The Treeing Walker Coonhound became AKC’s 174th breed when it was granted full recognition on January 1, 2012, and became eligible to compete in the Hound Group.
This beautiful tri- or bi-colored hound finds it origins in the late 1800s, descended from the early hounds brought to America from England, from which developed the Virginia Hounds and then the Walker Foxhound. Originally registered with the United Kennel Club as part of a broader category called English Coonhounds, in 1945 Walker breeders requested that UKC register their dogs as a separate breed, and thus was born what is today one of the most popular of all coonhounds.
Often called “the consummate hunting dog,” the Treeing Walker is a fast, intelligent hound with a keen treeing instinct that excels in tracking and hunting raccoons over a variety of different terrains, thanks in part to his endurance and agility. They have also been successfully used to track bobcats and bears. The Walker hound’s hunting abilities have made the breed popular for field trials and nite hunts.
The breed is said to be able to hunt all day (or all night) and is “extremely vocal” at the hunt, with a distinctive baying bawl that hunters can hear from a long distance. But Walkers are also well-known for being loving and affectionate, which makes them good family dogs for those who are active and will give them plenty of vigorous exercise.
Walker owners describe a breed that loves children, gets along well with other dogs and is generally easy to train, although they are intelligent and, if not handled in a consistent manner, will find ways to outsmart their owners. In addition to their hunting ability, they also make good watchdogs and can be proficient in obedience and agility.
In the Conformation Ring
Of course, those who own and hunt coonhounds sometimes also show them on the bench, similar to the AKC conformation ring. Comparatively speaking, the Walker is probably most like the AKC American Foxhound in overall size and appearance, so to begin to develop a picture of the ideal Treeing Walker Coonhound, it might be useful to discuss the differences and similarities between the AKC breed standards for the two breeds.
The American Foxhound has been used for several purposes, among them in competitive field trials, fox hunting and as pack hounds, all of which require hunting instinct, a good voice and endurance. The ideal Treeing Walker hound, used primarily for hunting, requires not only the keen hunting instinct, but also endurance combined with speed and a voice.
Regarding size, the male Walker is to be 22 to 27 inches, the male American Foxhound, 23 to 28, female Walkers, 20 to 25 inches, female Foxhounds, 21 to 26. Neither breed standard discusses weight, although the Walker standard notes that “balance is key…weight – should be in proportion to dog’s height,” and that working dogs that are shown should not be penalized if “slightly under weight.”
Regarding the head, the Walker’s should be “medium length” while the American Foxhound head is “fairly long.” The Walker occipital bone is to be prominent, the Foxhound “slightly domed at occiput.” Both breed standards call for “cranium broad and full.” Neither hound should have a flat skull.
The Walker muzzle is medium length and “rather square;” the Foxhound “of fair length” in keeping with the longer head, but likewise “square cut.” A medium or moderate stop is called for in both breeds. The muzzle is to be straight in both breeds, without any sign of a roman nose or dish-face. The Foxhound standard does not mention the nose itself, but as would be expected in a scent hound, the Walker standard calls for a black nose and “nostrils – large.”
Both hounds require large eyes set well apart with a “soft, hound-like expression,” the Walker standard allowing eyes dark in color, brown or black, while Foxhounds should have eyes of a brown or hazel color. The standards call for essentially the same ear, in different lengths. Both should have ears that are set low on the skull, rounded at the tip, and in keeping with the difference in head length, the Walker ear is of medium length, the Foxhound’s long. In both breeds, the end of the ear will reach or almost reach to the tip of the nose. The Walker ear hangs “gracefully towards the muzzle,” and the Foxhound ear is set close to the head with “the forward edge slightly inturning to the cheek.”
Both breeds have a neck of medium length, free from excess skin, rising “cleanly” (Walker) or “free and light” (Foxhound) from the shoulders. Both standards say that the neck should be strong, “but not loaded.” Both standards call for a sloping shoulder that is “neither loaded nor heavy.” Both also emphasize that the shoulder will provide freedom of movement or action, and strength. Again as would be expected in a hunting hound that requires endurance, the chest in both breeds is to be deep, rather than broad, to allow for maximum lung space. Regarding width of chest, the Walker standard says simply that depth is more important, while the American Foxhound standard states specifically that the chest is “narrower in proportion to depth than the English hound,” with a 28-inch girth in a 23-inch hound being adequate. Both breeds should have well-sprung ribs and should not be slab-sided.
Like the Foxhound, the Walker tail should be “set moderately high” and carried up, the Walker tail to be “saber-like” with only a moderate curve. The Treeing Walker tail is not to have a “flag or excessive brush,” unlike the American Foxhound, which should have a brush.
Both hounds must have forelegs that are parallel and straight from elbows to feet, with strong, slightly sloping pasterns. Both will have feet with well-arched toes and thick pads. The Walker standard specifically calls for no rear dewclaws. Both standards call for a strong, muscular and powerful hindquarter, the Walker “with great propelling leverage” and the Foxhound, likewise, with “abundance of propelling power.” The Walker standard notes that “defined angulation denotes endurance and power.” The Walker stifle is to be “well-bent” with hind legs parallel when viewed from the rear.
While the verbiage is slightly different – the Walker standard calling for a “glossy and short” coat and the Foxhound one that is “of medium length” – semantics may confuse; in both breeds the coat is to be a close, hard hound coat. The Foxhound can be any color. In the Walker, tri-colored is preferred in typical hound colors of black, tan and white, but bi-colored white with tan spots or white with black spots is acceptable.
The Walker standard specifies that this hunting dog must have “smooth and effortless” movement with reach in the front and “powerful drive in the rear quarters, producing efficient movement, covering ground effortlessly.” The breed is never to be penalized for “scars or blemishes” that may have resulted from hunting injuries.
While the most important abilities of the Treeing Walker Coonhound – speed, endurance and his characteristic loud bay – won’t be tested in the conformation ring, the AKC breed standard paints a vivid picture of this hunting hound for arbiters to use when judging them. Perhaps the handsome Treeing Walker will become as popular in the conformation ring as he is in hunting circles.
You can learn more about Treeing Walker Coonhounds by visiting the website of the Treeing Walker Breeders and Fanciers Association at www.twbfa.com or by contacting the AKC-designated parent club. To learn more about AKC Coonhound events and results, visit www.akccoonhounds.org.