health issues. Because they have long folded ears, the English Foxhound may be prone to ear infections and should receive regular checkups and cleanings.
Like many low-chested and large breeds, the English Foxhound is also susceptible to bloat, but testing cannot be done for this until symptoms appear.
Where To Find Your Own English Foxhound
To find a reputable English Foxhound breeder in the U.S. we recommend starting with the English Foxhound Club of America’s approved breeder list. Though they are rare, you may also be able to find English Foxhound adoption opportunities through scent hound rescues like Carolina Coonhound Rescue.
If you live in a southern state, it’s also possible you might find an English Foxhound at your local shelter or rescue! Often these pups will be mixes (e.g. English Foxhound Beagle mixes) but they make amazing pets and are ready for homes today.
English Foxhound FAQ
Who knew there was so much to learn about even the least popular dog breeds? Gather a few more pieces of intel on the English Foxhounds with our answers to the most frequently asked questions about the breed.
What is the average lifespan for an English Foxhound?
The typical life expectancy for an English Foxhound is between 10–13 years.
What’s the difference between an American Foxhound vs English Foxhound?
You can’t exactly compare American vs English Foxhounds because one is the descendant of the other! English Foxhounds caught on not only amongst British nobility but across Europe and especially in North America. Believe it or not, the first president of the United States George Washington played a key role in importing English Foxhounds to the States, and developing the American Foxhound by crossing English Foxhounds with slimmer, taller hounds imported from French kennels.
Let’s take a quick peek at an English Foxhound American Foxhound side-by-side comparison. The English Foxhound is on the left and the American Foxhound is on the right:
What other Foxhound breeds exist?
Other than the English and American Foxhounds, there are three other varieties of “Foxhounds.”
Dumfriesshire black and tan Foxhounds were a group of Foxhounds from a singular kennel in Scotland. Now extinct, these dogs were bred exclusively by Glenholm Kennels until 2001 when they disbanded and their breeding programs ceased.
Welsh Hounds are a red and white wire-coated Foxhounds native to the British Isles. Though rare, Welsh Hounds are still being bred as companion animals since hunting with dogs has been outlawed in England and Wales.
Are Foxhounds related to Fox Terriers?
No. Though both Foxhounds and Fox Terriers were bred for use as fox-hunting dogs, they are different breeds from different breed groups and do not intersect historically.
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