There isn't officially a state animal of Virginia, though there is a state bird, a state fish, a state insect, a state bat and a state dog. By default, the state dog of Virginia, the American foxhound, could be considered the state animal. This dog was bred by the landed gentry in Colonial times for fox hunting. The journals of George Washington, America's first president, refer to his development of a foxhound strain from English and French hounds. This foxhound breed remains popular as a working hunting dog and family pet in the 21st century.
The American Kennel Club recognized American foxhounds as a breed in 1866. This breed is taller and faster than other breeds of foxhound and is relatively rare outside Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia, where it was named the state dog in 1966. It is available in several different coat colors, including red, tri-colored, black and tan, and blue.
In addition to being a state animal of Virginia, the American foxhound is appreciated for its genial disposition. It is a gentle dog that can be an excellent pet choice for families with children. American foxhounds love to be with people and other animals and will become stressed if they are left on their own for long periods of time.
A home in a rural setting with a large fenced yard is the ideal setting for an American foxhound. They are high-energy animals that need to be able to exercise. An owner who lives in an apartment or other urban setting will need to provide ample recreational opportunities for his or her pet.
The history behind the default state animal of Virginia begins in 1650, when Robert Brook imported a pack of English foxhounds for breeding. He had three breeds of English foxhound that were being bred together to create an improved all-around hunting breed. It has been reported that Washington participated in the breeding process, and he is known as the father of the American foxhound. His breeding efforts were assisted by the gift of a French foxhound. The introduction of that genetic strain to the three English lines resulted in the American foxhound.
These dogs have a short, coarse coat that needs little care. They can be kept outdoors in temperate climates. American foxhounds require consistent training with an owner who understands the breed. They are best exercised in open spaces that are fenced or under the close scrutiny of their human companion.
The canine state animal of Virginia is still a working dog in many instances. American foxhounds are used as pack dogs for fox hunting and other hunting activities. They also have successfully made the transition to being family pets, a task for which they are temperamentally suited.