As a boy, I often heard stories about a black and tan foxhound that belonged to my grandfather. My grandfather said there was an actual strain of foxhound that was black and tan. It was distinct from the Walker and Trigg strains of American foxhound, and it was not the same thing as the black and tan coonhound, although he always thought they were relatives.
Well, I decided to peruse the lore of the local hounds, and it turns out that there was a distinct strain of black and tan foxhound that was common from the colonial period into the middle part of the twentieth century. The black and tan coonhound is derived from this black and tan foxhound, which was crossed with bloohounds to make a heavier dog with a better scenting ability.
Now, I did not seen a “show-type” black and tan coonhound until I was much older. The working strain and trial coonhounds I saw where I grew up were very foxhound-like. They were only slightly heavier in the ear and body than the best working foxhounds. It didn’t take much imagination to see the relationship between the coonhounds and foxhounds.
As far as I know, the black and tan foxhounds have disappeared or have been absorbed into other strains of working foxhound. I sometimes see the odd tricolored foxhound with the tan “kissmarks” of the black and tan, and I wonder if maybe that dog might have a touch of the old black and tan ancestry.
My grandpa crossed his black and tan foxhound with a farm collie, and that cross produced a superior varmint dog. It was well-known in both Britain and this country that an excellent multipurpose hunting dog could be produced by crossing a foxhound with a collie. And this dog certainly was. He flushed grouse and squirrels, treed raccoons and gray foxes, and ran deer and red foxes toward his gun.
In my part of the world, people didn’t waste time with blood purity very much (at least in dogs), unless someone bought a foxhound or “bird dog” from a magazine. The typical hunting dog of the small farmer was a generalist that could work several different game species. If the dog could also bring in the sheep and milch cows, then he was certainly of even greater utility.
The demand for purebred dogs in this part of the world was far behind the rest of the country, but when that demand arose, the local multipurpose dogs soon found themselves out of favor. People wanted collies like lassie and thoroughbred coonhounds and foxhounds. Nobody wanted the old cur, feist, “rabbit biggle,” or farm collie.
Or so it seemed, but even today, I can see dogs that are of these strains lounging near remote farmhouses. Not everyone gave up on these dogs. There are a stubborn few who keep them. Sadly, I’ve yet to see a single dog of that black and tan foxhound strain.