Southern dog breeds are sometimes bred to hunt but always bred to love
Story by Bailey Gilliam
While the South is responsible for sweet tea, biscuits and Southern hospitality, it’s also responsible for some distinctive dog breeds. According to the American Kennel Club, 16 breeds originated right here in the South. Some may surprise you, some may not, but the question is, how well do you know your dog’s heritage?
We’ll start with an obvious one. The Carolina dog is part of the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service and still can be found living wild around the Georgia-South Carolina border. Yes, that’s right: wild dogs. Carolina dogs descended from canines that accompanied Paelo-Indians who traveled from Asia to North America. These dogs are shy and suspicious but extremely pack-oriented, so they will be loyal to you forever if you make it into their hearts.
The Plott hound is the state dog of North Carolina, so it’s no surprise that it’s a Southern breed. These scent hounds are one of six AKC coonhound breeds and were bred to hunt bears and wild boar. The name comes from German immigrant Johannes Plott, who came to North Carolina in 1750 with his five Hanover hounds which he bred to local stock and produced the big-game hunter originally known as “Plott’s hound.” Don’t let their lineage scare you; they are absolute sweethearts that are loyal, affectionate and good with other dogs.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
Another AKC Foundation Stock Service member, the Catahoula leopard dog is native to Louisiana. The early settlers of Central Louisiana, specifically the Catahoula Lake area, crossbred dogs to catch wild hogs and hounds. These dogs developed a unique instinct of creating a “canine fence” to herd animals. This breed requires firm guidance and early socialization, as they can be independent, territorial and protective.
Recognized in 2009 by the AKC, this member of the hound group hails from Georgia. They are one of six hounds developed by American settlers to capture a steady source of raccoon meat and fur during the new nation’s expansion. Fantastic sporting and hunting dogs, Redbone coonhounds are fast, sleek, and energetic.
This spaniel breed was once South Carolina’s best-kept secret but is now the state dog. Not only are they fantastic hunters of Carolina waterfowl and turkey, but they also have webbed toes and can swim like seals. These retrieving dogs are intelligent, easy to train and sweet around family. “Boykin” comes from the small 100-population South Carolina community named after founding resident, Lemuel Whitaker Boykin, who built a new breeding program around his skillful brown spaniel, Dumpy.
The Mountain cur is a hunting dog with an excellent treeing instinct. It is a very courageous fighter and extremely intelligent, doing whatever job its master desires. Mountain curs are the true all-American pioneer dog. They were a necessity to the frontier family, and it is likely that the Southern Mountains could not have been settled without them. They guarded the family and livestock against wild animals or intruders and caught, treed or holed wild game for the family’s food and money from sold furs. They respond best to training with a lot of human contact and, in addition to hunting, make great companions and watchdogs.
Treeing Tennessee Brindle
An AKC Foundation Stock Service breed, these dogs originated in the United States near the Appalachian and Ozark mountains. They are bred from cur dogs with a focus to have excellent scenting power, be an open trailer with good voice and retain the uncanny ability to tree all kinds of game. They are intelligent, brave, courageous and local companions with a strong hunting instinct. The breed bays during a hunt, which means they cry out to the hunter.
Black and Tan Coonhound
This floppy-eared coonhound was recognized by the AKC in 1945 but was already a pivotal part of Southern culture in America. Among the early Black and Tan coonhound enthusiasts was the legendary explorer, huntsman and “cooner,” Daniel Boone, whose beloved Kentucky became a hub of coonhound breeding. They are equally skilled hunters and cuddlers, with a strong prey drive. Hounds through and through, these remarkably glossy-haired dogs make great family pets.
A Tennessee native in the hound group, the Bluetick coonhound is bold and single-minded regarding prey. Since 1953 the Bluetick coonhound has been the University of Tennessee’s sports mascot. Sleek and never clumsy, they are full of energy and deeply devoted dogs that love affection and thrive as members of active families.
Treeing Walker Coonhound
This member of the hound group was first AKC-recognized in 2012 and tends to be on the smaller side, standing at a maximum of 25-27 inches. They are great with families, young children and other dogs and are fast and capable hunting dogs. “Walker” comes from Thomas Walker of Virginia, who, in the mid-1700s, was a pivotal figure in the breed’s early development. These dogs love to hunt almost as much as they love to cuddle.
The American Kennel Club in 1886 recognized American foxhounds as good-natured, low-maintenance hounds that get along well with kids, dogs and even cats. They are closely associated with Revolutionary heroes and the rolling estates of old Virginia. American foxhounds are sleek, rangy hunters known for their speed, endurance and work ethic.
American Hairless Terrier
This lesser-known terrier breed is a Louisiana native with true terrier grit and courage. They are the only hairless breed indigenous to the United States. They are a naturally occurring offshoot of the rat terrier, developed in England in the early 1800s to exterminate rats that carried disease and raided food supplies. These small, hairless dogs are hypoallergenic, alert watchdogs fiercely protective of their owners.