by   David Hancock

Wide Diaspora
 In his informative and comprehensive Hounds of the World (Swan Hill, 2000), supported by superb photography from Bruce Tanner, David Alderton covers nearly all the recognised hounds in existence, from the Basenji of the Congo to the Rastreador of Brazil. He mentions both ridgeback breeds, those of Rhodesia and Thailand. He refers to the Dunker, Haldenstovare and Hygenhund of Norway, the Strellufstover of Denmark and the Swedish Beagle. But even such a comprehensive survey as this couldn’t find room for the Cretan Hound, the Halleforshund of Sweden, the Alano of Spain, the tribal hunting dogs of South Africa or the Karelian Hound of Finland. In the west, we tend to concentrate on the scenthounds of the packs, overlooking the hounds that work to the gun. But as more nations become aware of their canine heritage, more and more identifiable breeds of hound are made known to us. Scenthounds from overseas have not met with wild success in Britain; our KC recognises nearly 30 hound breeds, some 20 of these originating from outside Britain, 10 of those recognised being sighthound breeds. The four French Basset hound breeds favoured here, and their Grand Bleu de Gascogne, lead the way, with the more recently imported Italian breed, the Segugio finding fanciers and the Norwegian Lundehund now introduced. It was sad however to see a hardy tough hunting breed like the Segugio wearing coats at Crufts. When in Italy, I was told of another rare breed, the Little Apennine Hare Hound being restored by mountain hunters there. In Britain, if you treat the Dachshund varieties as one breed, we only recognised 15 hound breeds in 1908 and 5 of those came from abroad. From that list we have lost the Harrier from the show bench but since then registered quite a number of foreign breeds.

Swiss Hounds
The sporting dogs of Switzerland are little known away from their native country. Yet they are prized by Swiss sportsmen, with their wide range of hare-hound offering unrelated blood in the improvement of the genetic diversity of some of our hound breeds. The Swiss hounds have developed under the influence of those countries adjacent to the various Swiss regions and are sensibly bred to suit the terrain of a region rather than the country as a whole. In this way, we can see the influence of the French hounds in the Jura hounds, of Bavarian hounds in the Lucernese hounds, of German hunting dogs in the Bernese hounds and a more general European look to the Swiss national variety. In each of these four groups: Jura, Lucernese, Bernese and Swiss, there is a Harrier-sized hound or Laufhund and a Beagle-sized hound or Niederlaufhund. The four types of Laufhund are in the 17" to 22" height bracket, whilst the four types of Niederlaufhund are in the 12" to 15" height bracket.
The Lucernois or Luzerner Laufhund is similar to the Baverian Mountain Hound and related to the Hanover Scenthound, and was developed for tracking chamois for the gun, not as a quarry hound. The Swiss Hound, Schweizer Laufhund or le courant Suisse commun has proved popular in Norway, with the smaller variety 'improved' by using Dachsbracke blood. The Bernese Hound or Berner Laufhund is usually bigger than the other native hound breeds, with far longer leathers. They resemble the Steinbracke of Germany. The fourth variety the Jura Hound or Laufhund comes in two types, one called the Bruno de Jura and the St Hubert type. Used to hunt the hare and to drive game to the waiting guns, there is a slight resemblance to the smooth variety of the Italian Segugio.

German Hounds
Germany makes far too little of its scenthound breeds; the Romans recorded two types of hound used by the Sicambri, a powerful German tribe based on the east bank of the Rhine from the Sieg to the Lippe. The smaller hound was referred to as 'petronius' or 'petrunculus', leading to speculation that these hounds were either famous for their robust feet or running capably over rocky terrain, 'petra' meaning a rock. I believe that the 'stonehound', Steinbracke in German, Steenbrak in Dutch, was named after the striking and highly individual stone-blue colour of its coat. The blue fox is similarly named steinfuchs in German. The FCI recognises the Steinbracke, better known in Germany itself as the Deutsche (Sauerlander) Bracke or German (Sauerland) Hound. The Bavarian Mountain Hound is now established in Britain, a hound used to track by shooters, not as a packhound, but a very individual breed well worth the interest here. Even when living and working in Germany I never came across a Steinbracke, a distinctive breed, again used with the gun not in a pack. The Black Forest Hound has now been claimed by Slovakia as the Slovensky Kopov. 

When working and living three times in Germany, I came across the German, Austrian and Swiss hounds and found much to admire in the Alpine Dachsbracke, the Austrian Hound, the Hanoverian Hound and half a dozen Swiss hound breeds, large and small. At the World Dog Shows in Vienna and Dortmund I learnt of the Styrian Mountain Hound – still sometimes called the Peintinger after its creator, the Tyrolean Hound and the imposing Brandlbracke or Austrian Black and Tan Hound. It’s alarming that in Austria, three times as many Golden Retrievers are registered annually as their charming native breed, the Alpine Dachsbracke. We must all conserve our native breeds, they are part of our heritage.

Dutch Breeds
The Nederlandse Steenbrak or Oudhollands Steenbrakje (old Dutch small hound) is not yet fully recognised as a breed, but In many of the old German and Dutch hounds, the bone structure is lighter and flatter than most scenthound breeds, with the longer ears of the French hounds, but hanging flat not turned as in the Bloodhound. Steenbrakken, most unusually for a scenthound breed, can be long-haired as well as short-haired; both this breed and the Sauerland Hound have a characteristic flesh-coloured stripe up over the nose. This was I believe a feature too of the old Flemish hounds. In an increasingly urban Europe we have to be careful not to lose the ancient hound heritage in so many countries, although in the east, the rise of national spirit has awakened interest in their sporting canine legacy. The French have demonstrated how such a legacy can be reinvested, after the deprivations of two World Wars.

Value of New Blood
The rich heritage behind our native scenthounds, together with the ease of introducing superlative reinforcements from just across the channel, has perhaps led us to overlook talented hound breeds from further afield. With more foreign scenthound breeds now becoming known in Britain: the Basset Fauve de Bretagne, the Hamiltonstovare, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, the Bavarian Mountain Hound, the Norwegian Lundehund and the Grand and Petit Bassets Griffon Vendeen all introduced fairly recently, we are becoming less insular in our outlook. We are also now aware of the need to widen our gene pools to enhance the virility and longevity of our native hound breeds, as well as some long-imported pedigree breeds. Well selected new blood can improve a breed remarkably, as our distant ancestors knew only too well and, away from the hunting field, we have discarded as the absurd desire for breed purity continues to undermine our show ring dogs.