What is a Scent Hound?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A scent hound is a type of hunting dog developed for a keen sense of smell. Scent hounds find prey by scent, and are capable of tracking their prey across great distances. You may also hear the scent hound referred to as a sniffer or tracker dog, referencing their primary skills. By contrast, sight hounds were developed to identify and track prey with their keen eyesight.

Beagles are often used as scent hounds.
Beagles are often used as scent hounds.

Several traits are characteristic of scent hounds. These animals are very muscular and stocky, with bodies designed more for endurance than speed. Scent hounds can travel tirelessly across great distances thanks to their muscular bodies, and their human handlers typically become exhausted before they do. Scent hounds also tend to have short legs, so that their bodies are close to the ground, and they often have heavy folds of skin around the neck and dangling ears. Allegedly, the extra flesh around the head of a scent hound is supposed to enhance the sense of smell.

Scent hounds are commonly used for hunting.
Scent hounds are commonly used for hunting.

The nose of a scent hound is also a little different from that of an ordinary dog. Scent hounds have especially large nostril openings and cavernous noses, exposing a large area to incoming scents. The expanded area allows the dogs to pick up even subtle scents, with some scent hounds being capable of picking up trails which are over three days old.

Most scent hounds are hardworking animals who tend to be a bit shy with people they don't know, although they are friendly to people they have warmed to. Scent hounds have also been trained to live and work in packs, so they get along very well with other dogs, although many scent hounds will try to establish dominance when introduced to new dogs, reflecting the organizational nature of most packs of hounds. Scent hounds are also fiercely loyal to their handlers, especially when well-trained.

Some examples of scent hound breeds include: coon hounds, beagles, foxhounds, bloodhounds, bassets, and dachshunds. In some regions of the world, people like to keep scent hounds as pets, enjoying their friendly nature, intelligence, and mellow attitudes. However, scent hounds do not make suitable pets for all people. These dogs require a lot of exercise, and they prefer environments where they are allowed to track things, exercising their natural skills. Owners who cannot dedicate at least two hours a day to caring for and exercising their dogs may want to select a different dog group.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- there are many theories on how to stop dogs from barking. One sure fire way to get it to stop is to spend time with the dog. That will typically calm down the animal. After all, it doesn't need to sound an alarm if its owner is standing right next to it, does it?


There is a problem with a lot of scent hounds of which people need to be aware before getting one. They tend to bark and they are usually loud. That trait is actually desirable in scent dogs that are put to work tracking things. They will bark if they catch the scent of something they consider prey.

Hounds that bark and wake up the neighborhood are not appreciated. How can someone curb all that unwanted barking?

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