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Coonhound Water Race

About Coonhound Water Race

A Coonhound Water Race is a unique competitive event designed to showcase the hunting and tracking abilities of coonhounds in a water-based environment. The sport is an integral part of coonhound performance events and plays a crucial role in demonstrating each breed’s natural instincts and trainability in a controlled, yet challenging, setting.

In a Coonhound Water Race, the primary objective is for the hounds to track a scent through water. A well-scented lure, or a caged raccoon, is used, floated or suspended over water in a way that prevents the coonhounds from making direct contact. This setup tests the hounds’ ability to follow a scent trail in water, a skill that is essential for their hunting methods.

Course and Rules

The course includes boundary markers that define the swimming path for the hounds. Coonhounds are released simultaneously, and handlers are escorted around the water body by a marshal. The handlers must not encourage or discourage any of the hounds during the race, and any hound that strays outside the boundary markers is disqualified.

The performance of the hounds is judged based on their ability to follow the scent to a “home tree,” which is placed at a distance from the shore, usually at a distance of more than 20 yards. The first hound to correctly follow the scent to the home tree, and indicate it, is declared the “line winner.” Additionally, the “tree winner” is the first hound to enter a designated circle around the home tree and bark appropriately, which must occur within five minutes of exiting the water.

History & Evolution of the Coonhound Water Race

The Coonhound Water Race, as a distinct event, is part of a long tradition of coonhound sporting events, one that is deeply rooted in the history of hunting with hounds in the United States. This tradition dates back to the 1700s, showcasing the coonhounds’ proficiency in tracking and hunting the raccoon.

Coonhound breeds in America are derived from foxhounds that were brought to North America before the American Revolution. Coonhounds were developed by hunters who selectively bred dogs to enhance specific physical traits and hunting styles. This selective breeding led to the formation of the distinct coonhound breeds known today, each with its unique hunting capabilities. The modern breeds include the Treeing Walker Coonhound, American English Coonhound, Black and Tan Coonhound, Bluetick Coonhound, Redbone Coonhound, and Plott Hound.

The Coonhound Water Race evolved as a competitive event to test the hounds’ ability to track scents in a water environment. This was a natural extension of their innate skills in tracking and treeing raccoons, typically pursued in forested or rural settings. In water races, a lure or caged raccoon is used in a body of water, testing the hounds’ ability to follow a scent over water, a challenging variation from traditional land-based tracking.

Modern Competitions

Today, Coonhound Water Races are held as part of various coonhound competitions. These events are not just about winning titles, however, as they are also about preserving the hunting heritage and natural abilities of the coonhound breeds. Competitions are designed to mirror real-life hunting scenarios, ensuring the skills tested are practical and relevant to each breed’s hunting instincts.

Participation in Coonhound competitions, including water races, has remained high despite the decline in the price of fur. These events are an opportunity for breeders, handlers, and enthusiasts to gather together, share knowledge, and celebrate the abilities of these specialized breeds. Coonhound Water Races remain a testament to the enduring legacy of the coonhound breeds and their role in shaping American hunting traditions.


Coonhound Water Race

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July 2024 Vol. 32 No. 7

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