Hounds come in all shapes and sizes (just don’t call them dogs…)

  • Hounds are a specific sub-set of the canine species – and there is a difference between dogs and hounds. Hound breeds are distinct from other groups of dogs, and share an exceptional ability to hunt and track live prey. But within this group is a wonderful variety of different breeds. Hound dog breeds mostly fall into two main categories, scent hounds and sighthounds. Broadly speaking, the scent hounds hunt low to the ground, using their noses to track their prey. They tend to have large nostrils, droopy ears (to waft the scent towards their nose) and are usually stockier than the sight hounds, who spot their prey with their eyes and use their agility and speed to pursue it.

    And even within these two categories there is plenty of variety, from the silky flowing locks of the Afghan hound to the sleek greyhound (both sighthounds) – or from the sausage-shaped Dachshund to the tall and lean English foxhound (both scent hounds). What all of them have in common is a strong prey drive, whether they follow their nose or their eyes.

    7 contrasting hound breeds

    Saluki: hound dog breeds


    A sighthound that originates from the Middle East. It is an elegant and light-footed hound, bred to hunt hare, fox and gazelle from horseback. This hound is characterised by grace, speed and endurance, and a gentle demeanour. Their coat is typically soft and silky and many have slight feathering.



    This scent hound originates in Germany, where they are still used for tracking wounded game such as deer, and for hunting down badger and rabbits. They have a superb hunting spirit with a good nose and are well-suited for work below ground and beating the bush. As seen above, there are three coat types: smooth, wire-haired and long-haired, and there are two sizes: miniature (which is one of the smallest dog breeds) and standard.

    Beagle pack


    Of the British pack hound breeds, the Beagle is the smallest. It is a scent hound bred to hunt primarily hare, from foot rather than horse. They are typically an amiable, upbeat and determined hound, alert, intelligent and amenable.

    Irish Wolfhound

    Irish Wolfhound

    With origins in both the Middle East and Ireland, this is the tallest of all hound breeds. It is a sighthound bred for speed and strength to protect livestock from wolf packs, which were a threat on the Emerald Isle until they became extinct at the end of the 18th century. A gentle giant, they made our round-up of the largest dog breeds.



    A brilliant scent hound breed that has been developed in Britain since the 12th century at least. These large hounds, with their characteristic folds of skin, have been used for hunting deer and wild boar, but bloodhounds are particularly famous for being able to track humans. They are known to have best scenting ability of all breeds, being able to follow a five-day-old scent for 50 miles. A trained bloodhound’s “evidence” can be used as testimony in court.

    Basset hound dog breed


    A scent hound built low to the ground, believed to be bred for hunting hare by French monks (bas meaning low) in medieval times. They have fabulous scenting ability, second only to the bloodhound, and like the larger breed, their droopy, trailing ears help to capture the scent of whatever they are tracking. Short-legged breeds, such as the basset, were used by those hunting on foot, while longer-legged breeds were used for hunting on horseback, which was the preserve of the aristocracy and royalty.

    Borzoi hound dog breed


    Known as the wolfhound of the Russian aristocracy, this elegant sight hound is large, athletic and very fast – the word borzói means swift in archaic Russian. Dating back to the 16th century, the borzoi is probably a cross between Saluki and European sighthounds with local sheepdogs. Originally they would hunt and pursue wolves in pairs, and pin down their quarry until the human hunters arrived, but have also been used to hunt foxes, boars and hares.

    You may also enjoy reading…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...