Judging The Black And Tan Coonhound – “The Black and Tan Coon- hound is first and fundamentally a working dog; a trail and tree hound, capable of withstanding the rigors of winter, the heat of summer, and the difficult terrain over which he is called upon to work.” Thus spoken by the founders of our breed nearly 70 years ago, when our standard was first written and the breed entered into the AKC. As a member of our Judges Education Committee, I stress the first paragraph of our standard from which this sentence is taken—unchanged since 1945—as the foundation upon which the evaluation of the breed should be based on. The old adage of “No Foot, No Horse” has a ring of truth to it here as well, although it is important to recognize that all things are connected and interdependent, from the foot to the hip as well as the shoulder blade.
The Black and Tan standard refers to gait and soundness on three different occasions and has its own separate section dedicated to gait. Our breed founders recognized the importance this played in both the formation and preservation of the breed, and placed the appropriate value and emphasis on it. Again, quoting from paragraph one of our standard: “He immediately impresses one with his ability to cover the ground with powerful rhythmic strides.” Once we have established the importance that gait, structure, and stamina play in the formation of the ideal Black and Tan, how do we go about selecting those qualities that tend to support those all-important characteristics within the somewhat limiting parameters of the show ring? Firstly, we must look at overall condition and balance. The hound should appear fit and in proper condition to do the job for which it was created. Substance is directly connected to this, as a hound not carrying the proper degree and quality of bone will not have the substance upon which muscle may form, attach, and develop to its optimal advantage. Secondly, we look at how the pieces form together to create a whole. Our standard calls for a “muscular, sloping, medium length” neck flowing into “powerfully constructed shoulders.” “Forelegs are straight… pasterns strong and erect.” “Feet are compact, with well knuckled, strongly arched toes and thick, strong pads.” Moving on to the hindquarters, we want “Quarters well boned and muscled. From hip to hock, long and sinewy, hock to pad, short and strong.” “Stifles and hocks are well bent… When standing on a level surface, the hind feet are set back from under the body and the leg from pad to hock is at right angles to the ground.” Putting all of these descriptive terms into play, we move on to address gait, which states: “When viewed from the side, the stride of the Black and Tan is easy and graceful, with plenty of reach in front and drive behind.” Descriptive terms used in evaluating movement coming and going include “effortless, soundness, converge, balance and stamina.” While doing all of this, the head and tail carriage is “proud and alert; the topline remains level.”
Our standard calls for a “muscular, sloping, medium length” neck flowing into “powerfully constructed shoulders.”
This all paints a picture that’s pretty easy to understand and apply, right? Assuming the judge has a proper working knowledge of canine gait and structure, one would hope so. This brings us to the next, more elusive, portion of understanding and judging the Black and Tan Coonhound: Type.
The head is a unique feature of the B&T.
Head and overall expression define breed type in many breeds, as does the body outline. Both of these are most helpful in learning to identify the correct Black and Tan. The head is a unique feature of the B&T. And although it is immediately recognizable as a scenthound and apparent kin to both the Bloodhound and Basset, chiefly through the ears and ear set, there are key differences that make it unique. Starting with the ears, the B&T gives up nothing to either of the aforementioned breeds in this regard. Low set (at eye level or lower) well back on the head, hanging in graceful folds and naturally extending well past the tip of the nose. (Author’s italics.) Along with this, we want to see flews that are well developed with a typical hound appearance. So far, so good… Changing up the game a bit, we conversely do not want to see “excessive wrinkle,” and the skin should be “devoid of folds.” On top of that, we want to see an “almost round” and “not deeply set” eye, ranging in color from hazel to dark brown. No mention or reference is made as to the presence of visible haw or lack thereof, although most hunters would prefer a hound without a drooping haw for simple eye maintenance reasons. The head is cleanly modeled and the muzzle and skull should form equal parts, creating a balanced picture. The stop is moderate, and in profile, displays practically parallel planes between skull and muzzle. The skull forms an oval outline, and I interpret this as when viewing the skull from above. Common head faults include broad, coarse heads and deep, chiseled stops, often going hand in hand with high set, short ears. Color and markings are given considerable latitude, ranging from a very deep mahogany to a lighter, clearer tan. Hounds completely lacking in markings where called for are to be faulted, as are hounds with excessive amounts of tan, most often seen running high up the legs, completely covering the feet, and presenting as a solid broad patch of tan across the chest or across the bridge of the nose. Hounds lacking the correct markings are most often seen on the head or face through the absence of “pumpkinseeds” over the eyes or missing in other areas. A unique feature of markings includes “black pencil markings on the toes.” Our only DQ when judging the Black and Tan Coonhound is a “Solid patch of white which extends more than one inch in any direction.” It is important to note that scars resulting from honorable wounds are not to be faulted and that the resultant hair growth in these areas typically grows back white.
Color and markings are given considerable latitude, ranging from a very deep mahogany to a lighter, clearer tan.
Another area where a fair degree of latitude is given is size. Our standard calls for bitches to be from 23-25″ at the withers and dogs 25-27″. However, we do not penalize hounds that are oversized when general soundness and proportion are in favor. We do, however, penalize undersize. North America is a very big landmass, with a vast multitude of terrain and conditions. This has resulted in hunters preferring a larger or smaller hound to pursue the game they are hunting. Our standard takes this into consideration and allows for it.
In summary, when judging the Black and Tan Coonhound overall proportion calls for a hound that is equal in size from the withers to the ground as it is from the point of shoulder to the buttocks, or slightly longer. Taking into consideration the resulting outline, given proper angulation (bend of stifle behind, presence of forechest in the front), we see a slightly off-square profile of a hound that “stands over plenty of ground.”
However, we do not penalize hounds that are oversized when general soundness and proportion are in favor. We do, however, penalize undersize.